Literature on classroom management asserts that the best discipline is preventive, with studies on teacher variables such as empathy or enforcement of consequences, as well as student variables such as peers reporting positive behaviors with group contingencies, among others. However, there is little in the research that specifically targets regular classroom environments wherein large numbers of students simultaneously act out in highly frequent and disruptive ways as a large group, rather than just a few renegades.
Written from the perspective of a veteran teacher as an ethnographic self-study, this research describes the phenomenon of a highly disruptive, regular education primary student group as a whole and teacher interventions attempted to influence group behavioral trends. Conducted in a natural, ongoing context to strengthen external validity, the purpose of this research is to add to the literature on classroom management and effective teacher interventions specifically addressing large groups of disruptive students with high-needs. Data was collected over the course of one school year and strategies from grounded theory and constant comparative analysis were used to describe and analyze the types of teacher interventions most frequently employed to affect whole-group behavioral trends. Interventions were analyzed and interpreted using choice theory from the field of psychology and by revisiting humanistic classroom management models proposed by Marvin Marshall (1998; 2004) and Thomas Gordon (1981) and relevant research on selected interventions of peer leaders, student choice, and individual counsel. Research questions were: 1) Given a highly disruptive collective primary student group of 24, what interventions were employed most often by a veteran teacher in attempts to co-create a more effective learning environment? 2) What were their levels of efficacy?
The four main findings were: 1) There was evidence of incremental progress sprinkled with regressions, yet the data supports that student behavior did improve overall, both collectively and individually. 2) Various interventions were often employed simultaneously among the twenty-four distinct intervention categories identified in the data. 3) One of the least effective interventions for this group of students was teaching social skills curriculum in a whole group situation, especially for those students most in need of learning social skills. 4) Among the most frequently referenced teacher intervention categories for this group of students were: 1) peer leaders; 2) student choice, and; 3) individual counsel. This study offers strong evidence of improvement in student behavior and of the integrative nature of multiple interventions. The preponderance of evidence supports the success of implementing humanistic theories of classroom management to meet student needs for belonging and acceptance, power, and freedom through democratic, collaborative interventions to improve student behavior.
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