Professional development is defined as any activity or process intended to improve skills, attitude and understanding or performance in present or future roles. Specifically in education, the term professional development is referred to as a variety of specialized training, a formal education or advanced professional learning that is intended to facilitate the administrators, teachers, and also other educators to improve their competency, skill, and professional knowledge. Classroom management in schools is one of the important professional development skills. Therefore, it is vital for teachers to have good classroom management skills in their profession. However according to Haycock (2006), nearly half of the new pre-service teachers is reported to leave their profession within the first five years of their working experience. This result is due to the struggle that they faced in classroom management in school. One of the factors that was the main cause of the pre-service teachers’ struggle in classroom management is to handle the students’ disciplinary issues. Thus, this essay will look at the significance of professional development, the definition of discipline and the discipline issues in the school, the definition of classroom management and factors that hinders classroom management skill, strategies and recommendations to improve classroom management skills among the pre-service teachers and how it can help to build their professional development.
In professional development, it is important for the teachers to be professional in their line of work because they deal with many people such as the students, the parents, their colleagues, and also the administration staffs in the school. Feiman (2001) stated that if we want the school to offer a much more powerful learning opportunities for the students, we must first offer a great learning opportunities for the teachers. The teachers should be trained to be able handle any situation that needs them to be professional in many ways (as cited in Borko, Koellner, & Jacobs, 2010). Therefore, it is vital that in terms of the teacher learning and professional practice, the teachers should be more involved in a professional development program that can increase their knowledge, improve their practice and eventually help the students to learn and increase their achievement in school. There are two features that is considered as the characteristics of high quality professional development in terms of teaching and learning in school. The first one is the teachers should be aware that the content of the professional development program should be more situated to suit the practice to focus on helping the students’ learning activity. This is to ensure that teachers are aware of their responsibilities to learn what is relevant to the content of their classroom practice. The second one is the teachers should focus more of their professional development on the students’ thinking and learning. In other words, the professional development activities should help the teachers to learn how to interpret the students’ ideas and examine their work in the classroom.
First of all, lets look at the major classroom management issues that is the result of lack professional development skills which is the ability to handle classroom discipline. Discipline is a prevailing problem that affected schools not only in Malaysia but also among the various nations in the world. A discipline issue is a result of the students’ behavioural problem that leads to the teachers’ stress and burnout. This is because the students’ misbehaviour in school interferes with the teaching and learning process in a classroom. Even though this issue is often seen as a common problem however it has serious consequences towards the students as the students became school dropouts and end up having negative social outcomes that will impact their whole life. Therefore, it is very important for teachers to have good classroom management skills and enforce classroom discipline in order to help them to reduce discipline issues caused by the students at the school.
Lopes & Oliveira (2017) stated that classroom discipline is a complex issue that is very different from the technical or scientific problem. Basically, classroom discipline refers to how the teachers manage and control the classroom order by establishing clear routines, norms and procedures in the classroom. Majid, Hashim, Zain, Sarna, Poh, Seng, and Saran (2014) in their study revealed that through an observation conducted in schools, one of the challenges in classroom management in terms of discipline issues among the students is managing disruptive behaviours. Levin and Nolan (1991) defined disruptive behaviour as behaviour that obstructs the act of teaching and hinders the students from learning in a harmonious environment. Some examples of the disruptive behaviours by the students are distracting their peers, not paying attention to the teacher, coming late into the classroom after recess, and arguing in the classroom. They mentioned the reasons for that behaviour are resulting from the students’ complaint that the task given by the teacher was not cognitively challenging. The students felt bored and therefore they disrupt other students in the classroom. Apart from that, they said that the teacher did not impose any rules during or prior to the lesson. Therefore, the students felt like they are free to do anything in the class without fear of getting punished by the teacher. This shows that the response to disruptive behaviour may be worse where there are no firm and fair codes of conduct that are enforced consistently. This shows that the discipline issues arise when the teachers did not use classroom discipline properly in a class. Thus, the teacher should have a good classroom management skills in order to avoid the students from conducting disciplinary issues in school.
Next, the definition of classroom management is stated as a set of skills and techniques that teachers use in order to ensure that their students are organized, attentive, and productive during the learning process. According to Evertson and Weinstein’s (2013) study, the general idea of classroom management is a set of rules in a classroom setting to ensure teaching and learning process can be done with few interruptions from the students (as cited in Wood, 2015). It is important for educators to be aware that classroom management are not just about getting students to behave by using rules, rewards and punishments. It is so much more than that (Weinstein & Novodvorsky, 2015). In order to establish effective classroom management skills, teachers need to ensure that they are knowledgeable about their curriculum area, have relevant teaching skills, empathetic towards the students and very well equipped with managerial techniques. For this reason, the teachers should be prepared and have good classroom management skill in their teaching. The ability of having a good classroom management skill can help to achieve positive educational outcomes. However, according to Oliver & Reschly (2007) new pre-service teachers faced problems in terms of classroom management because they felt that they have inadequate preparation and inadequate professional development in their training. This is because they felt that they need more exposure on the practicality of the classroom management skills and also they need more professional development training. In other words, the new pre-service teachers felt that in practice all the classroom management skills, techniques and theories can be easily used but integrating them into a real classroom situation are much more challenging.
There are some strategies to improve classroom management skills for the teachers. Based on figure 1 above which is parallel with Martin and Baldwin’s (1994) diagram, there are three dimensions of classroom management namely person, instruction, and discipline (as cited in LaLonde, 2017). As for the first dimension which is ‘person’, it shows that a positive relationship between the teacher and the students are one of the classroom management strategies that are effective. Evertson and Weinstein (2006) mentioned that teachers must perform certain actions to improve their classroom management skills. The five actions are develop caring and supportive relationships with students, implement instructions that will enhance students’ access towards learning, encourage students’ engagement in academic tasks, promote the development of students’ social skills as well as self-regulation and enforce appropriate intervention to reduce behaviour problems. We can see that in order to have good classroom management skills, teachers must have certain strategies and theories that they should incorporate into their classroom to achieve success (as cited in Korpershoek, Harms, Boer, Kuijk, & Doolaard, 2014). The second dimension which is ‘instruction’ also plays a vital role in maintaining order in the classroom. Pedota (2007) believed that it is important for the teachers to give clear instruction so that students will not be clueless and can do their work faster. In order to do that the teachers should plan a variety of instructional experiences so that the students will be actively engaged throughout the lesson. Other than that, the classroom setting and standards for behaviour and work should be addressed properly by the teacher prior to the lesson. This is because the policies should decide how the students should act and interact with each other during different types of instruction. For instance, how much noise can the students make during group work activity in a classroom (Alli, 2008). The third dimension is ‘discipline’. The teachers should incorporate a proper classroom discipline by establishing clear and consistent rules in the classroom. The teachers should also use discipline as a positive intervention that is used in a class to respond to disruptive behaviour in a classroom.
Apart from that, Wahab, Mansor, Awang, & Ayob (2013) mentioned that some practices that can be used by teachers to manage the classroom effectively are implementing the School-wide Positive Behaviour Intervention Support (PBIS) (Sugai & Horner, 2002), Culturally Responsive Classroom Management (Monroe, 2009) and Whole-School Approach (Rogers, 2007). PBIS is an evidence-based framework for developing positive behaviour, and is used in schools nationwide to create a positive climate for learning. PBIS used strategies that encourage all of the students in school to exhibit appropriate behaviour. It will also help to reduce disruptive behaviour, increase instructional time and improve students’ social behaviour and academic outcome. Some examples of PBIS strategies are effectively design the physical environment of the classroom, develop and teach predictable classroom routines, teach positive classroom expectation, and use prompts and active supervision towards the students (Sugai ; Hornet, 2002). However, sometimes it is hard for the teachers to implement all of these strategies when dealing with a more serious and challenging behaviour.
Other than that, Gay (2002) said that Culturally Responsive Classroom is defined as using the cultural characteristics, experiences, and the perspective of diverse students as a way to achieve effective teaching in a classroom (as cited in Dahlgren, 2015). Monroe (2009) suggests that socio-cultural values are very important to establish effective classroom management. According to this model, the knowledge of the students’ cultural background helps the teachers to manage the classroom better. This is because the teachers may use some strategies that cater to the students’ social background. For example, corporal punishment are accepted in Malaysia but not in the United Kingdom. According to Gay (2002), when the teachers considered the students’ lives and voices in a classroom, the students will be more interested and making the learning process easier. This teaching style increase the students’ academic achievement (as cited in Dahlgren, 2015).
On the other hand, Rogers (2007) believed that the Whole-school approach is effective in terms of classroom management. It is a holistic approach where the whole school participates and follow a specific vision and mission that will encourage positive learning environment. Based on this approach, there are two basic principles of managing classroom namely positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. As for the positive reinforcement, the teachers used some techniques to encourage positive behaviour from the students. This includes praise, support and also rewards. In terms of the school context, positive reinforcement has a wide range that involves how teachers can communicate, interact, manage, deal, and counsel the students professionally. As for the negative reinforcement, the teachers used strategies to eliminate or reduce undesired behaviour from the students. For example, the teachers give detention, physical punishment, suspension or dismissal depending on the level of misbehaviour conducted by the students (as cited in Wahab et al., 2013).
In addition there are also some recommendations to improve classroom management skills among the teachers. Firstly, Oliver ; Reschly (2007) in their study recommended that in order to improve classroom management skills that will also help to increase the teachers’ professional development is to provide the pre-service teachers with instructional approaches for classroom management through coursework and guided practice with feedback. This is because in order to become a good teacher they must focus on building their own capabilities to use effective instructional strategies to prevent academic and behaviour difficulties from the students. Therefore, in order to get the students to respond positively to the teachers’ instruction, the teachers must first ensure that the instructional material that they implement is suitable and educationally relevant. They should also use guided practice as well as give immediate feedback and error correction for the students’ work. This is to avoid the students to feel frustrated and became less engage with the lesson if the task is too difficult for their level. The students can also receive feedback and correct their error without any delay so that they will be able to learn effectively. I believe that this is a good recommendation as the teachers can focus more in getting the students’ attention in the classroom. The students who are given opportunities to participate in the class will become less disruptive and be able to demonstrate improved academic skills. Next, the second recommendation is to address the challenges facing the pre-service teachers in creating a positive classroom context. A quick survey or a meeting can be conducted to get insights on the challenges that they faced and they can discuss together on the strategies to lessen the classroom management problems. This is because, it is important to build a positive classroom context as it can help to shape the students’ behaviour in a positive manner. Therefore, the teachers should create a physical arrangement in a classroom that allow the students to feel safe, minimizes any distractions and able to provide the teachers with a good access to the students in order to respond to their questions. This can help the teachers to build rapport, reduce any inappropriate behaviour and increase the students’ participation in the class. Thus, I believe that this recommendation is also good to be implemented in the classroom management courses because the pre-service teachers can discuss among them and come up with solutions that caters to their problems or issues in managing the students’ behaviour in school.
As for the current and contemporary notions of the professional development in terms of the classroom management and discipline issues, a lot of views and perspective was built regarding the issue. According to Kariuki (2009), teacher quality is the most important factor in managing the students’ discipline and to increase the students’ achievement in the classroom. This is because an intensive professional development in classroom management is more likely to have an impact to enhance teachers’ knowledge and skills, and ultimately student achievement, compared to shorter professional development activities. In addition, since the teachers have control over many factors that influence motivation, achievement and behavior of their students, professional development focusing on classroom management will enhance a teacher’s skills and performance in the classroom.
Next, based on my point of view regarding the professional development that affected classroom management and discipline, I believe that teachers should be aware with their own responsibilities and continues to find opportunities to develop their skills professionally. The teachers should attend any professional development courses, seminars or events that is provided to ensure that they are updated with the current knowledge of classroom management and discipline. This is because classroom management is a skill that can only be obtained through constant practice and effort to do well in their profession. Lack of knowledge is the reason that the teachers faced failure to control the students’ behaviour and disciplinary issues in classrooms. Moreover, professional development will only be successful in terms of the student learning if it involves the involvement and support from the entire school community. Knowledge about teaching and learning is also very important and precise when the teachers shared their own experience based on the school culture and climate. During my practicum session in SMK Saujana Utama in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, I faced some challenges in managing discipline issues. I was assigned to teach two classes which has low proficiency level and the classes are placed in the middle and second last in the class arrangement. Both of my classes have some discipline issues in which they did not attend the school, they did not finish their homework and many more. Even when I tried to advice and punish them it was not effective at all. They prefered to play in the classroom and have little respect for the teachers in the school. Other than that, there were always students who were brought to the discipline room to be punished by the discipline teacher. I once found a group of students who hid in an empty hall during the teaching and learning session because they did not want to study and attend their class. When I arrived there, all of them started to run away from me and I could not even recognized the students as they were too many of them. The only thing that I can do at the time is to report the situation to the teachers on duty for that week. I felt frustrated at first because I thought that I have no problem to utilize all the theories that I have learned before in managing classroom management issues. However, it is not as easy as it looks and I only get better after adapting to the school and receive advice form my mentor. This shows that professional development is very important as it can help the pre-service teachers to cope with any situations that might happen out of our calculations and predictions.
In conclusion, professional development is very important as it