Is it up to the students or is it up to us, teachers?

Louise Potter

One of the biggest complaints we hear nowadays from teachers is the lack of discipline inside the classrooms. Although students seem to have more interest in what is going on outside the classroom than what teachers have to say inside the classroom, I repeatedly ask myself this question: Is it up to the students or is it up to us, teachers?

Studies have shown that many students who were failures in the classroom had significant improvement due to the teacher´s classroom management and, on the other hand, many studies have also shown that poor classroom management has hindered brilliant students in their academic life.

Many perceive classroom management as teacher control and discipline. Although it does involve a little of these two aspects, there is much more to it than this. It is the basis of your planning. On occasions it is more important than the subject itself because without it, you will not be able to teach. It is a question of being organised and skillful. It is a question of being flexible and understanding. It is setting the stage for a safe environment for teaching and learning.

Having all this in the back of your mind helps with student behaviour. Good classroom management brings on good behaviour. Bad classroom management brings on indiscipline. In the end, the success of a classroom does depend on the teacher´s classroom management! Student´s learning success does depend on your classroom management.

What is classroom management?

Successful teaching depends on the ability of the teacher to manage the classroom. It´s considered an essential part of the teaching/learning process. Today we know that classroom management has more impact on student achievement than the curriculum itself. It refers to the methods, strategies and skills teachers use to maintain a classroom environment that should result in student´s learning success. Classroom management includes time management, student involvement, student engagement, student autonomy, and classroom communication.

A clear description of common classroom management areas is given by Scrivener (2005):

  • Grouping and seating: Forming groupings. Arranging and rearranging seating.
  • Deciding where you will stand or sit. Reforming class as a whole group after activities.
  • Activities: Sequencing activities. Setting up activities.
  • Giving instructions. Monitoring activities.
  • Timing activities. Bringing activities to an end.
  • Authority: Gathering and holding attention. Deciding who does what. Establishing or relinquishing authority as appropriate. Getting someone to do something.
  • Critical moments: Starting the lesson. Dealing with unexpected problems. Maintaining appropriate discipline. Finishing the lesson.
  • Tools and techniques: Using the board and other classroom equipment or aids. Using gestures to help clarity of instructions and explanations. Speaking clearly at an appropriate volume and speed. Use of silence.
  • Grading complexity of language.
  • Grading quantity of language.
  • Working with people: Spreading your attention evenly and appropriately. Using intuition to gauge what students are feeling. Eliciting honest feedback from students.

To learn more about classroom management, check out our site for our online course which is held twice a year.

Scrivener, J. Learning Teaching: A guidebook for English language teachers. Macmillan ELT; 2nd edition edition (31 Mar. 2005)