Last week, Classcraft co-founder Shawn Young presented a special webinar on effective classroom management techniques and how they led to Classcraft’s successful game design. Watch the full webinar recording here.
In this four-part series, we’ll look at the four most effective classroom management strategies as identified in the book Classroom Management That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Every Teacher (a meta study of over 300 research studies into classroom management) and how Classcraft uses them to create meaningful changes and positive culture in the classroom.
Strategy: Mental Set
Mental set is a term that includes two parts: withitness (as in “you’re with it”) and emotional objectivity. This strategy relates to the teacher’s state of mind.
Withitness involves being aware of what’s happening in the classroom in order to quickly and accurately intervene. The term comes from researcher Jacob Kounin. According to Classroom Management That Works, it describes the teacher’s ability to remain aware “by continuously scanning the classroom, even when working with small groups or individuals. Also demonstrating this withitness to students by intervening promptly and accurately when inappropriate behavior threatens to become disruptive.”Teachers with good withitness stay present with the students at all times.
“This seems like a hard-to-measure skill,” Young said, “but actually there are observable behaviors that can be tied to withitness. Standing in the classroom, walking around [while teaching] … you can leverage other students, depending on your class culture, to keep you informed of what’s going on.”
Because these teachers have an eye on all the activity in the classroom, they can help to prevent negative behavior from escalating. For example, if students are poking each other, the teacher would intervene before that small behavior could become a larger one (eg., pushing).
Teachers also need to have strong emotional objectivity in order to have good classroom management. They shouldn’t take things that happen in the classroom personally.
“Once we remove that emotional piece from classroom management, it becomes a lot easier to become more effective,” Young said. “You become fairer, and you develop a state of mind where you’re not losing your patience.”
If teachers show their frustration too often, students will lose respect for them and the teacher will lose control over managing the class.
How this works in Classcraft
Withitness: Classcraft helps teachers develop better withitness by encouraging them to focus on observing behaviors so they can give points in the game.
Students often help by pointing out behaviors as they happen, especially when it means helping their team. They don’t see it as telling but rather ensuring that the game is run fairly and consistently. This changes the way that students interact with classroom management.
Emotional objectivity: Since the rules of the games dictate that students will earn points for positive behaviors and lose HP for negative behaviors, the teacher is one step removed from being seen as the disciplinarian. This helps them not take things personally as they’re running the game objectively instead of subjectively intervening.
“When we look at these meta studies of these different procedures,” Young said, “we can see that it’s a really effective classroom management tool. Because it’s a game on top of that, it helps you create positive class culture. If kids are in a space where they feel safe and happy, you’ll see great things come out of them, and disciplinary issues will go down.”