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Article of Interest - In The Classroom

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Teaching Style and Classroom Management
Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, ParentMagic Newsletter, Special Teachers' Edition, July 2005
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The process of maintaining a calm and productive classroom environment starts with the teacher. The action and attitudes of a teacher toward a student who is misbehaving can make the situation better or worse. Have you ever noticed that on a day that you are not feeling well, the students are more poorly behaved? Students look to the teacher for consistency and safety in the classroom. Some kids will become anxious and withdraw if it appears that a teacher cannot handle behavior problems. Other students, however, will retaliate if they feel a teacher is overreacting to a situation in a hostile and unnecessary way.

Effective Teachers are Both Warm and Demanding

Teachers manifest different personalities and teaching styles in the classroom and it is helpful to categorize these approaches in terms of some basic dimensions. It has been said that good teachers are both warm and demanding. Being warm means caring and emotional support for students. Being demanding—in the good sense—means expecting something from your kids, both in terms of academic work and behavior. Depending on whether the warm and demanding switches are in the “OFF” or “ON” positions, we can describe four fundamental teaching styles.

Authoritarian: Demanding ON, Warm OFF

Teachers in this category are quick to “jump” on every behavior that is not acceptable in the classroom. Support and positive reinforcement, however, are rare. The authoritarian teacher may use a loud voice to get the attention of her students. She may act shocked and angry when students don’t follow her directives. The “benefit” of this style is that the teacher frequently gets the immediate compliance from her students. The cost of the authoritarian style includes student anxiety and minimal long-term positive effects. No student enjoys a teacher’s yelling. Although kids may comply out of fear, this teaching technique rarely produces behavioral changes that last over time.

Permissive: Demanding OFF, Warm ON

Teachers in this category are often “too nice.” They want students to like them and they want to be helpful, so they are warm and supportive but not very good at setting limits. Permissive teachers may focus on effort while de-emphasizing the quality of students’ productions. Disruptive behavior may be ignored or handled with weak, soft-spoken “reprimands” or pleading. While warmth and support are good qualities, students still appreciate discipline even if they don’t show it. The cost of the permissive style is a classroom that is out of control. Constructive learning does not flow well. While students may describe a permissive teacher as “nice and easy”, when push comes to shove they do not feel that they can trust her to take care of problem situations.

Detached: Demanding OFF, Warm OFF

The detached teacher tends to be neither warm nor demanding. She may sit at her desk when students are working or grade papers when “supervising” the playground. Students who need extra emotional support do not get it from her, and students who need firm behavioral limits do not get that either. The detached teacher may miss important “warning signs” from students who are having trouble, academically or behaviorally. Other students may withdraw and feel unimportant. And still other kids may increase acting-out behavior.

Authoritative: Demanding ON, Warm ON

The authoritative teacher is the ideal, though this approach is easier said than done! This teacher has a positive, kind and supportive relationship with her students, but they know when she “means business.” Because she has an effective discipline plan and her classroom is orderly, the students trust her and respect her. There is more time for academics. This teacher feels empowered and energized because she sees positive growth and development in her students. Her students feel safe as well as capable.


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