Classroom management is a critical skill area. Teachers should be
trained and supported in implementing practices that are likely to be
successful; that is, practices that are backed by evidence. The purpose
of this paper is to describe the outcomes of a systematic literature
search conducted to identify evidence-based classroom management
practices. Although the need for additional research exists, 20
practices, in general, were identified as having sufficient evidence to
be considered for classroom adoption. Considerations for incorporating
these practices are suggested, and a self-assessment tool is proposed as
means of evaluating and enhancing use of these practices. Suggestions
for future research are also presented.
Classroom management is an important element of pre-service teacher
training and in-service teacher behavior (Emmer & Stough, 2001) and
is comprised of three central components: maximized allocation of time
for instruction, arrangement of instructional activities to maximize
academic engagement and achievement, and proactive behavior management
practices (Sugai & Horner, 2002). Early research on classroom
management employed either descriptive or correlational methods and
highlighted practices that were used by "effective teachers"
(e.g., Kounin & Obradovik, 1967; Kounin, Friesen, & Norton,
1966). This research formed the foundation for chapters and textbooks on
classroom management (Emmer & Stough, 2001). Thus, some practices
currently disseminated to pre- and in-service teachers are based on
preliminary findings of early research and may not have an established
Educators who follow current trends in educational policy, law, and
research are guided to identify and implement scientifically-validated
or evidence-based practices, a standard that has gained popularity in
the past decade. For example, the words "evidence-based" were
cited in 34 articles in PsycINFO (electronic data base) from 1986-1995,
and were cited in 3,772 articles from 1996-2005. Consequently,
researchers and practitioners must identify which classroom management
practices are empirically validated. The purpose of this paper is to
provide an update on what we know about classroom management research
and guidelines for translating this research into practical classroom
practice. We present (a) the methodology and results of the literature
search conducted to identify evidence-based classroom management
practices, (b) guidelines for translating research into practice, (c) a
self-assessment tool, and (d) implications for future research.
Identification of Evidence-based Practices
Literature Search Methodology
We searched the empirical literature to identify evidence-based
classroom management practices. To identify potential topics, ten recent
classroom management texts (2) were reviewed, and a list of recommended
practices was developed. Practices were grouped into five categories:
(a) physical arrangement of classroom, (b) structure of classroom
environment, (c) instructional management, (d) procedures designed to
increase appropriate behavior, and (e) procedures designed to decrease
inappropriate behavior. The empirical literature pertaining to each
topic was searched to identify practices that met our criteria for
Although an agreed upon heuristic for defining evidence-based
practices is difficult to establish, commonalities exist among the
approaches adopted by various organizations (e.g., CEC, AFT, IES; Kerr
& Nelson, 2006). Specifically, most organizations agree that
evidence-based practices meet the following criteria: "(a) the use
of a sound experimental or evaluation design and appropriate analytical
procedures, (b) empirical validation of effects, (c) clear
implementation procedures, (d) replication of outcomes across
implementation sites, and (e) evidence of sustainability" (Kerr
& Nelson, p.89). These criteria are similar to those used by the
What Works Clearinghouse (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).
In line with these criteria, classroom management practices were
considered evidence-based if they were (a) evaluated using sound
experimental design and methodology (group experimental, group
quasi-experimental, experimental single subject designs, or causal
comparative); (b) demonstrated to be effective; and (c) supported by at
least 3 empirical studies published in peer-refereed journals.
The following search terms were used in various combinations in
PsychINFO to identify potential studies: classroom, arrangement, layout,
design, physical environment, rules, routines, expectations, structure,
social skills instruction, opportunity to respond, response cards,
choral responding, active engagement, active responding, performance,
behavior, academic, reading, math, management, academic achievement,
teacher praise, contingent teacher praise, specific teacher praise,
specific praise, feedback, performance feedback, active supervision,
scanning, peer tutoring, class wide peer tutoring, computer assisted
instruction, guided notes, task engagement, cooperative learning, direct
instruction, token economy, behavior contracting, differential
reinforcement, group contingencies, and error correction.
Studies were selected if (a) the setting was a classroom or group
context with 2 or more students; (b) school age populations (k-12) were
studied; (c) the focus was classroom arrangement, instructional
management, increasing behavior, or decreasing behavior; (d) specific
research methodologies (group experimental, group quasi-experimental,
causal comparative, experimental single subject) were employed; and (e)
the journal used a peer-review process. Because the purpose of this
literature search was to identify evidence-based practices, an
exhaustive review was not conducted. Instead, a practice was determined
to be evidence-based if a minimum of three supporting empirical studies
Results of Literature Search
Our literature search resulted in identification of 20 general
practices that met the criteria for evidence-based. These practices were
grouped into five empirically-supported, critical features of effective
classroom management: (a) maximize structure; (b) post, teach, review,
monitor, and reinforce expectations; (c) actively engage students in
observable ways; (d) use a continuum of strategies for responding to
appropriate behaviors; and (e) use a continuum of strategies to respond
to inappropriate behaviors. For each critical feature, a description of
the feature and the evidence base is provided in the following sections
(also see Table 1).
Description. Structure refers to the amount of teacher or
adult-directed activity, the extent to which routines are explicitly
defined, and the design or physical arrangement of the classroom. The
physical arrangement of a classroom includes (a) the permanent structure
(i.e., walls, dividers, closets, etc) that defines the classroom space;
(b) the placement of furniture (desks, tables, etc.) that defines
seating arrangements, traffic flow, teacher/student areas, etc; and (c)
visual displays (i.e., decorations) on the walls.
Evidence base. In general, classrooms with more structure have been
shown to promote more appropriate academic and social behaviors.
Students in high structure classrooms exhibited greater task involvement
(Morrison, 1979), friendlier peer interactions, more helpful behaviors
(e.g., cleaning up after free play), more attentive behavior (e.g.,
paying attention during circle time), and less aggression (Huston-Stein,
Friedrich-Cofer, & Susman, 1977; Susman, Huston-Stein, & Fried
rich Coffer, 1980). A balance between teacher-directed structure and
student independence may be necessary. Huston-Stein, Friedrich-Cofer,
and Susman (1977) demonstrated that, in addition to the positive effects
described above, students in high structure classes engaged in less
pro-social behavior toward peers, and high structure was unrelated to
independent task persistence.
The physical arrangement of the classroom also impacts student
behavior. Research indicates that the classroom should be designed to
minimize crowding and distraction. Crowding at home and school can have
a negative impact on behavior (Maxwell, 1996). The simplest way to
minimize crowding is to increase the amount of space in a classroom.
Burgess and Fordyce (1989) found that when children had more space, they
increased their interpersonal distances and their interactions with
peers, teachers, and parents regardless of room design.
In addition to increasing physical space, teachers should minimize
distraction. Although teachers report greater satisfaction with open
perimeters in their classrooms, research indicates that classrooms with
more walls (visual dividers) are associated with less teacher
distraction in general, less student distraction from noise, more
student satisfaction, and less restriction of classroom activities
(Ahrentzen & Evans, 1984).
Although altering the structure of the classroom may not be
possible, the layout, or design, of the classroom can be modified.
Weinstein (1977) demonstrated that making changes to the classroom
design (e.g., changes to location of materials, color, attractiveness of
room, use of shelving, etc.) led to (a) a more even distribution of
children across locations, (b) a change in the distribution of behaviors
observed, and (c) an increase in the variety of appropriate and engaged
Post, Teach, Review, Monitor, and Reinforce Expectations
Description. Establishing expectations includes identifying and
defining a small number of positively stated expectations, or rules,
that are broad enough to include all desired behavior and are mutually
exclusive (e.g., Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful), The identified
expectations are posted and are explicitly and systematically taught to
students. Frequent review is also provided, and the teacher monitors or
actively supervises students. Active supervision is characterized by a
teacher moving, looking around, interacting with students, correcting
any errors made by students (i.e., behavior that is inconsistent with
expectations), and providing reinforcement for behavior that is
consistent with expectations (Colvin, Sugai, Good, & Lee, 1997).
Evidence base. Posting, teaching, and reviewing expectations (i.e.,
social skills) and providing feedback are associated with (a) decreases
in off-task behavior and disruptive behavior (i.e., talking out) and (b)
increases in academic engagement, leadership, and conflict resolution
(Johnson, Stoner, & Green, 1996; Lane, Wehby, & Menzies, 2003;
Lo, Loe, & Cartledge, 2002; McNamara, Evans, & Hill, 1986;
Sharpe, Brown, & Crider, 1995; Rosenberg, 1986). Pairing rule
instruction with feedback and reinforcement leads to the largest gains
(Greenwood, Hops, Delquadri, & Guild, 1974). Although research
supports the use of individualized social skills instruction (e.g.,
locally developed lessons to address needs of a particular school,
classroom, or group of students), empirical support also exists for
various packaged social skills curricula (e.g., Second Step; Edwards,
Hunt, Meyers, Grogg, & Jarrett, 2005).
Active supervision has been shown to positively impact student
behavior in different settings including classroom and non-classrom
areas (e.g., hallways). Within a general education classroom, the
introduction of active supervision produced a classroom-wide decrease in
minor behavioral incidents (De Pry & Sugai, 2002). Additionally, the
use of similar supervision techniques resulted in higher levels of
active participation (moderate to vigorous physical activity) in a
physical education class (Schuldeisz & van der Mars, 2001).
Furthermore, a study by Colvin and colleagues (1997) found that the
degree of active supervision--and not the supervisor to student
ratio--accounted for the most variance in problem behavior in
non-classroom transition settings. In addition, a significant inverse
relationship was identified between the number of supervisor-to-student
interactions and the instances of problem behavior.
Actively Engage Students in Observable Ways
Description. Engagement is a general term that refers to how a
student participates during classroom instruction (Greenwood, Horton,
Utley, 2002), and is comprised of passive (e.g., listening to a teacher)
and active (e.g., writing, answering a question) behaviors. Greenwood,
Terry, Marquis, and Walker (1994) found that engagement was the best
mediating variable between instruction and academic achievement; if
students are actively engaged in instruction, then it is difficult to
engage in incompatible behaviors (e.g., talking out, out of seat).
Teachers can increase active engagement, for example, by increasing
students' opportunities to respond, utilizing direct instruction
techniques, implementing peer tutoring, utilizing computer-based
instruction, and providing guided notes.
1. An opportunity to respond (OTR) is a teacher behavior that
prompts or solicits a student response (e.g., asking a question,
presenting a demand). Two common methods used to increase the rate of
presenting OTRs in a classroom include choral responding (i.e., students
answering a question in unison) and reponse cards (i.e., erasable boards
on which all students write their answer to a question and then hold the
boards up for the teacher to see).
2. Direct instruction is an approach to classroom teaching
characterized by clear presentation of content (e.g., use of signals),
carefully sequenced (i.e., components and sub-components of skills are
seamlessly and progressively presented) and supported instruction (e.g.,
prompts are added and systematically faded out), high rates of OTRs,
juducious review of content, systematic feedback (i.e., specific praise
or planned error corrections), initial and ongoing assesment of student
progress and placement, and students learning concepts and skills to
mastery (Becker & Gersten, 1982; Carnine, Silbert, Karne'enui,
& Tarver, 2004). More specifically, direct instruction involves the
teacher first modeling, then leading students through content, and
finally testing student knowledge of presented content.
3. In classwide peer tutoring (CWPT), students are paired and
assigned the roles of tutor and tutee. Students provide each other with
instruction, often via rapid response trials or paired reading practice,
and give each other immediate error corrections. The classroom teacher
is afforded freedom to move aroung the classroom and assist student
pairs in need of additional help (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall,
4. Computer assisted instruction (CAI) uses technology to provide
students with the benefits of one-on-one instruction (e.g., frequent
opportunities to respond, immediate corrective feedback, material
tailored to the appropriate instructional level) without leaving the
larger classroom (Ota & DuPaul, 2002).
5. Guided notes are teacher-provided outlines of either lectures or
chapters that contain the main ideas and spaces for students to fill in
additional details (Lazarus, 1993). Heward and Orlansky (1993)
explain," guided notes take advantage of one of the most consistent
and important findings in recent educational research: students who make
frequent, relevant responses during a lesson learn more than students
who are passive observers" (p.168).
Evidence base. In general, increasing the rate of opportunities to
respond has a positive effect on both student achievement and behavior.
A functional relationship has been demonstrated between increasing the
pace with which teachers presented students with opportunities to
respond and a(n) (a) increase in on-task behavior (Carnine, 1976;
Sutherland, Alder, & Gunter, 2003), (b) increase in academic
engagement (Carnine, 1976), (c) decrease in disruptive behavior
(Carnine, 1976); Sutherland et al., 2003; West & Sloane, 1986), and
(d) increase in the number of correct responses (Sutherland et al.,
2003). In addition, the use of choral responding is associated with
small, yet positive effects on academic achievement (e.g., Sindelar,
Bursuck, & Halle, 1986) and on-task behavior (Godfrey
Grisharm-Brown, Schuster, 2003); similarly, the use of response cards is
associated with an increase in student responses, on-task behavior
(Christle & Schuster, 2003; Godfrey, Grisham-Brown, & Schuster,
2003; Lambert, Cartledge, Heward, & Lo, 2006), and academic
achievemrnt (Christle & Schuster, 2003). Because monitoring
individual student responses with choral responding may be difficult
(Sindelar et al., 1986), response cards may be a better method to
Research also supports use of direct instruction. In the largest
and most expensive federal study conducted on education (i.e., Project
Follow Through), the effects of nine instructional approaches were
evaluated. Local and national pooled comparison groups were compared
longitudinally on multiple measures of academic achievement for
economically disadvantaged students. Students who received instruction
from the DISTAR programs (i.e., Direct Instruction System for Teaching
and Remediation) of reading, arithmetic, and language (e.g., Engelmann,
& Bruner, 1974) made the greatest gains across measures of basic
skills, cognitive reasoning, and self-esteem (Abt Associates, 1977;
Gersten, Keating, & Becker, 1988; Meyer, 1984). Additionally, when
compared to students receiving traditional instruction, students
receiving direct instruction demonstrated significantly greater gains in
academic achievement (Becker & Gersten, 1982) and engaged in a
higher rate of on-task behavior (Nelson, Johnson, &
Marchand-Martella, 1996). White (1988) conducted a meta-analysis of the
effects of direct instruction on academic achievement in special
education and found that all 25 studies reported statistically
significant effects in favor of the direct instruction group.
Three additional strategies are also supported by evidence.
Classwide peer-tutoring (CWPT; e.g., Delquadri, 1986; Greenwood, Carta,
& Hall, 1988) programs have been shown to improve both academic
engagement and reading achievement (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall,
1989; Simmons, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 1995). Furthermore, the use of CWPT
has been shown to lead to a decrease in off-task behavior as well as an
increase in academic performance for students with Attention
-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD; DuPaul, Ervin, Hook, &
The use of computer assisted instruction (CAI) has been shown to
affect an increase in both active engagement time and on-task behavior
for students with AD/HD in math (Ota & DuPaul, 2002), as well as an
increase in both oral reading fluency and on-task behavior for students
with AD/HD in reading (Clarfield & Stoner, 2005). Similar results
for students without AD/HD have been reported. Oral reading fluency and
state achievement and published academic test performance of students in
kindergarten and first grade have improved following computer assisted
instruction (Layng, Twyman, & Stikeleather, 2003).
The use of guided notes during lectures and readings resulted in an
increase in academic achievement as measured by quiz scores (Austin,
Lee, Thibeault, Carr, & Bailey, 2002; Lazarus, 1993; Sweeney et al.,
1999). This option may be particularly relevant for older students
(i.e., high school), as a greater percentage of instruction may be
delivered in a lecture format.
Use a Continuum of Strategies to Acknowledge Appropriate Behavior
Description. A continuum of strategies to acknowledge appropriate
behavior refers to a range of evidence-based strategies that focus on
identifying and recognizing appropriate classroom behavior. The
continuum should include the use of simple (i.e., contingent specific
praise) as well as more complex (i.e., class-wide group contingencies)
strategies to acknowledge displays of appropriate behavior. The
following four strategies are supported by evidence (see Alberto &
Troutman  and Cooper, Heron, & Heward  for a more
complete discussion of each strategy).
1. Specific, contingent praise is a positive statement, typically
provided by the teacher, when a desired behavior occurs (contingent) to
inform students specifically what they did well.
2. Group reinforcement contingencies are employed when a common
expectation is set for a group of learners and a common positive outcome
is earned by engaging in the expected behavior. Three main types of
group contingencies are described in the literature: (a) dependent (the
outcome for the whole group depends on the behavior of a smaller subset
of that group), (b) interdependent (the outcome for the whole group
depends on the behavior of all students), and (c) independent (the
outcome of each student depends on his or her behavior).
3. Behavior contracts are written documents that specify a
contingency (relationship between behavior and consequence). That is, a
behavior contract defines the expected behavior and outcomes for
engaging or not engaging in expected behavior.
4. Token economies are used when students earn tokens (e.g.,
points, poker chips, etc.), contingent upon desired behavior, that can
be cashed in for a back-up reinforcer (e.g., desired items, activities,
attention from preferred people, etc.).
Evidence base. Empirical evidence supports the use of multiple
classroom management strategies implemented either individually or in
conjunction with one another. Praise, the simplest strategy reviewed,
has perhaps the strongest evidence base. Delivering contingent praise
for academic behavior increased participants' (a) correct responses
(Sutherland & Wehby, 2001), (b) work productivity and accuracy
(Craft, Alber, & Heward, 1998; Wolford, Heward, & Alber, 2001),
(c) language and math performance on class work (Roca & Gross,
1996), and (d) academic performance (Good, Eller, Spangler, & Stone,
1981). Delivering contingent praise for appropriate social behavior
increased participants' (a) on-task behavior (Ferguson, &
Houghton, 1992), (b) student attention (Broden, Bruce, Mitchell, Carter,
& Hall, 1970), (c) compliance (Wilcox, Newman, & Pitchford,
1988), (d) positive self-referent statements (Phillips, 1984), and (e)
cooperative play (Serbin, Tonick, & Sternglanz, 1977).
The effects of praise may be bolstered when the praise is specific
(i.e., describes the desired behavior) and used in conjunction with
other strategies. Increasing the number of behavior specific praise
statements was associated with an increase in on-task behavior
(Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland, 2000). Providing contingent praise
in conjunction with either establishing classroom rules in isolation
(Becker, Madsen, & Arnold, 1967) or classroom rules paired with
ignoring inappropriate behavior (Yawkey, 1971) was associated with
increased appropriate classroom behavior. Generally, desired academic
and social behavior can be increased by providing specific and
contingent praise and establishing classroom expectations.
Group reinforcement contingencies and token economies are discussed
together because a majority of the studies reviewed used a combination
of both practices. Group contingencies and token economies have broad
evidential support when used in classroom settings; their use: (a)
increased positive and decreased negative verbal interactions (Hansen,
& Lignugaris, 2005); (b) decreased transition time (Yar-borough,
Skinner, Lee, & Lemmons, 2004); (c) increased achievement,
appropriate classroom behavior, and peer social acceptance (Nevin,
Johnson, & Johnson, 1982); (d) increased student attention (Jones
& Kazdin, 1975); (e) decreased inappropriate behavior (Main &
Munro, 1977); (f) decreased talk-outs and out-of-seat behavior (Barrish,
Saunders, & Wolf, 1969); and (g) increased student preparedness for
class and assignment completion (McCullagh, & Vaal, 1975).
The effectiveness of group reinforcement contingencies and token
economies is strengthened when paired with a continuum of other
classroom management strategies. Appropriate classroom behavior was
improved when group reinforcement contingencies and token economies were
combined with (a) establishment and instruction of classroom rules
(Lohrmann, Talerico, & Dunlap, 2004); (b) self-management and
peer-monitoring (Davies & Witte, 2000); (c) social skills training
(Lewis & Sugai, 1993); (d) individual contingencies (Solomon &
Tyne, 1979); and (e) posting positively stated classroom rules and
active teacher supervision (Kehle, Bray, & Theodore, 2000).
Similar to group reinforcement contingencies, the use of behavior
contracts that define expected behaviors and associated consequences was
related to (a) increased student productivity (Kelley & Stokes,
1984), (b) increased on-task behavior and daily assignment completion
(White-Blackburn, Semb, & Semb, 1977), (c) improved school grades
(Williams & Anandam, 1973), and (d) improved student self-control
(Drabman, Spitalnik, & O'Leary 1973)
Use a Continuum of Strategies to Respond to Inappropriate Behavior
Description. A continuum of strategies to respond to inappropriate
behavior refers to a range of evidence-based strategies that decrease
the likelihood of inappropriate behavior in the future. The continuum
should include the use of simple (e.g., correcting inappropriate
behavior) as well as more complex (e.g., differential reinforcement)
strategies to respond to inappropriate behavior. The following six
specific strategies are supported by evidence (see Alberto &
Trout-man  and Cooper, Heron, & Heward  for a more
complete discussion of each strategy).
1. Brief, contingent, and specific error correction refers to an
informative statement, typically provided by the teacher, that is given
when an undesired behavior occurs (contingent), states the observed
behavior, and tells the student exactly what they should do in the
future in a brief, concise manner. These statements also are referred to
as "explicit reprimands."
2. Performance feedback is similar to error correction. Students
are provided with data (e.g., charts, graphs, reports) regarding their
engagement in target behaviors. Teachers assist students in visually
analyzing changes in their performance. Teachers specify a certain
target behavioral criterion for students to meet (e.g., transitions
under 2 minutes for 3 days or less than 3 office referrals in a month)
and a reward if the criterion is met. Performance feedback can also be
used to track positive behaviors (e.g., oral reading fluency rates or
positive school-wide acknowledgements).
3. Differential reinforcement is contingent reinforcement when a
student engages in (a) low rates of an undesired behavior, (b) behaviors
other than undesired behaviors (i.e., zero occurrences of undesired
behavior), (c) an alternative behavior (a specific behavior chosen to
replace the undesired behavior), or (d) an incompatible behavior (a
behavior that is physically impossible to emit at the same time as the
undesired behavior). These procedures consist of varied adaptations of
positive reinforcement strategies, focusing on increasing desired
behavior to decrease the likelihood that undesired behavior will occur
in the future.
4. Planned ignoring occurs when a teacher systematically withholds
attention from (ignores) a student when she or he exhibits undesired
behavior. The effectiveness of planned ignoring is directly related to
the degree to which teacher attention is a positive reinforcer
maintaining undesired behavior.
5. Response cost is a procedure employed when a stimulus (e.g.,
token) is removed, contingent upon a student engaging in undesired
behavior. The effectiveness of response cost is related to (a) the
reinforcement value of the tokens and the back-up reinforcers and (b)
the degree (rate and schedule) to which the student can earn and
accumulate contingent tokens.
6. Time out from reinforcement is a procedure employed when a
student is removed from a reinforcing environment (e.g., play structure
with peers) to a less reinforcing environment (e.g., empty classroom),
contingent upon an undesired behavior (e.g., hitting a peer).
Evidence base. An extensive empirical literature base supports the
use of a variety of specific strategies to respond to inappropriate
Delivering error correction is an important strategy used in
response to academic and social behavior errors. From an academic
perspective, error corrections that were direct, immediate, and ended
with the student emitting the correct response were most effective in
increasing future success rates (i.e., decreasing errors; Barbetta,
Heward, Bradley, & Miller, 1994). Providing corrective feedback
during oral reading activities improved word recognition and reading
comprehension (Baker, 1992; Singh, 1990; Singh & Singh, 1986). With
regard to social behavior, providing direct, brief, and explicit error
corrections or reprimands following undesired behavior decreased such
behavior (McAllister, Stachowiak, Baer, & Conderman, 1969). Error
corrections or reprimands that were loud in tone were less effective
than quiet or discreet corrections (O'Leary & Becker, 1968).
Further, error corrections that were brief (i.e., 1 to 2 words) were
more effective than longer error corrections (i.e., 2 or more phrases;
Abramow-itz, O'Leary, & Futtersak, 1988), and corrections that
were delivered consistently were superior to those delivered
inconsistently (Acker & O'Leary, 1988)
Providing systematic performance feedback regarding target social
behaviors for a classroom of students led to an increase in appropriate
behavior of all students, as compared to a control classroom (Winett
& Vachon, 1974). Publicly posting feedback, in addition to other
strategies, has been shown to (a) decrease the frequency of target
behaviors (Brantley & Webster, 1993); (b) decrease classroom
transition times (Yarbrough, Skinner, Lee, & Lemmons, 2004); and (c)
increase prosocial and academic behaviors such as on-task behavior,
self-esteem, reading, spelling, (Kastelen, Nickel, & McLaughlin,
1984) and writing (Van Houten & McKillop, 1977).
In addition to providing performance feedback, evidence exists to
support slightly more intrusive procedures. Differential reinforcement
procedures can improve overall appropriate behavior while reducing
inappropriate behavior (Deitz, Repp, & Deitz, 1976; Repp, Deitz,
& Deitz, 1976; Didden, de Moor, & Bruyns, 1997; Zwald, &
Gresham, 1982). Similarly, planned ignoring, in combination with other
strategies (e.g., establishing rules and praising appropriate behavior)
was associated with increases in appropriate social (Madsen, Becker
& Thomas, 1968; Yawkey, 1971) and study behavior (Hall, Lund, and
Jackson, & 1968).
Finally, research exists to support even more intrusive procedures.
Response cost procedures have been demonstrated to result in a decrease
in swearing (Trice & Parker, 1983), aggressive behavior (Forman,
1980) and inappropriate behavior (Greene & Pratt, 1972). Time out
from reinforcement also has been demonstrated to decrease inappropriate
behavior (Barton, Brulle, & Repp, 1987; Foxx & Shapiro, 1978;
Ritschl, Mongrella, & Presbie, 1972).
Research to Practice
Classroom management begins long before the students come into the
classroom. Effective teachers plan their classroom management before the
school year begins, and know what tasks they will need to undertake at
the beginning and throughout the year. In Table 2, we present a guide to
implementation, which has been designed to articulate systems and
practices to be designed and implemented before, at the beginning of,
and throughout the school year.
Assessment of Critical Features of Classroom Management
To facilitate the implementation of the critical features and
considerations of classroom management, we developed the Classroom
Management Assessment (see Figure 1), which can be used by both (a)
teachers to evaluate their own progress or (b) observers to provide
specific and contingent feedback to guide a teacher's
implementation of the critical features.
As a general guide, if a teacher or observer responds
"yes" to 80% of the items (10 or more items), classroom
management is considered "effective." If a teacher or observer
responds "yes" to 60-80% of items (7-10 items), classroom
management is considered "somewhat effective." Finally, if a
teacher or observer responds "yes" to fewer than 60% of items
(fewer than 7 items), classroom management is considered to "need
improvement." Regardless of the number of "yes"
responses, teachers should evaluate the degree to which they are
implementing each practice and develop a detailed action plan to
maintain or enhance their implementation of each critical feature and
Conclusion and Implications for Future Research
Empirical evidence exists for many procedures identified in
standard classroom management texts. Specifically, we identified 20
evidence-based practices that were grouped into five critical features
of classroom management (i.e., maximize structure; post, teach, review,
monitor, and reinforce expectations; actively engage students in
observable ways; use a continuum of strategies to acknowledge
appropriate behavior; and use a continuum of strategies to respond to
inappropriate behavior). Each of the critical features can be
implemented by teachers with careful planning before (e.g., designing
systems), at the beginning of (e.g., establishing structure,
expectations, and systems), and throughout (e.g., teaching and reviewing
expectations, providing high rates of opportunities to respond,
delivering contingent and specific praise) the school year. To assist
teachers with monitoring implementation, the Classroom Management
Assessment tool can be used to identify current levels of performance
and develop a plan for improvement.
Although we are confident that the five critical features of
classroom management are applicable to classrooms today, approximately
half of the studies included in this review were conducted twenty or
more years ago (~ 48% of studies listed in Table 1 were published prior
to 1987). To address this gap in the literature, we recommend that
researchers take the following steps to update, validate, and expand
upon past research.
First, researchers should focus on empirically (a) evaluating new
or under-researched classroom management strategies, (b) establishing
quantitative or qualitative standards for implementing classroom
management strategies (e.g., experimentally identifying the optimal
ratio of positive to corrective consequences), and (c) specifying
decision rules that guide implementation of the continuum of
consequences and instructional strategies (e.g., when to move to more
Second, researchers should identify the parameters under which each
of the above procedures is optimized; for example, school level
(elementary, middle, high), ability level of students (general
education, gifted education, special education), and other contextual
(school size, SES) and cultural (location, ethnicity) variables that may
be important to the application of these practices.
Third, researchers should focus on efforts to evaluate methods to
train pre-service, induction, and in-service teachers to maximize their
use of evidence-based practices.
Finally, researchers should identify the most effective strategies
for transferring research into practice to ensure that selected
interventions are evidence-based, contextually relevant, implemented
with high fidelity across time (i.e., durable), and continuously
monitored and enhanced. We must increase our systematic study and
understanding of factors that affect adoption of these practices (e.g.,
educator skill fluency, school/community demographics, administrator
commitment). Clearly, giving educators simple access and exposure to
these practices through readings, lectures, and one-time professional
development events are unlikely to change existing practice. It may be
as or more important to consider what organizational supports are needed
to maximize the likelihood that classroom management practices will be
(a) given priority for adoption, (b) adapted to be contextually and
culturally relevant, and (c) implemented with fidelity and durability.
Drawing on our experience with School-Wide Positive Behavior Support, we
anticipate that these supports may include systems level data-based
decision making, school and district team led implementation, local
coaching or facilitation structures, ongoing and expert training
capacity, and active and overt leadership participation (Sugai &
1. The development of this manuscript was supported in part by a
grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of
Education (H029D40055). Opinions expressed herein are the author's
and do not reflect necessarily the position of the US Department of
Education, and such endorsements should not be inferred. In addition,
the authors acknowledge Jean Crocket and Kevin Sutherland for their
involvement and contributions in the initial development of this
manuscript and the support and encouragement of members of the
"Young and Restless Research Group." For additional
information, contact: Brandi Simonsen (Brandi.Simonsen@uconn.edu) at the
University of Connecticut.
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University of Connecticut
Correspondence to Brandi Simonsen, Department of Educational
Psychology, Neag School of Education, 249 Glenbrook Road, Unit 2064,
Storrs, CT 06269-2064; e-mail: Brandi.Simonsen@uconn.edu.
Sample of Supporting Evidence for Reviewed Practices
Evidence-based Practice Sample of Supporting References
1. Maximize Structure and Predictability
High classroom structure * Huston-Stein, Friedrich-Cofer, &
(e.g., amount of teacher Susman, 1977
* Morrison, 1979
* Susman, Huston-Stein, &
Physical arrangement that * Ahrentzen & Evans, 1984
minimizes distraction (e.g.,
walls, visual dividers, etc.)
* Burgess & Fordyce, 1989
* Maxwell, 1996
* Weinstein, 1977
2. Post, Teach, Review, Monitor, and Reinforce Expectations
Post, teach, review, and * Greenwood, Hops, Delquadri, &
provide feedback on Guild, 1974
* Johnson, Stoner, & Green, 1996
* McNamara, Evans, & Hill, 1986
* Rosenberg, 1986
* Sharpe, Brown, & Crider, 1995
Active supervision * Colvin, Sugai, Good, & Lee, 1997
* DePry & Sugai, 2002
* Schuldheisz & van der Mars, 2001
3. Actively Engage Students in Observable Ways
Rate of opportunities to * Carnine, 1976
* Sindelar, Bursuck, & Halle, 1986
* Sutherland, Alder, & Gunter, 2003
* West & Sloane, 1986
Response cards * Christle & Schuster, 2003
* Godfrey, Grisham-Brown, &
* Lambert, Cartledge, Heward, &
Direct instruction * Abt Associates, 1977
* Becker & Gersten, 1982
* Gersten, Keating, & Becker, 1988
* Nelson, Johnson, &
* White, 1988
Computer assisted instruction * Clarfield & Stoner, 2005
* Ota & DuPaul, 2002
* Layng, Twyman, & Stikeleather,
Classwide peer turoring * Delquadri, 1986
* DuPaul, Ervin, Hook, & McGoey,
Classwide peer tutoring * Greenwood, Carta, & Hall,
* Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall,
* Simmons, Fuchs, & Fuchs,
Guided notes * Austin, Lee, Thibeault, Carr,
& Bailey, 2002
* Lazarus, 1993
* Sweeney, Ehrhardt, Garener,
Jones, Greenfield, & Fribley,
4. Use a Continuum of Strategies to Acknowledge Appropriate Behavior
Specific and/or contingent * Broden, Bruce, Mitchell, praise
Carter, & Hall, 1970
* Craft, Alber, Heward, 1998
* Ferguson, & Houghton, 1992
* Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland,
* Wilcox, Newman, & Pitchford,
Group contingencies in isolation
* Barrish, Saunders, & Wolf,
* Hansen, & Lignugaris, 2005
* Yarborough, Skinner, Lee, &
In combination with the
Class-wide group contingencies * self-management and peer-
monitoring; Davies, & Witte,
* establishing and teaching
Talerico, & Dunlap, 2004
* social skills training;
Lewis, & Sugai, 1993
Behavioral contracting * Kelley, & Stokes, 1984
* White-Blackbum, Semb, & Semb,
* Williams & Anandam, 1973
* Drabman, Spitalnik, & O'Leary,
Token economies * Jones, & Kazdin, 1975
* Main, & Munro, 1977
* McCullagh, & Vaal, 1975
5. Use a Continuum of Strategies to Respond to Inappropriate Behavior
Error corrections Academic Behavior
* Baker, 1992
* Barbetta, Heward, Bradley, &
* Singh, 1990
* Singh, & Singh, 1986
* Abramowitz, O'Leary, &
* Acker, & O'Leary, 1988
* McAllister, Stachwiak, Baer,
& Conderman, 1969
* Winett, & Vachon, 1974
Performance feedback (with and * Brantley & Webster, 1993
without the addition of other
* Kastelen, Nickel, & McLaughlin,
* Van Houten, & McKillop, 1977
* Yarborough, Skinner, Lee, &
* Lemmons, 2004
Differential reinforcement * Didden, de Moor, & Bruyns,
* Repp, Deitz, & Deitz, 1976
* Zwald, & Gresham, 1982
Planned ignoring plus * Hall, Lund, & Jackson, 1968
and/or instruction of
* Madsen, Becker, & Thomas, 1968
* Yawkey, 1971* Forman, 1980
Response cost * Forman, 1980
* Greene, Pratt, 1972
* Trice, & Parker, 1983
Time out from reinforcement * Barton, Brulle, & Repp, 1987
* Foxx, & Shapiro, 1978
* Ritschl, Mongrella, & Presbie,
A Guide to Implementing Classroom Management Practices throughout the
Things To Do... ... At the ... Throughout the
... Before Beginning of the School Year
the School Year School Year
Structure, 1. Design the 1. Evaluate the 1. Continue to
Physical layout of your physical layout evaluate the
Lay-out, and classroom of the classroom physical lay-out
Teaching of and identify and structure of
Expectations unexpected the classroom
2. Identify and 2. Systematically 2. Build in
define staff and explicitly opportunities for
and student teach what student choice
routines each classroom and
expectation independent work.
looks like in the
context of each
3. Determine 3.Re-teach
classroom and review
expectations expectations for
Responding 1. Develop 1. Implement 1. Monitor and
Appropriate systems for and teach track rates of
and acknowledging students the appropriate and
Inappropriate (e.g., praise systems for inappropriate
Behavior and behavior acknowledging classroom
contracts) and (e.g.., group behavior
correcting contingency) and adjust
(e.g., and correcting systems
differential (e.g., error as needed.
of low rates behavior
2. Ensure teacher
Figure 1. Classroom Management Assessment (CMA)
Classroom Management Assessment
1. I maximized structure and predictability in my classroom.
a. I explicitly taught and followed predictable routines. Yes No
b. I arranged my room to minimize crowding and Yes No
2. I posted, taught, reviewed, monitored, and reinforced a
small number of positively stated expectations.
a. I operationally defined and posted a small number of Yes No
expectations (i.e., school wide rules) for all
routines and settings in my classroom.
b. I explicitly taught and reviewed these expectations in Yes No
the context of routines.
c. I prompted or pre-corrected students to increase the Yes No
likelihood that they will follow the expectations.
d. I actively supervised my students. Yes No
3. I actively engaged students in observable ways.
a. I provided a high rate of opportunities to respond Yes No
during my instruction.
b. I engaged my students in observable ways during Yes No
teacher directed institution (i.e., I use response
cards, choral responding, and other methods.
c. I used evidence-based methods to deliver my Yes No
instruction (e.g., Direct Instruction.)
4. I used a continuum of strategies to acknowledge
a. I provided specific and contingent praise for Yes No
academic and social behaviors (e.g., following
b. I also used other systems to acknowledge appropriate Yes No
behavior (group contingencies, behavior constructs, or
5. I used a continuum of strategies to respond to
a. I provided specific, contingent, and brief error Yes No
corrections for academic and social errors.
b. In addition, I used the least restrictive procedure Yes No
to discourage inappropriate behavior (differential
reinforcement, planned ignoring, response cost,