Dynamic Classroom Management
All individuals seek a sense of control;
we want to shape our environment.
The Development of the Dynamic Classroom Management Approach
Dynamic Classroom Management, which operationalizes the theoretical Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to classroom management, employs research-based behavioural principles and evidence-based classroom applications (Edmunds, Edmunds, & Hogarth, 2012; Edmunds, 2010; Edmunds & Edmunds, 2008; Johnson & Edmunds, 2006). DCM is consistent with PBIS theory in that it emphasizes communication, social skills, and self-management. Approaches that use PBIS concepts have proven successful because it is primarily a teaching method (Scott, Gagnon, & Nelson, 2008).
DCM also incorporates the following five global principles of classroom management found in Evertson and Weinstein's (2006) respected publication—Handbook of Classroom Management: Research, Practice, and Contemporary Issues:
- caring, supportive relationships with and among students are developed;
- instruction is organized and implemented in ways that optimize students' access to learning;
- group management methods encourage students' engagement in academic tasks;
- the development of students' social skills and self-regulation is promoted; and,
- appropriate interventions are used to assist students with behavior problems. (p. 5)
In addition, DCM was designed to adhere to the principles of process-outcome and classroom discourse research, and to expressly circumvent the problems found in other interventions. To this end, the DCM approach:
- translates theoretical principles of behaviour and classroom management into a pragmatic and systematic approach;
- is directed towards and is based upon observations of teacher and student interactions within classrooms;
- is evaluated based on pre-versus-post assessments of school-specific and classroom-specific causal behaviours;
- maintains program fidelity via researcher-directed training and participant monitoring; and,
- is implemented at the beginning of the school year or at the start of a school semester in the case of secondary school.
DCM is not a "canned program" or a one-size-fits-all approach. Once the principles of DCM are understood, all aspects of the approach are easily customized by elementary and secondary school educators to suit any school/classroom circumstance. Using DCM, teachers provide structures that model, encourage, and support desired behaviours based on PBIS (see Lewis & Sugai, 1999; Sugai et al., 2000). It emphasizes proactive teacher-student discourses to establish classroom rules, routines, and reminder mechanisms (see Fallona & Richardson, 2006; Nucci, 2006) so that explicit rules/routines do not fade (see Morine-Dershimer, 2006). There is an intentional use of the motivational dynamics of self-regulated behaviour: making choices; considering the meaningfulness of choices; executing choices; and reflecting on action outcomes (see McCaslin et al., 2006). By proactively engaging students in the design of explicit rules/routines, teachers promote student self-control and a commitment to the rules. This process impedes impulsivity and students' willful abdication of their behavioural responsibilities. Instead of trying to inferentially change student behaviours (as intended by punishment), the DCM focus is on changing how students think about their actions. With punishment, behaviours will recur as soon as the punishment/threat is removed. However, when students are explicitly taught about and rewarded for desired behaviours, they change their thinking and willfully change their behaviours.
Self-perception of behaviour is enhanced
when specific feedback is provided.
The Steps of the Dynamic Classroom Management Approach
What does the DCM approach teach students?
- Rules are logical and necessary.
- Their feelings are valid and honoured.
- They can assertively stand up for their own rights.
- With rights comes responsibility.
- Their behaviour is under their control.
- The whole class is under their control.
- Problem-solving defuses confrontation.
Outcomes of the Dynamic Classroom Management Approach
The DCM was designed and tested in both elementary and secondary schools over several years. This allowed the researchers to adjust and fine tune the approach under real-world educational conditions. Thus, its processes and procedures have been implemented by numerous educators, including in three schools in the Thames Valley District School Board. Teacher, administrator, and student data have consistently revealed:
- demonstrable improvements in student behaviours as measured by teacher ratings of existing baseline (pre-intervention) behaviours;
- demonstrable reductions in office referrals as measured by administrator ratings and comparisons with log book data from previous years;
- heightened student awareness of the negative impact of problematic behaviour as measured by teacher and student interviews; and,
- overall enhancements of the tone of classrooms and schools as measured by administrator ratings.
Results from the most recent DCM implementation in a large, high needs elementary school include:
Five-month follow-up—a high percentage of teachers indicated that students were more respectful (72%), less disruptive in class (68%), better at resolving conflicts (72%), better at following rules (80%), less argumentative (68%), better at helping others (72%), and better at paying attention (64%). Administrators indicated that office referrals were down 23% in the first weeks of implementation and steadily decreased to an 82% reduction in the fifth month.
- I think the biggest thing that has helped reduce bad behaviours in our school is having the opportunity to discuss our rules as a staff and being consistent. It has demonstrated the importance of each classroom teacher having rules and enforcing them.
- Learning about classroom discipline has saved my career.
- I really like that students are involved in the decision-making. Kids know what is right and they know when a consequence is fair. They have taken ownership and become part of the solution. I think this has fostered a positive attitude towards rules. Students were often outside the office last year and now issues are dealt with in the classroom. There is a positive domino effect - fewer students at the office allow administrators to deal with students in a more effective manner because they have the time. This allows administrators more time to talk on the phone with parents regarding concerns. This builds positive relations between home and school.
- After three years of trying, we now have a fully functioning resource room. Teachers are no longer sending students there for behaviour. I don't believe any students have been sent there as one of the consequences for breaking a class rule. This is a huge accomplishment.
Supply teacher comments—
- Things are much calmer in the school this year.
- The Big Five [rules] have really made a difference in my interactions with students. The students know the rules and respond well.
- The Big Five has provided the framework for improved communication. We now have more time to be proactive. Instructional time has increased significantly. I am looking forward to seeing a significant improvement in our students’ academic performance.
- The Big Five is the single most significant initiative I have used that has produced such dramatic results in student behaviour.
Safe Schools Task Force comments—
- Compared to last year, the school feels like a better place.
- Students are happier because they can play with their friends without being bullied.
- Behaviour on the bus has improved because of The Big Five [rules].
Program Council comments—
- There are fewer meltdowns by students.
- There is more time to invest proactive strategies to help kids academically.
- There is a huge difference in the hall and at the office.
The DCM approach, which operationalizes PBIS theory, was designed in response to Lewis and colleagues’ (2006) and Brophy’s (2006) calls for additional studies that design and validate classroom management interventions within a school-wide process. There is indisputable empirical evidence detailing the positive impact of practices, interventions, and system-change strategies that utilize the principles of PBIS. This positive impact is attributed mainly to the preventative and educative emphasis. PBIS does not rely on reactive-punitive and coercive measures. More importantly, PBIS utilizes a team approach that supports teachers and administrators and provides a continuum of primary, secondary, and tertiary supports that meet the needs of students who display chronic problem behaviours (Lewis et al., 2006).
Discipline without an education component will only temporarily stop problematic behaviours because the cause of the behaviour still exists; therefore, once the cause re-emerges, so too will the problematic behaviour. The DCM emphasis on student-teacher discourse is designed to educate students about, and engage students in, the rule-making processes of their classrooms. It is worth stating that educators do not need to change students' behaviours. This is a misconception that inherently absolves students from their much needed and desired responsibility to actively participate. The intent of purposeful student-teacher discourses about classroom management is, therefore, to evoke students' natural and vested interests in the way their educational environments should operate. If educators can change how students think about their behaviour, problematic behaviours will dissipate.