What is Your Philosophy/Theory of Classroom Management?




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In trying to select a classroom management and discipline model, it is always important to select a theoretical framework to guide you. Thus, your philosophy of student management will provide you with a theoretical inspiration upon which your model is based. This will help you choose a balanced view and belief about the discipline model that is a champion among the rest. With this, you will create a discipline or management system that will form a center stage for you to deal with disciplinary issues in your classroom. But what are the main theories and/or philosophies under which the various models of classroom management fit in?

There are four main theories or philosophies that form the basis for the various models of classroom discipline/management. They are those provided by; Wolfgang and Glickman, French and Raven, Skinner and Rogers, and Lewis (Tauber, 2007). These theories are important because every model needs to have a balance between sound theory and effective practice. Thus, without one of them, the model is not a good one.

Wolfgang and Glickman (1980) School of Thought Theory

According to Wolfgang and Glickman, every teacher can be categorized into interventionist, noninterventionist, and interactionalists. By this, every teacher will have a heart tilted towards one of the categories. This categorization is based on the sharing of power between the teacher and his/her students. Thus, what is the power of the teacher in the class? What is the power of the students?

This suggests that the balance of power between the teacher and the students forms the basis for which disciplinary issues are dealt with in the classroom. Remember that, each of the three categories comes with a full-packed classroom model that helps the teacher to establish and maintain a disciplined classroom. Below are the descriptions of the categories of teachers:

  1. The Interventionist

If you are an interventionist, you tend to wield much power while your students are low in power. Thus, the belief is that the less power your students wields the easier you can intervene in conditioning the environment of your class. This is because you believe that the environmental conditions of your classroom influence the development of your students.

Therefore, there is a need for you to control the environment using a logical system that helps to condition the environment of your classroom. That is, you see it a duty for you to shape and modify the behavior of your students and that is one of the major reasons why you are employed.

Also, you use punishments and rewards to motivate your students who seem to be unmotivated. Thus, if you are an interventionist, punishments and rewards are your key tools in trying to shape and modify the behavior of your students. For instance, you reward students whose behavior is favorable for teaching and learning in your classroom and punish those whose behavior is unfavorable for the classroom.

  1. The Noninterventionist

If you are a noninterventionist, you give high power to your students and wield low power to yourself. Thus, your belief is that the less power you wield the more supportive you become to your students. With this, you are able to provide a facilitating and conducive environment for your students to succeed.

Here, the life of the student is seen to be dependent on his/herself and not on the teacher who is trying to control him/her. Thus, the student has more power over his or her destiny.

In the noninterventionist classroom, the teacher is only a facilitator. Thus, he/she works to provide an enabling environment for the routines and behavior in the classroom to go smoothly. With this, the teacher is not at the forefront of everything in the classroom.

Remember that if you are a noninterventionist you are not a laissez-faire teacher, where you take your hands off the activities of your classroom. In fact, there are models of classroom management completely developed to help you run your class. So, you will also employ strategies to ensure that you are successful.

  1. The Interactionalist

If you are an interactionalist, you tend to believe that collaboration between you and your students and all other parties in the classroom is key in promoting an enabling environment for teaching and learning to take place. Here you are the democratic type who uses the principles of the constitution and encourages responsibility in the exercise of freedom in the class.

Thus, you give students the needed power but ensure that they use their powers within the limits established in the classroom.

Also, you give your students the chance to make a choice of behavior. Thus, they have the right to choose their own behavior. For example, they choose to study or not study, attend lessons or not attend lessons, etc.

Relationships are very important to you and your students. That is, you believe that it takes more than one person to build a working social environment like the classroom. Because of this, you work hard to sustain a healthy relationship between you and your students and among the students themselves.

French And Raven’s (1960) Social Bases of Power Framework  

Under this framework, the emphasis is on how the teacher uses some bases of social power to influence and shape the behavior of his or her students. Thus, there are some powers available to the teacher which she or he can use to help her or him create a conducive environment for students to learn effectively.

Based on this, French and Raven identified five social power bases that are available and can be used to influence others or for others to use to influence us. These are Legitimate, Reward, Referent, Expert, and Coercive power bases.

According to this theory, these power bases constitute all the powers available for the teacher to wield over his or her students. With this, the teacher has to select a combination of these power bases to be exercised in the classroom based on his or her philosophy of education.

A percentage combination of these power bases should sum up to 100% of the power wields by the teacher. Now let’s look at these power bases one after the other as below:

  1. Legitimate

As the teacher, you are given a legitimate authority or power by the school board and you must always use this power to gain leadership in the classroom. Fortunately, your students are aware and recognize you as the legitimate power and as such perceive you to use it to establish or prescribe a standard of behavior for everyone.

Your institution’s authorities will often help you in sustaining this power by informing and creating the awareness of all stakeholders about the power you wield to promote a favorable teaching and learning environment. With this, you will likely gain the needed support from stakeholders to help you carry out your job successfully and effectively.

But you should also exercise your power within the limits of the school. You should be mindful not to cross your boundaries in using your authority. For example, you have the power to give homework to your students and control their behavior but you don’t have the power to comment on students’ out-of-school behavior.

  1. Reward

With this power, you are able to manipulate your students’ behavior by dispensing desirable rewards. That is, students who put up desirable behavior in your class are given rewards for their behavior. This power works best if your students perceive that you are in a better position to provide desired rewards or withhold them.

This means you can only make good use of this power at the time your students believe you can provide them with the needed incentive. Else it will be ineffective for you to use it in the classroom. This is why some people raise the question of how long this power base can be used by the teacher.

  1. Referent

If you wield referent power, it means your students are attracted to you because of your actions towards them. That is, you care a lot about them and treat them fairly. You also leave them to choose their own behavior by assuming the role of a facilitator in the classroom.

Because of your respect towards them, they allow you to wield power over them. For instance, if you have a referent power in your class, you can control the behavior of your students even outside the classroom.

Remember, you can gain referent power over your students if you communicate effectively and build a strong relationship with your pupil. With this, you will understand them and their needs. Based on this, you will work to facilitate their development in both academic and personal life.

  1. Expert

As for expert power, your students see you as a master in your field, having a piece of special knowledge. So, they respect you a lot and therefore behave according to your established standards of behavior. With this, they believe there is a lot to be learned from you if the learning environment is enabling.

Most often, this power is not recognized and used by teachers. This is because the teaching profession is a humble one where an expert teacher doesn’t trumpet their expertise and success. With that, some other stakeholders don’t acknowledge the expertise of the teacher.

But what if all stakeholders acknowledge your expertise as a teacher, what do you think your job will be like? Of course, I think it will be interesting and effective since you will now wield an extra social power to use in creating and maintaining discipline in your classroom.

  1. Coercive

This power gives authority to you to be able to give punishments to behaviors that are contrary to the desired behavior. Thus, your students acknowledge your position and perceive you to be able to dole out punishments to them if they behave inappropriately. This means you use punishments to direct the behavior of your students.

It is important to note that excessive use of punishments sometimes prompts students to rebel due to frustrations, embarrassments, and anger within them. With this, they will form coping mechanisms that may include lying, cheating, withdrawing, etc. All these are bad if you want to create a healthy environment for teaching and learning.

So now the questions remain; should you keep away from using punishments in class? If no, to what extent should you use them? How would your students cope with them? How can you reduce the likely impacts of them on your classroom environment? Answers to these questions will put you in a better position to effectively use your coercive power.

Summary: French and Raven believe that every teacher has got all these powers to direct the behavior of his or her students. But the combination of these powers varies depending on the belief of the teacher about education and learning.

Skinner Versus Roger’s Behaviorist-Humanist Framework

Skinner and Roger represent two sides of a coin. Their theories venture into answering “How” human beings learn. It can be said that classroom management is a small but important aspect of what humans should learn. Their theories have strong scholarly backing in the discipline literature.

  1. Skinner’s (1986) Behaviorist Theory

Skinner is like the Interventionists who believe that the teacher has to work hard to control the behavior of his or her students in the classroom. He argues that if that’s not done, other environmental factors will control their behavior and that will be unfavorable for creating a conducive environment for teaching and learning.

With this, it is the teacher’s job to create an environment enabling enough for effective teaching and learning to occur. According to him, the teacher should wield a higher power to perform his or her job successfully.

If you are a Skinnerian, you would likely dominate your students by trying to wield higher power over them. With this, you would demand cooperation from your students instead of earning it. Further, you would likely be making use of reward power by praising and manipulating your students. Finally, even though, you believe in some amount of students’ freedom, you will consider students’ free will to be an illusion.

  1. Roger’s (1977) Humanist Theory

Roger’s theory is based on the belief that the student, just like any other person, is full of intrinsic motivation to self-actualize. Based on this, Roger argues that the teacher should be a facilitator to help his or her students achieve self-discipline. That is, the students must have more power since they have inner motivation to grow. This suggests that the teacher needs to be facilitative to his/her students.

If you are a Rogerian you are a skillful leader who guides, encourage, influence and stimulate his/her students to achieve self-discipline by cooperating with them in creating an environment for effective teaching and learning. Also, you strive to create a win-win situation between you and your students. That is anything that happened in the classroom will be desirable to you all.

More so, you build strong trust for each other (teacher and students). With this, you are able to facilitate their efforts towards achieving self-discipline. Finally, you think students’ free will is real and that it is possible to achieve that in your classroom.

Summary: So, which one are you? Skinnerian? Rogerian? Whatever your answer may be, you will just be fine if you follow through and implement your framework fully.

Lewis’s (1991) Keeping It Simple Framework

This theory keeps it simple regarding its classification of the various classroom management philosophies one can adopt. Thus, he categorized the classroom management models into Control, Manage, and Influence. This, he believes makes it simple for understanding. Below are descriptions of these categories:

  1. Control

Classroom management models that seek to control students give more authority to the teacher at the expense of his or her students. These models are like those based on the interventionists and behaviorist philosophies discussed in the other theories above.

Here, you try all that you can to control and manipulate the behavior of your students in the classroom. By this, you believe that you have to intervene in order to establish an environment favorable enough to enhance effective teaching and learning, even if it means you should dominate your students.

  1. Manage

Models that are based on this philosophy encourage collaboration between the teacher and the students in ensuring an effective learning environment. That is a democracy is a key element in this philosophy. This is like the interactionalist philosophy discussed earlier.

You work closely with your students and have strong relationships with them. You encourage values such as equality, justice, fairness, freedom, etc. in your class. But you also remind your students to exercise their freedom within the established boundaries in the classroom.

  1. Influence

Discipline models that are based on this belief are making a case that the kids are humans too and have a strong intrinsic motivation to grow. With this, they give higher power to students and only suggest the teacher plays a facilitating role. This will help the teacher to exert some influence on the behavior of the pupils.

If your model falls under here, you tend to provide free will for your students so that their internal drive to self-actualization will encourage them to behave appropriately. Here you wield high referent power over your students and this is the basis for your ability to influence their behavior in the class.

What About an Eclectic View of Classroom Management?

The eclectics argue for a combination of two or more classroom management theories to help the teacher perform his/her role effectively. They do claim that example by Morris (1996) that;

  1. The classroom is made up of several individuals who are different from one another.


Comment: Each of the philosophies discussed above works for most students at most times in most situations. There will always be exceptions in your classrooms and you must work hard to continue using what you believe in.


  1. Teachers need to vary their class discipline models to take care of their dynamic classroom periods.


Comment: Learn, study, practice, and practice the theory in totality if it is in line with your philosophy. “Each class period” suggests that you have different models to use for the different class periods. This logic may also mean using different models for each of the different students in your class. Assuming you have 45 different students in your classes, does that mean using a different model for each?


  1. The practicality of classroom management may necessitate a blend of several models.


Comment: It is difficult for teachers to find time to study and practice one model of classroom management. This is a problem I faced. What if I had four other theories to study and practice, will I get the time? How effectively will I be able to blend these theories to achieve maximum results? How do I also combine those theories that have opposing ideas about democracy, for example? My inability to achieve all these will frustrate me more.       


After going through the above, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is your theory or philosophy of classroom management?
  2. Under which of the above theories/philosophies does your philosophy fit in?
  3. If you don’t have a philosophy yet, which of the above theories correlates with what you believe in?


To summarize, there are four main theories or philosophies to guide you in selecting a classroom management model. These philosophies will provide you with a concrete foundation on which to base your practices. They also give you the basis for which to defend your practices and interactions with your students. These theories are tried and tested and therefore are reliable to apply in managing your classroom. It is important to note that it may not be appropriate to blend two or more theories because of the difficulties involved. Due to this, I recommend you pick one, study it, and implement it fully in your classroom.

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