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Running head: CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

Creating an Effective Classroom Environment Dianne J. E. Kraus Wilkes University

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

ABSTRACT This paper is a teacher reflection based on lesson segments involving routine events, design questions: What will I do to establish and maintain classroom rules and procedures? What do I do to organize the physical layout of the classroom? Lesson segments enacted on the spot: What will I do to acknowledge adherence or non-adherence of classroom rules and procedures? The theory and research-based strategies that improve instructional practice are focused specific methods of increasing student performance by building positive relationships with students and parents, implementing discipline plans that promote adherence to the rules, strategies that acknowledge non-adherence to rules and procedures, and methods to create an atmosphere that sets an expectation for learning.

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

Insight Each year demands on teachers become more, as a result of added responsibilities due to cutbacks to school funding. As a result teachers are expected to do more with less, and time is a precious commodity that requires prioritizing of professional expectations. As a result of this course the teacher has become more effective in approaches to classroom organization. Classroom organization was pushed off the list of priorities in this classroom and key aspects of physical space, effective traffic flow and access to materials and supplies was not considered one of the most important aspects of classroom management. When classrooms are shared by different teachers who have different values, different course content and different levels of experience a rather simple task such as organization of physical space becomes a time consuming event of teacher collaboration and discussion, action steps and shared responsibility in the room. In addition to this time commitment, there is also a funding issue over where the money will come from to purchase supplies, containers, organizers and posters. Teachers must determine if the school will provide the budget to purchase the necessary wish list or are the teachers required to fund the organizational endeavor. Another problem is the motivation of the team of teachers. New teachers tend to be very motivated to get started and to rise to the challenge in order to earn proficient scores on domain two of the Charlotte Danielson evaluation rubric from the evaluators who enter the classroom. More experienced teachers are more wary of the time spent to address this design question as a result of reduction in force (RIF) bargaining tactics that laid off 343 teachers during union negotiations in order to avert a strike in CUSD 300 last year. Seasoned teachers become less

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

willing to spend their own time and money to organize the classroom when there is no incentive, appreciation or recognition for the hard work and determination that they give to the students in the district. Now with the impact of the Professional Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), which will include student performance and teacher effectiveness as fifty percent of a teachers evaluation it is more important for teachers to look at the essential part of the physical classroom which involves organization. Student achievement is affected by the way the room is organized including putting up signs, posters, supply bins, traffic flow, technology and equipment. It is vital to maximize instructional time in this school because the schedule is now changing to a nine period day with forty-five minute periods. In order for students to increase their achievement the teacher must organize the access to the classroom and the supplies so that traffic patterns enhance and support learning rather than distract learning. All factors should be considered including where the technology will be placed, how the supplies will be organized and labeled, how supplies and equipment will be accessed, configurations of desks for individual, small group and large group learning, how books be accessed and where presentation materials will be set-up. The teacher should also consider reinforcing learning with room decorations such as walls for bulletin boards, displays, student work, calendars, goals, announcements, learning goals, motivational posters or instructional reminders, empty space, and rules and procedures. All of these organizational examples set the tone in the classroom and give the students cues for expectations, reminders for important content goals and ensure that transitions are made quickly and efficiently without a great loss of time. An effective teacher keeps the classroom

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

prepared for learning and gives the message that learning is expected by organizing the physical space and materials. Preparing for Fall 2013 has been a focus for this teacher based on the strategies learned in this course. A welcome sign has been hung to be viewed as the initial sighting for entering the room. Content related posters have been hung, as well as WICOR poster(s) which are the foundation of the AVID program strategies. The AVID supplies and templates have been organized into paper organizers, plastic bins and trays for the first day of school. All of the cabinets have been clearly labeled. Old student work and word wall have been cleared up and prepared for student work and new words. The classroom has been labeled with expectations, charger pride signs and school wide expectations that are supported by each classroom. The plan to explain and practice classroom procedures is in place and students will be involved in determining important classroom rules when they start back to school. Sometimes teachers learn that we must prepare and organize the classroom for evaluations based on the environment, but we never learn why this is linked to student achievement or teacher effectiveness. So as an experienced teacher, meetings will be set up before the institute days to collaborate with new teachers, to explain the strategies and why they are important, and to make thoughtful collaborative decisions regarding classroom organization and classroom traffic flow. Another area of teacher effectiveness that was reflected upon during this course, involved designing an overall discipline plan, which also involves consistency between teachers within a Professional Learning Community (PLC). Although this teacher is aware of the strategies for implementing a consistent discipline plan and is experienced in non-adherence of rules and

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

procedures, contingency plans and parental involvement, it is also important to give students recognition for adherence to the rules and procedures. It is planned that the teacher will use verbal affirmations to positively reward students to praise and support behavior, use nonverbal affirmations, stimulus cues, tangible recognition, and daily recognition forms in order to develop variations in this strategy. As part of the Biology PLC, the teacher plans to develop a common discipline plan in collaboration with colleagues, that will be consistent throughout all of the classrooms and this will include both adherence and non-adherence to the rules and procedures. Behavioral rubrics will be developed to score the students and this will be common between all of the classrooms and will be prepared for the first day of school. In the AVID PLC, teachers are working on recognition of adherence to rules and procedures and will develop a plan involving communication with the parents or guardians of students. As a strategy to involve parents it has been agreed to use this strategy as a goal for next year to give feedback and improve student achievement through parent involvement. Another important insight during this course was the implementation of the town hall meeting on late start days in the classroom. The town hall meeting is held every two weeks in the AVID and Biology classrooms as a strategy to review rules and procedures and to allow students to take ownership of their own behaviors. The town hall meeting can be focused on the anonymity of the suggestion box or in open discussion between the class participants. Rules have been established to guide the discussion such as 1) Three before me to avoid one-on-one engagement; 2) No personal attacks only suggestions based on issues; 3) Each student must acknowledge the one that spoke before them by summarizing what was said before responding.

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

This is an invaluable tool for students to engage in social discourse about issues that matter to them in their learning environment. The students learn to self-monitor their own behaviors and develop understanding and tolerance for the opinions of others. The students also realize that their behavior(s) and choices affect other students and creates an awareness of their responsibility to the greater piece of the puzzle. With increased student involvement the teacher shifts responsibility to the students and the dynamics of the class discussions changes the environment in the classroom to a more positive academic exchange of ideas. This is valued at the secondary level as the students are preparing to take on jobs and internships opportunities outside of the school. As a result of this experience, collective responsibility for classroom management has now become an integral part of the teachers instructional practice. Questions 1. How can teacher effectiveness be measured as a result of implementing strategies for creating an effective classroom environment? 2. How can strategies addressing classroom environment be aligned to the Charlotte Danielson framework, which has been implemented in Illinois as part of Professional Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), in order to develop teachers rather than merely to identify ineffective teachers? In answering these questions, the teacher will complete research by reading journal articles about previous studies that have been conducted using strategies to acknowledge adherence and non-adherence to classroom rules and procedures, to prepare and organize the classroom and to develop a consistent discipline that that also includes high-intensity situations, to see what results other schools and teachers have shown. The teacher will visit

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

other schools that use the Marzano Observation Protocol, to observe how these strategies of preparing and organizing classroom environment, adherence and non-adherence to classroom rules and procedures and implementing effective discipline plans have been implemented in their districts. The teacher will also include other strategies from the ten design questions in this study. Based on these results an action research project will be planned within the teachers building to implement the strategies and to measure their success. Also, as a first step to using the Marzano research-based strategies and the Marzano Observation Protocol in the school, the teacher will discuss alignment of the protocol to the framework with cooperating supervisors and attempt to implement the use of the protocol as a non-evaluative tool for teachers to use as a feedback tool when observing other teachers. Action Step Over the summer the teacher plans to meet with members of the PLCs in the building in the role of administrator candidate to develop an action research plan that will implement these strategies and others from the ten design questions so that effectiveness can be measured. It is believed that data obtained, based on use of these research-based strategies will develop buy-in from faculty members who are hesitant to change their practice and need to develop their instructional skills in order to increase student learning. Domain two of the Danielson framework is the first domain to be evaluated in the Fall, and it involves the content of this course, as it is important for teachers within the PLCs to learn the strategies on how to create an effective classroom environment. The strategies learned in this module and the theory behind their use will be shared with the PLC members. One of the main focus areas learned from the content in this course that will be recommended

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

for classroom practice is the establishment of a small set of general classroom rules. The goal is for the teachers to prepare these rules in common so that these rules and procedures are created, reinforced and supported by all teachers in the department. These will be posted in each classroom. These rules will establish general expectations and standards for student behavior so that all students in the department will understand their rights and responsibilities, and this will promote adherence to clearly stated rules and procedures. Teachers will meet to review and change these rules as necessary as the year progresses and teachers meet with their students to receive instructional feedback. The teacher will also work to align the Marzano Observation Protocol to the use of the Danielson framework so that teachers can use their evaluation feedback based on the Danielson rubric to improve their effectiveness through use of the Marzano Observation Protocol. It is planned to start with the AVID and Biology PLC work and to develop learning goals and scales that are aligned to the common core. These learning goals and scales will include behavioral rubrics and discipline plans as developed by the PLC members. Once these strategies are learned and developed in common, the teachers will then use the Marzano Observation Protocol to observe one another and provide feedback. This will also give the members of the learning communities the opportunity to have honest conversations about student improvement and expectations that will improve teacher effectiveness and instructional practice. Although teachers often receive feedback on their weaknesses and strengths, they seldom receive peer feedback or quality professional development to learn strategies that will strengthen their practice. Professional development continues to be a haphazard, hit or miss endeavor at this school with few administers knowing how to assist teachers with the strategies that they need to change the outcomes of

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT

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student performance. This work will also begin over the summer in order to create an effective classroom environment, to align learning goals, grading, and discipline expectations and to develop a common academic language.

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References
Brown, J.L. & Marzano, R.J. (2009). A handbook for the art & science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Marzano, R.J. (2007) The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA:ASCD