Classroom management learning at the workplace: how to support student teachers?

Classroom management is seen as one of the most important and challenging competences that (student) teachers need to develop. In order to organize effective CM, teachers must ‘create an interpersonal relationship with pupils’, ‘create a productive learning climate’, ‘create a safe environment in the classroom’, ‘support the development of social skills and self-regulation, and ‘act on behavioural or order problems.’

Several researchers emphasize the importance of paying attention to classroom management in teacher education (e.g. Korpershoek et al., 2016). However, attention for CM in teacher education curricula is limited and, therefore, researchers argue for more focus on CM in teacher education (van Tartwijk & Hammerness, 2011). Looking at the practice of teacher education, not much is known about the role of the school internship in CM learning (Stough & Montague, 2015).

In September 2023, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation which was focused on student teachers’ classroom management during the internship. In the first phase of my research, I studied the attention for CM in theoretical sources, teacher curriculum and in student teachers’ internship. In my research I found that almost all student teachers struggled with the first component, the interpersonal relationship with pupils. This was also concluded by Wubbels et al. (2006), who argued that the teacher-student relationship is essential to other aspects of CM.

In the second phase of my research, I was focused on finding patterns in student teachers’ learning processes and outcomes of CM during their internship, by analysing course assignments outcomes, interviewing student teachers, their teacher educators and a selection of student teachers’ pupils. According to the results of this phase, three aspects in particular are decisive for CM learning during the internship: teacher educators’ role, the use of theoretical knowledge, and student teachers’ self-regulation. Concerning student teachers’ CM learning process, four distinct CM learning patterns were found: Knowledge driven, Feedback driven, Inspiration driven, and Practice driven. Each pattern shared certain similar CM learning characteristics. Interestingly, no large differences were found regarding their CM learning outcomes.

Moreover, concerning student teachers’ CM learning process, I also found that student teachers struggled with CM in the final year of teacher education, the learning process at the learning workplace does not always take place in a structured manner, and that some student teachers are slow starters with regards to learning at the workplace in the final year of teacher education.

These observations led in the third and final stage of my research to the design of an intervention to deepen student teachers' CM learning. The intervention was designed to help the student teacher right at the beginning of the final year of their studies to gain insight into CM challenges, and giving them ideas of useful activities (such as lesson observations, conversations with experts and role models). In doing so, I aimed to encourage the structure and quality of the CM learning process.

Via the link below, you can find a publication I wrote about my research. I wrote this publication with the motivation that it would be an accessible and helpful document for teacher educators, giving them ideas how to help structuring student teachers’ CM learning during the internship.

Link to the publication: