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Key research articles: Classroom management

Teacher Classroom Management Practices: Effects of Disruptive or Aggressive Student Behaviourgold

Author/s: R Oliver, J Wehby and D Reschly

Type of Study: Meta-analysis
Theme area: Classroom Management
Country: United States (authors); United States & the Netherlands (studies)
Year: 2011
URL: Get a copy of this article 

Summary: This review examined the effects of teachers’ universal classroom management practices in reducing disruptive, aggressive and inappropriate behaviours. The authors identified 12 studies with rigorous design, and determined that teachers’ universal classroom management practices do significantly reduce behaviour problems. The mean effect size calculated from the studies is considered large (0.71). Eleven of the 12 studies involved random allocation between the control group and the treatment group. This is what gives it its gold standard rating. Studies in which classroom management was examined but that did not include a measure of student behaviour were not included.

Universal or whole-class classroom management is defined as: a collection of non-instructional classroom procedures implemented by teachers in classroom settings with all students for the purposes of teaching.

The analysis did not identify the specific elements of classroom management that are effective because the studies did not have enough statistical power to yield these findings.


Reducing Behaviour Problems in the Elementary School Classroomgold

Author/s: Institute of Education Sciences

Type of Study: Meta-analysis
Theme area: Classroom Management
Country: United States (authors); United States (studies)
Year: 2008
URL: Get a copy of this article 

Summary: The aim of this report was to provide specific and evidence-based recommendations for use by teachers to reduce behaviour problems in elementary schools. The paper draws on multiple pieces of evidence from the United States that include experimental evaluations, single-subject research studies and expert analyses of behavioural intervention strategies and programs. For evidence of what works best, three levels of evidence are defined to explain the quality of the existing research behind each recommendation: strong, moderate and low. It is because of this rating system, that the authors use to assess each piece of evidence included in their report, that we have rated it as gold standard against our own hierarchy. 

The five recommendations, and their levels of supporting evidence, are:

  • Identify the specifics of the problem behaviour and the conditions that prompt and reinforce it (moderate level of evidence to support).
  • Modify the classroom learning environment to decrease problem behaviour (strong level of evidence to support).
  • Teach and reinforce new skills to increase appropriate behaviour and preserve a positive classroom climate (strong level of evidence to support).
  • Draw on relationships with professional colleagues and students’ families for continued guidance and support (moderate level of evidence to support).
  • Assess whether school-wide behaviour problems warrant adopting school-wide strategies or programs, and, if so, implement ones shown to reduce negative and foster positive interactions (moderate level of evidence to support).

Training our Future Teachers: Classroom Managementsilver
Author/s: J Greenberg, H Putman, and K Walsh
Type of Study: Summary of three meta-analyses (also summarised on this page)
Theme area: Classroom Management
Country: United States (authors); multiple (studies)
Year: 2013
URL: Get a copy of this article

Summary: This report presents a summary of three meta-analyses, each of which analyse quasi-experiments and a few randomised controlled trials. Therefore it has been rated as silver standard.

The purpose of this report is to investigate the extent to which traditional teacher preparation programs in the United States deliver content and provide teacher candidates with opportunities to practice on a body of knowledge about classroom management. To do this, its authors first examine over 150 studies to identify the classroom management strategies that garner the strongest research support and then look at the extent to which initial teacher education programs in the United States teach and offer practice in these strategies in instructional and clinical coursework, as well as in student teaching.

The 150 studies are sourced through three authoritative summaries on classroom management. These have also been identified on this website as key pieces of evidence: Simonsen et al. (2008), Oliver et al. (2011), and Institute of Educational Sciences (2008). The authors find agreement in the findings of these three studies on five strategies for classroom management. They label them the “Big Five”:

  • Rules – establish and teach classroom rules to communication expectations for behaviour.
  • Routines – build structure and establish routines to help guide students in a wide variety of situations.
  • Praise – reinforce positive behaviour, using praise and other means.
  • Misbehaviour– consistently impose consequences for misbehaviour.
  • Engagement – foster and maintain student engagement by teaching interesting lessons that include opportunities for active student participation.

In addition to these five strategies, the authors identify other strategies that do not enjoy the same level of research consensus but should be viewed as valuable topics to address in teacher preparation. These include: 

  • Managing the physical environment.
  • Motivating students.
  • Using the least intrusive means.
  • Involving parents and the community.
  • Attending to social/cultural/emotional factors that affect the classroom’s social climate; and
  • Building relationships with students.

Evidence-based Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations for Research to Practicesilver

Author/s: B Simonsen, S Fairbanks, A Briesch, D Myers, and G Sugai
Type of Study: Meta-analysis
Theme area: Classroom Management
Country: United States (authors); United States (studies)
Year: 2008
URL: Get a copy of this article

Summary: This paper has been classified as silver standard because it seems to be a meta-analysis of mostly quasi-experiments.

“This systematic best evidence review was conducted to identify evidence-based practices in classroom management to inform research and practice. These researchers initially reviewed ten classroom management texts to identify typical practices described within texts and then systematically searched the research literature to identify experimental studies that examined these practices. The researchers used criteria for “evidence-based” similar to the What Works Clearinghouse criteria to evaluation the evidence of each practice. Results of the evaluation of 81 studies identified 20 general practices that met the criteria for evidence-based. These 20 general practices fell into five broad categories:

  • Maximise structure and predictability.
  • Post, teach, review, and provide feedback on expectations.
  • Actively engage students in observable ways.
  • Use a continuum of strategies to acknowledge appropriate behaviour.
  • Use a continuum of strategies to respond to inappropriate behaviour.

A range of two to six practices were classified under each broad category and the empirical studies supporting each practice ranged from three to eight studies per practice. Responding to inappropriate behaviour had the highest number of empirical studies while maximising structure and predictability had the fewest.”

The authors also provide a Classroom Management Assessment tool that can be used by teachers to identify current levels of performance and develop a plan for improvement.


The Effects of School-Based Intervention Programs on Aggressive Behavior: A Meta-Analysissilver
Author/s: S Wilson, M Lipsey, and J Derzon
Type of Study: Meta-analysis
Theme area: Classroom Management
Country: United States (authors); multiple, but mainly United States (studies)
Year: 2003
URL: Get a copy of this article (cost required)

Summary: This analysis examines 221 studies, 90% of which were from the United States, to measure the effectiveness of school-based programs for preventing or reducing aggressive behaviour. According to Table 2, 52% of the observations were from quasi-experiments and 34% were from randomised controlled trials, hence our silver standard rating.

The authors found an overall mean effect size of the programs they studied of 0.25 (this would be considered a small effect size by Professor John Hattie). They use the Youth Risk Behaviour survey to explain that this effect size would mean the percentage of children getting into fights would reduce from 15% by 7 percentage points.

However, most studies were conducted on demonstration programs, as opposed to interventions tested in typical school-based sites. The authors define demonstration programs as those implemented and evaluated by a researcher mainly for research or demonstration purposes. Such programs would not generally be implemented without the interest of the researcher and are typically delivered by the research staff or providers (eg. teachers) closely supervised by the researchers. Routine practice programs, in contrast, are those in which the program being studied already exists in the school on an ongoing basis and the evaluation is conducted either by school-based or outside researchers.