Classroom management requires the tutor to be flexible enough to give room for the improvement of student-tutor relationship. In addition, effective classroom management requires the tutor to act as a leader and moderator and allow as much student participation as possible (Trigwell & Prosser, 2006). However, this does not mean that the tutor should not take control of the classroom. Effective classroom management requires the tutor to conduct and master order inside the classroom. In fact, classroom management and mastering order in a classroom remains the most important basic requirements for a smooth process of learning.
In addition, a syllabus is one of the basic needs for education process. A syllabus should be effective in determining the scope and extent to which every topic is covered. It should also determine the activities that the teacher and students should carry out to enhance learning (Altman, 2009). However, in some university settings, lecturers face a number of problems associated with the lack of these basic requirements. Moreover, undermanaged classroom environment poses a number of other problems associated with poor student-teacher communication, disorganization of classroom scenarios, inability to manage time, poor understanding of students’ and/or teachers’ rights and obligations, integrity and justice issues among other problems (Taylor, 2007).
An example of a classroom affected by most of these problems, including lack of syllabus, was found at Kuwaiti University. Over the last semester, I was involved in international teaching and research at the University of Kuwaiti in Kuwait. I was teaching social work at the university as a visiting tutor. Most of the classes assigned to me had no syllabus and greatly lacked order. For instance, students would often appear late for lessons, while a majority of them came unprepared to learn and unable to raise or answer questions. In addition, they were relatively incorporative in class, which made teaching quite difficult.
Despite this, I was able to apply some basic knowledge in teacher career to manage my classes and improve the situation. The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis of the situation and problems I faced at the university, the efforts I applied to solve the problems. In addition, it will provide an analysis of the outcomes of my efforts in improving my skills in classroom management.
First, the university classes I took had no syllabus. In fact, the university required the tutors to develop their own programs of teaching, although a brief outline of each course was given at the departmental level. Tutors were required to search for the best possible course outline and develop their best fitting schedule to complete every course. As such, it was quite difficult for new tutors, especially those who have little experience in teaching as well as those who came from institutions with well-developed syllabuses. In most cases, students informed me that they had been receiving verbal orders and making agreements with their tutors, which had been one of the common ways for syllabus development at the institution.
Often, this was faced with a number of problems, especially because most students were not cooperative. In addition, it was evident that student-teacher communication was not well developed, which hindered the development of syllabus in the class. At first, I found the process very challenging and ineffective in managing my classes. I realised the need to have skills in syllabus development and encouraging and establishing effective student-teacher communication in the classroom. To begin with, I realised that a well-written syllabus should serve as the beginning of a successful learning experience for my students. Such a syllabus should have the capacity to meet the teacher’s objectives. The syllabus provides the students with a prior knowledge of why the course is important to them, their learning and their career.
In addition, the objectives within a well-written syllabus provides the students with a prior knowledge of what is expected of them after they undertake the entire course or unit and the learning outcomes expected after the course (Gronland, 2001). The objectives also provides the students with a prior knowledge of the methods to be used in class and why they are important, the assignments they must take and the specific reading and activities to be involved in class (Grunert, 2007). Finally, the syllabus informs the students why the teacher has chosen a particular style of grading and the expectations for a good student at the end of the course. The duration of the entire program, including exams, are also provided in the syllabus.
Considering the importance of the syllabus, I found the system at the University of Kuwait very difficult. Students were not able to identify certain aspects of the course. For instance, I realised that they were not able to know why some units or courses were important to them and their future career, the learning outcomes of the courses and the timeline for the activities and readings. In addition, I realised that the students were not able to grasp and understand what was expected of them during the semester and what they should have been able to do after taking the entire course.
For instance, they were sometimes unable to note the specific skills they were supposed to gain from some of the courses. In fact, most of the students thought or assumed that the most important requirement was to pass the final exam and avoid retakes. This method of teaching is not the best for university students who are at school to develop important skills needed in driving the economy of a developing country like Kuwait, which shows significant opportunities for business and employment.
Secondly, student behaviour was also a problem. For instance, perhaps due to lack of a comprehensive syllabus, most students lacked focus. They would come to class quite late. A goon number of my students would also come to class unprepared to learn, especially because they had no previous knowledge of the specific readings for each lesson. In fact, only a few students would consider reading to gain basic knowledge prior to attending a class because they were not aware of the teacher’s program. As such, they failed to answer or ask questions during the class. I also noted that most of my students were not able to identify the need for specific readings as well as the tasks they should undertake in the semester.
Therefore, it was difficult to deal with a class that lacked prior knowledge of the objectives and outcomes of the course. I realised that the students were not aware of the methods of teaching the teacher chose to adopt. Therefore, they were not aware of their roles and obligations in class, which made most of them, assume that most of the teaching involved lecturing rather than discussions. For instance, they were not aware of the need for active participation by the student and group discussions in and out of the class. Assignments were given, but each student would try to do it as an individual or copy from their colleagues and present them to the teacher as their own papers.
This behaviour was a problem in teaching because students were doing little research and reading in almost all the courses assigned to me. Students expected the teacher to provide all the information needed to understand every topic in the course. They expected the teacher to be the only source of information, thus assuming that student discussions in class were not important for their learning.
A third aspect of the problems associated with my classes was the inability of the students to identify their rights, the rights of the teacher and the integrity of each element. In teacher career, there must be a prior knowledge of the rights and roles of every person in a class. First, it is important for students to understand their rights. For instance, students in most countries, especially in the western world, are aware of their rights as an important part of the society. For example, students must enjoy their right to free speech and association, safety, privacy, due process, accountability and equality (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 2001).
University administrators and tutors should observe these rights and encourage the students to use them in building their careers and developing knowledge. Students should have the right to question university administrators on such issues as their ability to run the institution, the quality of education provided to them and the accountability and transparency of the administration. In addition, they should have the freedom to express their concern and raise issues related to the process of learning, which includes the freedom to question the conduct of teachers and their ability to teach (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 2001).
Similarly, students should identify teachers’ rights and roles in the institution. For instance, teachers have the right to enforce discipline in the class. At the university level, the teacher has the right to demand full participation by the students. In addition, teachers should have the freedom to question student behaviour and report them to the administration. The teacher has the right to choose the method of teaching he or she believes is effective to teach the course, provided it is within the practice outlined by the relevant authorities (McCarthy & Cambron-McCabe, 2001). Moreover, the teacher has the right to administer examinations, including oral and written, continuous assessments tests and class presentations. As such, students should learn and understand these rights.
At the University of Kuwait, the identification of student and teacher rights was a significant problem. I noted that most of my students did not know their rights. For example, they did not question why some teachers failed to appear in class or why a teacher chose a certain teaching method in class. In addition, most of the students in my classes did not question the course outline the teacher used to teach them; neither did they consider comparing a course outline with a standard one on the internet or other sources to determine the integrity of its components and the ability to incorporate research and modern knowledge.
It was noted that most of the students though that it was the teachers’ role and right to use any method and incorporate any knowledge of their choice, regardless of its relevance to the modern knowledge as well as integrity.
Therefore, it was most likely that such students would get knowledge whose integrity and relevance to the topic is questionable. I noted that my students did not question why I applied certain teaching methods and procedures in class. In other words, the students’ freedom of expression was greatly undermined and underutilised among the students. Similarly, I realised that the students were not aware of my rights as a teacher. Although they knew that it was my obligation to enforce discipline in class and demand their full participation, most of them would leave class at their own wish, while others would arrive late for classes.
Students would also fail to meet their deadlines, especially in take-away exams and presentations assigned to them, yet they would be annoyed any time a teacher imposed penalties for lateness and/or poor papers. In some instances, I noted that students were copying their colleagues’ work and presenting as their own, which greatly undermined the integrity of learning. In fact, plagiarism was not taken as a serious academic dishonesty. In other instances, I realised that some students went to an extent of copying and cheating even in major exams, yet the institution had imposed serious fines and penalties to students who were involved in such practice that undermined the integrity of the education at the university.
In conclusion, the classes I took at the university had a myriad of problems associated with student behaviour, teacher-student relationship, integrity and other issues related to rights, justice and practice. The institution and its teachers need to carry out a major review of the practices in order to solve these problems. For instance, a well-written syllabus is needed at the university. It should be one of the major sources of the guidelines for teachers (Davis, 2003). In addition, a syllabus should be provided free to the students in order to make them understand what is required of them.
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Davis, B. G. (2003). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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McCarthy, M. M., & Cambron-McCabe, N. H. (2001). Public school law: Teachers’ and students’ rights. Newton, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Taylor, B. (2007). Classroom Discipline. Dayton, OH: Southern Hills Press.
Trigwell, K., & Prosser, M. (2006). Changing approaches to teaching: A relational perspective. Journal of Studies in Higher Education, 21(3), 275-284.