Changing Behaviors by Changing the Classroom Environment

Article Summary

The chosen article is entitled, “Changing Behaviors by Changing the Classroom Environment.” The authors of the article present an experiment they conducted in the classroom of a teacher who started to have discipline problems with the students. They propose that by moving around a classroom, the behavior that takes away from the teacher’s time teaching can be all but eliminated. The article begins by stating the steps to use when changing the classroom environment. The authors assert that changing the classroom environment as a whole can prevent the behavioral problems in those that exhibit them, while still allowing the students without behavior issues to learn effectively (Guardino and Fullerton, 9). The first step to accomplish this is to observe the classroom, noting down what types of behavior occur in the classroom, where it occurs, and how the different areas of the classroom are used. Next, modify the environment by making clear distinctions between the group and individual areas of the classroom as well as making sure that the teacher can see everything in the classroom at one time. Finally, follow-up on the changes made to see if they are working and if any kinds of modifications need to be made (Guardino and Fullerton, 9).

The researchers take this model and apply it to the classroom of Ms. Thompson. She works in a lower-income area. This is based on the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches. The article depicts photographs of the before and after shots of the classroom arrangement. At first, the students’ desks are arranged in pairs or threes. This contributed to disruptive behavior among the students. By separating the desks and adding privacy dividers, the amount of disruptive behavior decreased. The teacher also cleared unnecessary clutter from the classroom which also leads to a decrease in disruptive behavior. By following the model and making some simple adjustments to the classroom, the learning environment became much more welcoming and constructive.

Reaction to the Article

I found this article to be very informative and straightforward in the amount of information and the content offered. It was helpful to see a diagram at the beginning that showed the steps followed in the experiment as well as graphs depicting the drastic changes that occurred after the classroom was rearranged. I like articles that depict experiments on real-life levels. This was a real classroom in a lower-income area with real behavior problems. By modifying the classroom, the teacher was able to manage the classroom better and spend more time teaching as opposed to correcting disruptive behaviors.

Being able to manage a classroom is very important. Once a teacher enters a new teaching environment, he/she should try an experimental setting to see how well the students cope. The teacher should look at the level of the students being taught as well. This was briefly touched upon in the article. It was recognized that the students did come from a lower-income population where there might not be as much emphasis placed on education in the family home. This might lead to a lack of attention paid on the part of the students because there is little care to learn. This means that the teacher has to work harder to educate and eliminating the disruptive behavior makes this even easier.

Classroom arrangement is very crucial in helping to prevent disruptions. I remember being in classrooms where students did sit in groups and I felt that it was much more of a distraction. When sitting with other students, one tends to become distracted with what the others are doing as opposed to what the teacher is saying. However, on that same note, it was also difficult to concentrate with the desks arranged in vertical rows facing the front of the classroom. I liked how the teacher and researchers used a semi-circle, staggered layout. In addition, the addition of pockets on the backs of the seats for students’ materials would help prevent distractions of students rustling in backpacks.

The proposals put forth by the two researchers should be used in all classrooms and for all ages. First of all, not only would this be effective in high-level classes, but elementary and preschool-aged classrooms as well. For example, in a preschool level classroom, if the teacher is finding that one area is more popular than another, she might expand it to accommodate more children or baring that, post a diagram with the number of children that are allowed to be in that section at one given time. Also, if the teacher is finding that an area is blocked from view, he might arrange the classroom so if he is in another part, he can still see what is occurring in that area. In upper-level classrooms, teachers are often required to cover a vast amount of material in a short period. I remember my high school classes were only fifty minutes long. The first twenty minutes often covered reviewing the last class and collecting homework assignments. By the time the teacher got to the actual lesson, the class was half over. This did not leave time for the teacher to be scolding students for speaking out of turn or discussing an irrelevant topic with their neighbor. In addition to constructively arranging the classroom, it is also important for the teacher to make clear their expectations from the start. I am all for making the classroom environment more learning-friendly, but if the students do not know what is expected of them, all the proper arrangement in the world is not going to make a difference. I believe it is fully up to the teacher to do what they feel is effective in managing their classroom; however, this article provides a good guideline about where the teacher should start.


Fullerton, E. & Guardino, C. (2010). Changing Behaviors by Changing the Classroom Environment. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(6), 8-13.