Newswise — It is a struggle seen across the country. More than 40 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years, leaving school districts with a teacher shortage.
According to Dr. Andrew Kwok, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, one of the main reasons teachers leave is because they are not good classroom managers. They struggle with managing disruptive students, implementing effective actions and asserting authority in the classroom.
“Classroom management is a set of skills that a teacher has in order to manage a large classroom of students. It sounds pretty basic and pretty commonsensical but, in reality, it’s very difficult,” said Kwok.
Kwok took a closer look at strategies first-year teachers in urban schools implement in the classroom and how those strategies change over the course of their first year. He found the majority of teachers used behavioral actions, establishing and enforcing rules to guide how students should behave in the classroom.
However, only managing behavior does not result in a successful classroom. He found teachers also used academic and relational actions.
Academic actions, such as planning specific learning activities and refocusing students to content, increased student engagement and prevented misbehavior. Relational actions helped to foster an inclusive climate within the classroom. Teachers built relationships with their students and promoted student interactions.
“The major implication is that now we have an understanding of what’s going on in the classroom and we’re not making any sort of assumptions,” said Kwok. “We see more of the teachers’ capabilities and their actualities in order to make meaningful changes within teacher preparation and within the school districts.”
This research lays the foundation for both teacher educators and district administrators to understand what beginning teachers are doing as opposed to what we think they are doing or should be doing.
While Kwok does not point to the successes or failures of each action, he hopes these findings will prompt change in teacher preparation programs. He believes the programs should promote beginning teachers to implement a range of classroom management strategies and support teachers in how to refine their actions.
“Half of all teacher education does not have a classroom management course, and if it does, only a fraction of those are actually practical,” Kwok said. “Classroom management is important for teacher retention and being able to persist within education over a long period of time. You can’t be a good teacher if the classroom is chaotic. When a teacher can’t manage the classroom, no learning is going to happen. Over time, both the teacher and students are going to get frustrated and that teacher will inevitably leave.”
Kwok specifically focused on urban education because there is a lack of literature and research on classroom management in that area.
He believes teacher preparation programs should consider the contexts that teachers may want to teach in, but the goal should be to create a well-rounded teacher that has the opportunity to be successful in any classroom environment.
“While I want to see good, well-trained teachers, I want them to go into areas that need them most. I want them to make a difference so that we can bridge the overall student achievement gap starting with those students who don’t get that opportunity to have high-quality teaching within their classrooms when there’s no reason they can’t.”
Read more about Dr. Andrew Kwok’s research.