How teachers' workloads impact classroom management

How teachers

Teachers saddled with an excessive workload early in their careers are more likely to have their positive classroom management methods derailed, a recent study has revealed.

The study, which followed 395 teachers from the start of their teaching education until 15 years into their teaching careers, also found that young, overworked teachers often resort to negative approaches in managing student misbehaviour, including yelling and using sarcasm.

In contrast, teachers who feel well-prepared and confident in their ability to manage classroom behaviour are more likely to provide students with clear structure and expectations on how to conduct themselves in school.

“This shows that teacher education isn’t just important in equipping future teachers with effective classroom management skills,” said Professor Helen Watt of the University of Sydney, one of the study’s three authors. “It’s also important to develop their confidence to manage student misbehaviour through positive structures rather than negative reactions.”

“But this gets derailed when teachers who are just becoming established are overwhelmed by paperwork and suffer extreme time pressure,” she said.

Professor Watt also said that teachers’ classroom management methods, and sense of confidence and professional preparedness are “established fairly early” and most likely to persist into their mid-careers.

“The way teachers start out sets up long-term professional behaviours,” she said. “The key message from our findings is that the excessive demands experienced by beginning teachers have long-term, damaging consequences in their teaching behaviour.”

Secondary schools more demanding

Co-author Professor Paul Richardson of Monash University said the report has also shown that demands were more overhelming in secondary schools than primary schools.

“Demands can include time pressure, performance pressure, poor student motivation, challenging professional and parent-teacher relationships, and decreasing autonomy in the workplace,” he said.

Professor Richardson said that early career mentoring helped teachers cope better.

“A reduced allocation of workload, assistance with meeting the initial professional registration requirements that teachers face in their early careers, and quality mentoring programs would likely help beginning teachers cope with the initial overload of demands they experience,” he said.

According to the study, teachers in advantaged schools tended to be more confident in their ability to manage classrooms, which “may be explained by the better conditions teachers experience in advantaged schools, including higher student achievement, and better school resources and facilities.”

“Teachers who work in such settings may be confronted with fewer disruptions and less problematic student behaviours, producing lower levels of stress – and a higher sense of self-efficacy,” the researchers wrote.