Evidence Based Classroom Management
(1st draft Sept 2006)
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This is a free additional chapter for ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty (2006) Nelson Thornes. It can be downloaded from www.geoffpetty.com. The book as a whole combines and summarises research on which teaching methods and strategies work best, and explains these strategies with examples. See the notes at the end of this chapter for more detail.
Can I get my students to behave better?
The evidence is emphatic, yes you can! And we know how. There are of course very many strategies designed to improve classroom management and discipline, but which ones work? Robert Marzano (2003) summarised the findings of over 100 reports on classroom management, including 134 rigorous experiments designed to find out which classroom management techniques work best. These experiments were carried out with real teachers in real classrooms. This chapter draws heavily on this ‘meta-study’ of Marzano’s, and compares strategies to find out which is best. Such studies of studies are the best source of evidence on what works as they include and integrate all reliable evidence. For a full account see ‘Classroom Management that Works’ Robert Marzano et al (2003) for the detail, it is well worth reading.
These experiments tell us what teachers have made work, rather than reporting hunches and wishful thinking. No special training is required to use these strategies. If you are a reasonably experienced teacher, just experiment with the following methods, and you should get positive results quite quickly. You will need to give them a fair try for a few lessons before you and your students get the hang of them. The investment will be well worth it as their improved behaviour and motivation will begin to show. Less experienced teachers may need more time to make the strategies work.
Marzano’s meta-study describes four basic approaches that have been found to improve behaviour in classrooms. Their effectiveness is compared in the table below.
Comparing the effectiveness of aspects of classroom management
| Average effect-size
| Number of students or pupils
| Number of studies
| Decrease in number of disruptions(Average for the studies)
| Summary of experimental data from Marzano (2003)
| Rules and proceduresStrategies to clearly and simply express rules and other expectations of student behaviour. Also to justify these persuasively from the teacher’s and students’ point of view. For greatest effect the rules are negotiated with students
| Teacher-student relationshipsStrategies to improve the rapport, and mutual respect between teacher and student
| Disciplinary interventionsThe effective use of ‘sticks and carrots’ to enforce the rules described above
| Mental setStrategies to develop your awareness of what is going on in your classroom and why. A conscious control over your thoughts and feelings when you respond to a disruption.
Marzano grouped high quality research studies on classroom management into the four categories above, and then calculated an average effect size for each. “Effect size” is explained in chapter 4, they are a measure of how effective a strategy is. If you don’t know about effect sizes look instead at the last column in the tables: ‘percentage reduction in the number of disruptions’. For example, in experiments on strategies that involve teachers in devising rules and procedures the number of disruptions in the classroom was reduced by 28% on average. This is in comparison with not devising explicit rules and procedures.
In experiments, only one strategy can be used at a time. (If two were used, we would not know...
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