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Dissertation Spotlight

Dissertation Spotlight: Self-Efficacy in Classroom Management Amongst New Middle School Teachers

By The Room 241 Team December 15, 2018

New teachers often struggle with classroom management so how do these novice educators achieve self-efficacy? Kentyl Byrne, EdD, posed this question while earning her Doctorate of Education from Concordia University-Portland. Byrne is a Western Governors University Teachers’ College Evaluator and full-time mom, and she was concerned about how many new middle school teachers have problems with classroom discipline.

Although research exists concerning general self-efficacy in classroom management, very little work has been done on how novice middle school teachers achieve self-efficacy. This lack of specific research inspired Byrne to dig deeper which resulted in her dissertation “Teacher Self-Efficacy in Classroom Management Amongst Novice Middle School Teachers.” Let’s take a closer look at Byrne’s research and key findings.

Self-efficacy in classroom management

Byrne defines self-efficacy as, “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to produce given attainments.” It is what influences a person’s motivation, goal setting, and strategies. Classroom Management Self-Efficacy (CMSE) is the term applied to a teacher who is competent in maintaining order in an organized classroom, and “gaining and maintaining the attention and participation of all students.” When the teacher lacks CMSE, the classroom environment suffers and the learning experience of all students is negatively affected.

Self-efficacy in classroom management is an “ongoing struggle” for teachers of all experience levels, and this is something Byrne acknowledges in her work. When conducting her research, Byrne considered the training received by both pre-service and in-service teachers. She wanted her research results “to lead to initiatives in teacher preparation and staff development that will empower teachers in the areas of classroom management.”

In order to properly understand her study, Byrne provides the following definitions:

  • Novice teacher: One with five or fewer years of classroom experience.
  • Pre-service teacher: A college student participating in guided, supervised, student teaching.
  • In-service teacher: A teacher actively engaged in the teaching profession.
  • Classroom management: Controlling disruptive behavior. Responding to defiant students in a positive way. Establishing a routine so that student activities run smoothly.

Examining previous research

Byrne found that there has been a lot of research on the general concept of novice teachers and their self-efficacy in general, but not on self-efficacy as it relates to novice teachers and their classroom management skills.

When self-efficacy in classroom management is low, the students are disruptive and teachers become exhausted by the overwhelming daily task of trying to keep order. This continual emotional exhaustion is a major reason for teacher attrition.

On the other hand, research shows that the more advanced a teacher is in emotional intelligence, the greater their classroom management self-efficacy. When teachers view students as “partners in learning,” they are less likely to take behavior disturbances personally.

Research questions and methodology

Byrne narrowed her research to answer two closely related but specific questions:

  1. How do novice middle school teachers demonstrate self-efficacy in classroom management?
  2. How do novice middle school teachers achieve self-efficacy in classroom management?

Byrne’s methodology included a blind survey, interviews, and analysis. In order to answer the research questions, Byrne conducted a blind survey of 146 middle school teachers who had volunteered to participate in the research project. Specific questions included how many years of teaching experience each teacher had completed in order to verify that they were indeed novice teachers. Additionally, questions were asked to determine how each teacher felt about their own classroom management effectiveness.

After participants responded to the blind survey, Byrne then interviewed them. The interview consisted of asking them questions about their classroom management from the viewpoint of:

  • Preparation
  • Experience
  • Achievement level

Discipline referrals were also analyzed, looking at the number of discipline referrals written by each study participant over the previous three years.

Expected results and key findings

Byrne expected the results of the study to show:

  • Novice middle school teachers have low classroom management self-efficacy which increases over time as teachers gain experience.
  • Teachers with five or more years of experience have greater classroom management self-efficacy than those with only one year of experience.
  • Teachers with three or more years of experience would rate themselves higher in self-efficacy than those with no experience.

The expected results were often consistent with the actual results. Based on the responses of participants, there are minimal opportunities for pre-service teachers to learn classroom management and put learned strategies into effect.

Study participants credited their own trial and error strategies and information from peers for their feelings of self-efficiency in classroom management. It was also discovered that some never had courses on classroom management during their pre-service programs. Additionally, no participant in Byrne’s study said they were required to practice classroom management strategies as they learned them. Byrne says, “This information begged the question, is it merely the preparation program received by candidates that directly impacts teacher self-efficacy in classroom management? The majority of participants in my research study received preparation from the same institution where classroom management only came up in conversation for undergraduate teacher pre-service preparation.”

Byrne believes more research needs to be done on this topic. She suggests that a longitudinal study of teacher self-efficacy in classroom management could provide more information to help novice teachers improve. Bryne also states that future research could examine this topic in relation to veteran teachers who teach middle school or other grade levels. This could create links between novice and veteran teachers’ self-efficacy in classroom management.

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