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MS in Education Course Insight: Principles of Social-Emotional Classroom Management

These teaching strategies can help students make behavior choices that promote a more harmonious learning environment for all.

Commanding the attention of a classroom of children—some squirming and chatty, others quiet and reserved—may seem to require the combined expertise of a band leader, cheerleader, negotiator, and traffic cop. And even then, teachers may feel deflated by their efforts.

“Most teachers struggle with classroom management at some point in their career, some teachers struggle with it indefinitely, and many teachers leave the profession because of the daily stress and difficulty associated with managing children and classrooms,” write Stephanie M. Jones, Rebecca Bailey, and Robin Jacob, authors of the article, “Social-Emotional Learning Is Essential to Classroom Management.”1 The article is required reading in Creating an Effective Classroom Environment, an important course for MS in education students at Walden University.

MS in Education Course Insight: Principles of Social-Emotional Classroom Management

“By implementing management strategies that actively build children’s social-emotional and self-regulatory skills, teachers maximize their management efforts and increase the likelihood that students will be able to respond successfully to their requests for on-task behavior.”

The authors identify four tested principles that can help build students’ social-emotional skills at any grade level. Read along with Walden’s online master’s in education students to gain insight into these strategies:1

Effective classroom management is based in planning and preparation.
Effective classroom managers map the day’s learning activities as well as transitions between activities and think deliberately about what is likely to be difficult for specific individuals, groups, or the class as a whole. Teachers who make time for such management-oriented planning are less likely to be caught off guard when things go awry, and they’re more likely to have a strategy prepared in advance and to implement it quickly, enabling them to steer students back on track when disruptions occur. Disruptions are inevitable in every classroom. This type of planning acknowledges that and enables teachers to handle problems in responsive, not reactive, ways. Responsive classroom management is more likely to be thoughtful, concrete, consistent, and implemented in a calm and supportive way. In contrast, reactive management can be angry, punitive, inconsistent or unclear, and tends to escalate the problem behavior (Lesaux, Jones, Russ, & Kane, 2014).

Effective classroom management is an extension of the quality of relationships in the room (Marzano, 2003).
Teachers who establish and maintain high-quality, trusting relationships with students can draw on their history of positive interactions in order to address classroom management challenges as they arise. In contrast, teachers regularly engaged in conflict with students are less able to respond effectively to classroom disruptions. This is especially true for unanticipated problems that demand “on the fly” action from teachers. High-quality relationships are characterized by warmth and responsiveness to student needs on one hand and by clear boundaries and consistent consequences on the other hand. Striking the right balance between warmth and discipline is a common challenge. In some settings, discipline looks like overcontrol with too much emphasis on rigid rules, which can lead teachers to be inflexible and unresponsive to student needs. This approach offers students no opportunity for building skills in self-management or autonomy, and it represents an unreasonable expectation of perfect behavior from students. In other settings, there may be an emphasis on warmth or autonomy, but the boundaries are not consistently enforced, or they’re missing altogether. Teacher-student relationships that balance these two needs provide the best foundation for effective classroom management.

Effective classroom management is embedded in the environment.
A well-managed classroom includes direct material supports as well as a consistent set of routines and structures throughout the day. Posters, charts, or a calm-down corner are examples of material support; they remind students of classroom expectations and provide visual or physical tools to help students achieve them. Routines might include a strategy to help students transition between activities, such as a song or signal. Structures might include a morning meeting or weekly celebration for positive behavior. Together, these features organize and define appropriate behavior at different times of the day; they make the classroom predictable. Importantly, supports that are embedded in the environment help students manage themselves by reinforcing expectations and promoting positive behavior even when the teacher is unavailable.

Effective classroom management includes ongoing processes of observation and documentation.
Finally, classrooms are fast-paced and constantly changing; what works one day might not work the next. Teachers need to regularly reassess management strategies and adapt as needed. Disruptive behavior can test adults’ patience and make it difficult to think clearly in the heat of the moment. Documentation helps educators notice patterns and better anticipate and address recurring problems. Careful observation and documentation—writing down what happened, what you did/said, and how students responded—lets teachers continually reflect on and improve their interactions with students and their general plan for classroom management.

Be Classroom-Confident With an Online Teaching Degree

With a master’s degree in education from an accredited university like Walden, you can become an in-demand educator whose teaching strategies inspire students and colleagues alike.

Walden’s MS in Education degree program offers respected, research-based course readings throughout its 15 specializations. Find your passion in graduate program specializations like Elementary Reading and Literacy (PreK-6), Integrating Technology in the Classroom (Grades K—12), or Mathematics and Science (Grades K–8). You even have the option of custom-designing a program specialization that blazes a path toward your specific career goals. Walden’s Accelerated MSEd option is available with some specializations and is designed to be completed in 12 months.

Advance and refresh your skills with an online master’s in education that can shoot you to the top of the class and toward exciting new career opportunities.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,