Moving Forward: Teaching in Uncertain Times

Community Blog on online, hybrid, and F2F teaching during the pandemic

The benefits of a strong (and supportive) classroom management plan

Classroom management plans help you help your students.

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve prepared your course materials and for the start of the semester if you don’t have a solid classroom management plan in place. Classroom management plans help you establish and manage student expectations and behavior. They can ensure that your classes/lectures run smoothly and can help you establish class rules, maintain discipline, and encourage on-time behavior. Good plans can also  motivate students to participate and create a safe, supportive, and respectful environment in which all students can succeed. 

By providing structure and consistency, management plans can reduce disruptive student behavior. Negative student behaviors can result from  boredom (the pace of the class is too slow), frustration (the pace of the class is too fast), feeling disconnected from instructor and/or peers, and/or feeling disconnected from the content.

Classroom management plans can lead to:

  • Increased student accountability
  • Increased connections between instructor and students
  • Increased interactions between students for optimal learning
  • A better understanding by students of course expectations

Establish routines on the first day of class and be consistent. Describe the plan for the semester on the first day and establish a routine. Consider student input from students, especially if you’re teaching upperclassman. 

Use student engagement techniques (SETS) to structure your classroom experiences. Consider starting each class with a question or problem to solve and then give your students the first 3-5 minutes of class time to answer.  This time allows the students to get settled in. SETs can include reading prompts, minute papers, questions of the day, or any activities that warm up their thinking as students arrive to class.  SETS can also be used at any point during class and are an easy way to take role or increase participation and establish class routines. You can collect these or have students answer electronically and then use the responses as a way to take attendance or give extra credit (students need to answer XX during the semester for XX points). The questions can come from assigned readings or from the content from the previous class.. SETS that provide instant feedback (such as clicker questions) are also highly effective in keeping students engaged and on task (resulting in less disruptive behavior).

It can be frustrating it can be when students are tardy. It can be disruptive to you and other students when students are late to class and stepping over backpacks to get to find a seat. Do not view students being tardy as a personal affront to you or your class! There are many reasons why students are late that range from elements beyond their control (not much time between classes to walk across campus or problems finding parking as examples) to a general lack of concern. Consider reserving the last row of seats (or the seats nearest to the door) for students who are tardy. This way students who are late will cause fewer disruptions for the rest of the class. 

SETs (described above) are also great way to start class while students are getting settled in instead of launching straight into a lecture. You will also feel less frustrated if students are late since you will be less likely to be interrupted. Plus, the questions can serve as motivators to encourage students to get to class on time.

Use your syllabus as a classroom management tool, but don’t make it a contract. Adopt learner-centered language and write using positives. Students want and need the “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” information for your course that is provided in the syllabus, but this can be transformed into a powerful class management tool that sets clear expectations for workload, learning outcomes, learner behavior and responsibilities, deadlines, grading, late assignments and assessment. Make sure include information on the GSU Disruptive Student Policy on your syllabus and review what to do if a disruptive student is displaying threatening behavior to you or other students.

Get to know your students and have them get to know each other. Getting to know your students is essential for preventing all kinds of discipline problems (but you don’t have to be too personal!). Have your students complete “getting to know you” surveys at the start of the semester of use the discussion post tool in iCollege to collect information. You can also purposefully connect the backgrounds/majors/interests of your students to examples in class whenever possible. Good student rapport also improves and enhances group work.

What can you do about students who dominate discussions? Focus on discussion management techniques that engage as many students as possible and consider using small group discussions or activities that more easily allow students to contribute.

Location matters! Don’t stay in the front of the classroom. If possible, move around the room as you conduct class, standing close to students who are talking or texting — the closer you get, the less likely they are to continue that behavior.

Distract the distractor (but avoid embarrassing students). SETs and keeping class on task via discussions and activities keeps students engaged. Student response systems (iClickers etc., Poll Everywhere, keep students on task and less distracted. Also, consider using frequent low stakes assessments to keep students on track.

Record positive and negative behaviors (for letters of recommendation). Keep track of behavior and let students know you’re doing it and why

Please share examples of your classroom management strategies a in the comments section. 

Helpful resources:

“10 Effective Classroom Management Techniques Every Faculty Member Should Know” (edited by Maryellen Weimer from The Teaching Professor) has some great tips and suggestions for establishing classroom routines and avoiding conflict. 10-Effective-Classroom-Mgmt-Techniques

Best practices: Preventing and managing challenging classroom situations, by Wingert, D & Molitor, T. 2009. Currents in Teaching and Learning. Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 2009. Wingert and Molitor, 2009

First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning by Maryellen Weimer (Faculty Focus newsletter). Includes classroom management tips.First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning

lcarruth • April 12, 2022

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