From tourists to citizens

Jerome Freiberg describes an approach to classroom management that is rooted in person-centred psychology

THE EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE IS IN disequilibrium. Society has become more complex and this complexity is reflected in the micro-societies of schools and classrooms. Historically, young people have been sustained and nurtured by five pillars of support (family, community, culture, religion, and school). Four of these five pillars are in flux as they redefine themselves. Schools, the fifth pillar, are expected to carry an ever-increasing social-emotional and academic load. Schools are also in transformation, becoming more bureaucratic and rule-based. Subsequently, parent–school and community relationships are more formalised, with pupils and parents becoming educational tourists who are passing through rather than engaged citizens. Adding to this, technology shifting how and where information is obtained creates uncertainty leading to both distractions and opportunities. Pupil behaviour and classroom management become flashpoints in our micro-societies of education.

What we know
● A review of 800 discipline/management programmes by 14 external organisations found few had research to support their programme outcomes.
● Time gained or lost to behaviour directly affects pupil achievement.
● Meta-analyses conclude:
- Primary school mathematics achievement is enhanced by classroom management that affects daily classroom practices.
- Person-centred classroom management improves both socio-emotional and cognitive development.
- Classroom management is the first of the top five factors influencing school learning.

This article describes a pro-social, person-centred approach to classroom management, Consistency Management & Cooperative Discipline® (CMCD®). For the past 20 years, CMCD has proven to be a resourceful evidence-based alternative, going beyond standard behavioural classroom management models of compliance and obedience to help children and young people build the self-discipline they need to excel in an ever-changing world.

CMCD emphasises a multi-layered Behavioural, Instructional and Organisational (BIO) classroom management approach that provides teachers, administrators, pupils, and school staff with the tools they need to build community and organisational capacity within their classrooms and schools. CMCD emphasises the prevention of discipline problems, improving pupil self-discipline through a positive school and classroom climate, as well as effectively managing teaching time, and pupil engagement, resulting in greater pupil achievement. CMCD can be implemented in individual teachers’ classrooms or school-wide. Furthermore, CMCD is not limited to a single age group; the programme has been effectively implemented at all levels, from early childhood to secondary school.

So, how exactly does it work? Rooted in person-centred psychology, CMCD presents a system for creating a balance between the needs of the teacher and learner. To facilitate Behavioural, Instructional and Organisational management, five key themes – Prevention, Caring, Co-operation, Organisation and Community – allow teachers and pupils to share classroom responsibilities and build meaningful relationships.

Five CMCD themes

Prevention: Teachers are encouraged to prevent problems before they begin by providing pupils with a consistent, flexible, and active learning environment.

Caring: Pupils want to know how much you care before they want to learn how much you know. Pupils learn how to solve disputes, prevent problems, and work and learn in groups, all within a supportive, caring environment. The teacher’s role is to create fair, consistent, and engaging teaching with predictable daily classroom routines. The classroom is the key change agent. The goal of consistency management is to enable pupils to feel comfortable, cared for, and at liberty to take intellectual risks in a predictable, flexible learning environment.

Co-operation: Teachers are encouraged to provide pupils with opportunities for cooperative discipline, starting with the rules in the form of a classroom constitution. All pupils are given the opportunity to become leaders in the classroom with “job” responsibilities as CMCD one-minute managers. Pupils apply and interview for classroom positions, from substitute teacher manager to pupil absence managers.

Organisation: Assignments, objectives for the lesson, and the homework are listed daily on the board or on the teacher’s blog. Questions are asked randomly using a “Go-Around Cup”, and a countdown poster near the door charts projects. Overall, the teacher’s role within consistency management is to fashion a support system in the classroom in which pupils are active citizens, not passive tourists.

Community: Each person has a voice in the functions of the classroom. During classroom meetings, pupil opinions and perspectives are heard. Pupils need to see people in the school and classroom who are not paid to be there. Community organisations and leaders are invited into the classroom. Parents attend workshops for CMCD at home, and teachers are provided with a range of parent connectedness activities such as Bring a Smile Note Home or a Vine of Kindness for the Home. The five themes provide educators with a predictable and engaging classroom.

Research support

The CMCD programme has been researched in studies over time. The findings from both qualitative and quantitative studies show a strong positive change in many of the outcomes viewed as desirable for reforming schools and transforming classrooms. Research on past person-centred and pupil-centred learning studies found positive cognitive and emotional learner outcomes in person-centred environments, including creativity/critical thinking, self-esteem, and a reduction in dropouts.

The following CMCD findings are found in the research literature:

  • Significant increase in teacher and pupil attendance.
  • A 45 to 78 per cent reduction in office discipline referrals.
  • Significant increase in pupil achievement in maths and reading, with effect-size gains that equate to one-third to three-quarters of a year’s gain in maths and reading on state and national tests.
  • Improvement in classroom and school climate learning environments.
  • External researchers report CMCD teachers having from 2.5 to 5.4 weeks more time to teach – time previously used for discipline or management purposes.
  • Significant improvement of pupils’ sense of ownership in urban primary schools.
  • Helped pupils to use more comprehensive strategies for learning when compared with non-CMCD schools.

Teacher-centred and person-centred orientations to classroom management

Teacher-centred classroomsCMCD person-centred classrooms
Teacher is the sole leaderLeadership is shared
Management is a form of oversightManagement is a form of guidance
Teacher takes responsibility for all the paperwork and organisationPupils are facilitators for the functions of the classroom
Discipline comes from the teacherDiscipline comes from the self
A few pupils are the teacher’s helpersAll pupils have the opportunity to become an integral part of the management of the classroom
Teacher makes the rules and posts them for the pupilsRules are developed by the teacher and pupils in the form of a classroom constitution or compact
Consequences are fixed for all pupilsConsequences reflect individual differences
Rewards are mostly extrinsicRewards are mostly intrinsic
Pupils are allowed limited responsibilitiesPupils share in classroom manager responsibilities
Few members of the community enter the classroomPartnerships are formed with business and community groups to enrich and broaden the learning opportunities for pupils
Source: Freiberg HJ (Ed) (1999). Beyond Behaviorism: Changing the Classroom Management Paradigm Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon. © H. Jerome Freiberg. Used with permission.

About the author

H Jerome Freiberg is a John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the College of Education, University of Houston. He is a Fellow of AERA, founder of CMCD®, Journal of Classroom Interaction editor, and taught in middle and high school in the US.

Further reading

Freiberg HJ, (Ed) (1999). Beyond Behaviorism: Changing the Classroom Management Paradigm. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Freiberg HJ & Lamb SM, (2009), Dimensions of Person-centered Classroom Management. Theory into Practice, 48, 99–105.

Freiberg HJ, Huzinec CA, & Templeton SM (2009), Classroom Management—A Pathway to Student Achievement: A Study of Fourteen Inner-city Elementary Schools. Elementary School Journal, 110(1), 63–80.



October 2012