Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 11/Experts Take Sides

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Effective Classroom Management: Interventionism vs. Non-interventionism vs. Interactionalism[edit]

by Rachel Paige

"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful."

-Edward R. Murrow

Learning Targets [edit]

Students should be able to:

    1. Differentiate between the interventionist, non-interventionist, and interactionalist discipline models.
    2. Identify characteristics from the interventionist model.
    3. Identify characteristics from the non-interventionist model.
    4. Identify characteristics from the interactionalist model.
    5. Choose the most effective model depending on the circumstances of the classroom.


According to Buckley and Cooper, the responsibility of teaching is divided into two parts: instruction and management. While it is the responsibility of the teacher to facilitate a child in learning, he or she must also know how to effectively manage a classroom. "Mastery cannot take place where chaos, disrespect, and unhealthy attitudes exist" (Perry, Taylor, 1982). It becomes difficult for both the teacher and student to operate in an environment where order is lacking. Rudolph Drekurs, an assistant to Psychologist Alfred Adler studied teachers and identified four theories behind misbehavior: attention seeking, the struggle for power, revenge, and using disability as an excuse (Hyman, Bilius, Dennehy, Feldman, Flanagan, Lovoratano, Maital, & McDowell, 1979). Therefore, proper methods must be in place to keep classrooms controlled, engaged, and eager to learn. Particularly for inclusive classrooms of today, it is imperative that teachers be prepared for students from all backgrounds, differing skill sets, and varying behaviors. Though instructors may display characteristics of all three, it is believed that predominance occurs in one of three discipline models: interventionism, non-interventionism, and interactionalism. The question is which discipline style is viewed most effective?

Rules/Reward - Punishment or Interventionist[edit]

Interventionists believe that environment and/or external-conditioning ultimately shape the development of a child (Sert, 2007). As a result, these instructors assume full control of the students' environment by setting strict rules and following through with consequences if inappropriate behavior occurs. These teachers generally have more experience, are older, and place emphasis on authority. Their expectations for the pupil are made clear. Routines are well established, and systems well organized. Interventionists focus on modifying behavior through reinforcement, conditioning, and material tactics to reverse unacceptable behavior (Witcher, Jiao, Onwuegbuzie, Collins, James, & Minor, 2008). This model may prove beneficial for children with behavioral problems who require routine, clarity, and clear expectations to perform well.

Relationship - Listening or Non-Interventionist[edit]

Non-Interventionists share a more humanistic approach. They believe students' behavior is a direct reflection of internal processes that need to be expressed. These internal feelings are a means of focus in understanding a child's development. Unlike the Interventionist style, minimal authority is administered, providing the student more control of their environment and behavior. These teachers tend to be empathetic, and are more willing to compromise. Their approach is supportive vs. authoritative. Indirect tactics such as visual cues are given to encourage the individual to self-correct unacceptable behavior (Witcher, et al., 2008). This model may prove beneficial to children who have an established locust of control, and can be trusted to self-regulate. It affords them freedom, and is most rewarding.

Confronting - Contracting or Interactionalist[edit]

Interactionalists maintain a balance between the interventionists and non-interventionists extremes (Sert, 2007). They lie somewhere in the middle, with the idea that development is a direct result of "interaction between internal and external forces" (Witcher, et al., 2008). With this style, there is a constant interaction between the teacher and the misbehaved pupil. The responsibility of behavioral control is a shared task between teacher and student (Sert, 2007). This relationship is key in holding the student accountable for his or her own actions eventually facilitating independence. If and when appropriate, the instructor will confront unacceptable behavior by taking into account both the internal and external factors.

The Most Effective?[edit]

"Studies which explore learner autonomy and brain research support the main assumption behind the interactionalist approach. There is evidence that students who are supposed to share responsibility with the teacher hold clear conceptions of good teachers and what specific behaviors they should have" (Sert, 2007).

In addition, Thomas Gunning reported that highly effective teachers exhibited exceptional organizational skills, established efficient routines, and instilled "a sense of responsibility" in their students. As a result, students' learned self-regulation. They became less passive and more interactive in classroom activities (Gunning,2008). This is a prime example of the interactionalists approach. To extract the desired behavior from students, attention to both the external forces (classroom environment) and internal forces (child's sense of responsibility) were tended to. As observed, classroom management plays a pivotal role in the journey to becoming a highly effective teacher. To achieve this desired outcome, an effectual discipline model must be in place. Ultimately, it is important to remember that every student varies with a different set of circumstances. Following assessment, it is up to the instructor as to what techniques he or she will pull from either extreme.

Dr. Katherine Mitchem, a professor of special education at West Virginia University designed a series of strategy steps to facilitate instructors in their journey to becoming excellent classroom managers and ultimately "highly effective teachers." Mitchem promoted a balance between humanistic and assertive techniques reminiscent to those of an interactionalist. If followed, these techniques will support your efforts in achieving an effective experience for all parties involved.

BE PROACTIVE Strategy Steps

Build relationships

Expectations-teach them

Praise appropriate behaviors

Routines - establish them

Opportunities to respond with feedback

ABC's of self-management

    Antecedent (trigger): What happens to trigger your behavior?
    Behavior: What you do or say?
    Consequence: What happens as a result of your behavior?

Collaborate and cooperate with parents, teachers, etc.

Teach replacement behaviors

Individualize instruction

Visualize yourself somewhere else (if needed)

Enjoy the experience


To achieve proper levels of classroom management, a combined effort from both the instructor and student is required. A balance between the extreme discipline styles is most desired to effectively manage a classroom and create a positive learning atmosphere. Remember that each child is different and may require more from one discipline model vs. the other. Through trial and error the instructor will be able to identify techniques from each extreme to formulate a balanced approach in facilitating the student. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" (Mitchem, 2005). Ultimately, reaching a student requires more than "methods" and "approaches," they must know and understand that you believe in them. Following these guidelines is sure to put you on the path to becoming a "highly effective teacher" !

Multiple Choice Quiz [edit]

1. According to Buckley and Cooper, teaching is divided into two parts: instruction and?

    a) Guidance
    b) Leadership
    c) Provision
    d) Management

2. In Rudolph Dreikurs four theories behind misbehavior, which of the following does NOT apply?

    a) Revenge
    b) The struggle for power
    c) Pupil is hungry
    d) Uses disability as an excuse

3. Which is the best example of an interventionist?

    a) Modifies behavior through reinforcement
    b) Provides minimal authority
    c) Empathizes with the student
    d) More willing to compromise

4. Mrs. Smith observes Susie continuing to talk when she asks her not to. Mrs. Smith gives Susie a visual cue, and proceeds to praise the students for sitting quietly. This situation best exemplifies what discipline model?

    a) Interactionalist
    b) Non-interventionist
    c) Rationalist
    d) Interventionist

5. In Dr. Mitchem's BE PROACTIVE Strategy Steps, what is the "P" representative of?

    a) Practice learning techniques
    b) Pair students with partners
    c) Peaceful relations in the classroom
    d) Praise appropriate behaviors

Answer Key [edit]

1. (d), 2. (c), 3. (a), 4. (b), 5. (d)


Buckley, P., & Cooper, J. (1978). Classroom Management: A Rule Establishment and Enforcement Model. The Elementary School Journal, 79 (1).

Gunning, T. (2008). Creating Literacy: Instruction for All Students. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

Hyman, I., Bilius, F., Dennehy, N., Feldman, G., Flanagan, D., Lovoratano, J., Maital, S., & McDowell, E. (1979). Discipline in American Education: An Overview and Analysis. Journal of Education 161 (2), 51-69.

Mitchem, K., & Downing, J. (2005). BE PROACTIVE: Including Students with Challenging Behavior in Your Classroom. Intervention in School & Clinic, 40 (3), 188-191.

Perry, F., & Taylor, H. (1982). Needed: A Methods Course in Discipline for Pre-Service Teachers. Education, 102 (4), 416-419.

Sert, N. (2007). Classroom Discipline in ELT Curriculum. Educational Administration: Theory & Practice, 49, 116-126.

Witcher, A., Jiao, Q., Onwuegbuzie, A., Collins, K., James, T., & Minor, L. (2008). Pre-service Teachers' Perceptions of Characteristics of an Effective Teacher as a Function of Discipline Orientation: A Mixed Methods Investigation. Teacher Educator, 43 (4), 279-301.

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