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Classroom Management Theories

Classroom management is essential for a classroom to run effectively. Even professionals with years of experience struggle to create the right environment for students. This happens for a variety of reasons. The main reason is that every student is different and has unique needs. Human error can account for trouble in classroom management. To combat this problem, it’s essential to know classroom management theories.

What is Classroom Management?

Let’s start with the basics: what is classroom management?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as, "the process by which teachers and schools create and maintain appropriate behavior of students in a classroom setting.” With this definition, we have two focuses for the classroom: creating and maintaining appropriate behavior.

Theories of Classroom Management

As mentioned earlier, theories of classroom management will help you deal with teaching and administrative issues in classroom management. There are more than these six theories of classroom management. Classroom management theories draw from previously developed psychological theories and they tend to influence each other.


Behaviorism is famous for the 'Pavlov’s Dog' or the Classical Conditioning experiment by key theorists BF Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. According to this theory, anyone can be trained to behave a certain way. To do this, behaviorism encourages positive reinforcement by giving the students rewards for being 'good.'
There needs to be spaced repetition. Spaced repetition refers to changing or increasing the time between each reward. This is based on the belief that students need less reinforcement as time passes.

This theory also encourages changing the reinforcement marker. This is to avoid desensitizing students to the rewards and to keep them alert. The major criticism of this theory is that it doesn’t teach children moral values and simply follows a reward and punishment model.


The humanist theory focuses on the child as a whole. This includes the child’s emotional well-being and encourages the teacher to figure out the negative influences the child might have in their life. These negative influences might be hunger, fatigue, and emotional insecurity.

The founder of this theory is Carl Rogers. This theory encourages the teacher to consider the negative influences that may affect a student’s overall well-being in a classroom environment. It includes aspects of the classroom such as its size, temperature, ventilation, etc. Once the negative influence is found, the teacher should try and remove this influence. For example, providing the students with time to snack, or allowing them to rest their eyes for five minutes. One of the criticisms of this theory is that it’s too subjective and vague to be put into practice.


The cognitive theory focuses on the student's mental states and thought processes.
This theory was developed by Jean Piaget and later extended by other contributors. In a classroom setting, cognitive theory encourages students to look at their actions critically and think of the reasons behind them. It tries to instill mutual respect among students and helps them stay active during learning.

As a teacher, this theory asks to leave the students with open-ended questions. Teachers should also avoid over-explaining a topic to the students and give them time to consider the effects of their actions. Critics of this theory claim that the outcome of this approach is not directly observable. Because of this, it is difficult to measure the effect on a student.


The psychoanalytical theory is one of the oldest theories in psychology. It gives importance to the unconscious thoughts and perceptions that have a significant impact on a student. Sigmund Freud developed this theory.
Teachers are encouraged to look at the root or cause of a student’s behavior. It claims that a student can misbehave due to four reasons:

  • Attention-seeking: Misbehaving to gain attention from peers or teachers.
  • Power-seeking: Misbehaving to seek power as they feel alone or like an outsider.
  • Revenge-seeking: Misbehaving because they feel mistreated.
  • Feelings of inadequacy: Misbehaving because they feel like they have failed or aren’t capable of success.

With all this in mind, teachers can better address a student’s behavior.
A major drawback to this theory is that it’s a shot in the dark. And it’s difficult to make conclusions because students’ behavior changes from time to time.


The democratic theory transfers power from teachers to students. The two key theorists of this are Alfie Kohn and John Dewey. A teacher's goal is to encourage the students to think about how they want a classroom to work. They develop rules that are hopefully fair and based on mutual respect. A great benefit of this is that students understand why there are rules. They get to be actively involved in the classrooms. An important note to keep in mind is that the teacher should not coerce students to come up with their own rules. It’s easy to manipulate or coerce students, so it’s important to make sure that doesn’t happen. This will take away the power that they should have.

Choice Theory

The choice theory is part of the humanist approach. One of the key theorists is William Glasser. According to this theory, teachers should encourage and give students the maximum number of choices in the classroom. Teachers should trust that students will make decisions that will enhance their well-being (including everyone in the class).

It asks the teachers to be aware of these five needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. It states that if these needs are not met, students may misbehave. Just as with the humanist theory, this theory’s drawback is that better behavior or good changes for the long term is not directly observable.


Understanding these theories will help you run your classes smoother, and reduce misbehavior. Most of these theories focus on the behavior of students and what teachers can do about it. Even before the students, teachers need to try new tactics and recognize the effects of the tactics when necessary. Remember that classroom management doesn’t stop with the teacher. The school’s counselors, directors, principals, psychologists, etc., also play an important role in better classroom management.

Suggested Read: Best Strategies to Get Ready for an ERP Implementation

With Teachmint Integrated School Platform, schools can easily automate almost all the strenuous tasks that otherwise were laborious and time-taking. The LMS portal, performance management, attendance management system, and other valuable features make Teachmint one of the best solutions for educational institutions.

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