Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

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Culturally Responsive Classroom ManagementJennifer QuigleyDominican University

For this assignment, I chose to review Stephanie Smiths article Cultural Relay in Early Childhood Education: Methods of Teaching School Behavior to Low-Income Children. As the title suggests, the article focuses on teaching acceptable classroom behavior to lower socio-economic classes using either implicit or explicit methods of instruction. Traditionally, research has shown that implicit methods such as modeling behavior, offering choices, and using directive questioning have been used with higher socio-economic student populations and more direct, explicit methods including strong hierarchies, direct orders, and zero-tolerance policies are used when instructing lower socio-economic student populations. Smith questions the necessity of explicit behavioral instruction and, to test her theory, looks at four preschool classrooms in two of Chicagos Head Start centers.Smiths first center, Malaguzzi, served primarily low income, Mexican-American children of immigrants and all teachers in the study were Hispanic. The center used the Reggio Emilia model of teaching which supported implicit behavioral instruction. Two of the four classrooms in the study were at Malaguzzi, each with student population between 3 and 5 years of age. The second center Smith looked at was called Woodlawn and served a primarily low-income, African-American population. The center used a curriculum model, Teaching Standards Gold, for teaching students academic and behavior standards. This is a much more traditional model that utilizes explicit methods of teaching. The teachers in the study at Woodlawn were all African-American as were the student who ranged in age from three to five in both classrooms observed.At the beginning of the school year, both classrooms at Malaguzzi used implicit methods of instruction to help children internalize classroom behavioral requirements such as a teacher saying can you put it in the cup, please? or be careful. Older and returning children were reminded to model good behavior for younger or new children. In a marked contrast, both classrooms at Woodlawn, utilizing explicit methods, would give children orders and established a clear hierarchy from the beginning. They would say things such as Attention! and dont make a mess. Children, regardless of their length of time in the program were treated the same and never given choices. Threats were utilized frequently as a behavior management and the entire classroom was often punished by missing out on an activity because of the misbehavior of just a few. Smith also found that consequences were more severe at Woodlawn than at Malaguzzi, even for the same behavior. Teachers at Woodlawn did not try to find out why a child was acting out and seemed oblivious to many of the childrens actions at times, including important behaviors. In contrast, when children misbehaved at Malaguzzi, they were redirected or had a brief meeting with the teacher to discuss good behavior. Children were given stories to illustrated bad behaviors and what should be done if it seemed many of the children at Malaguzzi were having the same problems.Overall, Smith found that classroom behavior had, for the most part, been internalized after just one month of the implicit teaching styles used at Malaguzzi. Children at Malaguzzi also seemed to show more independence in task completion and required fewer reminders or assistance as a result of the more supportive environment. Alternatively, children at Woodlawn were, overall, less obedient regardless of the punishments and followed routines with less success even though they knew what was expected of them. Along with these findings of her study, Smith determined that although behaviors were more regimented and instructions more clearly given at Woodlawn, transition times between activities were more than twice as long as at Malaguzzi. Smiths findings interested me primarily because I hope to enter into a low-income elementary school for the first few years of my teaching career. I was also intrigued in findings because my own pre-school aged son is in a canter that uses the traditional Teaching Standards Gold program. Smith maintains that implicit teaching of classroom behavior is essential for successful classroom management across all socio-economic groups. I agree that more involved teachers using methods that allow children to take responsibility for themselves and their actions are important for teaching and that implicit teaching is involved. One of the most notable problems that I found with this study was in the population sampled. The Mexican-American and African-American cultures are inherently different and it stands to reason that they would each respond differently to both implicit and explicit methods of classroom management. I also disagreed with the authors choice to refer to African-American children as children of color as this was not a politically correct term when it was written 2012, nor is it today. Overall, this study, although flawed, provided an interesting insight on alternative teaching methods and I would be interested in find other similar studies to compare the results.

ReferencesSmith, S. C. (2012). Cultural Relay in Early Childhood Education: Methods of Teaching School Behavior to Low-Income Children. The Urban Review 44(5), pp. 571-588.


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