While the public perception regarding what it means to be a teacher may be simplistic, the reality of the classroom is much more complicated. Classroom management in particular is one aspect which on the surface seems straightforward: establish order, keep control, and maintain a safe environment. However, the classroom is a space structured by more than educational guidelines. There are also legal and ethical considerations which must govern how teachers manage their classrooms. Students, teachers, and parents/guardians have rights and responsibilities with regard to the legal and ethical implications of classroom management.
Vassollo (2013) examines self-regulated learning (SRL) and related pedagogical interventions. Vassollo (2013) defines SRL as “a self-steering process whereby individuals target their own cognitions, feelings, and actions, as well as features of the environment in the modulation of their own learning goals” (p. 240). Vassollo (2013) discusses SRL in the context of neoliberalism and how the author attempted to guide a teacher in the incorporation of SRL strategies into her classroom. However, the teacher resisted SRL pedagogies because she felt they advanced neoliberalism as “protection for her students, their communities, and her pedagogical integrity” (Vassollo, 2013, p. 259). In other words the teacher felt that SRL as a classroom management strategy was unethical because of how it could cause students to develop dependent ways of thinking, would undermine her relationship with her students, and compromise their ability to develop critical thinking skills. The author concludes the article with the teacher’s assertion that there is a need to be mindful regarding “the values of communities and the purposes of schooling” (Vassollo, 2013, p. 274).
Hruby (2012) focuses on defining and justifying the field of educational neuroscience. Much of the article details what educational neuroscience is and why it deserves more attention with the field of educational research. Hruby (2012) acknowledges the “intellectual coherence and ethical dangers” associated with the field of educational neuroscience (p. 1). Hruby (2012) concludes the article with a call for educational neuroscientists to work meaningfully with educational professionals. While the article does not focus exclusively on classroom management, it does make a connection between how educational neuroscience may clarify and inform educational professionals’ understanding of educational behaviors. In other words, understanding the biological origins of educational behavior can help with the creation of classroom management strategies that are more meaningful. However, the legal and ethical implications of the field of educational neuroscience aren’t yet well understood and, as such, education professionals should tread carefully.
Mayes, Montero, & Cutri (2004) present a case study of Latino students at a predominantly white school using the perspective of a first-year teacher at that school who is also Latino, using excerpts from the teacher’s journal. The article details the many challenges faced by Latino students, including the Pygmalion Effect (which manifests with other students but is heightened in minority students), entry conditions, “academic success as cultural betrayal,” and needs which are not being met but should be being met under Lau vs. Nichols (Mayes, Montero, & Cutri, 2004, p. 6). It also details how the authoritative approach of teaching is preferred for all types of students because it presents both care and discipline. The article concludes with many implications for practice. But of relevance to this paper is the article is its assertion that the authoritative approach to classroom management is the most effective since it cuts across cultural boundaries and appears reflective of law (Lau vs. Nichols).
The final article under consideration was written by Stephen Marshall (2014). Marshall’s (2014) examines the ethical implications of massive open online courses (MOOCs) which include questions of academic integrity, collaboration, pedagogical integrity, and academic freedom. The article explores these issues in-depth, concluding with a set of heuristics which can be used for ethical analysis of MOOCs and related efforts. The relevance of this article to the current issue of classroom management may not be evident at first, but MOOCs raise questions regarding how one might manage a virtual classroom and how the challenges associated with managing a virtual classroom environment differ from the traditional classroom. The challenges associated managing a virtual environment raise different ethical and legal considerations as a result of the nature of virtual environments: individuals participating in these courses may not even be in the same country as the instructor – it’s not just state lines being crossed but also country lines. These issues raise different considerations ethically and legally, in addition to those issues which survive from the traditional classroom transitioning to the virtual environment.
In considering these articles, it becomes clear to me that the ethical and legal implications of classroom management are complex. It also becomes evident that much of the responsibility of maintaining the ethical and legal integrity of the classroom falls on the shoulders of the teachers, especially since they are responsible for the classroom environment. In addition to that, they are responsible for guiding (and correcting) the behaviors of their students, requiring an extra layer of responsibility. The responsibilities of parents/guardians appear to be more related to those which pertain to their usual responsibilities as the legal entities responsible for the children. These articles make me appreciate the complexity of the issue, while making me more aware of how I may address the varying layers of consideration. The authoritative approach may be what I’ve been doing up until this point, but less mindfully than as suggested by the Mayes, Montero, & Cutri (2014) article. I feel I can use it more meaningfully now.
- Hruby, G. G. (2012). Three requirements for justifying an educational neuroscience. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(1), 1-23.
- Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-13.
- Mayes, C., Montero, F., & Cutri, R. M. (2004). First-year Latino teacher. Multicultural
Education, 12(1), 2-9.
- Vassallo, S. (2013). Resistance to self-regulated learning pedagogy in an urban classroom: A critique of neoliberalism. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 11(2), 239-281.