Training our future teachers: Classroom management

The National Council on Teacher Quality has a message for teacher-preparation programs: Your graduates need to know how to manage their classrooms effectively. Every classroom teacher knows that, in the words of the authors, “the most brilliantly crafted lesson can fall on deaf ears” if a productive classroom environment has not been established. And our current system's expectation that teachers just “sink or swim” in classroom management is unacceptable. After reviewing 150 previous studies, NCTQ found five common themes regarding what every aspiring teacher should master before taking responsibility for his own classroom: how to set clear rules, how to develop routines and establish structure so students know what to expect, how to reward students who are doing the right thing, how to punish those who are not, and how to make sure students are too engaged in learning to act out. The authors then assessed 122 teacher-preparation programs in thirty-three states to determine whether such research is informing what the programs are actually doing. They found that, even though teacher-prep programs overemphasized theory to the detriment of practical skills, all but a handful did cover classroom management in some form. The problem lies in just how much classroom management is still being deemphasized. On average, programs studied required about ten to fifteen courses prior to student teaching, but time spent on classroom management added up to only about eight class periods. As one might imagine, that is not near enough time to cover all of the material that is important, so roughly half of the topics were simply ignored. This latest research from NCTQ aligns well with prior Fordham work and underscores the degree to which many teachers are being ill prepared to survive in the choppy waters they will face in many of our nation’s schools.

SOURCE: Julie Greenberg, Hannah Putman, and Kate Walsh, Training our future teachers: Classroom management (Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality, December 2013).

Michael Brickman
Michael Brickman is a National Policy Director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute