Classroom management refers to teacher behaviors which “produce high levels of student involvement in classroom activities, minimal amounts of student behaviors that interfere with the teacher’s or students’ work, and efficient use of instructional time” (Emmer & Evertson 1981, 342). Studies continually reveal a significant relationship between time spent on the subject content and student learning (Berliner 1988). Making time for learning, also called “allocated time,” is an important goal of classroom managers. Further, effective classroom managers find ways to ensure that students spend sufficient time on specific learning tasks, also known as “engaged time” or “time on task.” Finally, in order to maximize learning outcomes, classroom managers must set up the conditions in such a way that students’ time on task is success oriented (Woolfolk 2001).
Effectively Managed Classrooms
A number of teacher behaviors contribute to effectively managed classrooms, ranging from classroom structure, learning format, and learning activities, to teacher leadership skills and behavior alteration techniques. Classroom structure involves the use of specific and clearly defined rules and procedures, generated by both teachers and students, with sufficient time spent socializing students to those rules and procedures early in the term. Important to lesson format and learning activities, the research indicates that teacher-led group activities work better than individual seatwork assignments.
Effective teacher leadership skills include the use of prompts, positive questioning techniques, motivational and conformational statements, and structured transitions. Taken together, all of these teacher behaviors serve to minimize classroom disruptions by maintaining student involvement in on-task learning. An important addition to this literature is the consideration of how teachers employ persuasive or influence strategies in order to engage students in ways that increase their time spent learning.
Power in The Classroom
Over the past 25 years, researchers have been examining how teachers employ strategies in the classroom to manage students’ on and off-task behaviors, and, thus, students’ affective and cognitive learning. Most notable in the instructional communication literature is the early, systematic, and heuristic program of research referred to as “power in the classroom.” The origins of this research program began with preliminary investigations of teachers’ use of French and Raven’s (1959) five bases of social power (McCroskey & Richmond 1983; Richmond & McCroskey 1984). However, those original power bases referred to the teacher’s capacity or potential to effect students’ behavioral change. A major shift in thinking about teacher power was launched with the research that examined how teachers implemented that potential or, stated differently, how teachers communicated their power resources relationally with their students (Kearney et al. 1984, 1985). Inductively deriving teacher influence messages from college students, college teachers, and elementary and secondary teachers, a typology of 22 behavior alteration techniques (BATs) and sample behavior alteration messages (BAMs) resulted. Even though other operationalizations of teacher power are available, this typology continues to serve as the primary form of relational power measurement in the classroom context (Waldeck et al. 2001).
Subsequent research on BATs and BAMs revealed that teachers and students perceive the use of teacher power differently, with teachers reporting that they use pro-social or “nicer” strategies to influence students’ compliance, but students perceiving that their teachers use more antisocial or “meaner” strategies (Kearney et al. 1984). When teachers are perceived to use pro-social strategies, students believe they learn more and like what they are learning. In reverse, with teachers who use antisocial strategies, students believe they learn less and dislike the learning process (Plax et al. 1986; Plax & Kearney 1992).
Continuing that line of research, others report a positive relationship between teachers’ use of BATs and classroom outcomes, including cognitive and affective learning, student resistance and aggression, classroom interactional justice, motivation to learn, student interest, and their own reciprocal sense of power (Plax & Kearney 1992; Roach et al. 2006). Similarly, teachers’ selection of BATs is associated with nonverbal immediacy, credibility, satisfaction with their profession, teacher training and experience, culture, use of humor, and time during the semester (Plax & Kearney 1992; Roach et al. 2006).
Roach’s parallel program of research illustrates how graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) use power or power-based BATs to manage their classrooms (Roach et al. 2006). He found, for instance, that the more inexperienced GTAs were perceived to use significantly more antisocial influence messages. Highly argumentative GTAs were prone to use more overall power than those low in argumentativeness, and those who were highly apprehensive about communicating as a TA in the classroom tended to use less power than those who were more moderate or low in their anxieties. Finally, Golish (1999) found that students reported using more power with GTAs than with their higher-status professors.
Finally, others have examined students’ active role in the influence process by investigating students’ resistance to teacher compliance-gaining attempts (Burroughs et al. 1989; Kearney et al. 1991).
Effective classroom management is often synonymous with teachers’ ability to influence students in ways that optimize academic engagement time. Typically, teachers are rewarded or dismissed based on their management skills. And yet, not all management techniques are equally effective. Keeping in mind the relationship between selective use of particular BATs and student outcomes, teachers may facilitate student learning outcomes more effectively. In this way, teaching is more than content dissemination; effective teaching requires teachers to persuade and influence students.
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