The Kounin Model The concept of classroom management is an important component in the repertoire of skills that a good teacher needs. Classroom management can be defined as “the specific ways in which teachers organize and maintain a classroom environment conducive to effective teaching and learning.” (Balli, 2011, p…
It supports my own personal philosophy of classroom management which can be summed up as subtle teacher control through early intervention. The main idea behind Kounin’s model is that classroom management should set up conditions which encourage the whole class to concentrate on their work, rather than deal with discipline problems in a reactive way. The teacher should be aware of what is happening at all times, and should anticipate any emerging situations before they escalate into actual behavioral problems. Once the teacher has allowed distractions to get the upper hand in a classroom, then the discipline issue becomes the “elephant in the room” (Ratcliffe et al., 2010, p. 306) and effective learning opportunities are lost while teacher and students alike deal with that discipline issue. The particular contribution that Kounin made, was to focus on prevention rather than cure, as a way of approaching classroom management, pointing out that both successful and less successful teachers were equally good at dealing with behavioral problems when they arise, but that the successful teachers were much better at preventing them from arising in the first place. (Baloglu, 2009, p. 70) This prevention angle, therefore, is the key to being the most successful type of teacher. A recent empirical study examined memories that 148 undergraduate pre-service teachers have on the excellent classroom management strategies they have experienced in the course of their own education (Balli, 2011). The purpose of this investigation was to find out what students’ own beliefs were, before they were exposed to theories on their education degree course, and see what kind knowledge they had gathered, and what was still to be acquired. One interesting conclusion of the paper was that students had a good grasp of, and great appreciation for, variations on Assertive Discipline Models, but they had less awareness of the Kounin concepts such as withitness, group management and smooth transitioning from one activity to the next. (Balli, 2011, p. 249) This shows that Kounin’s ideas are not at all obvious, and that they affect children in a subtle way that may not even be conscious. In my experience it is precisely the unspoken subtext of classroom interaction that determines how effective the teaching and learning becomes. Overt teacher disciplining, such as singling out one student and berating them for a particular action, expressing displeasure or even shouting at the class, are extremes which many teachers have to use in order to just convey instructions against a background of chaotic student behavior. It is much better to have a range of intervention options to use, such as the subtle technique which Kounin calls a desist. This need not be a verbal option. A teacher could, for example just approach a particular student’s desk or look at a particular student, while carrying on with the general lesson, and this is sufficient to make the class aware that the teacher is alert and noticing what is going on. In cases of inattention or whispering in the back row, this may be enough to bring students back on track. If more distracting behavior occurs, then an escalation to verbal comments, or individual conversations can occur, but in my view the more subtle cues are better, because they do not ...
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