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Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

‘‘How will I get them to behave?’’: Pre service teachers reflect on

classroom management
Edy Hammond Stoughton
Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Indiana University, 11470 Valley Meadow Drive, Zionsville, IN 46077, USA
Received 5 October 2005; received in revised form 7 May 2006; accepted 9 May 2006


This study examines how pre-service teachers think about disconnections between what they believe about teaching,
what they learn in their university coursework, and what they observe of behaviour management practices in public school
classrooms. Based on the reflective writings of teacher education students at an urban Midwestern university in the United
States, this narrative research leads to a deeper understanding of how teacher educators can support and challenge future
teachers in their ability to think critically and thoughtfully in developing their identities as future educators.
r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Teacher education; Critical inquiry; Behaviour management; Teacher socialization; Pre service teachers; Narrative research;
Teacher reflection

1. Introduction meaning between what they have come to under-

stand about teaching and what they see in practice?
If we are going to prepare teachers to work These questions are important for the growing
intelligently and responsibly in a society that is number of teacher educators in the United States,
increasingly diverse in race, language, and and elsewhere, who believe that preparing teachers
culture, then we need more teachers who are who are sensitive and reflective decision makers able
actively willing to challenge the taken-for- to work against the technicalization and reduction-
granted texts, practices, and arrangements of ism of the current educational climate depends to a
schooling through participation in systematic great extent on teacher education that develops a
and critical inquiry. (Cochran-Smith, 2004, p. 62) stance of thoughtful inquiry concerning dominant
practices. University programs based on this foun-
What is the impact on the developing teaching dation emphasize a critical inquiry stance in which
identities of novice teachers when what they have there is in-depth consideration of the sociocultural
learned about critical awareness and issues of social and sociopolitical implications of schooling as well
justice in progressive teacher education programmes as one’s own cultural embededness and preconcep-
come up against traditional structures in American tions. In this process novices and experienced
public school settings? How do they negotiate educators come together to examine multiple
perspectives on complex questions and to inter-
Tel.: +1 317 733 0266; fax: +1 317 274 6864. rogate and critique existing frameworks and taken-
E-mail address: for-granted practices aligned with Friere’s (1971)

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E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1025

idea of transformational dialogue. A space is also cause of teacher stress and burnout (Lewis, Romi,
opened up where important questions can be Qui, & Katz, 2005). According to Ayers (2004)
asked about ‘‘what should be in relation to moral effective behaviour management ‘‘is one of the most
and ethical issues in education’’ (Kincheloe, 2004, persistent perceived needs of preservice teachers; for
p. 103). many it is practically the sina qua non of teaching
However, the intersection between social justice itself’’ (p. 89). A substantial body of research points
teachings, the individual and cultural backgrounds to the importance school administrators place on a
that pre-service teachers bring with them, and the teacher’s ability to control disruptive students
context of public schools can frequently result in (Brophy & McCaslin, 1992). As Brophy and
disarticulations and contradictions as these novice McCaslin (1992) found, principals tend to rate
teachers struggle to make sense of who they want to highly teachers who they perceive as skilled class-
be professionally. They frequently conceptualize room managers on the basis of their ability to
their own schooling experiences as ‘‘prototypical ‘‘control’’ disruptive students. Therefore, to a great
and generalizable toward the teaching profession’’ extent, beginning teachers understand that a large
(Fajet, Bello, Leftwich, Mesler, & Shaver, 2005, part of the evaluation of their effectiveness will
p. 718). This leads to the question of how they depend on how well they are perceived to be able to
negotiate interactions between the very different control behaviour in their classes and yet there is a
understandings represented in these disparate con- deep apprehension about their ability as inexper-
texts. Do they find themselves straddling two worlds ienced educators to perform successfully in this
(Smagorinsky, Cook, Moore, Jackson, & Fry, 2004) complex area. This leads to concerns about how
‘‘caught in the middle between what the university is these future teachers make sense of what they
encouraging them to think and do and what the experience in their public school assignments in
school-based teachers they work with advocate?’’ Is terms of the management of children’s behaviour
there, as Brouwer and Korthagen (2005) suggest, a and the part those experiences play in their
tendency for a rift to develop between the teachings developing teaching identities. In addition, there is
of their teacher education programs and the a recognition among both experienced and novice
teachers in their classroom assignments whom they educators that the way schools deal with the
come to view as the ‘‘realistic role models, as the behaviour—and misbehaviour—of students has
people who ‘know’ how one should go about important implications in terms of the educational
teaching’’ (p. 155)? Or does the process of negotiat- establishment’s assumptions, expectations, and atti-
ing and problematizing these conflicting frame- tudes toward children and learning (Ayers, 2003;
works challenge future educators to construct a Caine & Caine, 1997; Raider-Roth, 2005; Watts &
more thoughtful and nuanced teaching identity? Ereveles, 2005).
One area of classroom practice that leads to Questions about matters of discipline are cer-
particularly intense questioning among novice tainly not limited to American teachers, but are of
educators is the issue of student behaviour. Typi- concern for the international teaching community
cally this is a crucial subject that lies at the forefront as well. Student behaviour management was rated
of concern for future teachers (McNally, I’anson, as the second most significant factor causing stress
Whewell, & Wilson, 2005). There are several among 400 teachers in Hong Kong studied by Chan
reasons for this. The control of behaviour of the (1998). In a survey of teachers in Australia, Israel,
children in one’s classroom is an area into which and China, a substantial percentage of those
socialization of beginning teachers in school norms questioned considered discipline to be either of
is emphasized. There is widespread agreement moderate or major concern (Lewi et al., 2005). In
among school personnel that classroom manage- addition, McNally, I’anson, Whewell, and Wilson
ment is an essential part of their work particularly in (2005) report that in Scotland ‘‘the management of
light of the frequently expressed perception that pupil behaviour is considered a major policy
children are becoming increasingly unruly and priority’’ (p. 169) according to the Times Educa-
difficult to teach, especially in inner city schools. tional Supplement in January 2004 that decried the
As a school administrator in a large urban school poor behaviour of students in the United Kingdom
corporation recently stated, ‘‘Discipline is the biggest and the inability of teachers to exert authority in
problem we face’’ (pers. commun., April 2005). their classrooms. Therefore, although this study
Discipline issues are rated consistently as a leading centers on how teacher preparation students think
1026 E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

about classroom behaviour practices in the context 2. The study

of American public schools, the findings can be
widely applicable. Issues of discipline and classroom This study developed from discussions and
climate (Lewis et al., 2005; McNally et al., 2005); student writings in two cohorts of elementary pre-
exclusion (Warren, 2005); and the ways novice service teachers for which I was the instructor
teachers think about possible disconnections be- during the 2004–2005 academic year. It asks
tween university teaching and ‘‘practical’’ consid- questions about how those pre-service teachers
erations in the formation of a teaching identity constructed their understanding of behaviour man-
(Brouwer & Korthagen, 2005; Shkedi & Laron, agement in their first sustained experience in public
2004) are of international concern. school classrooms, and how they incorporated what
The large, urban Midwestern university where I they learned from their education courses, their
instruct pre-service teachers brings teachers-in- cooperating teachers, and their own initial teaching
training together into cohorts of approximately 25 experiences and how they framed and evaluated
students which are based in public schools both for these practices. It is based on the understanding that
classroom experience and for their university ‘‘one cannot help teachers develop their classroom
seminars. The rationale for this arrangement stems management skills without addressing their emo-
from a belief that conversations are enriched and tional responses to the events around them and the
extended when practical experiences in schools are attitudes, values, and beliefs that underlie these
closely linked with theoretical input (Brouwer & responses’’ (van den Berg, 2002, p. 586). The study
Korthagen, 2005). The university instructors seek to also examines if, and in what ways, these novice
develop a dialogic pedagogy which begins with the teachers are able to go beyond questions of simply
experiences of students and their responses to ‘‘what works’’ to reflect more deeply on behaviour
themes and problems they identify and which practices and to decide how they fit with their beliefs
engages them in a critical discourse about those about justice and equity. As McNally et al. (2005)
issues (Kincheloe, 2004). A number of the seminar note, although most beginners are looking for
discussions are grounded in an examination of the ‘‘practical things that will work in the short term
‘‘critical dissonance between what students learn as one of their main objectives is, understandably,
about teaching and learning at the university and to get order in order to teach’’ (p. 180), an
what they already know and continue to learn about overemphasis on ‘‘tips’’ risks the absence of central
them in the schools’’ (Cochran-Smith, 2004, p. 25). principles to guide their practice. Therefore, an
The seminar in this initial semester developed to objective of this research is to discover how teacher
enlarge student thinking about issues of diversity, education students can be supported in an ‘‘ongoing
difference, and culture is grounded in readings process of self-examination and reframing’’
and discussions of the critical pedagogy of Friere (Greenman & Dieckman, 2004, p. 241) in which they
and Nieto; the importance of meaningful curricu- find possibilities for deepened understanding and a
lum and the construction of knowledge based on heightened critical awareness that will enable them to
the works of Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky; and question established practices including underlying
an understanding of the social construction of assumptions and beliefs in this important area.
disability. Written reflections were used as the basic
One of the topics covered is classroom manage- analytical tool in this study. The students were
ment. Individual interviews and class discussions asked to respond in reflective journal entries to the
indicated that students identified this as a subject question: ‘‘Discuss the philosophy and tone of the
about which there is a fairly wide disparity between behavioural expectations and practices in your
what is taught in university classes and seminars and assigned classroom and talk about how well you
the theoretical construct upon which many beha- think these might work for you in your own classroom
vioural plans are based. As one student related, and what, if anything, do you think you would do
‘‘The teacher gives away tickets for certain things differently.’’ Journal entries were analyzed on the
such as turning in homework and passing certain basis of what these future teachers understand
tests. Once children have collected so many tickets about classroom management practices they ob-
they can go to the candy jar. This goes totally against served in public schools and how they incorporated
what we have been discussing in class about intrinsic those ideas into their understanding of teaching and
motivation and best practices.’’ learning.
E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1027

3. Reflective writing as a vehicle for examining 4. Narratives as a way of constructing identity

Narrative is a fundamental human way of giving
meaning to experience. In both telling and
Reflection is a disciplined way of assessing interpreting experiences, narrative mediates be-
situations, imagining a future different from tween an inner world of thought-feeling and an
today, and preparing to act. (Ayers, 2004, outer world of observable actions and states of
p. 110). affairs. (Garro & Mattingly, 2000, p. 1).
In studying the way that the two cohorts of pre-
Reflection can be significant in promoting self- service teachers responded to the situated cognitions
awareness with the benefit of coming to a sense of they acquired through being in schools I analyzed
understanding of oneself and one’s reactions and their journal writings through the lens of narrative
perceptions. Reflective journals can also be impor- analysis. My choice of method derives from a belief
tant in providing protected spaces for developing, that narratives express a worldview, and that we
critiquing, and sharing reactions to experiences and come to terms with our experiences and develop and
perceptions. Through reflection, pre-service teachers negotiate our identities largely through the stories
are encouraged to revisit an event and see it through we construct and the discourse we use in telling
multiple perspectives making connections between those stories (Fairclough, 1995; Polkinghorne, 1988;
experiences and values and beliefs. Oliver and Lalik Titscher et al., 2000). The ways in which stories
(2000) discovered in their research among girls that about teaching are constructed, retold, and inter-
the privacy of journal writing provides a feeling of preted help to define how we structure reality. There
safety that allowed the girls to feel freer to express are major ideological effects in the ways discursive
opinions that might seem risky in group conversa- practices represent and position situations and
tions. They speak of journals as a way for students people as well as relationships between people
to ‘‘facilitate finding a voice, a voice needed before (Titscher et al., 2000).
any kind of dialogue can ever take place between Studying narratives in an effort to understand the
them and their culture’’ (p. 114). Reflective journal ‘‘main story line’’ can provide important insight
writing, in providing a forum for students to express into how meaning is constructed. Therefore, I
their questions and concerns and receive feedback considered it to be important in analyzing these
from others in the learning community, is an student writings to look closely at how they chose to
important part of building knowledge about teach- represent what they saw and how they expressed
ing and learning. As Lowenstein points out, their expectations and understandings of the class-
‘‘Journals enable students to raise awareness of room culture in which they participated. I studied
their ways of making sense of the world, but also to the selected set of journal entries and surrounding
assess these ways and make choices about what conversations to examine the different voices this
counts as sensible or legitimate’’ (p. 54). Therefore, group of students was internalizing and in what
a careful study of the reflective journal writings ways. A central question was how their narratives fit
completed as a course requirement can provide in the multiple discourses of social justice, student
insight into the conceptual models that are being behaviour, school practices, and the university voice
constructed. Providing an opportunity to write as they constructed images of teacher identities.
about their perplexities and concerns not only One’s personal experiences and conflicting beliefs
allows students to step back from situations and and values are not the only forces that are
consider them from a different perspective, but it significant in developing one’s identity. Other
also helps their instructors gain insight into what people’s storied constructions of reality also play a
students are thinking and how they might be helped part, particularly others who, in our estimation,
to reframe and rethink troubling issues. These have compelling claims to speak with authority
written reflections and the ways in which univer- (Sfard & Prusak, 2005). Sfard and Prusak contend
sity instructors respond to them, have the potential that ‘‘significant narrators, the owners of the most
to open up conversations that can help novice influential voices, are carriers of those cultural
teachers make sense of what they are seeing and messages that will have the greatest impact on one’s
experiencing and the meaning those experiences actions’’ (p. 18). Therefore, in my analysis I looked
have for them. for instances in which students either challenged or
1028 E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

acquiesced to the authoritative voices of classroom group spent two full days each week on-site at
teachers as they defined appropriate practices public elementary schools. One afternoon a week
including how to think about children and their they met with a team of two instructors for
behaviour. How did these teachers-in-training coursework in Math and English. In the afternoon
attempt to mediate between conflicting versions of of the alternate day they met with a team of two
reality in constructing their own central narratives other instructors to learn about teaching diverse
as future teachers? If, as Brouwer & Korthagen learners. I was the special education professor for
(2005) contend, novice teachers often come to the team.
regard classroom teachers as the most knowledge- Discussion in the section of the course that
able authorities concerning educational practices, featured diversity issues was complicated and made
was this apparent in these particular journal entries? especially significant by the fact that there was very
In analyzing the reflective writings I considered little diversity in these two groups of students. The
both the overall meaning that individual students overwhelming number of the cohort members were
gave to their experiences and emergent themes that middle class White females in their 20s and early 30s
the narratives had in common (Garro & Mattingly, who had attended secondary school in small towns
2000; Polkinghorne, 1988; Strauss, 1987; Titscher, or suburbs where there were few persons whose race
Meyer, Wodak, & Vetter, 2000). I also looked for and ethnicity were not like their own. One cohort of
the dynamic tensions within themes and ways in 22 students was composed of 20 European Amer-
which ‘‘prevailing themes in the text both resonate ican females, one African American female, and a
and clash with one another’’ (Raider-Roth, 2005, European American male. All 26 students in the
p. 187). I examined how the discourses used in the other class were European American with 24
reflections tended to either naturalize or problema- females and 2 males. To complicate this demo-
tize social practices (Fairclough, 1995). Finally, I graphic, the university has a strong and long-
studied the pieces of writing recursively comparing standing commitment to the highly diverse urban
the discourse of teacher education as evidenced in schools in the city and, therefore, field placements
classroom discussions and the way experiences were are typically located in inner city schools. This
narrated. created a certain amount of initial uncertainty and
The thinking behind these student writings was apprehension among a number of students as they
further explored and extended in several subsequent indicated that they felt rather fearful and unsure
class discussions centering around the journal about what to expect in their placements in city
entries which provided a means of member check- schools that were quite different from their familiar
ing. Triangulation was provided through a compar- school contexts.
ison of the reflections across participants, through
my regular observations in the classrooms described 5.2. Schools
in the journal entries, and by sharing the completed
study with the students. Student responses to their The two cohorts of students were placed for their
reading of the study largely centered around their field experience in three elementary schools (Grades
positive reactions to the validation of their voices K-5) all serving low-income populations. Although
and their questions including Kaitlin’s response the schools had highly diverse student populations,
that, ‘‘This makes me feel that I’m on the right track the faculties of the schools, following the wide-
to becoming a teacher.’’ spread pattern of teachers in today’s urban schools
in the United States, were overwhelmingly Eur-
5. Contextualizing the study opean American females (Cochran-Smith, 2005;
Goodwin, 2004; Lowenstein, 2005).
5.1. Participants Brookview [pseudonym] is located in an area of
the city characterized by a growing population of
The participants in this study were pre-service Hispanic families. At the time of this study, 80% of
teachers attending a large university of approxi- the students were Hispanic, 15% were African
mately 30,000 students located in a major metro- American, and 5% were European American. All
politan area in the Midwest. At the time of the study but five of the teaching staff—two African Amer-
they were enrolled in two separate sections of Block ican females, two African American males and a
I, the initial teacher preparation semester. Each Hispanic male—were European American females.
E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1029

A number of classroom assistants were Hispanic. were arranged in an escalating hierarchy and were
These employees served as a bridge to the significant expected to be carried out with unvarying consis-
number of students who spoke little, or no, English. tency.
The demographic of Heritage [pseudonym] was Journal excerpts from teacher education students
70% European American, 20% African American, in each of the three schools provide a general
and 10% Hispanic. During the 2004–2005 school overview of the behavioural philosophies at use in
year, the teaching staff at Heritage was totally the classrooms they observed. Although I have
comprised of European American females. The only chosen three entries as representative, all of the
male presence was the European American male journal entries described basically the same model.
principal. The majority of the European American Bethany reports from her second grade classroom
students live in the immediate neighborhood at Brookview:
whereas most of the African American students
ride a bus to school. The principal reported in an My teacher, Mrs. D___, has a ‘‘bad’’ behaviour
interview that the African American children system and a ‘‘good’’ behaviour system. If the
represent the poorest students and that all of them students do something that she doesn’t like, they
participate in the Free and Reduced lunch program. have to move their ‘‘pin’’ from one big colored
In the same interview the principal referred to the circle to another. As they move to a different
Hispanic students as the lowest performing group in color they have time taken off their recess. If they
the school. move to the red circle, they lose all of their recess
Woodridge [pseudonym] is located on the edge of and have to call home. If the students do
a traditionally rural area that is rapidly becoming something that the teacher likes, they earn a
urbanized as the city encroaches on surrounding Mega smile. This is a piece of yellow paper that
farmland. The demographic composition of the they keep together with their group’s Mega
school is 44% African American, 54% European Smiles. The group that has the most at the end
American, and 2% Hispanic. Again, the teaching of the week gets rewarded with Snickers bars.
staff was overwhelmingly White and female. The Stacey writes about her first grade class at Heritage:
Principal at Woodridge was an African American
male and, in addition, there was an African The discipline system in place in my mentor
American male physical education teacher. There teacher’s classroom is a pull-card system. The
were no Hispanic teachers at Woodridge. system has 5 colors—green, blue, yellow, brown,
and red. The first time students are told to pull a
6. Classroom management at Brookview, Heritage, card, they get up and go to the board and place
and Woodridge the first color in the back of the stack. Green is
the color which the students start out with in the
The three elementary schools in this study all beginning of the week. Blue is their first warning.
followed a philosophy about behaviour control in Yellow is the next color in the lineup and means
their classrooms that was quite similar. Their that the student misses 5 minutes of recess.
procedures were equally uniform. This conformity Brown means the student misses the whole recess.
to a common philosophy was characterized by an The final color is red and that color means they
emphasis on order, obedience to authority, and need to call a parent.
externally enforced control over problem behaviour Diane describes her assigned kindergarten class-
(Brophy & McCaslin, 1992). Standard practices room at Woodridge:
were confirmed both by student descriptions and by
classroom observations. The accepted format for Each student has a card that starts on green for
classroom management in all of the schools good behaviour. If they disrupt class they have to
consisted of three essential parts: clearly defined switch the card to yellow and sit in time-out for
rules that students must follow at all times, positive five minutes. Time-out is a chair that is placed
recognition for following the rules, and conse- near the cards and away from the rest of the
quences that are applied when students do not students. The card has to be automatically
follow the rules. Consequences were given to changed to yellow if the student did not do
children in public ways largely with the expressed homework the previous night and it is also
purpose of serving the function of deterrence. They moved for disruptive behaviour. If the student is
1030 E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

still disruptive, then the card has to be switched rooms. Only 3 of the 48 students who completed the
to red and their guardian is called. assignment were quite sure that they would struc-
ture their own classrooms in a similar way. On the
Sometimes the procedures are quite a bit more other end of the spectrum, 8 of the 48 students were
elaborate as in the case of the ‘‘star stick’’ used by a extremely uncomfortable with the behavioural
2nd grade class at Brookview described by Mary procedures in use in the classroom to which they
Ann. It seems that the ‘‘star stick’’ is a dowel rod had been assigned. The majority of the students
containing four painted sections—red, yellow, were either somewhat or decidedly ambivalent
orange, and green. There is a clothespin for each about the practices they observed.
child with his or her number on it. At the start of In looking at the three groups in terms of possible
each day all clothespins are on green. After one factors that might account for their divergent
infraction the clothespin is moved to the yellow reactions, there were two rather interesting differ-
section. The penalty for that movement is that the ences. The group of students who disagreed with
child must spend 10 minutes of recess walking classroom behavioural practices tended to include
around the perimeter of the playground. If the more non-traditional students in that several were
clothespin must be moved to orange, the child older and had children of their own. Whereas the
spends the entire recess marching around the ambivalent group also contained a number of non-
playground perimeter. A move to red means that traditional students, the group that was unreserv-
the child spends recess walking and a call is placed edly in agreement was made up wholly of younger,
to his or her parents. Mary Ann was quite taken unmarried students. Another distinctive common-
with this plan as she demonstrated by going on to ality shared by the students who were adverse to
say enthusiastically: practices in effect in their schools was that all of
The best thing about the ‘‘star stick’’ is that it them indicated that they remembered very vividly
moves! It is light and moves with the students quite negative school experiences. There seemed to
when they go to ‘‘specials.’’ So any person in the be a sensitivity to teaching practices perceived as
school can move the pin on the ‘‘star stick!’’ repressive or unjust and a desire to do things
differently. This sentiment was expressed by Megan
Most of the classrooms had an additional isolation who said that, ‘‘I lived through miserable times at
policy that was ostensibly used for infractions that school, but there was one teacher who made a
were too egregious or disruptive to be dealt with difference in my life and I want to be like her.’’ In
through normal channels. However, in certain addition, students who were planning on becoming
contexts and with certain children, these arrange- special education teachers were all in the groups
ments seemingly became normalized with some that either were ambivalent or who disagreed with
children permanently separated from their class- behavioural practices. Further examining these
mates. Typical journal entries noted practices that patterns would be an interesting topic for further
were similar to those Mindy wrote about when she research with future cohorts of pre-service teachers.
noted that, ‘‘I know a few of the ‘hard-to-control’ The differences in how these three groups of
children have their desks set off from the rest of the students deconstructed what they observed con-
class.’’ cerning the management of student behaviour can
be seen in the following comments selected from
7. A range of opinions among novice teachers about each of three positions.
classroom management plans
7.1. Those who approved: ‘‘I believe that rules dictate
On one level this seemed to be an easy topic for behaviour’’
these pre-service teachers to write about. Behaviour
management plans were an important and pervasive The three teacher education students who wrote
element in each of their classrooms and were in very positive terms about behaviour management
frequently referenced throughout the school day. in their public school classrooms stressed that what
The aspect of the assignment that proved to be more they most appreciated about their particular setting
difficult for Block I students was trying to sort was that order was efficiently maintained. They
through their feelings about how disciplinary evidenced a strongly utilitarian orientation: a
concerns were addressed in their particular class- system of classroom control is good if it works
E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1031

smoothly. A fairly consistent theme among this university seminars, these future teachers had come
group of novice teachers was a belief in the positive to believe that lasting and positive change in the
outcome of having predictable expectations and way a child acts in school requires more than paper
established procedures. Amy expressed the belief ‘‘Mega Smiles,’’ Snickers bars, or changing colored
that in her third grade classroom at Brookview: tags. They questioned the implicit as well as the
explicit purposes behind decisions made about how
The teacher’s good technique for handling
to shape student behaviour. They further wondered
behaviour issues is because the students know
if classroom procedures supported children in
what the expectations are. They know what is
finding better ways of acting as well as a reason
expected and what is inappropriate and they
for changing their behaviour, or if they were simply
obey that.
‘‘a means to keep social control through training’’ as
In a similar vein, Lisa, who was assigned to a fourth Chris contends in his journal entry. The following
grade class at Woodridge stated that: reflections speak to worries about the lack of
efficacy, and in some cases futility, of existing
I would set up my classroom in exactly the same
behaviour procedures—at least for certain students:
way. Behaviour expectations need to be put out
there early on. If children know what is expected It seems to always be the same few students and
and what the consequences are, then they are they do not appear surprised that they have had
likely to think twice before acting a certain way. to move their pins.
Brooke, although somewhat uncertain at first, came I have not noticed a significant decrease in
to accept the classroom teacher’s expert knowledge behaviour problems from those students who
as the best way to deal with behaviour: have been asked to pull cards.
At first I thought the teacher was being hard on The fact that the same names are usually on the
the students. It seemed as though the entire day board to miss recess just goes to show that this is
was centered on disciplining children. However, not effective for them.
now that I have seen more and become better
acquainted with the students, I think the teacher Katherine had a more global objection to the
has to have this sort of discipline policy in place classroom management practices in her assigned
to keep the attention of the children and to keep classroom:
some order in the classroom. The children do
respond, and it does get their attention when I feel that Mrs. R’s. class is out of her control a
their sticks are taken away. I think I would tweak lot of the time and that she spends most of her
things a little to show more understanding of day trying to get them to be quiet and do their
their emotional needs, but overall I think it is a work. I have never seen a class that is so focused
very effective approach to discipline. on behaviour, but their behaviour is generally
out of the teacher’s control. I have used this
Overall, these students agreed with the necessity of experience as a looking glass into a class
establishing a smooth-running classroom and, in environment I do not want to have as a teacher.
accordance with Amy’s observation that, ‘‘Proce- I will have a classroom where the children want
dures are the most important thing in having a smooth to learn and where motivation is intrinsic.
running classroom,’’ they believed the best way to
achieve that goal was to set clear expectations right As Caroline writes, it is the students who ‘‘Never
from the beginning and to hold firm to them. have the opportunity to experience the rewards’’ that
this group of student teachers in Block I found to be
7.2. Those who disagreed with procedures: ‘‘I have a troubling indictment of the system’s lack of
concerns about how behaviour is addressed’’ effectiveness. In addition, contradictions between
practices that appeared demeaning and ostracizing
The objections of the 8 pre-service teacher who and ‘‘expert’’ practitioner knowledge claiming that
were not in agreement with the procedures for these practices were the best way to deal with
behaviour control in their public school classrooms difficult students confused and puzzled them and
fell into several general areas. Both intuitively and provided hopeful openings for further questioning
through class readings and discussions in their and critical conversation.
1032 E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

7.3. Those who were unsure: ‘‘I have to keep sifting 8. Conflicting needs
through my brain and critically thinking about why i
would or would not want to use these practices in my For this study I focus on the journal entries of a
classroom someday’’ group of students who were opposed to behaviour
practices and the group of students who were
The large group of students who wavered ambivalent about them. I chose those two groups
between acceptance and rejection of current prac- of reflective writings to analyze because of the
tices was not so certain as the first group about important role they could potentially play in
either the efficacy or the desirability of the ways of discussions of dominant practices.
controlling behaviour that they saw in their class- The 8 students who did not agree with the existing
rooms. These future teachers were much more programmes for behaviour control are significant in
ambiguous about the success of the interventions. that they are the people who can provide leadership
One of the most frequently expressed sources of this in making a shift in thinking among cohort
ambivalence was the tension some students felt members as they push their fellow pre-service
between an orderly classroom atmosphere and one teachers to go beyond ‘‘the ways things are’’ to
that was over-controlling, inflexible, and focused consider ‘‘the way they should be.’’
too heavily on obedience. What was the line, they A number of these students went beyond voicing
wondered, between enforcing of necessary class- their concerns about specific procedures to reflect
room rules and a structure in which compliance is on what they would do in terms of the climate they
enforced in authoritarian or punitive ways? This wanted their classrooms to have. They saw building
inner conflict was expressed by Jennifer who wrote: relationships as a key component in encouraging
positive behaviour. Elements of a developing teach-
In my classroom I definitely see that the teacher ing philosophy are apparent in the following journal
is in charge of the entire classroom. I think that excerpt:
some of her ways of managing a classroom are I would not set up a behaviour system in my
great and others I want to steer clear of. I like classroom that only supports students who are
that she always sticks to the rules and the already disciplined and are high achievers. I
students know what their punishment will be if would want to gain the attention and respect of
they don’t. I like that everything she does is very all students by including all children. If you can
orderly. But she has little tolerance for students give a child even a pinch of confidence and
who don’t follow the rules. Her teaching style is encouragement, they are more likely to respect
very rigid—don’t talk unless talked to, stay in you and themselves and, in the end, achieve goals
your seat etc. higher than they could ever imagine.
The 37 students who expressed uncertainty about
In a recent article Lisa Delpit (2003) deplores the behavioural practices are also important because
vast amounts of energy and time that teachers are they are at the point where they are questioning and
expected to spend on ‘‘keeping track of points yet are unsure of where they stand or how they can
related to non-instructional tasks and preventing resolve their questions. Ambivalence can be a failure
any kind of deep instruction’’ (p. 17). Likewise, to deal with conflict pointing to the need to provide
Katy, as well as a number of other students, critical lenses that encourage these novice teachers
expressed a concern about an overemphasis on to consider unexamined issues and unexplored
obedience to the possible detriment of other, more possibilities. As Madeline Grummet (conference
important, concerns in her journal entry: presentation, Purdue University, February, 2006)
pointed out, pre-service teachers are often con-
I’m torn between liking the cards and not liking vinced of ethical orientations, but it is too fre-
the cards. I don’t mind the ‘‘pulling the card quently a ‘‘polemic of complaint and not
idea’’ but I don’t agree with having to spend all questioning.’’ Smagorinsky et al. (2004) spoke to
day long trying to make sure the books are flat, the importance of stretching these students to think
pencils down, eyes on me, ears open, bottoms on more deeply about what puzzles them when they
the seat, etc. I believe that most of Mrs. T’s time wrote that, ‘‘Student teachers who never face
is spent ‘managing’ her class instead of teaching. philosophical contrast or conflict may well face an
E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1033

ideological meltdown when moving to settings that Two common themes emerged from the narra-
invalidate their ideals’’ (p. 22). Therefore, it is tives of the two groups of students: those undecided
important to use the disjunctures they experience to and those opposed. There was a feeling among a
lead to reflective questioning (Fecho, Graham, & number of these future teachers that the philosophy
Hudson-Ross, 2005). Their perplexities and con- and practice of how teachers reacted to student
cerns can serve as a catalyst for deepened inquiry behaviour was expedient rather than educational
and thoughtful dialogue. During a class discussion and that responses were frequently concerned with
following the journaling exercise, Matt expressed his ‘‘putting out fires’’ rather than helping children
concern about the exclusion of certain students. As learn how to be more successful classroom partici-
the discussion, continued Matt was able to make the pants. The second common theme that appeared in
connection that all of the excluded students were many of the papers was a concern about the
African American boys. His new awareness led to a exclusion and ostracism of students who were
deeper and more critical exploration of socio- considered discipline problems.
cultural issues. In deconstructing their reflections
we must dig deeply into their questions and 8.1. ‘‘This form of punishment has no lasting effects
uncertainties supporting these novice teachers in on the kids’’
developing a thoughtful, ethical framework upon
which to base their identities as future teachers. In several of the journal entries a concern was
They need help in dealing critically and thoughtfully expressed about the ultimate purposes of behaviour
with what they are seeing and in deepening their management programmes. It appeared to the
inquiry, making more explicit their values and journal writers that the object of many interventions
beliefs through thoughtful dialogue that can lead was to stop misbehaviour as quickly and efficiently
to ‘‘existential struggle and transformation’’ (Jupp, as possible without considering how to help children
2005, p. 22). They are in the process of developing learn more effective ways to handle similar situa-
their own personal interpretive frameworks through tions in the future (Brophy & McCaslin, 1992).
which they can perceive and give meaning to They expressed discomfort about the fact that it
teaching. The challenge in working with this group appeared that teacher needs for order, obedience,
is to open up conversations that not only question and compliance were served rather than student
practices but begin thinking in an intentional way needs for understanding and growth. There was
about how to do things differently. generalized agreement in classroom discussions that
The most common concern running through the behaviour plans must be about more than main-
reflections of those 45 students was the dichotomy taining order, they must also deal with inculcating
many students felt between the need to maintain an understanding of the reasons behind the rules. As
order and other values that figured prominently in Ellen wrote, ‘‘I don’t think her behaviour manage-
their developing teaching philosophies such as the ment does much to the extent of teaching the students
importance of building community and meeting about appropriate behaviours and decision-making.
individual student needs. The two groups came Instead it is just a means of stopping the behaviour as
together over this issue that was very much a point soon as possible.’’ This parallels Covaleskie’s (2005)
of struggle within and among these novice teachers assertion that, ‘‘Children must develop a framework
over such social justice issues as inclusiveness, equal within which they can make good choices about
access, and providing opportunities for all students how to act, and we must help them do so’’ (p. 50).
to achieve their potential. Although they did not The following two excerpts, both from cohort
consistently cite seminar literature or philosophical members in the ambivalent group also speak to this
orientations they did employ a rhetoric of ethical point:
orientation positioning. Several of the students
expressed some concern over how their ideas would I believe that students need reason and purpose
work ‘‘in practical terms,’’ yet they all indicated a in order to intrinsically motivate them to develop
commitment to a supportive, prosocial community their own plan for success. Students of this age
as a crucial foundation for learning, and they should be learning the real reasons they need to
showed a recognition that learning and teaching make good decisions. If we instill in them why we
are inherently relational activities (Raider-Roth, want them to behave instead of just saying ‘‘go,
2005). pull your card,’’ it may affect their decision
1034 E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

making. The problem with this form of punish- behind in classroom assignments and has no
ment is that it does nothing to correct the chance at all for success. All I can see is a student
behaviour, just the symptoms. It focuses on what who is set up to fail. Second, his isolation cannot
I believe to be not as important as other things. help in building a classroom community. From
my observations, the rest of the class, including
8.2. ‘‘For a student to feel unwelcome into the the teacher has total disdain for the student. If
classroom community is simply unacceptable’’ anything goes wrong in the classroom, he is
usually blamed for it. I may not have all the
The clearest disjunction between disciplinary answers of how to deal with students with
practices and ideas of social justice was in what behaviour problems, but I do know that isolating
these two groups of future teachers considered to be a student is not how the problem is solved.
the injustice and ostracism inherent in exclusionary
Anne also wrote of the negative effects of exclu-
forms of punishment. Separating out students due
sionary practices:
to their poor behaviour had the effective of
marginalizing them from social and academic Students with behavioural problems sat alone at
participation and was seen as problematic not only different corners. There was a student whose
because of the effect on the student who was desk was in the corner of the room facing the
marginalized, but also because of the negative effect window. She seemed like an outcast who did not
such actions had on the climate of the classroom belong. It was difficult for her to participate in
and particularly on the creation of a safe and class discussions because she was not facing the
inclusive classroom community. Seven of the eight classroom like other students. She had to turn
students who expressed disagreement with domi- her head to see the board and look at the teacher,
nant practices and 12 of the students who were which seemed very uncomfortable. She seemed as
ambivalent expressed concern about students who if she was not part of the class.
were separated from their classmates frequently for
extended periods of time. These prospective teachers The nature of negative self-fulfilling prophecies
were troubled by practices that polarized students inherent in differential treatment was noted by Beth:
and labeled some students as ‘‘less than’’. There was
also an understanding of the pervasive influence Some students are set aside in the room and
teacher attitudes and actions have on children. The treated as outcasts because of their behaviour. It
importance of teacher modeling including public appears to me that these students act the way
criticism and ridicule was noted by Megan, who they do because of the way they are treated. Two
stated poignantly that ‘‘The teacher has targeted one students especially are set off to the side in the
child in her room to feel her wrath which has a much back and are surrounded by empty boxes and
longer arm than just her own. Her wrath extends desks so as not to be able to draw attention to
through the arms of Kevin’s peers also.’’ Paul writes themselves and disrupt the classroom. However,
about his perceptions of the negative consequences these same students are the ones who are always
of isolation both on the student and his classmates interrupting and acting out.
in a fifth grade classroom:
Because of the prominence of exclusionary practices
There is one student whose desk is located in the in their reflections, and also because of the clear
left rear of the classroom, nowhere near any of disconnection such practices presented with uni-
his classmates. I was shocked and dismayed, versity teachings, this issue opened up important
especially when everything I was learning in possibilities for critical conversations that could
Block 1 discusses inclusion and classroom com- help students make connections between their
munity. I do not believe isolating students with beliefs about teaching and learning and classroom
behavioural problems will do anything to im- practice. The significance of this topic also lies in the
prove a student’s behaviour. First, the isolated near universality of the removal of certain children.
student is not learning how to get along with his In a subsequent discussion every Block I student in
fellow classmates. It is impossible for him to both cohorts indicated that the practice of isolating
discuss class work with other students if he is not students because of their behaviour was standard
allowed to sit near anyone else. Therefore, he is practice in their classrooms.
E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1035

The ambivalence and wavering between ethical they are to where they need to be as ethically aware
values and efficacy expressed in the following teachers.
journal entry points up the need for conversations This study is based on narrative analysis of
to explore issues more deeply: journal writings as a reflective tool in teacher
education. A careful and thoughtful analysis of
In Mrs. F’s. classroom when I first attended,
such writings can provide teacher educators with a
there were two desks that were away from the
clearer understanding of their students’ thinking
rest of the class. I had asked her ‘‘why’’ on the
and thus can become a powerful tool in providing a
second visit, and she responded by saying they
context for important discussions paving the way
have talking issues. The two girls were separated
for authentic transformation in the way future
from each other and from the rest of the class.
teachers look at how to work with children in their
The one girl has made her way back into the
classrooms. Studying student voices through these
group setting, while the other girl is still sitting
writings can also help us examine our own practices
away from the class. I do know that this type of
and reflect on what we are teaching and how it is
technique for talking seems to be working for the
being received.
girls. What else could you do if they just don’t stop
In looking at implications for my work, I found
both the language of critique and the language of
Thoughtful analysis and authentic dialogue based possibility in these journal entries. Particularly for
on these reflective writings have great potential for those students who were having trouble deciding
growth and transformation. The questions these what they believed, this exercise in reflective writing
students ask are the kinds of questions that are played an important role in creating protected
important to foreground in our work with future spaces where they could interrogate and deepen
teachers as we support them in becoming the their thinking (Oliver & Lalik, 2000).
thoughtful and caring educators that are needed in In their writing about behaviour practices, the
our schools. two cohorts of future teachers struggled with
competing discourses concerning institutional needs
9. Discussion for order and the individual needs of children. They
struggled with tough questions related to the
The challenge of teaching is to decide who you
validity of ‘‘expert knowledge’’ and ‘‘the unitary
want to be as a teacher, what you care about and
visions of teachers’’ roles and behaviours that they
what you value, and how you will conduct
believed were valued in their schools’ (Vinz, 1996,
yourself in classrooms with students. (Ayers,
p. 55). I found in a number of these student writings
2001, p. 23).
a willingness to think analytically about taken-for-
What do we hope students in our teacher education granted practices. I was encouraged to find that
programs understand as they prepare to enter the there appeared to be a wrestling with the complexity
teaching profession, and how will we assess what of behaviour interventions leading some students to
they are actually understanding? Teacher educators reject simplistic, one-dimensional solutions. A
concerned about the complex challenges and ethical number of students showed in their writings an
choices facing young teachers, must find ways to intuitive knowledge backed up by seminar discus-
help novice teachers not only teach successfully in sions that behaviour management is integrally
the complex contexts of public schools in the 21st linked with the culture of the classroom and is,
Century, but also find ways to transform those further, ultimately related to the ethical values and
contexts. How can teacher education programs commitments that teachers bring to their work with
support future educators in developing thoughtful children.
frameworks that will equip them to meet the needs A significant number of the prospective teachers
of a widely diverse population of children and be who participated in this study seemed be internaliz-
able to ‘‘reinvent classroom knowledge and dis- ing and incorporating into their developing teaching
course so that it builds on, and is attentive to, the philosophies ideas about social justice and fair and
resources of all children’’ (Cochran-Smith, 2004, equitable treatment of all students in inclusive
p. 62)? We, as teacher educators, are challenged to learning communities that were fostered in the
consider carefully the perplexities our students university teacher education program. Ideas that
express and find ways to move them from where were featured prominently in seminar conversations
1036 E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037

were frequently referenced in comments such as, ‘‘I how they were taught which sometimes means
want my classroom to be a place where students want that they teach in ways quite different from what
to attend everyday and I want to have a positive they learn in their teacher preparation programs’’
learning environment like the ones we learned about in (p. 725).
class discussions.’’ That many of these teachers-in- A further area of these research findings points to
training took a critical look at classroom manage- the need for further work and study. The students
ment practices led me to be optimistic about the showed a lack of connection between their devel-
possibility for them to continue to be open to oping beliefs and the larger cultural context includ-
discovering more nuanced ways of establishing ing little problematizing of how the classroom
classrooms where fewer children are written off as culture intersects with the culture of the school
incorrigible or ‘‘hopeless’’ and where all children are and of the larger society. This finding is in
able to contribute their unique promise and agreement with Shkedi and Laron’s (2004) conten-
potential. Yet, at the same time I was concerned tion that:
about how to most effectively respond to the
Beginning student teachers typically have given
ambivalence and conflicting values that remained
little thought to the contexts of teaching—not to
with a number of the cohort members. This points
the larger societal context, nor to the features of
up the clear need to continue to explore ways to
communities, schools, and classrooms that influ-
connect school practices with university teachings
ence teaching and learning. (p. 696).
and existing predispositions.
Although in seminar discussions several of the
10. Implications and directions for research students were troubled by the fact that most of the
children who were marginalized were African
The findings of this study of how two groups of American, there was a hesitancy on the part of a
pre-service teachers were beginning to construct large number of students to go further in analyzing
their teaching identities in the face of conflicting the ‘‘othering’’ of certain students and the connec-
knowledge claims raise further questions and point tion of that positioning with issues of cultural
out directions for future work. Making personal difference and power. They stopped short of
decisions about the values one holds as a teacher is a looking at possible connections between ‘‘common
developmental process. As Ayers (2004) contends, sense’’ professional practices and embedded cultural
‘‘Our stories are dynamic and in-motion, always assumptions. They did not seem to be at the point
changing with new conditions, and always suggest- where they could consider the ‘‘normal practices of
ing alternative outcomes’’ (p. viii). This leads to schooling as processes of instituting a particular
concerns about the ways in which the understand- social imaginary’’ (Warren, 2005, p. 244), uncovered
ings and knowledge structures of these novice in a study of similar processes of exclusion among
teachers will change and evolve in their future African-Caribbean young men in schools in the
classroom experiences. There is a need to continue United Kingdom. Their critique, which was cen-
to confront their unanswered questions and issues tered around the humanistic position of a sense of
of ambivalence as well as support and further unfairness, needs to be extended to questioning the
develop the beliefs that they hold firmly. Without wider practices of schooling. This kind of critical
this continued critical pressure there may well be a analysis is particularly important in light of the
tendency to see behavioural methodologies with cultural encapsulation of these pre-service teachers
which they initially disagreed as ‘‘the way things and the differences between the social, racial, and
are’’ as they become inculcated into dominant ethnic makeup of public school faculties and that of
practices. A significant question raised by this the children.
research study involves whether the attitudes of Teacher education programs need to continue to
these students will change when, as they proceed in explore difficult questions with students if we are to
their teacher preparation program, the balance counteract both the unquestioned acceptance of
shifts to spending more extended time in schools ‘‘common sense’’ wisdom and the pull of familiar
and less time in university seminars. This connects ways of doing things. It is crucial to continue to
to the concern expressed by Fajet et al. (2005) that provide spaces where future teachers can do the
becoming overwhelmed with the challenges of important work of examining what is, what can be,
learning to teach, they may ‘‘revert to teaching and the implications of their choices for themselves
E.H. Stoughton / Teaching and Teacher Education 23 (2007) 1024–1037 1037

as teachers, for the children they teach, and for the Goodwin, A. L. (2004). Exploring the perspectives of teacher
schools and communities we hope to build. educators of color: What do they bring to teacher education?
Issues in Teacher Education, 13(2), 7–24.
Greenman, N. P., & Dieckmann, J. A. (2004). Considering
criticality and culture as pivotal in transformative teacher
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