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Reconstructing student teachers’ classroom management learning processes

Tom Adams, Teacher Educator & Researcher at Fontys University of Applied Sciences

It is widely known that early career teachers experience problems caused by the gap between the focus on theory in teacher education and the practical orientation at internship schools and in daily practice, in particular with respect to classroom management (CM) (Montague & Kwok, 2022).

In my PhD research, I focused on what student teachers’ CM learning processes emerge during their internship. I studied the CM learning process of 24 student teachers, who were in the final stage of their teacher education, by analysing their assignments and interviewing them as well as their school-based teacher educators. Furthermore, I created a reconstructive picture of the CM learning process, by asking student teachers to draw a line of their development of their CM learning process during the internship period and to place meaningful moments on it. Meaningful moments were experiences as planned or unplanned conversations with colleagues, peers or their pupils, lesson observations, and so forth.

One participant articulated a meaningful moment as:

‘My main struggle is consistent teacher behaviour. I really find it hard to act strict when I said I would be. What helped me mostly were the lessons I observed last week, as I saw the same pupils showing the same behaviour to my fellow colleagues, and understanding this was not personal to me. I also learned that my colleagues reacted strictly, but with humour. These insights helped me to be more relaxed about it and gave me strategies for what to do, what to say and how to act.’

Another participant gave the following example:

‘Last week, I learned that minor things can make an impact, like standing close to pupils, making eye-contact, or a hand gesture; it all can influence the dynamics with the pupils in the classroom. For me, especially making eye-contact works the best; when I do that, I immediately see a response from my pupils, they become more calm immediately.’

The timeline was used in the interview as a starting point for questions such as: what happened during these meaningful moments, how did it relate to their CM learning goals, who was involved? To obtain an ‘outsider view’ of student teachers’ learning, I interviewed student teachers’ school-based teacher educators, who were coaching the student teachers at the workplace. In the interview, the teacher educators were asked how they coached their student teachers, what content they provided for them, and how they perceived their student teachers’ CM learning during the whole academic year. In doing so, the learning process of the student teachers for CM was reconstructed.

In the analysis procedure, I searched for what was dominant for student teachers’ CM learning and CM outcomes by counting the collected relevant fragments – fragments were considered to be relevant when student teachers described an experience they had at the workplace, which they implicitly or explicitly related to their learning process or learning outcomes. In explicit fragments, they made that connection by themselves; and in implicit fragments, I saw a connection with other fragments they mentioned, in which they used similar terms or words, for instance, or described the same kind of experiences, but were unable to see a pattern themselves. Irrelevant fragments were fragments in which student teachers described general learning experiences, activities in their process or learning outcomes that were not related to their CM learning. For instance, student teachers sometimes described their school subject or the design or use of didactic materials. These fragments had no direct or clear connection to their CM, so were left out of the analysis.

The results of my analysis revealed four patterns of student teachers’ CM learning processes. These profiles differed in terms of student teachers’ use of theory, the role of their teacher educators, and student teachers’ self-regulated learning (see Adams et al., 2022). The information in the four types of student teachers’ CM profiles can enrich the way teacher educators support their development; teacher educators need to be capable of keeping the different profiles in mind, and need to have a varied repertoire of CM coaching and supervision in order to address student teachers’ needs with different CM challenges.


Adams, T., Koster, B., & den Brok, P. (2022). Patterns in student teachers’ learning processes and outcomes of classroom management during their internship. Teaching and Teacher Education, 120(3), 103891.

Montague, M., & Kwok, A. (2022). Teacher training and classroom management. In E. J. Sabornie & L. Espelage (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management (3rd ed., 249–270). Routledge.