EDUC 691 G
My research focuses on my third period health class, which consists of thirty, ninth grade students at Chicopee Comprehensive High School (academic and vocational school). In this class, there is an almost equal division of males (14) and females (16). The divisions between academic and vocational students are not as heterogeneously split. There are seven vocational male students, two vocational female students, seven academic male students, and fourteen academic female students. This combination of students, from different areas of interest and different learning abilities and levels, has been the source of my exploration and need to find appropriate classroom management skills for this unruly mix of learners.
Origin of the Problem
In investigating the variety of students that were grouped together, I came to the realization that I needed to create a solution to the chaos in order to accomplish daily classroom assignments. Through researching my five classes and their behavior, I realized that my third period health class possesses a combination of disruptive behaviors that needed to be addressed. In developing my starting point, which originated with all five of my classes, I decided to focus on the following question: ³Does the feeling of safety or the lack of safety affect the learning of the students². After contemplating this question, I realized that the true problem that was involved was classroom management not safety. Therefore, I needed to learn how I could structure this particular health class in order to avoid or reduce the amounts of disruptive behavior in class.
The questions that I investigated for the health class were: what are the students doing that is disruptive; why are they being disruptive; when or at what point of the period are they being disruptive; how do I respond to their disruptive behavior; and how do the students respond to my actions? By researching these questions, my goal was to find answers to the questions above, while exploring solutions to prevent these behavioral problems from continuing. As the semester continued, I learned a great deal about the dynamics of this particular group of students by deploying a variety of classroom behavior strategies.
In the beginning of the process, I began to keep a journal of the events that took place that I believed endangered the safety of the students. In about a months time, I had accumulated random clips of information that did not seem to have much sequence. I then came to the realization through general questions posed to my students that their ³feelings of safety² varied from individual. The ³feeling of safety² was not something that I could truly have an impact on other than in my particular classroom by providing structure and positive classroom management, which was the means to the variation of my action research. After I decided to restructure my focus to classroom management, I continued to keep a journal specifically for period three, my most challenging class with behavior. I wanted to see if there was any particular pattern of events that caused the students to misbehave (how, why, and when) during the class period. I also wanted to investigate how I reacted to the situations and how the student reacted to my strategies of classroom management.
I began this process by reviewing the guidelines of the classroom and talking with the students about my expectations of them. I also stated the consequences of their actions if they choose to break the guidelines and why it is important to abide by the rules of the classroom. Some of the consequences dealt with include of talking in class, throwing objects, pushing, hitting, and harassing another student. All of theses actions would be addressed with a stern verbal warning, detention, demerits, or time-out. I used these consequences as the basis to managing classroom behavior and as a reminder of the importance of guidelines for each studentıs learning style.
In the middle of the semester, after I had been keeping the journal for over a month, I asked the students for some of their thoughts on what would prevent disruptive behavior. I took some time at the end of one overly disruptive class period to ask the students for suggestions on some ways to improve the class to ensure that it kept running smoothly (Appendix 1). By asking the students for their opinions on how to structure the classroom, it helped them to see the problems that existed. Having the student participate in this activity also enabled me to adjust management techniques accordingly.
Towards the end of the semester, I administered a survey for the students to complete on behavior (Appendix 2). I asked the students for information that would be comparable to my findings through journalizing. I wanted to see if the students were aware of the activities that seemed to encourage or discourage disruptive behavior. I also wanted to know how they categorized me as a teacher and my classroom management skills as being fair, unfair, nice, mean, etc. I then had the students explain what I could change or how they could change to reduce the amount of disruptive behavior. I then asked them to provide any additional information that was relevant and that would be useful in my understanding of their feelings. I then broke down the surveys into an overall summary and numerous categories by gender and division of study (Overall Summary- Appendix 3), (Female Academic- Appendix 4), (Male Academic- Appendix 5), (Female Vocational- Appendix 6), (Male Vocational- Appendix 7), (All Female- Appendix 8), (All Male- Appendix-9), (All Academic- Appendix 10), (All Vocational- Appendix 11), (Please see Appendix 12 for a written analysis of the survey findings).
Using this method of data collection enabled me to improve my awareness of detail and increased my understanding of the importance of organization, preparation, and consistency. Asking the students for their input and opinions through both verbally and in survey form helped my classroom management situation empowering the students by giving them a voice in the classroom and implementing some of their suggestions. From a personal perspective, I found journalizing their suggestions to be quite time consuming and difficult to keep up with while teaching classes consecutively throughout the day. The lack of time in the school day also limited me to only researching one of classes as opposed to all five. Period three is conveniently located before my preparation period and the most problematic for the intended research on disruptive behavior and classroom management.
Through journalizing, I found a few recognizable patterns. I found that if the students were busy from the moment they walked into the classroom until the moment the bell rang they were generally less disruptive. As soon as they were granted free time and not kept busy, disruptive behavior increased. I also found that when the students were participating in groups, completing a graded assignment, listening to a speaker, or viewing a video, they tended to behave appropriately and with respect. However, when I assign class work such as reading and questions from the book, behavioral problems seem to materialize. In addition, when some students completed the assignments quickly, disruption usually occurred because they were left without an assignment while they waited for other students to finish. I also found that when I was checking notebooks and walking around the room, my attention is not focused on the whole classroom, disruptive behavior occurred.
I also found that in a classroom of thirty students in their freshmen year of high school, students tend to be very curious, especially about health topics. Many of the students, predominantly male, seemed to be extremely immature about the topics of suicide, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, reproduction, etc. They seemed to act out by telling stories and ³showing off² to their peers. Some students failed to understand the importance of learning about their health and its impact on their future. I was also able to identify through journalizing the students that were being disruptive on a continuous basis. It seemed that four male students in particular, were the main perpetrators of disruptive behavior. When any of the four were absent, it seemed quieter and easier to manage the classroom. One particular male was absent for almost two weeks during this observation time and the class seemed to become a little more manageable. As the semester progressed, I was also able to identify an increase in independence, self-responsibility with daily activities and assignments, and personal maturity.
By asking my students to give their opinions on what would reduce disruptive behavior in class to enable it to run more smoothly, it help me to understand their opinions and use their suggestions on a trial an error basis. The following day in response to their suggestions, I stated to them the various consequences of their actions. That same day I had a student misbehave by throwing paper at another student. I immediately addressed his behavior with ³see me after class², which the students know means to schedule when their detention will be. The follow through on this disruptive behavior seemed to set the tone for the rest of the class and the students seemed to be much more aware of the rules by me responding to inappropriate behavior without hesitation.
When a student would arrive at detention, I would talk with them about their behavior and asked them why it took place. They usually knew why they were there and I asked them to complete a behavior plan. I then had the student write me a plan for how he or she was going to avoid getting detention again, sign it and they pass it in to me. The student would usually apologized for their action and would agree to try not to let it happen again. This was the process that I followed for all the detentions that were given to disruptive students. The second punishable offense was a write up and the receiving of demerits by the disruptive student. The following step would be to send the student to the time out room, where they would be responsible for completing their work in complete silence and would receive demerits for being sent there. Beyond that, telephone calls would be made to the parents and a meeting with the guidance counselor would be scheduled. The farthest I had to go in the disciplinary process was the demerit stage. Many of the students would settle down after a warning or a detention and use one another as examples of what not to do.
In the survey I administered to my third period class, I learned a lot about my studentıs views on activities relating to disruptive behavior and their perception of my classroom management techniques. Many of them stated that I was fair or nice to the students when I addressed their inappropriate behavior, but thought that I needed to be more strict by not giving the students so many chances. The students restated the techniques that I had used and suggested that I pursue consequences at a faster rate, by not letting students get away with behavior that causes disruption. Many of the students who provided me with these suggestions were the ones whose behavior was not disruptive. The ones that tended to be more disruptive believed that the best disciplining procedure was to give demerits, send them to time out, be more stern, show more videos, and that there is nothing that I can do to change their behavior. Although they may be the ones being disruptive, they still seem to believe that consequences should be administered.
Through conducting action research on this class, I have learned a number of beneficial skills that will follow me through my teaching career. I have learned that providing explicit instructions prior to a lesson has enabled the students to prepare for the day, be more responsible by not asking as many questions, and to stay on task. through the duration of the class period. I have also learned that providing them with a variety of teaching methods breaks up the monotony of the classroom, and helps spark their interest to the topic of the day. Through this research project, I have also discovered that providing students with a reminder of what behavior is both appropriate and inappropriate has helped the students to abide by the guidelines of the classroom. Another tactic I have found that has helped this particular class is to provide them with in-depth explanations of why we learn what we do in health class and giving them a reward at the end of the class. The would regularly reward them by giving them the rest of the class time to start their homework and to talk quietly in their seats.
Before this course, I never realized the importance of explaining why we need to behave appropriately in the classroom and how breaking the rules effects others. I also did not realize the value of keeping the students in their seats until the bell rings. Prior to this research project, I would let the students pack up and stand near the door until the bell rang. In my mind, this was a way to insure their ability to arrive to their next class on time. However, through my journal, I learned that this is when studentıs behavior would be at its worst, since it seemed to invite easy contact with other students, such as pushing or hitting.
Action research has also enabled me to pay attention to the details surrounding classroom management. It has also helped me to look into behavior problems at a new level. Instead of just ³punishing², I have also acquired an interest in understanding why the students do what they do. At first, I was unsure what keeping a journal would do for my teaching. After analyzing the information, I discovered over only a three-month period, I began to see the value in reflecting on my feelings on behavior. I discovered that a pattern arose in my studentıs behavior that had an adverse affect on my attitude towards my classroom management style. If I had a positive attitude at the start of the class, my frustration with their noise level seemed to be quite low and tolerable. It seemed as if the students could quickly sense the kind of mood I was in and knew the limits they could take with their behavior.
This research has also increased my awareness of how I let too many inappropriate behaviors go unnoticed because I am sensitive to the students needs and I feel bad. I have always had the suspicion that I may be ³too nice² when it comes to managing the classroom and that I need to be more strict on a consistent basis. In the beginning of each semester, I have the tendency to start with a very strict, regimented approach, but as the semester progresses, I always seem to become more lenient. I enjoy the time that I spend with the students and I make an effort to develop a personal relationship with each of them. Showing an interest in the studentıs lives seems to open the door for my leniency. Although I become less strict as the semester progresses, I believe that I gain more respect from my students by learning more about their interests. It is a respect that I hope to gain from all of my students while still finding ways to implement new strategies for classroom management.
Through learning how to systematically conduct research, critically view my journal reflections, and sharing my findings with my notebook group and other peers, I have begun to understand the importance of applying action research to my teaching. I do not believe that my action research on classroom management will ever be complete. As soon as I reduce the amount of disruptive behavior in one class, another will challenge me. There will be a number of strategies that will work for one class that will have no influence on the behavior of another.
The art of teaching is exciting because of its constant challenges and changes providing a venue for personal growth. Teaching never seems to be dull or predictable due to students behavior, which is one of the main reasons I chose to become a teacher.