Classroom management and behaviour management – the difference

16th January 2012  |  by Greg

What is classroom management?

I read an excellent blog post this week by primary teacher Kevin McLaughlin. (@kvnmcl) He is trialling a new way to manage his classroom and describes it in great detail. He talks about learning zones and personal journeys for his students and he has even included a map of the arrangement of his tables.

This is classroom management defined. It’s the art of deciding in advance the best way for people and resources to be organised, and the flow of activities and learning that involve them. At its highest level, it also includes planning time for pupils to organise themselves, their own resources, their own activities and, therefore, their own learning.

Interestingly, Kevin doesn’t even mention behaviour. Does that mean that he never manages it?

Kevin is as close to a classroom management ninja as I’ve ever seen but the question is, how did he get there?

Some guesses:

1. Amazing classroom management skills – which are the product of the fact that he has very clear vision of the way he wants his classroom to look.

2. Great relationships – which are a product, to a large extent, of #1.

3. He’s got lots of experience.

4. He’s tried lots of stuff and, through private and public reflection, has decided what works best.

What is behaviour management?

Behaviour management is a bit different. For me,  it’s the art of deciding in advance the best way for people to build great relationships. It’s about effective and fair ways to encourage everyone to make positive choices and some structure of consequence and support for when they don’t.

At this point, it’s probably a good idea to mention that I don’t think we should call this behaviour management at all, but relationship management. These are the key elements of good relationship management:

1. A clear vision.

2. Consistency.

3. Fairness.

4. Great relationships, which come from consistency and fairness combined with great teaching.

5. Great classroom management.

When behaviour is good, it often just looks like the teacher isn’t doing anything in order to achieve it. Sometimes we assume it’s simply a good class.

So these are the differences. What about the similarities?

Classroom management and behaviour management both demand a clear vision

You need to decide how you want it to look. Having the vision is essential – people don’t just find themselves at the top of Mount Everest or with a brand new kitchen.

So how do you get your vision?

When I replaced my kitchen recently, I needed a vision. So, I looked in all the magazines and went to the showrooms and I chatted with designers in posh shops and then went to Ikea with my mostly-stolen, mashed up vision of a new kitchen. I recommend you do this for managing your classroom. Ask your colleagues, follow some blogs and steal some ideas. With a stronger vision for behaviour and for your classroom, you’ll be doing more than just “managing” in no time.

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