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Authority and classroom management

1 June 1997


The purpose of this qualitative study was to answer primarily three research questions: 1 )How does a teacher foster functional authority and maintain it in the classroom?; 2)How are transitions, time management and student work addressed in a classroom where the teacher has functional authority?; and 3)How does a proactive management style function in the classroom? My research addressing these questions of functional authority was based on the work of Cohn, Kottkamp, Provenzo (1987). Cohn et. al., classified teaching authority as functional or formal; functional authority being based on character traits such as charisma, fairness, ability, caring, interpersonal effectiveness, an other redeeming qualities and formal authority being established in positions, rules, and regulations. This study took place at a suburban K-5 elementary school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were a group off first graders. Information was gathered in the classroom through a variety of methodological approaches including observations, taped interviews, and discussions with the teacher. After collecting and organizing extensive field notes, interviews and thinking and rethinking classroom management concepts, I found that the first grade teacher was able to foster and maintain functional authority through her warm and sincere personality and effective classroom management system that consisted of a classroom management philosophy, a social system, a behavioral structure, procedures, teaching methods and some discipline measures. The first grade teacher was able to maintain functional authority by having set rules and routines as well as using positive reinforcement, monitoring and adjusting, and organizing effective transitions as well as managing student work on a daily basis.


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