Building Better Classrooms with Dynamic Classroom Management

Does your child enjoy a peaceful classroom environment, or is his/her classroom often disrupted by student misbehavior? If it’s peaceful, it may be thanks to Dr. Alan Edmunds’ research on behavior management and a system he and his team have implemented in local Ontario schools.

With many years of experience in teaching and working with children with learning disabilities, Edmunds realized that these students were additionally struggling with classroom misbehavior and teachers’ inability to manage it. “Students don’t learn well when they’re under psychological duress,” he explains. Student misbehavior is also one of the primary reasons why teachers leave the profession.

How can teachers manage class control to focus on the learning? Edmunds maintains that punishment-based systems don’t work well. While a great deal of literature on classroom management has been published, in Edmunds’ view there was still no single comprehensive system for keeping student conduct in check.

Edmunds devised a system called Dynamic Classroom Management (DCM) and began testing it in schools. DCM is grounded in the view that students should provide input in designing rules, rewards, and consequences for the classroom. These rules are reasonable, Edmunds explains, because they must be agreed upon by everyone. They also clarify what behaviour is expected and how infractions are dealt with. “It’s the democratic, student-mediated process of DCM that provides a sense of structure,” Edmunds notes.

His research has consistently shown that DCM reduces classroom misbehavior and referrals to the principal’s office, as well as improvements in the overall atmosphere and morale of the school.

One principal saw a 90% reduction in referrals to her office. Teachers, especially in secondary schools, noticed an increase in teaching time. One teacher reported, “I used to prepare for 80 minutes and I’m lucky if I get to teach 20 or 30 good minutes. The rest of the time I’m dealing with behaviour. Now I get to teach 70 or 65 minutes and I’m getting more done.”

DCM is meaningful for students too. When asked what the best part of DCM was, one student commented, “I’ve been in school since I was 4 years old and I’ve never been asked what I think about how behaviour should be in the classroom.”

The DCM program, in Edmunds’ view, leads not only to increased productivity in the classroom but also to the improved mental health of students and teachers, in part because it provides a strong base of good behaviour from which anti-bullying and Safe Schools programs can grow.

The Ministry of Education has recognized Edmunds’ work with Knowledge Network for Applied Education Research (KNAER) funding to make DCM more accessible.  Edmunds and his team have implemented the program in many schools in Ontario. They have also trained one Southwestern Ontario school board to implement DCM on their own, and this board will assist a neighbouring school board to implement the program later this year. Continued knowledge mobilization is a key feature of the DCM approach.

The next step for Edmunds and his team is to investigate whether families can benefit from the DCM program, particularly by improving the connection between home and school and by providing parents with tools they can use at home.  

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