classroom environment, there are many teaching methods and supervision techniques in use. These methods range from the authoritarian approach to the passive approach, providing a wide array of results in academic performance, levels of unacceptable behaviors, and overall classroom environments. This paper will examine the authoritarian approach to teaching and supervision, and will examine the benefits of such a teaching method. Additionally, this paper will discuss why I believe the authoritarian method of supervision is ideal for use in grade school classrooms.
First, it is important to understand what is meant by the authoritarian approach. In a classroom setting, the authoritarian teacher is firm, placing strict limits and controls on the students. Emphasis is generally placed on organization and obedience. Often, assigned seats are given, and kept throughout the school term. Additionally, desks are often placed in rows, and seldom altered during regular classroom learning. Students are expected to remain quiet, and to obey the teacher at all times (Hawley, 1996).
Additionally, the authoritarian teacher emphasizes rules and discipline. Failure to obey those rules is followed by appropriate punishment techniques. While positive reinforcement is certainly used to encourage good behavior, negative reinforcement is often used to discourage inappropriate behaviors. In short, authoritarian supervision of students depends upon the teacher acting as the ultimate authority, providing direction in all classroom activity and making most classroom decisions (Hawley, 1996).
According to Indiana State University's Center for Teaching and Learning, the authoritarian style of supervision also uses techniques found in the formal authority approach to learning. This approach focuses on content of learning, rather than on relationships formed in the classroom. The instructor defines the ideas and concepts the student is expected to learn, and organizes them into obtainable goals and objectives. Students are given examinations to determine the effectiveness of lesson plans, and to demonstrate to the student that they have learned the material (Indiana State University, 2004)
The Center for Teaching and Learning points out one of the main benefits to this style of classroom management is accommodation. In any larger class setting, there is a wide range of behavior issues, as well as learning issues. By setting out clear, concise goals and by managing the classroom setting effectively and evenly, all students are encouraged to behave in the same manner, thus accommodating all types of students. Additionally, by ensuring goals are clearly determined, there can be no question on the part of the students as to what is expected of them (Indiana State University, 2004).
The authoritarian model of supervision has been used in classrooms for centuries. According to research by Reinhold Freudenstein (1997), more than 90% of educators worldwide still use authoritarian techniques. Freudenstein points out why these methods involving strict rules and obedience are so widely used. First, large classroom settings, with a high student to instructor ratio can quickly turn to chaos unless order is maintained. Secondly, grade school education curriculums often require much content to be covered in a short amount of time. In order to achieve this, instruction and activities must be well organized (Freudenstein, 1997).
Research has shown the authoritarian method to be especially effective with younger aged students. Holloway (1991) addressed the effectiveness of the authoritarian method in relation to caregivers and instructors. His findings indicated that there are definitely benefits for younger aged children, particularly in areas of higher ethnic populations. Holloway found that, particularly in these low income, high ethnic area populations, the authoritarian classroom setting was seen as reassuring by the students. In addition, this form of supervision led to lower behavioral problems if the authoritarian instructor followed through with punishments. Holloway indicated that his studies revealed that authoritarian supervision assists younger students in learning impulse control, which can carry though their lives (Holloway, 1991).
In addition, Kizlik and his colleagues (2004) discussed other benefits of authoritarian methods for younger students in their analysis of teaching methods. According to Kizlik, the authoritarian method provides specific learning targets, which helps to clarify lesson objectives. Additionally, teachers using this method find it much easier to measure students learning. This method is especially beneficial in teaching facts and basic skills, such as those learned in early classroom settings. Still further, Kizlik found that while the technique may not be as effective in teaching higher order skills, it is a primary tool in teaching a broad knowledge base (Kizlik, 2004).
The concept that authoritarian methods work well for grade school students is not unique. According to Grow (1991), this idea relates to how students develop into self-directed students at later ages. According to Grow, there are four stages to student learning. In the first stage, generally seen in grade school aged students, the students are not self-directed. These youths are dependant on an authority figure to give them explicit directions on what to do, and how to comply with the instructions. Their learning is generally teacher-centered, in that they expect teachers to know what the students need to learn (Grow, 1991).
Additionally, Grow points out that early learners are dependent in most subject areas. He points out that while later, students may only need direction in certain areas, early students require direction in most areas. The direction of authority with the authoritarian method instructs students in a way that is methodical, thorough, and regimented, allowing the students to wholly learn the base concepts they will expand on in later learning (Grow, 1991).
Grow also points out that in order for the authoritarian method to be effective, teachers must first establish their role as credible authorities. As dependent learners, young students respond best to an organized, rigorous approach to learning and supervision. Straightforward techniques for learning and discipline allow the student to adequately respond to clear-cut objectives. Grow states that students at this age expect discipline and direction, so it is the instructor's responsibility to provide it. Deciding early what actions to take against overt challenges to authority can help to instill this discipline. Additionally, solid deadlines, clear one-way instruction, a focus on the subject rather than the student, objective grading, and immediate feedback all help to establish a successful authoritarian classroom setting (Grow, 1991).
Allen (1996) also discusses the importance of authoritarian management in a classroom setting. He points to the Canter model of classroom management, a form of authoritarian management, as the one most used today. According to this model, assertive discipline is vital to a classroom. The Canter model stresses that teacher failures are often a result of poor class control. Additionally, the model stresses that instructors have a responsibility to maintain a setting optimal for learning, have the right to expect appropriate behaviors, and have the right to discipline when such behaviors are not displayed. Additionally, students have the right to expect instructors who can help them limit self-destructive behavior, and to know in advance the punishment for inappropriate behavior, which allows them to choose how to behave. According to the model, this authoritarian style helps not only to create an environment optimal for learning, but also to help students develop into responsible students (Allen, 1996).
According to Allen (1996), the authoritarian instructor is far more effective than the non-assertive or hostile instructor. When an instructor is hostile or passive, the student is confused and unsure of boundaries and expectations. With the authoritative teacher, the student is able to exist in a calm, firm, consistent atmosphere that provides a climate for learning (Allen, 1996).
The Carter model provides five steps to assist instructors in creating an assertive, authoritarian classroom. First, it is important to understand that all students need limits, and that teachers are admired who set those limits, and stick to them. Secondly, authoritarian supervision does not mean hostility. Instead, it is important for the instructor to remain calm and collected, while still administering strict punishment, when necessary.…