Classroom Management: An Ecological Model Donald F. Perras, Ph.D.

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1 Classroom Management: An Ecological Model Donald F. Perras, Ph.D. Help Wanted! Teachers prepared to manage students limited behavioral readiness for school. This national dilemma reflects students changing family structure, shifting social - cultural factors, and problems with academic achievement. Regardless of their socio - economic status, a majority of communities are anticipating a steady increase in the percentage of students displaying inappropriate school conduct. This trend profoundly impacts schools missions to educate students, especially as common core standards are implemented to enhance learning. Educators are encountering more students with either behavioral immaturity or disrespect of normative school expectations. In particular, schools are confronted by students intense quest for self - gratification. This quest for power and freedom diminishes personal accountability and self - control, which interferes with learning cooperation and altruism. In lieu of this challenge, public schools must create student - friendly learning environments that target achievement while promoting social - behavioral development. Relying on traditional teaching methods and reactive behavioral policies is destined to fail, especially in schools with chronically depressed test scores. Overall student performance is seriously impaired because conventional instructional strategies alone are insufficient to motivate them to behave properly. Creating a preventative system of management must be a priority. Consequently, schools have been compelled to allocate staff and resources to coach basic behavioral skills, thus depleting attention away from instructional initiatives. An alternative perspective that integrates instructional innovation with proactive classroom management is required to close the persistent achievement gap and nurture students self - discipline. A combination of dynamic administrative leadership and competent staff is essential to realize this goal. Unfortunately, there is a dire Perras 2

2 shortage of qualified educators with the proper training to engage diverse learners with complex personal or family issues. Classroom management expertise is especially lacking because of inadequate certification preparation. This ultimately impedes application of reform practices. A negative school climate, excessive discipline referrals, teacher dissatisfaction, and staff turnover are indicators of this problem. To compensate for this dilemma, an Ecological Model of field - tested management interventions was designed in 2002 to enhance educators ability to instruct and manage behaviorally - challenging students. Implemented in varied communities in dozens of schools with hundreds of staff across all grade levels, this system provides a unique blend of strategies regarding environmental design, creative teaching options, and preventative behavioral procedures. Its proactive format is essential to maximize resources and produce long - term academic progress and behavioral compliance. A sample classroom management scenario is provided to illustrate the ecological model system: Ms. Sullivan, a new 7th - grade social studies teacher, was unprepared for her 3rd - period inclusion class, with 4 high - risk students enrolled. Their inattentiveness and refusal to participate distracted peers from focusing on complicated lesson presentations. This repetitive cycle of misbehavior prevented Ms. Sullivan from completing activities, resulting in lost instructional time and eventual frustration. Stopping lessons to command their respect proved futile, assigning detentions created anger, and calling home to seek parental help was ineffective. Ms. Sullivan resigned after the school year finished. To prevent Ms. Sullivan s resignation, a combination of potential solutions to this situation include: Perras 3 * target specific behaviors to teach (prosocial) / modify (maladaptive)

3 [ the initial requirement before designing a behavioral plan] Based on observations and data collection, staying on task is the primary prosocial behavior to increase, as it is essential to all classroom management programming. Non - compliance is the primary disruptive behavior to decrease, as it interferes with instruction and creates imitation by peers. Repeat data collection after predetermined time period, bi - weekly or monthly, to assess degree of improvement. Adjust strategies if non - compliance remains at original frequency. * display student - generated class rules to define basic behavioral expectations ex: be prepared... participate... respect others Everyone please follow rule # 2, cooperate, during class. This defines minimal requirements for appropriate behavior, which is often misunderstood in schools with a diverse student population. Rules should be placed above the front board frame in large, colorful lettering with student photos to maximize attention. Without rules, students behave according to their prior school experience and personal regard for authority. Never assume students have any familiarity with appropriate behavior. Continuously discuss and rehearse rules to shape students awareness. * reinforce demonstration of behavioral rules during classroom activities ex: praise... bonuses... privileges... certificates... social activities We just earned three coupons for class participation toward our reward day! Behavioral development is dependent on assigning greater value to prosocial behavior. This generation, regardless of age or background, is receptive to any positive response to their mastery of class rules. Providing personal attention is a powerful Perras 4 motivator because of students neediness for feedback and recognition. Displaying completed papers, applauding effort, and offering individual assistance are sample reinforcers to promote prosocial behaviors. Survey students to empower their selection

4 of rewards, and adjust when appropriate. Vary reinforcement frequently to maintain enthusiasm. Always strive to develop eventual self - control by minimizing tangible rewards. * signed group contracts defining prosocial behaviors / reinforcement / timelines ex: entire class signatures on posted contract to encourage group identity Wow, our class received five bonus points for finishing their project this week! Contracts are extremely beneficial to instill a sense of group pride and accountability. Student signatures foster a commitment to respect class rules and monitor personal conduct. Select highly valued rewards and evaluate performance bi - weekly. Record progress on visible chart to sustain motivation. Adjust behavioral goals and revise rewards following prescribed timeline. Use peer pressure to encourage high - risk students allegiance. * conduct multi - modality lessons using differentiated instruction to complement management techniques ex: chunk lesson into small components... technology... group assignments Create a skit with partners to demonstrate causes of the American Revolution. Today s learner expects instruction to be entertaining and personalized. Having been reared on technology from preschool, students anticipate teachers utilizing a variety of techniques to communicate information. Passive, teacher - directed instruction should be replaced by interactive activities to minimize apathy or disruption. Refrain from traditional practices relying on rote memory, simple question - answer responses, and recitation of facts. Instead, employ visual aids, manipulatives, commercial software, and Internet resources to address students unique learning skills. Encourage creativity and critical thinking to develop attention to task, participation, and compliance. Provide Perras 5 cooperative learning opportunities that tap students varied abilities and social behavioral maturity. Experiment with different teaching formats to match students changing needs.

5 As the intensity of new academic regulations continues to impact public schools teaching practices, classroom management becomes an essential skill to acquire. Lacking effective behavioral procedures is an impediment to boosting achievement. Otherwise, student learning will be compromised by challenging behavior that both disrupts instruction and weakens teachers productivity. District - based professional development must prioritize training staff in preventative management systems while also offering on - site coaching to improve application of strategies. Following these recommended Ecological Model interventions will produce reliable outcomes for both students and faculty.

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