Enhancing Students' Socialization: Key Elements.
by Brophy, Jere
Coping with students who display problems in personal and social adjustment
can be frustrating. Success in teaching problem students often requires
extra time, energy, and patience. Recent research reviewed by Jones (1996)
indicates that teachers rank individual students who have serious or persistent
behavior problems as their chief cause of stress. However, teachers can
take direct actions toward minimizing classroom conflicts by socializing
students into a classroom environment conducive to learning.
Key elements of successful student socialization include modeling and
instruction of prosocial behavior; communicating positive expectations,
attributes, and social labels; and reinforcing desired behavior (Dix, 1993;
Good & Brophy, 1994, 1995). Successful socialization further depends
on a teacher's ability to adopt an authoritative teaching style for classroom
management, and to employ effective counseling skills when seeking to develop
positive relationships with individual students.
Modeling prosocial behavior is the most basic element for enhancing
student socialization, because teachers are unlikely to be successful socializers
unless they practice what they preach. Modeling, accompanied by verbalization
of the self-talk that guides prosocial behavior, can become a very influential
method of student socialization because it conveys the thinking and decision
making involved in acting for the common good. In situations in which prosocial
behavior is difficult for students to learn, modeling may have to be supplemented
with instruction (including practice exercises) in desirable social skills
and coping strategies. Such instruction should convey not only PROPOSITIONAL
KNOWLEDGE (description of the skill and an explanation of why it is desirable),
but also PROCEDURAL KNOWLEDGE (how to implement the skill) and CONDITIONAL
KNOWLEDGE (when and why to implement it).
PROJECTING POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS
Consistent projection of positive expectations, attributes, and social
labels to students may have a significant impact on fostering self-esteem
and increasing motivation toward exhibiting prosocial behaviors. Students
who are consistently treated as if they are well-intentioned individuals
who respect themselves and others and who desire to act responsibly, morally,
and prosocially are more likely to develop these qualities than students
who are treated as if they had the opposite inclinations especially if
their positive qualities and behaviors are reinforced through expressions
of appreciation. When delivered effectively, such reinforcement is likely
to increase students' tendencies to attribute their desirable behavior
to their own personal traits and to reinforce themselves for possessing
and acting on the basis of those traits.
Teachers, as the authority figure in the classroom, need to be authoritative
rather than either authoritarian or laissez-faire. Teachers have the right
and the responsibility to exert leadership and to exercise control, but
they increase their chances of success if they are understanding and supportive
of students and if they make sure that students understand the reasons
behind their demands. Focusing on desired behavior (stressing what to do
rather than what not to do) and following up with cues and reminders is
also effective. Teachers should be prepared to supply objectively good
reasons for their behavior demands.
When situations calling for disciplinary interventions arise, it is
important for teachers to handle them effectively. General principles for
doing so can be identified: minimize power struggles and face-saving gestures
by discussing the incident with the student in private rather than in front
of the class; question the student to determine his or her awareness of
the behavior and explanation for it; make sure that the student understands
why the behavior is inappropriate and cannot be tolerated; seek to get
the student to accept responsibility for the behavior and to make a commitment
to change; provide any needed modeling or instruction in better ways of
coping; work with the student to develop a mutually agreeable plan for
solving the problem; concentrate on developing self-regulation capacities
through positive socialization and instruction rather than on controlling
behavior through the assertion of power. Teachers who employ effective
student socialization strategies can develop genuine solutions to students'
chronic personal and behavioral problems rather than merely inhibiting
the frequency of misconduct by applying sanctions.
Basic socialization and counseling skills may be needed for working
with individual students, especially those who display chronic problems
in personal development or adjustment. These basic skills include developing
personal relationships with problem students and reassuring them of your
continued concern about their welfare despite their provocative behavior;
monitoring them closely and, if necessary, intervening frequently but briefly
and nondisruptively to keep them engaged in academic activities during
class; dealing with their problems in more sustained ways outside of class
time; handling conflicts calmly without becoming engaged in power struggles;
questioning them in ways that are likely to motivate them to talk freely
and supply the needed information; using active listening, reflection,
interpretation, and related techniques for drawing them out and helping
them to develop better insights into themselves and their behavior; insisting
that the students accept responsibility for controlling their own behavior
while at the same time supportively helping them to do so; and developing
productive relationships with their parents.
ATTRIBUTES OF SUCCESSFUL TEACHERS
Good and Brophy (1995) have identified some general attributes of teachers
that contribute to their success in socializing students. These attributes
*SOCIAL ATTRACTIVENESS, based on a cheerful disposition, friendliness,
emotional maturity, sincerity, and other qualities that indicate good mental
health and personal adjustment;
*EGO STRENGTH, exhibited in self-confidence that allows teachers to
be calm in a crisis, listen actively without being defensive, avoid win-lose
conflicts, and maintain a problem-solving orientation;
*REALISTIC PERCEPTIONS OF SELF AND STUDENTS, without letting perceptions
become clouded by romanticism, guilt, hostility, or anxiety;
*ENJOYMENT OF STUDENTS, while maintaining their identity as an adult,
a teacher, and an authority figure; being friendly but not overly familiar;
and being comfortable with the group without becoming a group member;
*CLARITY ABOUT TEACHER ROLES and comfort in playing them, which enables
teachers to explain coherently to students what they expect;
*PATIENCE AND DETERMINATION in working with students who persist in
*ACCEPTANCE OF THE INDIVIDUAL, though not necessarily of all of his
or her behavior, and making this attitude clear to students; and
*THE ABILITY TO STATE AND ACT ON FIRM BUT FLEXIBLE LIMITS
based on clear expectations, keeping rules to a minimum and liberalizing
them as students become more independent and responsible over time.
Developing these personal qualities and using research-based principles
for managing the classroom will set the stage for student socialization
and will go a long way toward minimizing the need for disciplinary interventions.
Teachers are asked to take responsibility for an increasingly diverse
population of students in situations where individual differences are to
be expected and accepted. An attitude of caring and an orientation to students
is crucial to success in socializing students into a classroom culture
that fosters learning. Interacting with students for several hours each
day in various situations puts teachers in a position to take direct action
in helping students cope with their problems.
Research shows that teachers' feelings of self-efficacy or confidence
are correlated with their effectiveness ratings. Developing the skills
for enhancing student socialization represents an expansion of the teacher's
role beyond that of instructor or classroom manager. Teachers who believe
that they possess, or at least are developing, good management and student
socialization skills will be able to remain patient and focused on seeking
solutions when confronted with difficult problems. In contrast, teachers
who view management and socialization skills as talents in which they are
lacking may tend to become frustrated and give up easily. Through developing
their role as facilitators of students' socialization into the learning
environment, teachers can create the potential for having a significant
impact on the lives of problem students. ------------------------
This digest was adapted from: Brophy, Jere. (1996). TEACHING PROBLEM
STUDENTS. New York: Guilford. Adapted with permission of the author.
See also: Brophy, Jere. (1995). ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' PERCEPTIONS
OF AND REPORTED STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH TWELVE TYPES OF PROBLEM
STUDENTS. ED 389 390.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Brophy, J. (1988). Educating Teachers about Managing Classrooms and
Students. TEACHING AND TEACHER EDUCATION 4(1): 1-18. EJ 375 640.
Dix, T. (1993). Attributing Dispositions to Children: An Interactional
Analysis of Attribution in Socialization. PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
BULLETIN 19 (5, Oct): 633-643.
Good, T., and J. Brophy. (1994). LOOKING IN CLASSROOMS (6th ed.). New
York: Harper Collins.
Good, T., and J. Brophy. (1995). CONTEMPORARY EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.
(5th ed.) New York: Harper Collins.
Jones, V. (1996). Classroom Management. In J. Sikula, T. Buttery, and
E. Guiton (Eds.), HANDBOOK OF RESEARCH ON TEACHER EDUCATION. New York:
Jones, V., and L. Jones. (1995). COMPREHENSIVE CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT.
4th Edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Katz, L.G., D.E. McClellan, J.O. Fuller, and G.R. Walz. (1995). BUILDING
SOCIAL COMPETENCE IN CHILDREN: A PRACTICAL HANDBOOK FOR COUNSELORS, PSYCHOLOGISTS
AND TEACHERS. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student