Author Q&A: How can you manage your classroom for optimal student success?
Find out in this Q&A with the author of the new edition of The Teacher’s Pocket Guide for Effective Classroom Management.
Q: In the new edition of your popular guide to effective classroom management, you qualify what you mean by “classroom management.” Can you clarify?
A: The term management suggests that you will “manage” or “control” your students. While what you do as a teacher will, without question, influence how your students act, the reality is that the only thing any of us can really control is how we ourselves act. The focus of this book is on how to manage our own behavior to best influence how our students act. (Self-management of your instructional practice in group settings is my definition of what “classroom management” really means.)
As teachers we need to strategically invest our time and energy in practices that are effective and efficient. The specific steps that a teacher can take to ensure that his or her time is wisely invested are the focal point of this book.
About the Author
Tim Knoster, Ed.D., is the executive director of the Association for Positive Behavior Support (APBS) and a professor in the School of Education, College of Professional Studies, at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He has worn many hats including classroom teacher, director of Student Support Services and Special Education, and principal investigator on research focused on classroom and student-centered behavior intervention and support.
Dr. Knoster has extensive experience providing professional development for classroom teachers.
Q: With so many academic mandates demanding their time, why should teachers also invest in classroom procedures designed to promote positive behavior?
A: Without an effective approach to classroom management, teachers may encounter an increase in problem behavior and a decrease in instructional time, which can lead to insufficient academic progress and social-emotional growth.
One of the primary reasons for establishing effective preventative classroom procedures, along with forms of early intervention, is the precious nature of instructional time. Today, more than ever, teachers are expected to facilitate student learning with an increasingly diverse student population and, in many cases, with decreasing resources due to budgetary constraints. Thus, teachers need to implement practices that create a conducive learning environment and enable optimal use of instructional time.
Q: What is important for teachers to understand about their ability to influence student behavior?
A: First and foremost, it is not about controlling or policing your students. Rather, it is about organizing your approach and the practices you use in the classroom to set the stage for student success, both academically and behaviorally.
Prevention is name of game and is reflected through an organized approach to both prevention and intervention. When intervention is needed—and there most certainly will be times when a teacher needs to intervene with a student who is not meeting expectations at a particular moment in time—the approach to intervention should be grounded in evidenced-based practice and delivered systematically and in a time-efficient manner.
Q: What are 3 key principles teachers can put into practice to help prevent problem behavior and promote positive behavior?
A: The three key principles of practice are establishing solid rapport with each and every student, providing clarity in performance expectations, and acknowledging appropriate student behavior by using behavior-specific praise (contingent positive reinforcement). These three practices are inter-related in nature: addressing any one component part strengthens the effectiveness of the other component parts. Thus, the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts.
Q: What difference does it make in the classroom when a teacher uses these approaches?
A: When these approaches are put into practice in the classroom with fidelity, we tend to see increasing degrees of student academic and behavioral achievement. Students and teachers are more effective and tend to be happier for a variety of reasons including (but not limited to) higher levels of performance.
When a classroom is wanting in terms of any of these three components—or, worse yet, all three—the atmosphere in the classroom can become increasingly unhealthy (and in some instances unsafe) with increasing degrees of misbehavior and lost instructional time.
Q: Once teachers have implemented this universal first tier of preventive steps, what are “next steps” they can take when students still struggle with problem behavior?
A: Serious problem behaviors tend to emerge in large part due to a mismatch between a student’s needs and the structures and practices within the classroom environment. Effective practices as described in the book help teachers to organize the environmental conditions in the classroom to create an conducive match to meet the needs of everyone in the classroom (including the teacher).
In some instances, additional practices may need to be layered on top of the universal practices outlined in the pocket guide.
Q: What is meant by “student-centered behavior support”?
A: All practices in any given classroom should be student-centered. When a student needs additional supports, a group of people collaboratively develop and implement a Student-centered Behavior Support Plan. The plan identifies individualized and intensive intervention and support on the basis of the results of a Functional Behavior Assessment.
Depending on student needs, this may also require the integration of services and supports from other child serving systems (e.g., providers from the mental health community).
Q: You are known as an ambassador of sorts for getting evidence-based practices translated into the classroom. How did that advocacy develop?
A: Whether working at the high school level, in pre-school environments, or with graduate students at my institution of higher education, I have been a teacher my entire professional life. My practical experiences—which have been further informed by my friends and colleagues (including many students and their families over the years)—have influenced my degree of passion along these same lines.
One of the greatest challenges we face as a field is translating our research on evidenced-based practices into user-friendly guidance for implementation in our schools. This translation process has become a form of advocacy for me: advocacy for effective practice to meet the needs of teachers who, in turn, become better positioned to meet the needs of their students.