Helping New Teachers Create Learning Communities

For some new teachers, classroom leadership and management are easy, but for most, these require time and effort to learn

“Some pre-service teachers find it easier than others, some have natural talents when it comes to leadership, organization, and management; others have to more  consciously learn the knowledge, skills, and attributes involved,” explains Faculty of Education professor Dr. Ed Wasiak.

“Creating a safe, focused classroom environment is an important part of teaching. Both research and anecdotal evidence indicate that a teacher’s ability to lead and manage a class is the most important factor in successful teaching and learning,” he says. Effective classroom management is also crucial for creating a sense of community in a class, in which students have positive regard for one another and their teacher. “It’s really about establishing positive relationships,” he explains.

“Typically, teacher education programs across North American have not adequately prepared teachers in this area,” says Wasiak. In 2004, Wasiak and colleague Dr. Keith Roscoe studied the experiences of U of L education students and discovered that many lacked classroom management knowledge at the start of their practicum.

So, the two academics began looking at ways they could better prepare students in this important area. Their research has led to classroom management being integrated in many education classes across the program as well as the development of a course specifically dedicated to the topic. Roscoe’s research also resulted in a classroom management plan template that students could use to create a classroom management plan before they  enter the  classroom. 

“We found that by focusing students on what to do in the first week, they get on to a much better start, so they can teach the way they want to teach,” says Roscoe.

While much of classroom management is learned through experience, having more knowledge helps students avoid common pitfalls. It may also prevent teachers from burning out and help them start their careers on a positive note.

“New teachers can have a better quality professional life if they’re able to establish a safe, orderly, positive classroom environment where students are learning— the students will be happier, the parents will be happier, and they will be happier,” says Roscoe.