50 9.3 Characteristics of Effective Classroom Management

Robert J. Marzano and Jana S. Marzano (2003), in their research “The key to classroom Management,” argue that by “combining appropriate levels of dominance and cooperation and an awareness of student needs, teachers can have positive classroom dynamics” (p. 6).  Furthermore, Marzano (2003), in another meta-analysis of more than 100 studies, found that the teacher-student relationship is one of the major characteristics for effective classroom management. In fact, their study presented some revealing data that teachers with quality student-teacher relationships had 31 percent fewer classroom management issues than did the teachers who did not have quality relationships with students.  Hence, Marzano and Marzano (2003) propose some effective characteristics for better student-teacher relationships. Having specific teacher behaviors such as (1) exhibiting appropriate levels of dominance; (2) exhibiting appropriate levels of cooperation, and (3) being aware of high-needs students builds the foundation for student-teacher relationships (Marzano, 2003, p. 8). Below, you will find a summary of teacher behaviors emphasized in Marzano and Marzano’s work “The Key to Classroom Management” (2003).  

Appropriate levels of Dominance

Dominance in this context is neither referring to forceful control nor does it have a negative connotation to it; rather, Wubbels et al. (1999) refer to it as “the teacher’s ability to provide a clear purpose and strong guidance regarding both academics and student behavior” (as cited in Marzano & Marzano, 2003, p. 8). Hence, teachers can cultivate appropriate levels of dominance by establishing clear expectations in their classroom rules and procedures and establishing consequences for student behavior. Further, setting up clear learning goals is crucial for creating appropriate levels of dominance. Providing clear goals about the instruction and content at the beginning of the unit, providing feedback on these goals in a systematic manner, and the use of rubrics helps teachers establish and maintain clear learning goals. Finally, exhibiting assertive behavior favors teachers in developing appropriate levels of dominance (Marzano & Marzano, 2003, pp. 8-9). Borrowing from Emmer and colleagues (2003), Marzano and Marzano (2003) explain assertive behavior as “the ability to stand up for one’s legitimate rights in ways that make it less likely that others will ignore or circumvent them” (p. 146). They further elaborated that assertive behavior does not mean passive or aggressive behavior. Rather, it is the use of assertive body language such as maintaining an erect posture, using an appropriate tone of voice, and persisting until students respond with the appropriate behavior (as cited in Marzano & Marzano, p. 8).

Appropriate Levels of Cooperation

Unlike dominance, where the teacher is the agent to make a change, cooperation calls for collaboration between student and teacher to work as a team. Marzano and Marzano (2003) emphasize that the interaction of dominance and cooperation plays a crucial role in effective student-teacher relationships. By providing flexible learning goals, teachers can foster appropriate levels of cooperation. Empowering students to set their own objectives for a lesson is a way to impart a sense of cooperation, and it also reflects that the teacher genuinely cares for student’s learning by accommodating their needs (Marzano & Marzano, 2003, p. 11). Teachers can reflect appropriate levels of cooperation by demonstrating a personal interest in each student in the class. They can greet students informally, talk about their personal interests and achievements, discuss extra-curricular interests, and communicate concern for students. Finally, by using equitable and positive classroom behaviors, teachers can create and maintain appropriate levels of cooperation. Subtle behaviors such as maintaining eye contact with each student, setting up seating arrangements that facilitate easy movement for both students and teachers, and encouraging all students to contribute to class discussions. It is also recommended to call upon students who do not usually participate to motivate them for participation.


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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.

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