Classroom Management in a Learner-Centered Classroom (Part III)

In Part I of this series, I laid out my philosophy of the role of classroom management in a learner-centered classroom.

In Part II, I discussed a strategy for setting expectations in a way that I think empowers learners and allows them to take ownership of the classroom and its culture.

In this final part, I want to share some thoughts on what to do when learners don’t meet those expectations. First, though, I want to share an idea I keep coming back to:

The more time we spend planning engaging lessons, the less time we have to spend planning classroom management.

I believe that when I plan engaging lessons (and show learners through my words and actions that I care about and respect them), the number of incidents, especially serious ones, drops dramatically. That’s why the the potential management issues that might stem from the increased freedom of a learner-centered classroom are mitigated by the increased engagement that can be harnessed in that same environment.

With that being said, what do you do when a learner doesn’t meet behavioral expectations?

My first step is to speak with them about it. If, in the moment, I don’t have time, I’ll redirect them and then catch up with them later if I need to. Pernille Ripp has shared in a number of articles on her blog how she discusses with learners the appropriate punishment (if any) for a given incident. Sometimes, just that conversation will be enough. Having collaboratively set expectations early in the year makes that conversation more meaningful.

Another idea I really like is from an interview my district’s leadership team held on their podcast with members of the MC2 School in New Hampshire. In it, one of the MC2 interviewees said that, basically, when learners make good choices, they get more choices, and when learners make poor choices, they get fewer choices. I loved this because it was powerful and simple enough for me to remember in the moment when it might be applicable, and because it’s logical enough to make sense to learners.

Along these same lines, to highlight the logic behind discipline decisions, I always try to follow up any redirection or loss of privileges with “because.” I want learners to understand the negative impacts their behaviors have on the class and that my redirection/discipline is an effort to undo those negative impacts:

John, please pick a new seat, because I’m hearing a lot of talking and I think being near your friends isn’t working out right now. It might help you focus if you’re further away. Let’s try it and see.

When learners see the causal relationship between their actions, the impact, and the consequences, the reasoning becomes much more clear and it gives learners a chance to learn from those behaviors.

In the end, every classroom is different, with a unique culture created by a combination of teacher and learners that has literally never existed before. Because of that, I don’t even think it’s worth getting into an extensive discussion of what consequences are appropriate when. Context matters. What I hope is that these three articles have given you an example that you can tweak, or from which you can pull small aspects to add to your own management plan. Thanks for reading!

Want to chat? Let’s talk in the comments or connect on Twitter.


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