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Time Management in the Classroom

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Classroom behavior management or time management? Yes. The research on effectively addressing student misbehavior set the first priorities on the removal of instructional vacuums and the replacement of inappropriate behavior with student on-task behavior. Replacement of inappropriate behavior with appropriate behavior requires students to be actively engaged in a learning task that meets their needs and is generating at least 80% success. These consistent demonstrations of success dramatically reduce opportunities for misbehavior and increase student success experiences. Increases in student success experiences generates a concurrent increase in positive attitudes to school in general and the content area in particular. The research examining the academic success of students and student behavior problems in later grades has consistently reports that early effective academic instruction is an important method of preventing significant behavior problems as students move from elementary to junior high and high school. A 2006 synthesis of the research clearly concluded that systematically increasing the quality and quantity of instructional time significantly increases student academic success and significantly decreases teacher classroom management problems.

The teacher as executive. For the teacher who must manage the instruction of students with a range of disabilities, the coordination of the instruction team is a major challenge. The team for each student often includes, instructional aides, volunteers, parents, therapists, and regular class teachers. The teacher has an important management responsibility ensuring that every available instructional minute is used to systematically and effectively address individual student needs. With these management responsibilities, the teacher is, indeed, an executive.

Classroom time management: good and bad news. The decade, 1980 to 1990, saw a massive research investment in the role of classroom time. The findings of that decade remain unchanged in terms of conclusions and importance to this day. The researchers examined four types of time:

  1. First, was Available Time, the amount of time available for all school activities. Available Time was approximately 6 hours per school day.
  2. Second, was Allocated Time, the amount of time allocated for content area instruction. Allocated Time was approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes of the Available Time.
  3. Third, was Engaged Time, the amount of time the student is actively engaged in learning tasks. Engaged Time was approximately 2 hours of Available Time.
  4. Fourth, was Academic Learning Time ( ALT), the amount of time the student is successfully engaged in a needed learning task. ALT was approximately 48 minutes of the Available Time of 6 hours per day.

The bad news from the research was the massive variability among teachers. One group of researchers reported a range from 4 minutes to 52 minutes of ALT in reading instruction per day among teachers with similar students. The number of classrooms with very modest levels of ALT delivered bad news, because the research consistently concluded a strong, positive and predictive relationship between ALT and both student achievement, and student attitudes. The good news in this research data lies in the increased importance of the individual teacher. The teacher who chooses to manage time effectively can make major differences in the lives of students. The research also reports that the more the student is at risk of failure, the more important the teacher’s time management skills become in helping the student close the gap with peers.

An executive time management tool for teachers. A review of the Time Management Teacher Self-Evaluation Checklist will show examples of the previously listed research findings in practical classroom contexts. The four types of instructional time are listed. For teachers interested in applying the research, this checklist should be used monthly until problems are identified and successfully addressed. All members of the instructional team should be aware of the areas monitored by the checklist. Even when problems have been addressed successfully, the checklist should be used quarterly. For a more detailed list of suggestions for using the Time Management Teacher Self-Evaluation Checklist, the reader is referred to a chapter on Time Management in a book, “Research Into Practice“, by Hofmeister and Lubke.

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