Published on 2013/10/02

Classroom Management and Effectiveness: More Than Just Rules

Classroom Management and Effectiveness: More Than Just Rules
There are a few basic guidelines to running a successful class for adult students.

The effective classroom is about more than order and simply following rules. The effective classroom is where learning occurs. It’s a place where students are engaged and achieve the intended learning objectives. Rules are important, but they’re not, in themselves, the objective. Rules help make learning possible. If students are talking in class, they could be disrupting others from learning or they could be adding to the discussion by asking questions and increasing all students’ learning.  When students use cell phones in class, they could be distracting others or they could be using smartphone technology to research an answer. The effective classroom will at times stop such actions and, at other times, encourage them. The effect on learning can be observed and analyzed. Instructors can learn through observation to strengthen their skills and provide a more engaging and learning classroom.

Cellphone Use

Cellphones can be a classroom management nightmare. While not everyone brings a laptop to class, it’s hard to find a student who doesn’t bring a cellphone to the lecture hall. Today’s phones are very powerful miniature computers that can help students cheat, ignore a lecture or surf the web while in class. When students text, check Facebook or surf the web during a lecture, the instructor has strong competition for attention. More often than not, when students are using their cellphones, the instructor has lost.

Students say they use their cellphones about three times each class period. The research shows the rate is a little higher, at seven times per class. In addition, research shows cellphone use is distracting to other students.[1]  How can instructors curb the use of cellphones in the classroom? One way is to set rules clearly articulated at the beginning of the course, along with the recourse that will follow if cellphones are used during class.[2]

Another way to curb the problem of cellphone use in the classroom is to guide it. There are times when a cellphone can be useful. Students can use smartphones to look up information on the web, and some classroom software is designed to use the cellphone. Programs such as Poll Everywhere will present a question and allow students to text in their answer choice (A, B, C or D) to the appropriate phone number; the program then shows the class the percentages for each answer.  Learning opportunities like this can make the cellphone an asset in the classroom. Having times where instructors encourage the use of cellphones for learning could lead to students understanding there is a time and place for this technology.

Class Attendance

Life happens and students will miss a class or two, but missing class regularly is a problem that will dearly cost a student. State University presented an article that shows missed lectures as a key reason for failing a class.[3] There is a connection between student success and class attendance.

How do instructors get students to attend class? One instructor gives students the choice of attending or not, but subtracts from their grade when a class is missed.[4] The instructor’s grading method could produce good results. As a classroom management technique, the grade reduction could start off very low, but increase as more classes are missed.


For the most part, an instructor is the manager of classroom effectiveness. The educational leader should monitor classes to gather information to use in an analysis of classroom effectiveness. The positive and negative aspects of the classroom will help the leader know where improvement is needed and where praise is deserved. The instructor can learn from the analysis and improve classroom effectiveness often by finding ways to turn the problem into a positive learning experience.

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[1] Fulbright, S. (2013). Cell phones in the classroom: What’s your policy? Faculty Focus. Retrieved from

[2] Hoy, A. W., & Hoy, W. K. (2013) Instructional leadership: A research-based guide to learning in schools (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

[3] State University. (2013). The importance of attending class. Retrieved from

[4] Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2012). A matter of degrees: Promising practices for community college student success (a first look). The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from

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Readers Comments

Lynn Pittelli 2013/10/02 at 11:26 am

Interesting idea to twist distracting technologies around to make them effective teaching and learning tools. It just goes to show that technologies are not, in and of them themselves, ineffective or effective. The way their use is managed is key. Professors who are willing to explore new ideas and be creative will be better able to engage their students.

James Branden 2013/10/02 at 1:44 pm

I’m appreciative of the point Repass is trying to make, that whether or not to allow a technology in the class has more to do with its use than the technology itself. However, I’m doubtful of Repass’ suggestions for how to use cellphones in class. There’s a lot of hype around creating a high-tech classroom, but very little evidence to back up claims that this enhances student learning. Call me old-fashioned, but when I have a class of 250 students, I try to capture their attention with my teaching and with activities where they engage each other face to face. There aren’t enough opportunities for in-person interaction today, and I try to take advantage of every one I get.

Darlene Morrison 2013/10/06 at 6:09 am

Interesting topic and one I can relate to as a classroom teacher and adjunct professor… I like the idea of the structure that encourages cell phone use during certain times in the classroom.

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