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How to cite this article APA 6 th ed. Classroom management: A persistent challenge for pre-service foreign language teachers. This qualitative descriptive study aimed to ascertain the extent to which classroom management constituted a problem among pre-service foreign language teachers in a teacher education program at a public university in Colombia.

The study also sought to identify classroom management challenges, the approaches to confronting them, and the alternatives for improving pre-service teachers' classroom management skills. The revealed that classroom management is a serious problem with challenges ranging from inadequate classroom conditions to explicit acts of misbehavior. Establishing rules and reinforcing consequences for misbehavior were the main approaches to classroom management, although more contact with actual classrooms and learning from experienced others were alternatives for improving classroom management skills.

Key words : Classroom management, foreign language, pre-service teachers, teacher education. The student teaching practicum, which constitutes the first time many students in teacher education programs actually teach in real classrooms, is considered an "opportunity [for pre-service teachers] to apply theoretical knowledge and skills, ly gained in the [teacher education] classroom, to authentic educational settings" Williams, , p. However, this practicum generates various challenges that pre-service teachers will face. Soares claims that teacher educators overlook the issue of classroom management by putting forward theories and pedagogy that revolve around the concept of ideal learners.

This leaves pre-service teachers with a sense of hopelessness and with "little but their intuition to guide them" Soares, , p. Although "teacher education programs cannot hope to for all the different types of settings and conditions beginning teachers will inevitably encounter" Farrell, , p. This guidance eases their transition from teacher preparation programs to real classroom settings and thus increases their likelihood of success.

We administered a questionnaire and interviewed pre-service teachers, practicum supervisors, and cooperating teachers in an English teacher education program to determine if classroom management constituted a problem and to identify classroom management challenges, the approaches used to confront them, and the alternatives for improving classroom management skills.

Although this is not the first study to address the issue of classroom management in Colombia or elsewhere, it served to diagnose the problem of classroom management in this teacher education program. A practicum experience can be classified as direct or indirect. The participants in this study were engaged in a direct supervised teaching experience.

In relation to the support provided by schools and colleagues, Farrell showed that "the transition from the teacher training institution to the secondary school classroom is characterized by a type of reality shock in which the ideals that were formed during teacher training are replaced by the reality of school life" p.

In learning to face this reality, pre-service teachers must face and address many types of issues and challenges including classroom management. Classroom management has been defined as the "actions taken to create and maintain a learning environment conducive to successful instruction" Brophy, , p.

It is also thought to consist of integrating four areas: "establishing and reinforcing rules and procedures, carrying out disciplinary actions, maintaining effective teacher and student relationships, and maintaining an appropriate mental set for management" Marzano, , p. It follows that classroom management should not be seen as synonymous with classroom discipline; it involves those other aspects mentioned above that are equally inherent to teaching.

Crookes similarly sees a well-managed classroom as a relatively orderly room in which "whatever superficial manifestations of disorder that may occur either do not prevent instruction and learning, or actually support them" p. What the above definitions of classroom management have in common is establishing an appropriate environment and therefore order in the classroom so that teaching and subsequently learning can take place. The challenge stems from many possible issues involved in managing a classroom.

Brown affirms that classroom management involves decisions about what to do when:. In regards to the impact of classroom management on the teaching practicum, Stoughton revealed that classroom management was identified by pre-service teachers "as a subject about which there is a fairly wide disparity between what is taught in university classes and seminars and the theoretical construct upon which many behavioral plans are based" p.

Equally important are the specific problems pre-service teachers find during their practicum. Even though classroom management is an area of interest and preoccupation for pre-service language teachers, it has not been extensively researched in Colombia. Castellanos found that factors such as the environment and teachers' attitudes were among the causes of children's aggressive behavior when playing competitive games in the English classroom. This study highlighted students' self-esteem and teachers' fair treatment in class as elements that might help teachers to maintain positive atmospheres in their classrooms.

They found heterogeneous classes, lack of academic interest, affective factors, parental neglect, and education policies as reasons for indiscipline in EFL classes. Some of the strategies participants claimed to be effective in coping with discipline problems were:.

These studies have helped to consolidate a rather scarce but growing body of research in the area of classroom management in English language teaching in Colombia. This phenomenon has become a prominent challenge for many pre-service teachers who are about to enter the teaching profession. These teachers constantly struggle to implement strategies to reduce the negative impact of poor classroom management in their practicum.

A of approaches have been proposed to help teachers address classroom management in their lessons. The first stresses the need for a facilitating environment in which the teacher supports students' inner struggles to solve problems in class. The second focuses on the teacher's taking control of the environment, and rewards, rules, and punishment are used to ensure students' appropriate learning behavior. This model also highlights overlapping , or what the teacher does when he has two or more matters to address at the same time. Another model is the choice theory model Glasser, , which sees teachers as leaders and attempts to rid them of the thought that if students are not punished, they do not learn.

Teachers are urged to help students make good decisions and to remind them that they are capable of performing and behaving well in class. This model also encourages teachers to conduct class meetings whenever they deem it necessary so that students can evaluate themselves and de plans for improvement. Such models and approaches helped us to characterize the issue of classroom management in the present study and to answer the research question related to how pre-service teachers currently deal with classroom management issues in the practicum.

Nonetheless, we must highlight that no classroom management style or approach should be fully adopted or constructed without taking into serious consideration the characteristics of the teaching setting. The present study may help teachers to determine which approach or model best fits the needs of their particular contexts. This study followed a qualitative descriptive orientation in that it involved interacting with people in their social contexts and talking with them about their perceptions Glesne, regarding classroom management.

Accordingly, the study considered participants' views initially gathered through a questionnaire and then further explored them via semi-structured interviews. The study was conducted in the context of an undergraduate EFL teacher education program at a public university in Colombia. Students enrolled in this program had to take credits to be certified as EFL teachers. The first of these sought to help students develop their communicative competence in English, and the third aimed at developing students' socio-humanistic competencies. However, it was the second field—Teacher Professional Identity—that focused directly on the areas of pedagogy and didactics.

These areas involved courses such as general pedagogy, methods, and the teaching practicum. Within the field of Teacher Professional Identity, students had to complete two practicum periods, which were meant to give them the possibility of gaining experience by teaching English for one academic semester at a primary school and another one at a secondary school, both usually located in the same city where the teacher education program was offered. As stated in the course objectives of the teaching practicum syllabus, this teaching experience "gets pre-service teachers involved with aspects such as lesson planning, teaching skills, students' assessment, extra-curricular activities, use of resources, and reflection and self-evaluation" Universidad Surcolombiana, , p.

Pre-service teachers are placed in a school in mutual agreement with the practicum coordinator. Cooperating teachers are then chosen according to the courses available at each school and whether or not they accept to work with a pre-service teacher throughout the semester. Finally, practicum supervisors are appointed by the practicum coordinator based on their availability and workload regulations established by the university.

Typically, practicum supervisors must observe pre-service teachers and meet with them at the university to give them feedback on lesson plans and observations at least once a week. The study involved the participation of 34 pre-service teachers, 10 practicum supervisors, and 17 cooperating teachers in the EFL teacher education program. There were 20 female and 14 male pre-service teachers. Seventeen were in public primary schools and 17 in public secondary schools. Similarly, 18 of the 34 pre-service teachers were in their first practicum period, with the remaining 16 in their second period, which means that the latter group had one semester of accumulated teaching experience as pre-service teachers.

Cooperating teachers 13 female, 4 male and practicum supervisors 6 female, 4 male were selected based on their extensive experience hosting and supervising pre-service teachers, years for the former and 10 years average for the latter both in primary and secondary schools. Participants were initially approached in person as a group in one of the practicum meetings at which they accepted participation in the study of their own free will by ing a consent letter. Following the ethical procedures, they were then asked to respond to an initial online questionnaire Appendix A.

Afterward, a smaller sample of 10 pre-service teachers, six practicum supervisors, and six cooperating teachers from among those who had agreed to be part of the study was invited for follow-up semi-structured interviews Appendix B. Each interview was arranged in consultation with those participants who had stated in the questionnaire that classroom management constituted a problem in the practicum and who had agreed to take part in a follow-up interview. Codes 1 were used throughout the study to guarantee the principles of anonymity and confidentiality. The use of these methods and types of participants contributed to validating the data and achieving triangulation.

We piloted the questionnaire with colleagues and some former students of the same teacher education program. The purpose of the questionnaire was to collect participants' demographic information and to gain their initial insights on the research questions. The follow-up semi-structured interview sought to obtain a more in-depth view of the answers provided in the questionnaire and to elicit potential stories or additional insights regarding classroom management. We used grounded theory as the approach to analyze the data. Corbin and Strauss observe that this technique enables researchers to conceptualize the social patterns and structures of the information through a constant process of comparison.

Grounded theory is a systematic process that involves three main stages as follows: Open coding involves using colors to code the different patterns that emerge as a result of comparing the data. In this study, these codes were directly connected to the research questions. After a rigorous process of comparison, we named every phenomenon and copied and pasted all of the related statements in a separate document to define the initial preliminary . Axial coding occurs within one category, making connections between subgroups of that category and creating connections between one subcategory and another.

Here, we found relationships between the sub, and we then deed a chart Table 1 containing four main and the associated sub. These were broken down into specific issues that helped explain the general findings of the study. This chart was permanently improved as more data emerged and as a result of the constant process of comparison.

are integrated, and a grounded theory emerges. In this final stage, we were able to integrate all into the final four broad , which helped us to present the findings in a more orderly fashion. Some of the participants, particularly cooperating teachers in high schools, claimed that the classroom management issues pre-service teachers encountered in the practicum were inevitably part of the teaching profession and not exclusive to language teaching. They were aware that it was something pre-service teachers had to confront and learn along the way regardless of the subject they had to teach.

For example, CT3 made the following claim:. Further evidence of classroom management being a problem was observed when pre-service teachers in secondary school claimed that classroom management interfered with instructional time. They stated that they often had to stop the lesson to solve all kinds of situations in class:.

Similarly, PT18, while doing his practicum at a high school, felt that it was difficult to use the teaching methods and strategies he had been taught in the teacher education program because he had to devote so much time to organizing the students before he could start the lesson:.

This can be connected to Farrell's observation that the ideals that pre-service teachers receive during their preparation programs are replaced by the hard reality of school life. This may have led participants to perceive mismatches between what they had learned in their teacher preparation and what they encountered in real school classrooms.

Figure 1 shows a condensed view of the problems identified by participants in both settings. In regards to specific classroom management challenges that pre-service teachers encountered in their practicum, many such challenges had to do with external, nonacademic factors that influenced students' behavior or did not contribute to an adequate learning atmosphere in the context of primary and secondary schools.

One such factor was the high temperatures in class because the weather in the city was usually very hot and the classrooms were not equipped with air conditioning or ceiling fans. Noise from outside was another factor that was usually caused by different sources people on the street, students in other classrooms, cultural and social activities inside the school, etc. In addition, other factors included overcrowded classrooms, inconvenient seating arrangements, and lack of or insufficient resources. The comments below illustrate some of those problems:.

Another factor that made classroom management difficult, especially for pre-service teachers at high schools, was that they could not see themselves as teachers in the practicum: "at the beginning one does not see oneself as a teacher but as a college student that is carrying out an activity" PT2.

They felt that this had serious implications because the high school students did not see them as their teachers either, and they were more inclined to challenge their authority and be disrespectful toward them. Therefore, they felt they needed to be firm and assertive so that their students would take them more seriously. PT4 made the following remark:. This may inevitably lead pre-service teachers to feel uncommitted and discouraged from doing the job or developing a passion for the teaching profession. As claimed by Pellegrino , "novice teachers, who are viewed by most students as temporary and not supreme authority in the classroom, have a more difficult time establishing traditional authority in the classroom" p.

Some other issues were related to students' language levels and attitudes toward the class. These issues included students who had difficulties understanding or expressing their ideas in English, unwillingness to participate, and lack of attention and motivation in class. This lack of interest and motivation, according to practicum supervisors at primary and high schools, was sometimes accompanied by feelings of boredom and frustration, which then led to students being disruptive and caused other classroom management issues.

To further illustrate the issue of lack of interest and attention in class, PT10 commented on an incident he had with one of his students. The pre-service teacher contacted the student's parents because the child was not showing any progress or interest in class.

The child's mother then came to the school and said that her son was having conflicts with another boy who was bothering him. The pre-service teacher said that he was not aware of that incident and that he was still concerned about the child's lack of progress in class.

In the end, the child's mother blamed the pre-service teacher for not paying enough attention to what was going on in class. This incident equally served to illustrate the relationships with parents, noted by Veenman , as another factor that pre-service teachers have to face during the practicum. Linked to the factors, there were other issues ranging from minor acts of misconduct e. For instance, CT5 told us about an episode a pre-service teacher at a secondary school had in one of his colleague's lessons:.

This may have been an isolated incident, but it certainly had a huge impact on the pre-service teacher in that it let her experience the complex reality of classrooms, especially in terms of the potential dangers of situations like this one. When the incident occurred, the pre-service teacher reported that she was shocked but also somewhat relieved because she had seen how the cooperating teacher and the academic coordinator had also not been able to manage the situation.

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