At the end of the one day NASC Conference, and the meeting to consider moving to cross-school ways of working, the following action plan was drawn up:
NASC Research Action Plan Task Group 3: Classroom management and disaffection
The practical relevance of the research focus:
It was felt that most teachers would accept the premise that the working atmosphere in the classroom, and the extent to which teachers were able to establish a relaxed, purposeful and co-operative atmosphere in the classroom is an important factor in the quality of teaching and learning which takes place, (and in the quality of teachers’ and pupils’ lives). It was also felt that most teachers would accept that there are differences in the extent to which teachers are able to establish these conditions with their classes within schools as well as between schools, and that the teacher’s skills of classroom management are an important influence on the working atmosphere in the classroom.
What factors enable some teachers to develop to be more effective in classroom management than others? Is it possible to draw on the experience of teachers and pupils to elucidate which are the characteristic and most influential skills and attributes which make teachers good classroom managers? Are there any departmental, subject or school practice factors which are helpful in supporting teachers to manage classrooms effectively? (eg. a particularly effective referral system, collaborative approaches of dealing with difficult pupils, efficient procedures for ‘internal’ exclusion, helpful support mechanisms from senior staff).
Base line data:
Studies of pupil perceptions of effective classroom managers such as Munn and Johnstone, Ruddock and Wragg were mentioned, but we were not aware of recent studies of teacher perceptions of effective classroom managers. The Hay Management Group’s attempts to develop a ‘Dictionary of Excellence in the classroom’ were mentioned, but the results of their survey were not available at the time of the meeting. Results were reported in the TES last week, which pointed out the difficulties of drawing out the ‘tacit’ knowledge and experience of classroom practitioners. We were not aware of LEA data in this area, and one step forward would be for a literature search to see what other studies were available for scrutiny.
It was decided to try to pilot 2 data collection activities, one involving pupils and one involving colleagues. There were differing feelings about the scale of data collection which would be attempted. Some colleagues would approach all members of staff, others would confine their enquiries to colleagues who they felt were interested in/sympathetic to the research enterprise in general. It was accepted that it was important to heed staff sensitivities in view of the plethora of current initiatives and administrative demands. After initial piloting of teacher and pupil surveys, we would meet at the School of Education on Monday October 4th, at 4.15 to report back on the pilot investigations and see which forms of data collection seemed to be most promising. We would then proceed with phase 2 of the data collection, and meet again at some point in the Spring term to consider and analyse the data. a) Pupil perceptions of effective class managers It was decided to obtain data from pupils in the form of a (fairly) ended form of questionnaire. If possible, colleagues would attempt to obtain the views of at least one, and possibly two year 10 teaching groups. I have some video extracts of ‘good classroom atmospheres’ which might be a helpful preliminary to obtaining pupil views. (‘What is it about some teachers that makes pupils behave and learn like this…?) Given the difficulties in getting beyond fairly general explanations, experienced by the Hay, and other surveys, it might be helpful if the first stage of data collection employed differing approaches. These might include an oblique approach (eg. in what subject is your behaviour and approach to learning most positive and why?), an ordered list approach (what are the 5 most important things which make you behave well in lessons, in order of…..?), an anonymous biography of a good class manager, or a lined postcard asking for key points. Alternatively, (but not as part of the same instrument) prompts can be given in particular areas (‘the teacher as human being….’, ‘skilful use of sanctions is when…’, ‘they make you behave well by….’ ‘Can you think of any occasions when you didn’t think of not listening and learning because the lesson was so interesting…? b) Teacher perceptions of effective class managers, and factors involved in class management Open-ended semi structured interviews. It was felt that in some cases it might be appropriate to keep interviews as informal and unobtrusive as possible. Prompts or ‘supplementary’ questions could be asked where colleagues mention areas such as ‘the teacher as human being’ (personality and manner), ‘making it interesting’ (need to try to get examples and detail’, and deployment of sanctions. Important to avoid leading questions if we are trying to elicit the comparative importance of factors; first question could be to ask for 3-4 factors considered to be most influential, or to ask for a description/analysis of an (anonymous) colleague who is thought to be a good class manager. If interviewing departmental managers, or members of the SMT, different question schedules might be appropriate; for instance, SMT members might have views on departments which they feel are particularly strong because of dept. cohesion or collaboration. NQTs may have views on ‘support’ factors from key individuals. One of the possible areas of interest might be to examine whether perceptions are common to all elements of the staff or whether there are different perceptions according to status and perspective. Judging from the Hay experience, it may be difficult to get beyond fairly general descriptions of salient characteristics of good class managers, so a variety of approaches, on a modest scale, in the initial stages may be helpful. It would be helpful if colleagues could try to undertake some data collection in at least one of the two areas suggested (and preferably both, even if it is with just one class) before the meeting on October 4th.
(This was one of 4 cross school projects arising out of the day conference)