The Kounin Mode
Jacob Kounin is known for two studies regarding classroom management in the 1970’s. These studies emphasized how teachers could manage students, lessons and classrooms to reduce the incidence of bad behavior. Kounin identified specific teaching techniques that help, and hinder, classroom discipline. According to Kounin, the technique used, not the teacher’s personality, is the most crucial aspect in classroom management of student behavior. His book, Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms, focuses on preventive discipline. According to Kounin, good classroom management depends on effective lesson management. Jacob Kounin identified a cluster of proactive teacher behaviors that distinguished effective classroom managers from ineffective ones. Kounin’s key ideas include the ripple effect, withitness, overlapping, effective transitions, momentum, smoothness and class management.
Ripple Effect. According to Kounin, when a teacher corrects the misbehavior in one individual student, often this positively influences the behavior of other nearby students. Known as the “ripple effect,” the effect is greater when the teacher clearly names the unacceptable behavior of the student and provides the reasons why the behavior is unacceptable.
Withitness. "Withitness," a term coined by Kounin, describes the need for the teacher to be aware of what is going on in all parts of the classroom at all times. Students need to know that the teacher is aware of what is going on in the classroom. According to Kounin, when students are off-task, the teacher should send a clear message that communicates to students the awareness that they are not working and that they need to become engaged. Classroom applications of “withitness” include:
- Continually being alert to the myriad of sights and sounds in the classroom
- Arranging the classroom so that all students are always within eyesight
- Scanning the room periodically when working with individuals or small groups of students
- When helping an individual student, the teacher faces the rest of the class
- Briefly acknowledging student misbehavior at first detection to let the student and the class know that the teacher is aware, thus preventing an escalation of the misbehavior
Withitness includes the use of maintaining eye contact, asking individual and group questions, continually moving around the classroom in a random fashion and specifically moving toward impending misbehaving students, thus, redirecting students to prevent misbehavior.
Overlapping. Overlapping is the process of attending to two or more events at the same time. An example of overlapping could be when a teacher gives a student individual feedback at one station and also monitors the performance of other students in the room. Kounin suggests that overlapping is a teacher’s ability to effectively handle two or more classroom events at the same time, instead of becoming engrossed in one and letting the other be neglected. When instructing one group, a teacher should be able to acknowledge difficulties that students outside of the group may be having so that instruction may continue. This also includes distractions from outside the classroom such as notes from the office or students walking through the hallways.
Effective Transitions. Often classroom misbehavior increases when a classroom moves from one task or activity to another. Student behavior is influenced by the smoothness and effectiveness of transitions between tasks in a lesson. Effective transitions, according to Kounin, include keeping lessons moving with avoiding abrupt changes. Well-established routines, a consistent signal for gaining the class attention, clear directions, preparing students to shift their attention from one task to another, and concise explanations that highlight the main points of the task help reduce student misbehavior. Kounin emphasizes that providing smooth and effective transitions is one of the most important techniques in maintaining student involvement and class control.
Momentum. Momentum refers to the force and flow of a lesson. An effective lesson pulls the student along. Effective teachers move through the lessons at a brisk pace and appear to have very few slowdowns in the flow of activities. Maintaining such momentum and having a steady sense of movement throughout the lesson helps engage the learners in activities and helps prevent student misbehavior.
Smoothness. Smoothness is maintaining direction in the lesson and not being diverted by irrelevant incidents. This management practice refers to the teacher’s ability to manage smooth transitions between learning activities. Valuable instructional time is often wasted in the process of the teacher moving the class from one instructional activity to the next. The time spent actually instructing students is often known as “Time on Task” and can be measured. Smoothness then refers to a teacher’s ability to preserve instructional time by eliminating many of the common barriers to a smooth class transition.
Group Alerting. Group Alerting is engaging the attention of the whole class while individuals are responding. Group alerting is a technique to keep the entire class involved in the learning process so that students are, potentially, active participants at all times.