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EDUC 5182 Managing Learning Environments M - Assessment Two: Essay

Establishing and Maintaining an Effective Learning Environment


Jane Angove 110016034

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Introduction
Contemporary educational environments are becoming increasingly complex,
supporting learners with a diverse range of physical, social, cognitive, affective and
aesthetic needs (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
[ACARA] 2015b; Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu 2011). Subsequently, it is
imperative educators develop a diverse and responsive approach to classroom
management, modifying their strategies to suit the individual needs of their students
(Santoro 2009; Williams 2012). Through engaging in critical reflection, educators
may evaluate the transference and implications of their theoretical understandings of
classroom management within their pedagogical practice.
According to Frohard-Dourlent (2009), an individuals experiences will innately
shape their attitudes, beliefs, values, ideologies and habitus. Elements of this cultural
capital transfers to educational contexts, inherently influencing educators
perspectives of childhood, learning and the role the teacher (Groundwater-Smith,
Ewing & Le Cornu 2011), whilst accounting for variation in classroom management
approaches (Frohard-Dourlent 2009). Existing academic discourse indicates that
issues pertaining to classroom management is a major cause of job dissatisfaction,
burnout and early exit (Marzano & Marzano 2003; Sullivan, Johnson, Owens &
Conway 2014). Therefore, it is imperative to develop a strong philosophy and
approach to managing learning environments, particularly as a novice teacher.
Furthermore, it is essential I continue to critically reflect and review the effectiveness
of my prevention, action and resolution strategies (Charles 1999). Through
recognising dichotomies between my intended and actual classroom practice, it will
enable me to modify my approach to minimising unproductive behaviour and
facilitate meaningful academic learning and social-emotional growth in my students
(Evertson & Weinstein 2006).

Guiding Principles
The interrelated principles that underpin the management of learning environments
are grounded on the overraching notion that teaching practice should always respect
students human dignity (Sullivan 2016a), a concept inherently embedded within all
pedagogical practice. At present, the underlying principles that are most pertinent to
my developing management approach, correspond with the objectives outlined in the
Melbourne Declaration on Goals for Young Australians 2008. In accordance with the
declaration, all students retain the right to educational excellence and equity,
developing into informed, active, creative and confident future learners (Ministerial
Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2008).

From the outset, my existing pedagogical philosophy reflects the liberal progress
approach introduced by Hoy and Weinstein (2006), which reiterates the value of
fostering positive interpersonal relationships between all members of the school
community. In accordance with this philosophy, power is shared legitimately between
students and teachers, promoting a cohesive and collaborative learning environment
that supports the learning of pro-social behaviour (Sullivan 2016a). Ultimately, these
relationships enable educators to establish transparent behavioural and academic
expectations collectively with students, developing agreements that are respectful of
students individual needs, thereby allowing for fair and equitable treatment (Sullivan
2016a; Williams 2012). Furthermore, I believe it is critical to foster self-regulation in
students, equipping children with the capacity to address the complex challenges
within and beyond educational contexts, aligning with the objectives stipulated in the
Australian Curriculum (2015a) general capabilities and the Melbourne Declaration
(Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2008).

Approach to Promoting Productive Behaviours (Prevention)


According to Charles (1999), a systematic approach to classroom discipline requires
prevention, action and resolution. Whilst these are all valuable dimensions, my
developing approach to classroom management focuses primarily on the
implementation of practical preventative strategies that promote productive
behaviours, thereby minimizing the need for intervention.
Through adopting a liberal progressive approach to teaching and classroom
management, it is imperative to employ pedagogical strategies that establish and
maintain a productive learning environment (Hoy & Weinstein 2006). Therefore,
whilst educators inherently maintain legitimate power over students due to their
position, it is critical they strive to minimize this conception of power, deepening
students emotional safety within the classroom (Sullivan 2002; Williams 2012).
Through developing thoughtful, supporting, caring and respectful relationships with
students, educators may implicitly model positive behaviours to students, reinforcing
class expectations (Hoy & Weinstein 2006; Jones 2011; Sullivan 2016b; Williams
2012). Furthermore, Hoy & Weinstein (2006) argue that students respond more
positively and cooperatively to educators that demonstrate interest and concern in
their personal, social and academic lives, with powerful repercussions for students
that are marginalized or from low socio-economic backgrounds (Cothran, Hodges
Kulinna & Garrahy 2003). Thus, the development of these interpersonal relationships
has a positive ripple effect (Sullivan 2016b), promoting mutual respect and
productive behaviours within the educational environment (Lyons, Ford & Slee
2014).
From the beginning of the academic year, it is imperative educators share legitimate
power with students whilst developing clear and positive classroom systems,
standards, procedures and routines, as well as corresponding consequences if violated
(Bohn, Roehrig & Pressley 2004; Charles 2009; Sullivan 2016b; Williams 2012).
This social contract should be devised in an open forum with input from all
members of class community, ensuring each students physical and emotional safety

is preserved through developing students understanding of the values and objectives


underpinning the agreement (Jones 2011). Items within the agreement should
fundamentally preserve students human dignity (Sullivan 2016a), through supporting
the educational process, maintaining student health and safety, preventing property
loss and damage, as well as minimising disruption to the learning process (Jones
2011). Whilst Jones (2011) contests these standards should reflect students interests
and cultural backgrounds, it is important to acknowledge that individual perceptions
of the standards and the resulting consequences may vary between students, due to
social, cultural, linguistic or intellectual diversity, signifying that equal treatment is
not always equitable (Curwin & Mendler, cited in Charles 1999; Lyons, Ford & Slee
2014). Ultimately, I believe that the alteration of standards to suit individual needs
will be particularly challenging during my early experiences within educational
environments.
Social constructivism theory suggests that individuals from marginalized or minority
groups inadvertently assimilate to the hidden curriculum intrinsic within
educational contexts (Wink 2011). Thus, as the Australian Curriculum currently
reflects the social and cultural ideals of the dominant white, middle class culture
(Gale & Densmore 2002), it is imperative educators utilize an individual approach to
the educational process, respecting the interests and needs of each student (FrohardDourlent 2009; Sullivan 2016a). Through designing engaging and differentiated
learning programs, curriculum content may be accessible to a greater diversity of
learners, minimizing the effects of social, emotional, behavioural, cognitive and
academic barriers to maximize productive and pro-social behaviours (Bohn, Roehrig
& Pressley 2004; Hyde, Carpenter & Conway 2014; McIntyre, Blacher & Baker
2006; Sullivan 2016a). Subsequently, it is valuable to review all interrelated
components described Williams 4S Conceptual Framework that may marginalize
and minimize students capacity to achieve educational excellence and equity,
comprising the setting, systems, self and students (Ministerial Council on Education,
Employment, Training and Youth Affairs 2008; Williams 2012). This may include
reviewing student peer groups, relationships between the school and guardians,
curriculum content, and my own pedagogical practices (Frohard-Dourlent 2009).

Approach to Managing Unproductive Behaviours (Intervention)


Despite implementing preventative measures that promote positive behaviours, it is
valuable to develop an approach to managing unproductive behaviours, particularly if
they threaten the physical and emotional safety of the learning environment
(Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu 2011). Sullivan (2016a) suggests that
traditional behaviourist approaches to school discipline fail to reflect the complexity
of classrooms, offering short-term solutions.
Curwin and Mendley (cited in Charles 1999; McDonald 2013) identify four varieties
of consequences, including logical, conventional, generic and instructional. However,
when devising appropriate consequences with students at the start of the year, I would
guide conversation to ensure the consequences developed are either logical or
instructional. Additionally, the consequences must be reasonable and related to the

behavior, respectful of students, and consistently enforced by the educator


(McDonald 2013). Ultimately, this approach will preserve and respect childrens
human dignity, fostering self-regulation and learning of pro-social behaviour and
opportunities for re-engagement with the task (Sullivan 2016a; Williams 2012).
My underlying approach to unproductive behaviours is derived from Williams
Behavioural Transaction Hierarchy, which offers a generalized, practical approach
that is applicable to various misdemeanors (Williams 2012). The strategy describes
five sequential phases, including identification, considering, decision, action and
reinforcement. During the identification phase, it is critical educators assess their own
physical position and proximity to students, projecting withitness to ensure
maximum productivity (Kounin, cited in Williams 2012; Williams 2012). Following
this, educators must consider the scale, frequency, significance and disruptiveness of
the behaviour to other students, deciding if it necessary to intervene or tactically
ignore the behaviours (Williams 2012). If action is required, the severity and
disruptiveness of the behaviour must be considered, utilizing non-verbal gestures for
least disruptive behaviour such as pointing or thumbs up or down, generalized and
task verbals for low disruption behavior such as changes in speed, tone or volume or
asking student about their progress, and transaction verbals for specific focus level
intervention, such as asking student to repeat instructions or the last thing spoken
(Williams 2012). It is critical that educators reinforce the classroom standards and
expectations, as well as the students progress (Williams 2012). Ultimately, the
Behavioural Transaction Hierarchy fosters self-regulation in students, building
learner capacity to adopt pro-social behaviours in a positive and non-disruptive
manner (Sullivan 2016a; Williams 2012).
It is imperative that any intervention strategies utilized maintain the students human
dignity, whilst refocusing the student to the learning (Sullivan 2016a). Williams
(2012) suggests all communication should remain private, with the emphasis placed
on the behaviour and not the student itself. Open questioning enables the student to
take ownership of their misbehavior, whilst providing opportunities for the educator
to use active listening, assertive language and I-messages (Lyons, Ford & Slee 2014;
Williams 2012). Additionally, the strong rapport established with students at the start
of the year allows for clear negotiations, where power is shared between the educator
and student (Lyons, Ford & Slee 2014; Sullivan 2016a). Furthermore, these
relationships and sense of classroom community enable restorative justice, providing
students with a positive sense of community, as well as opportunities to rectify
misbehaviours and demonstrate concern for peers (McDonald 2013; Sullivan 2016a;
Williams 2012).

Conclusion
From the outset, I believed I had a clear understanding of my approach to managing
learning environments. However, through critically engaging with academic
discourse, it became apparent that my underlying beliefs regarding classroom
management must remain receptive and responsive to the needs of the students
(Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu 2011). As educational environments

become increasingly complex, it is valuable for educators to reflect critically upon the
implications of their theoretical understandings and pedagogical practices in offering
students an individualized approach that accommodates learner diversity
(Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu 2011; Hyde, Carpenter & Conway 2014;
Santoro 2009; Williams 2012).
Whilst individual approaches to classroom management may vary, it is imperative
each educator has a clear understanding of the principles and literature that constitute
their approach (Frohard-Dourlent 2009). Ultimately, this enables educators to
critically reflect upon the effectiveness of their prevention, action and resolution
strategies, altering their practice if necessary, to foster meaningful academic learning
and social-emotional growth in students (Charles 1999; Evertson & Weinstein 2006).

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