51 9.4 Awareness of High-Needs Students  

Classrooms are filled with a diverse student population. To meet the different needs of students, teachers have to be equipped to accommodate their learning needs. Adelman and Taylor (2002) note that about “12-22 percent of all students in school suffer from mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders, and relatively few receive mental health services” (as cited in Marzano & Marzano, 2003). More importantly, although teachers may not be in a position to directly address their needs, Marzano and Marzano (2003) argue “that teachers with effective classroom management skills are aware of high-needs students and have a repertoire of specific techniques for meeting some of their needs” (p. 11). According to Marzano and Marzano (2003), there are five main categories of high-needs students. Each group further has some sub-categories, as explained below. The authors also suggest classroom management strategies for each of these categories and subcategories (p.11).  

  1. Passive students refrain themselves from criticism, ridicule, or rejection and exhibit behavior that keeps them away from the domination of others. The two subcategories of passive students are those who fear relationships, and those who fear failure. Teachers need to build trust and strong relationships with students, create a safe and welcoming environment, use positive reinforcement, and motivate them by rewarding their success. On the other hand, teachers also need to make sure to keep passive students away from aggressive people and withhold criticism (Marzano & Marzano, 2003)
  2. Aggressive students, as the name suggests exhibit domination and control people around them through their demanding behavior. They do not worry about the consequences of their actions. The three subcategories are of aggressive students are hostile, oppositional, and covert. Marzano and Marzano (2003) explain,

Hostile students often have poor anger control, low capacity for empathy, and an inability to see the consequences of their actions. Oppositional students exhibit milder forms of behavior problems, but they consistently resist following rules, argue with adults, use harsh language, and tend to annoy others. Students in the covert subcategory may be quite pleasant at times, but they are often nearby when trouble starts and they never quite do what authority figures ask of them. (p. 12)

Hence, teachers need to develop appropriate strategies to help aggressive students make the best of their schooling. Creating discipline policy, behavior contracts, using rewards, and consequences approach have proven to help aggressive students. Although these students seem too aggressive and resist behavioral changes, it is necessary for teachers to understand the myriad of underlying reasons behind this behavior. Teachers need to work with students individually by creating goals, make them own these goals, foster ways for them to achieve and celebrate successes (Marzano & Marzano, 2003, p. 12).

  1. Marzano and Marzano (2003) categorize students with attention problems as one category of high-needs students. The two subgroups in this category are hyperactive and inattentive students. While hyperactive students have “difficulty with motor control, both physically and verbally,” inattentive students have difficulty in staying focused on tasks (p. 10). Similar to aggressive students, working on behavior management contracts with students is helpful. Additionally, teachers must develop strategies to enhance students’ concentration skills (Marzano & Marzano, 2003).
  2. Perfectionist students create challenging goals for them that are unattainable, hence feel low on self-esteem when they could not accomplish those goals. They are afraid of making mistakes assuming the shame and guilt associated with failure further lacking ways to cope with it. Teachers can help students set realistic goals, acknowledge mistakes, and to learn from it. Peer support also helps perfectionist students come out of this behavior (Marzano & Marzano, 2003)
  3. Socially inept students feel lonely for their failed attempts to make and keep friends. They are often left alone due to their unusual behavior, “may stand too close and touch others in annoying ways, talk too much, and misread others’ comments” (Marzano & Marzano, 2003, p. 12).  Teachers can counsel such students about social behavior, expose them to good role models, create an understanding of facial expressions, and suggest them appropriate ways to carry themselves.


Research validates that “poor classroom management results in lost instructional time, feelings of inadequacy, and stress” (Sayeski & Brown, 2014, p. 119). Hence, building teacher-student relationship helps build a strong foundation for effective classroom management that in turn is a key to high student achievement (Marzano & Marzano, 2003). Ultimately, exhibiting appropriate levels of dominance, cooperation, and being aware of high-needs students is crucial for effective classroom management.  

Additional Resources

1. Webinar:   Reframing Classroom Management: the Classroom Consensus | Teaching Tolerance 

Need tips for responding to student behavior and keeping learning on task? We created this webinar for you, with input from over 1,200 educators who completed our classroom management survey.

2. Drafting a Classroom management plan: Tips


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Introduction to Education by Shannon M. Delgado and Sarah Mark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book