Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD
“The educational process must again provide the opportunity for students to make choices and live with the consequences of these choices. Teaching is not simply telling people what to believe and do.” – Donovan L. Graham
“Good classroom management is the art of dealing with problems positively and looking for solutions together so that everyone is involved and willing to find a remedy.” – Kavita Bhupta Ghosh
“Supporting and developing orderly and productive classroom environments is the foundation of good classroom management.” – Dr Carolyn Evertson
It goes without saying that managing students is probably one of the most difficult aspects of a teacher’s work. But no matter whether teachers find it difficult to do classroom management or not, this is something that you always will have to work on. Unfortunately, there is not a single course on classroom management in the world that could help you make sure that your classes are always smooth and easy. Most teachers must learn a lot from their experience and their colleagues.
Considering that managing students in a face-to-face classroom is already difficult, what about on-line classrooms? On-line education has become quite popular over the last few years (especially due to the COVID pandemic) and many teachers are still learning how to teach on-line classes of good quality. As far as virtual classroom management, many teachers are also only learning how to do that.
Indeed, virtual classroom management has its own specific aspects that every teacher needs to know about. In this short article, we are going to give you some tips on how to manage your students in a way that they are learning, and you are not too stressed. If you are a teacher who is struggling with classroom management or have just begun teaching online this article is for you.
Identify Potential Distractions and Plan How to Deal with Them
You need to remember that your on-line class should look and feel just like a “normal”, face-to-face class. If you are teaching a face-to-face class, you always ask your students to put away their phones and any other distractions, right? So, you should do the same when you are teaching an on-line class.
Also remember that you are teaching students sitting at their homes, which means there may be a great variety of distractions. For example, their younger or older siblings, pets, and even parents (yes, although parents are supposed to assist their children in learning, some of them prevent them from doing so – for example, by watching TV, which is too loud).
So, remind your students to make sure that they are sitting in a quiet place away from distractions as much as possible. Also, if you are struggling to encourage your students to stay away from distractions, try and talk to their parents. Of course, it is fine that your students may introduce you to their dogs or cats, but they should do it only when it is appropriate to do so.
Consider a Dress Code
Another way of making your virtual classroom feel and look like a face-to-face class is introducing a dress code. First, remember that you should be dressed formally. Indeed, it may be tempting to wear your favorite T-shirt or your comfortable shorts. But rather than doing so, you should wear something that you would wear if you were teaching a face-to-face class. The same rule should apply to your students. Ask them to dress appropriately for your class – there is no need to be fancy, but they do need to wear a shirt and pants.
If students are dressed the way they would be normally dressed at school, then it is very likely that they will treat on-line classes seriously. Alternatively, if they are wearing their pajamas and lying-in bed, they will not be willing to be engaged in the class and they will simply be distracted. Remind students at the end of the class that they should prepare for your classes a little in advance. If the class is in the morning, then they should get up a little earlier.
Use Visual Cues to Help Students Understanding What is Going on in the Classroom
When we are teaching on-line, you can use a variety of visual clues that would be impossible to use in a traditional classroom. Visual cues may help students understand what actions are expected of them. Depending on the platform that you are using, there may be a variety of icons that can be used as visual cues. For example, if you are using Zoom, you can ask your students to use the icon of “thumbs-up” to indicate that they have finished their task or understood what you were talking about. Likewise, if your students have a question, they can the “raising hand” icon. Finally, if you display a picture of a background, for example, then your students will know that it is break time.
If you can, use a virtual background, which would be amenable for a class. For example, your virtual background can be a library, a map, or a school blackboard. Remember that your background matters. It is just as important as what you wear as it sets the right atmosphere. By using these online clues, you will be able to manage your students in a fun and proactive way.
Talk to Students About Plagiarism and Explain That They Must Avoid It
Plagiarism has always been a problem in the world of education. However, with the rise of the Internet and the popularization of on-line education, it has become extremely common. Indeed, when students are sitting before their computers, they have various abundant sources of information at their fingertips. And instead of doing the hard work of researching, analyzing, and finding the required information, they may be tempted just to copy and paste the information they found on-line.
To deal with students’ plagiarism effectively, make sure that your students are aware of what plagiarism is. Indeed, some students may simply not be aware that it is a serious offense to copy someone’s work and present it as yours. So, tell your students what plagiarism is, give them examples of what is considered plagiarism, and make sure they understand the consequences of plagiarising. Also, let them know that you are aware of how tempting it may be to steal someone’s work, but also make it clear to them that by plagiarizing they are not learning. Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, demonstrate to your students how easy it is to detect plagiarism.
Perhaps, you could even show them that there are various apps, platforms, and programs that can help you easily identify plagiarized text. After such a serious and thorough discussion, students will realize that the negative consequences of plagiarizing someone’s work far outweigh the short-term “positive” consequences.
Praise Student Achievements
Finally, don’t forget that it is important to acknowledge and recognize students’ achievements – after all, learning online is not easy. Also make sure that students know that they can reach out to you and find you, whenever they need you. Perhaps, you could even establish “office hours”, during which your students can ask you any questions they may have. This is especially important because this way students can fight their feeling of loneliness and isolation (which, unfortunately, some may experience due to the unique nature of on-line learning). Also, make sure that you have norms and expectations in your class – so that your students have a good understanding of what they need to do to get the most out of their on-line classes.
Classroom management is crucial to students’ learning – regardless of what kind of classroom we are talking about – a “Face-to-face” or a “virtual” one. Without good classroom management, students will feel bored and disengaged and you will have a hard time teaching them. In this article, we have talked about the most important aspect of managing virtual classrooms. As you can see, classroom management should be geared towards creating a classroom environment, which is free of disruptions and is based on students’ understanding of their teacher. If you wish to learn more about running virtual classrooms and other aspects of on-line teaching and learning, check out our recent Shiminly articles.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.