Classroom Management 101

I should have published this article long ago!  It’s a topic that is basic to successful teaching at any level.  With good classroom management, the instructor can normally avoid the annoying distractions students sometimes make and avoid conflicts within the classroom.  

What Is Classroom Management?

Some would argue that good classroom management is a high-level teaching skill developed over time.  Others might contend that it is innately a manifestation of an instructor’s personality.  I think it is a combination of both.  Regardless, it is a skill comprised of a set of strategies with which even the most experienced college instructor sometimes struggles.

You might call classroom management an instructors bad of tricks to maintain civility in the classroom and to create a positive learning environment for students.  I will give you a couple examples to illustrate my point.

Examples of Poor Classroom Management

Several years ago, I hired an experienced college science teacher.  One day she came to me to ask my advice concerning a student who was making bird calls whenever she turned to write on the board.  I have documented this in another article entitled When Funny Turns to Disruptive, or the Case of the Cantankerous Canary.  If she had not addressed this seemingly benign behavior it may have escalated or others may have joined in.  Funny or not, it was disruptive to the her and the other students whose minds were drawn away from learning.  (By the way, my advice worked.)

On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, a female instructor teaching a basic “shop” math course let disrespectful behaviors from a couple young men escalate.  It started out with them sauntering in late and getting up and walking out whenever they wished.  Then they argued with her in class.  Eventually, there was yelling and she admitted using “extreme” language with them after being threatened by a comment something like, “You better pass me or else.”  She felt so threatened, that we had someone walk the halls nearby during her next class.  Unfortunately, she had let this matter get far too far out of hand, and there was little I could do to help her.  Yes, the students were guilty of unacceptable classroom behavior, but this type of situation is one instructors must nip in the bud so to speak.

Threatening Instructor

There are others, and yes ladies, men are guilty too.  I could go on and on with stories, but the two I cited illustrate the extremes of student behavior that depend proactive steps on the part of the instructor. Furthermore, classroom management is about much more than dealing with undesirable student behaviors.  Do you think the instructor in this picture needs to refine his classroom management style?  I do!  By the body language it would appear that he is reprimanding or criticizing a student.  There is a time and a place for such actions, but unless there is an impending threat of physical harm to someone, the classroom is not the place.

More to Follow

In following articles I will expand on the basics of classroom management. For now, if you have comments or questions, send them to me via the comment box below. I will approve/post all worthy comments and suggestions.

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC).

My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students.

After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.


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