The Effects of Classroom Management Education on Handling a Class Disruption among Teacher Students


Our research contributes to the understanding of the contents of teacher students’ “apprenticeship of observation” (Lortie, 1975), thus, teacher students private and inner beliefs about appropriate teachers’ behavior. Specifically, we describe teacher students’ private models of dealing with disruptive behavior in the classroom and embed this issue in a larger context concerning Classroom Management (CM) in Teacher Education. Therefore, our research questions are concerned with teacher students’ private beliefs and exploring methods of teaching CM. We investigate two questions in specific: 1) What are the contents of teacher student’s beliefs about solving a discipline problem at school between a teacher and a student? 2) Do they reflect critically on these beliefs after a CM seminar? We conducted a study with a projective procedure in order to investigate our research questions and obtained data at two points of time (T1, T2). At the beginning of a seminar about CM, teacher students (T1; N = 62) completed an unfinished story that described a conflict between a teacher and a disturbing student. Mental models about how to behave as a teacher and how to interact with a disturbing student are explored by means of content analysis. A second set of data was obtained after the seminar (T2; N = 51). The teacher students were requested to combine the original end of the story with contents they had learned in the seminar about CM. At T1, we found many approaches that were not appropriate and possibly emerged from teacher students’ apprenticeship of observation. Results of T2 showed clearly that teacher students were able to adopt some theories, but were surprisingly uncritical towards the story. The results are discussed by focusing on the teaching of CM as one central task of Teacher Education.

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Steins, G. , Wittrock, K. and Haep, A. (2016) The Effects of Classroom Management Education on Handling a Class Disruption among Teacher Students. Creative Education, 7, 2403-2422. doi: 10.4236/ce.2016.716231.

1. Introduction

In our research program about Classroom Management Knowledge (CMK), we explore how CMK might be important and the methods to teach this knowledge. We developed Classroom Management (CM) contents and explored various methods to teach these contents (Steins, Haep, & Wittrock, 2015; Steins, Wittrock, & Haep, 2015) . Our previous research and in the same way the present one refer to the first phase of the Germany’s teacher education that takes place at the universities and lasts about four to five years, during which teacher students study two teaching subjects and general courses in educational topics. Only one single lecture about CM is obligatory; other seminars about CM are rare and voluntary. After the first phase the “Referendariat” starts, a teacher training of 18 months at schools with no place for CM (for more detail about Teacher Education in Germany see Dicke, Elling, Schmeck, & Leutner, 2015: p. 2 ; Howe, 2006 ). The shortage of CM in Teacher Education is not specific to Germany, but is also a phenomenon in the US (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006; Jones, 2006; O’Neill & Stephenson, 2012; Piwowar, Thiel, & Ophardt, 2013; Stough, 2006) . It is important to build up a canon and to know the most efficient ways to put the knowledge across, because the opportunities to teach CM are rare and valuable. The present research contributes to the exploration of appropriate CM content and teaching it.

CM research often deals with topics such as choosing relevant CM contents (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006) and teaching methodologies (Forzani, 2014; Trent, 2013) however, topics and teaching methodologies are senseless without challenging teacher students’ pre-knowledge.

2. Theory

2.1. Relevance of Teachers’ Pre-Knowledge for CM

Many researchers in the field of Teacher Education repeatedly refer to the fact that teacher students have formed their basic beliefs about the way to teach and to deal with people within the school context by observing their own teachers. These beliefs serve as a filter for their interpretation of CM content presented in their university courses (Balli, 2011; Blömeke, Buchholtz, Suhl, & Kaiser, 2014; Brouwer & Korthagen, 2005; Hattie, 2009; Jones, 2006; Löfström & PoomValickis, 2013; Stoughton, 2007) . Lortie called this phenomenon “apprenticeship of observation” (Lortie, 1975) . Thus, CM is embedded in teachers’ belief system (Mahlios & Maxson, 1995) .

Mahlios et al. (1995) argue that CM knowledge is enhanced when teacher students are supported to relate their personal beliefs about social facts and CM topics to the current research on effective methods for creating positive learning environments and helping students act responsibly. They argue that teacher students can change their inner beliefs by learning to examine themselves (Goodman, 1988; Kagan, 1992) . The impact of teaching CM will be much higher when contents, internalized by the apprenticeship of observation are challenged.

2.2. Classroom Management: Contents, Teaching Practice and Effects

Just as many other umbrella terms, CM is not defined consistently (Reupert & Woodcock, 2010) . At the minimum, CM includes individual support, which is specifically addressed in Evertson and Weinstein ’s (2006) definition with respect to the cognitive, emotional, and moral development of students but also includes skills for dealing with a large study group and the related problems (Dollase, 2012) . School reality is characterized by dilemmas about caring for students on an individual level and simultaneously caring for individuals on a group level (Larrivee, 2006) . Thus, CM expertise is as important for teachers to enable them to cope with these dilemmas as for the students: Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke and Curran (2004) show that the effects of CM are greater than students’ general intelligence, home environment, motivation, and socio- economic status.

As it is argued above, CMK often interferes with inner beliefs of teacher students supported by their own experiences. Thus, CMK is possibly accepted more in combination with reflection skills on different levels and must enclose the development of this expertise. Larrivee (2006) discriminates surface reflection, pedagogical reflection, critical reflection and self-reflection. We call critical reflection and self-reflection the knowledge about Technologies of the Self (Steins, Haep, & Wittrock, 2015) .

A basic reflection competence on these levels makes it more probable that the fundamental pillars are internalized as they are essential to successfully cope with the main tasks of CM embracing individual support and group leadership (Blömeke, Buchholtz, Suhl, & Kaiser, 2014; Dollase, 2012) . Fundamental pillars are the knowledge of designing the interaction between teacher and student as warm and supportive which require a great deal of effort (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006) . Students with emotional and social difficulties, in particular, benefit from this method of interacting (Den Brok & Levy, 2005; Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Liew, Chen, & Hughes, 2010; Reyes, Elias, Parker, & Rosenblatt, 2013; Shechtman & Leichtentritt, 2004; Sleeter, 2008; Weinstein et al., 2004) . How to interact also entails knowledge about prejudices and thus, include Culturally Responsive Classroom Management (CRCM; Bowers & Flinders, 1991; Powell, McLaughlin, Savage, & Zehm, 2001; Weinstein et al., 2004 ). CRCM can be included in a broader knowledge of social perception research. CM also includes basic skills for dealing with a large study group and the related problems (Loewenberg Ball & Forzani, 2009; Dollase, 2012; Kounin, 1970) . Although there are some major topics such as supportive interaction style both on individual and group level, reflection competence and knowledge of systematic Technologies of the Self, a binding and consistent canon of CMK certainly do not literally exist worldwide (Steins, Wittrock, & Haep, 2015) .

Moreover, the best way to teach CMK to future teachers is still not clear (Jones, 2006) . It is clear that CMK improves teachers’ confidence and competence (Cooper & Yan, 2015) and that CM training leads to higher perceived CM skills (Dicke et al., 2015) . Furthermore, teacher students felt better prepared after the completion of CM courses (O’Neill et al., 2012) .

3. Our Research about Classroom Management Knowledge

3.1. Previous Research

The starting point of our research concerned the obvious paradox of CM as an area for research and practice: Although appreciated by teacher students and teachers (Dicke et al., 2015; O’Neill & Stephenson, 2012) , in spite of being empirically proven as a powerful mean of adolescents’ development (Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Hattie, 2009; Reyes, Elias, Parker, & Rosenblatt, 2013) and despite being requested as teacher competence by school administrators (Jones, 2006) teacher students are not obliged to learn CM broadly and systematically.

In the first run of studies, we dealt with the question of how a substantive arrangement of CMK can be effective in the first phase of teacher training. We showed that during their teacher training period, teacher students have little opportunity to adapt their imaginations about actions from their apprenticeship of observation to scientific evidence. Therefore, they frequently choose the average acceptable approach when dealing with problems. We developed different contents of CM, for example: Definitions of CM, research on CM, parenting styles, cultural aspects of educational ideas, rational-emotive education (REE) and rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) as examples for the Technology of the Self, ecological psychology, Positive Behavior Support Systems, and social perception (for more detail see Steins, Wittrock, & Haep, 2015 ). The mediation of these contents led to an increase in CMK and subjective action ideas became more compatible with scientific evidence. Furthermore, we found that in the school context, while teaching, CMK could not be implemented by all teacher students in appropriate actions. Many of them experienced dissonance between knowledge and own behavior, a result that was often found in CM research and possibly hints to a process of professionalization (Rushton, 2000) . In the second set of studies we examined different forms of CM training with teacher students in which REBT was granted a fundamental role as a Technology of the Self. We compared traditional academic teaching theory by combining traditional forms with simulations and role- playing. The third group of students received a theoretical introduction combined and intertwined with teaching in real classrooms and supervision. Nevertheless, the seminars were different in their teaching methods, all teacher students felt better prepared after the completion of CM in comparison to the control group. In addition, our results showed that the teacher students considered the Technology of the Self to be particularly useful for various challenges at school. Furthermore, we again found that the application of CMK to concrete teaching is difficult for teacher students (for more detail see Steins, Wittrock, & Haep, 2015 ).

3.2. Present Research

In our previous research, we were able to show that teacher students’ CMK had increased, that they had a hard time to adopt it in real settings and in spite of that, they appreciated the opportunity to get to know CM research very much and especially considered reflection techniques as important. Having the rare opportunities to learn about CM we asked if the measured increasing knowledge might be only a recognition effect and less a recall effect. Although we measured teacher students’ competence and knowledge with different measures (always open formats; giving a keyword, providing short descriptions of conflictual situations), their experience in the real context showed us that the personal consideration of CMK is hard. In the real field, the apprenticeship of observation was often the stronger program.

Thus, we thought about a method to measure the personal imaginations of teacher students deeper. Such a method would have the advantage of knowing the base rate of teacher students’ beliefs. Accordingly, we could adapt the CMK more precisely. Psychologists often used projective procedures for delving into a private world of beliefs and imaginations (Frank, 1939; 1948) . For our present study we also chose a projective procedure in order to get familiar with the results of the apprenticeship of observation.

Our research questions are: 1) What are the contents of teacher student’s beliefs about solving a discipline problem in school between a teacher and a student? 2) Do they reflect critically on these beliefs after a CM seminar?

Before we present our study we shortly want to give some arguments why we chose this specific topic.

Discipline and order are topics that the teacher students are concerned with very often (Zuckerman, 2000) . Accordingly, they are deeply interested in discussing how to deal with conflicts between teacher and students. Their concern is justified because they often “are not educated to solve the emotional and behavioral problems of their students and to deal adequately with parents.” (Jones, 2006) . Thus, discipline problems might be a field for teacher students that are especially prone to applying the knowledge from apprenticeship of observation. Zuckerman (2000) showed that in responding to students’ disrupting behavior many of the teacher students either made no response or merely attempted to enforce compliance. Only few focused on the methods to more actively engage students. Likewise, teachers often ask for topics of discipline. Fries and Cochran-Smith (2006) investigated the questions teachers ask and found about the five clusters of content. At least three of these clusters dealt with decreasing misbehavior. Disruptive behavior of students is a big barrier for teachers to conduct their major task. Accordingly, teachers will try to decrease it and teacher students had the opportunity to observe what their teachers did in those situations. In addition, it can be expected, that the importance of this issue triggers strong emotions and inner beliefs.

4. Method

4.1. Design of the Study

Data were obtained at two points of time, at the beginning of a seminar (T1) and at the end of the seminar (T2). There was a 3 month interval between T1 and T2.

The seminar was about CM and was offered simultaneously by three teachers, trained in CMK and for teaching CMK.

Teacher students were instructed between T1 and T2 in several topics of CM (for a more detailed description see Steins, Wittrock, & Haep, 2015 ). Important topics were relevance of interaction between teacher and students, self-technologies and their applications in school context (for a more detailed description see Steins, Haep, & Wittrock, 2015 ) such as group dynamics, prejudices and self-fulfilling processes and other social psychological topics, complexity in the classroom and techniques for reducing it (Steins, 2014; Steins, Behnke, & Haep, 2015) . The design of the study is illustrated in Figure 1.

4.2. Sample and Setting

62 teacher students were involved in T1, 18 male (29%) and 44 female (71%) teacher students with an average age of 23.77 years (SD = 4.22). 51 teacher students participated at T2, 14 male (27.5%) and 37 female (72.50%) teacher students with an average age of 23.90 (SD = 4.36). All teacher students participated voluntarily.

4.3. Procedure at T1

We used a projective procedure which was a completion of an unfinished written story. The inducement is our intention to explore teacher students’ private world and getting to know their beliefs about interaction in difficult situations between a teacher and a student. According to the original literature about projective procedures, open answers possibly trigger personal beliefs and imaginations (Frank, 1939; 1948) .

After a short introduction about the investigation’s time plan (T1 and T2) and confirmation of anonymity, teacher students noted down their age and sex, they were next requested to read the beginning of a story: “Now you’ll find the beginning of a short story. Please read through the pages carefully.” The story was written by Otfried Preußler (1987) . We used a chapter of his novel “Herr Klingsor konnte ein bißchen zaubern” (“Mr. Klingsor could do magic tricks”). This novel describes how Mr. Klingsor, a teacher at a primary school solves everyday problems with his class by using a little bit of magic. On the surface Mr. Klingsor uses magic, but in depth Mr. Klingsor solves problems by caring for his students, seeing their perspective and trying to understand and advise them. We chose the chapter “Der kleine Jantsch” (“The little Jantsch”) because an important topic for teacher students is described to say how to deal with disturbing students. The little Jantsch is making practical jokes with his teacher Effenberger and shows rather disrespectful behavior during several weeks. The boy simply has fun with Effenberger’s reactions of anger and rage.

Figure 1. Design of the study.

The teacher students read the exposition of the story until a critical point. In the exposition, Jantsch’s practical jokes and Effenberger’s angry and helpless reactions are described. At this critical point Effenberger hales Jantsch to Klingsor and asks him for help. Here the story ended for the teacher students and they were requested to complete it with their own imaginations: “How does the story proceed? Please complete the story and hand it to us.”

The story has some benefits as a projective procedure, because the teacher students can choose the perspective of writing, the development of persons, the methods individuals use to influence the other people, the solutions and explanations for the person’s behavior.

4.4. Procedure at T2

Teacher students read the end of the original story: Klingsor works with a little magic (snaps lightly with his fingers) and after that, suddenly, Effenberger laughs about Jantsch and begins to ignore his practical jokes with humor. Jantsch escalates his jokes but Effenberger keeps staying relaxed and humorous. After three to four weeks Jantsch terminates the jokes and acts normally.

After having read the story teacher students are requested to explain the end of the story with the contents of the seminar: “How do you understand the completion of the story? Involve the ties between the seminar and the story in your answer.”

We used a directive and closed question with an open answer format.

4.5. Data Preparation

Data of T1: The 62 stories were transcribed and all the statements were content analyzed. We proceeded in two phases. First, two experts coded the statements globally (Bortz & Döring, 2006) with the support of software (MAXQDA). Controversial coding was resolved through discussion and was relatively high concerning the coding of functionality of emotions and cognitions of the protagonists (see Table 6). Our analytical framework focused on the interaction models that teacher students applied to the situation and the specific level of the emotions and cognitions of the protagonists (Krueger & Casey, 2009) . We tried to understand the range of solutions and explanations related to the specific case of Jantsch. Therefore, features of solutions and explanations were of highest importance. First, the statements were coded openly to find recurring thematic categories, which were developed from the first transcripts until the coding system demonstrated stability (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) . These categories were coded using sub codes generated by the focus on the dynamics of interaction models (Patton, 2002) . Extensiveness and frequency were also considered (Krueger & Casey, 2009) . For the study’s objective, different kinds of emotions and evaluations of different figures were considered important for describing the range of interaction models.

In the second phase of the analysis we recurred to our expectations. On the basis of the previous coding and additional coding we tried to analyze teacher students’ justifications and rejections, respectively, of the unreasonable behavior of the protagonists’ behavior.

Data of T2: The procedure of analysis for the data obtained at T2 was similar. All answers were transcribed and content analyzed.

4.6. Data Analysis

Data of T1. Statements included in the presented analysis contain interaction models which on a specific level were helpful versus dysfunctional emotions and cognitions. Table 1 (left column) and Table 2 (first and second columns) show examples of the categories and sub codes.

Data of T2. We categorized teacher students’ statements according to the ties of CMK taught in the seminar. Table 7 (left column) shows the categories.

5. Results

The story contains some elements hinting clearly for unreasonable behavior. The most important elements at T1 are 1) Effenberger’s extreme anger for a rather long time without exploring the causes, “This boy deserves a beating!”; 2) Effenberger’s haling the boy forcefully to a colleague during the lesson, “He grabbed Jantsch by the scruff of the neck.”; 3) the description of the little Jantsch as completely disturbing without any insight, “The little Jantsch was a bad boy…”. At T2, the unreasonable element consists in 4) reducing Jantsch’s disturbances without any personal talk, just by being ignored and the humor of Effenberger, “Since teacher Effenberger terminated being annoyed, Jantsch had no longer fun to be a nasty boy. And he stopped being bad, the little Jantsch.” We expected that at least at T2, after three months of being educated with CMK, teacher students would criticize these points as not being logical and reasonable. We considered these aspects in the data analysis.

5.1. Results of T1

21 teacher students (33.87%) began the story with Klingsor asking Effenberger to calm down. The way teacher students began their story show that many of them had imaginations about strategies of de-escalation. In the following we describe our results according to our categories visible in Table 1.

Does the student behave? One approach to teacher students’ views was simply counting the time intervals they imagined a solution that made the student behave according to the rules. Table 2 shows the frequencies of the stories’ results according to this point. There are two visible groups in the sample: Most teacher students did not imagine a result according to the student’s behavior (51.61%), but in the next visible group, at least 29%, imagined that the student did behave appropriately after the imagined interaction. Only 8.09% of teacher students imagined the worst case that the student still would not behave and would keep on making his rude jokes. There are 7 stories (11.29%) that contained an ambivalent result.

Number of proposed solutions. Furthermore, we counted the solutions the teacher students mentioned in their imagination. Table 3 shows the distribution of number of

Table 1. Approaches to the situation and their effectiveness (T1). Effectiveness is rated by number of solutions: For each case it is rated if the approach is combined with a positive outcome. Some cases contain more than one solution (see Table 3).

Table 2. Results of the story (T1).

Table 3. Number of solutions (T1).

solutions. Most teacher students described at least two solutions (43.55%); but many of them only developed one single solution (32.26%). More than two solutions were mentioned by a group of teacher students with 3 solutions (11.29%) and 4 solutions (6.45%). Only 6.45% teacher students completed the story without any solution.

Approaches to the problem and their effectiveness. Teacher students imagined many approaches to the problem describing them in 102 statements. Table 1 shows how we categorized these approaches. “Talking” was the mostly named category. 51.85% of all statements about solutions are inserted in this category. Most teacher students proposed to talk with the student (“After the lesson, we talk calmly…”), followed by talking with the teacher Effenberger (“I will talk with Mr. Effenberger.”), and the student’s parents (“After talking with Jantsch’s parents…”). Only one teacher student proposed “Talking” without addressing a special person.

The next broader proposals on how to deal with the situation is named “Sanctions” with 23.15% of statements. Most statements about “Sanctions” were focused solely on the student (12.96%). The statements include themes of educational activities (“You must copy out school rules until tomorrow”), change of class (“After change of class…”), pressure to apologize (“An honest apology is more than appropriate.”), behavior contract (“He agrees with Jantsch, that Jantsch will obey the rules.”), time-out (“Finally the principal decides to expel Jatsch off the school.”), conference (“…that Jantsch has to face a school-conference.”), change of Teacher (“After change of teacher and the new beginning…”) and induction of shame (“What is the problem with you, Jantsch…don’t you feel sorry?”). Teacher students also imagined penalties for the teacher (5.56%). The themes are release (“Mr. Effenberger was given notice to quit school.”), moral appeal (Mr. Klingsor talked completely outraged with his colleague…”), time-out (“Mr. Effenberger was not seen any more… Suddenly he was there again.”) and disciplinary complaint (“I guess we have to talk about the supervision.”). Some statements (4.63%) included parents as a negative punishment in the “Sanctions”. Parents were a means to threaten Jantsch (“‘It is time to talk with your parents’…;” “… that his parents will be called and they can take their son forever…”).

The category “Leads for Teacher” counts the leads Klingsor gives Effenberger (11.11%). The leads include anger-management for Effenberger (6.48%; “You have to behave more calmly.”), ignoring the student (1.85%, “He proposed that in future Mr. Effenberger should ignore Jantsch’s misbehavior…”) and rational appeals without a specific behavior lead (1.85%; “Don’t let him provoke you!”). Only one teacher student imagined Klingsor as giving Jantsch a lead, and that was to make friends in the class (0.93%).

The category “Call other persons” contains statements which show that teacher students see a solution in calling other persons (8.33%). Persons inside school are teachers with a counseling function (2.78%) and principals (1.85%) and they were named 5 times (4.63%). Other professions were called too (3.70%), as psychologists (1.85%), social workers (0.93%) and youth welfare service (0.93%).

Categories which mentioned rare solutions were “Better lessons” (2.78%), “Observation of student in lesson” (1.85%) and “Teacher’s self-disclosure” in front of the class (0.93%).

In the teacher students’ imagination “Talking” is an efficient strategy (see Table 1; last column). More than half of the stories with “Talking” as interaction model resulted in a positive end (problem was solved; 47.50%), followed by “Sanctions” (40.00%) and “Behavioral leads” (12.50%). All other solutions were not associated with a positive result.

Explanations of student’s behavior. Many teacher students simply gave no explanation of Jantsch’s behavior (38.46%; see Table 4). Most explanations were seen in the student (36.39%) and in the teacher (21.53%). Only few explanations were rare and special (4.72%). A glance at the student as a source of explanation reveals that most reasons are not placed in the school context, as student’s difficult social background (13.85%, “Because the father was alone, he could not work anymore … family became dependent from social welfare…”; “Possibly Jantsch cannot cope with a parent’s disease”) and student’s bad personality (7.69%, “Jantsch ignored everything. He stood around and grinned…”). Other explanations as seeking attention (9.23%, “Mr. Effenberger noted that Jantsch needs attention.”), need for approval (1.54%), giftedness (1.54%) and a fear of losing friends (1.54%) are entangled with the specific context.

When teacher students explain the situation by the teacher Effenberger they see Jantsch’s behavior caused by Effenberger’s behavior (15.38%, “As soon as Effenberger begins to ignore Jantsch’s misbehavior, Jantsch stops it and concentrates much more.”) and the boring lessons (6.15%; “When he read students’ writings, he noted that they find his lessons boring.”).

Emotions and cognitions in the story completion. Our analysis of emotions and cog-

Table 4. Explanations of student’s behavior (T1). Three students gave two explanations, respectively.

nitions is illustrated in Table 5. Table 6 contains examples for coding. Teacher students’ statements predominantly were made from a colleague’s perspective. This is the reason why most statements are coded for this person. On the whole all statements show Klingsor as a person with few dysfunctional emotions and much dysfunctional cognition. The statements “dysfunctional cognitions” are the largest category in the table. The teacher’s emotions were predominantly described as dysfunctional as well as his cognitions. There are comparatively few statements about the student’s emotions and cognitions with a slight focus on dysfunctional cognitions. Overall we coded many statements as ambivalent, because they were not clear.

5.2. Results of T2

The results of the data analysis are presented in Table 7. Most teacher students interpreted the story in the light of applying self-technologies. REBT and REE elements and models are named very often, so to say in 35 cases (68.63% of all cases, “I interpret the situation with the ABC schema”). Teacher students sometimes analyzed the behavior of the protagonists with help of the exploration model of REBT (for more detail Steins, Haep, & Wittrock, 2015 ). Then interaction theories (52.94%, “…the right combination of empathy, patience, warmth…”) follow and the importance of setting rules in the classroom and obeying them (11.76%, “In addition, Mr. Effenberger could have worked on the rules together with the children, …, thus, the little Jantsch would not have the idea for his practical jokes.”). Special social psychological theories are linked rarely (7.84%, “Mr. Effenberger ignored Jantsch’s misbehavior and this seemed to cause more

Table 5. Emotions and cognitions―functional and dysfunctional.

Table 6. Examples for the categories functional/dysfunctional emotions and cognitions for each protagonist.

Table 7. Ties to classroom management―T2 (N = 51).

resistance in Jantsch at the beginning. As time passed by Jantsch gave up (Reactance). In addition, Effenberger kept calm (social-cognitive theory) and his good mood spread throughout the class and to Jantsch (Emotion)”. Two teacher students emphasized the importance to be in touch with colleagues (3.92%), an informal side-topic of the seminar. Interestingly only three teacher students had a critical view on the story’s end (5.88%). Two of them emphasized that they had missed a personal and explorative talk with the student in order to understand him and to build a caring relationship. The third teacher student simply doubted the efficiency of the solution.

How do the Data fit to Our Expectations? Finally the results are shown in Table 8

Table 8. The matching of data with our expectations: clues in teacher students’ story telling.

according to our expectations about teacher students’ capacity to comment on four critical aspects of the story. We reanalyzed the results according to these aspects and evaluated each category as a clue for a critique about these aspects of the story or a justification. Some categories had to be reanalyzed more in depth to avoid labeling single statements as unreasonable which only made a reasonable sense in combination with others. This procedure concerns the category “penalties for student” and “role of parents” at T1. They were evaluated as a justification of the teacher’s rage only in case of representing a solution without trying to explore the student’s perspective. At T2, we had to reanalyze the category “Critical comments” in order to calculate the statement level and not the case level.

Overall, the data show clearly a shift from T1 to T2 in a desired direction. Teacher students’ sense of appropriateness, according to our view on the data, increased visibly. Statements about the justification of inappropriate behavior decreases (T1: 28.95%; T2: 1.41%) and critical statements increases (T1: 71.05%; T2: 98.59%). Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind, that these categories are only a small percentage of all statements made by teacher students. As Table 5 shows, there are a lot of statements that are ambivalent and dysfunctional. Thus, the desired increase is only a small extract from a bigger picture.

6. Discussion

Our research questions were related to the contents of teacher students’ beliefs about solving a discipline problem at school and their critical reflection on the behavior of the protagonists triggered by a story written by Preußler (1987) . The data show that teacher students’ knowledge allows many of them to see that the teacher in the story does not behave appropriately toward the student. However, teacher students tend to justify this behavior at T1. Solutions are proposed, but they are not necessarily evaluated as efficient. Talking is the solution that is preferred, but this solution is not specifically efficient in the eyes of the teacher students. Even when they propose „Talking”, it is not clear how teacher students really would talk. Most teacher students did not have a positive ending of the story in mind. 51.61% of all teacher students chose an open end for the story, only 29.03% of the teacher students imagined a story with a positive ending. Only a small part of teacher students imagined a combination of different solutions (3 - 4 solutions = 17.74%). Our analysis of functional and dysfunctional wording with respect to emotions and cognitions shows that teacher students have many irrational beliefs about how to talk with each other in a problematic situation. Teacher students projected a lot of dysfunctional emotions and cognitions in the story. Even the teacher colleague was seen as a person with much dysfunctional cognition. We assume that teacher students did not intend to do so but they simply had no concept of appropriateness. Teacher students’ explanations of Jantsch’s behavior support this assumption; only around half of their explanations consider that causes of Jantsch’s behavior may be seen in teacher’s behavior. Thus, many teacher students did not imagine the interaction quality between a teacher and Jantsch as a cause of disruptive behavior. After being taught in CM, the awareness for appropriate teachers’ behavior increased (T2). The analysis shows clearly that REBT is a helpful device for teacher students to analyze and solve problems. Many teacher students can apply the theory on the story and can give the story a more appropriate ending after the seminar. But only few teacher students are able to formulate a critical view on the story.

All in all the results of our study clearly show teacher students’ wide range of imagination about dealing with disruptive behavior in a lesson. Few of them approach the situation rationally, combine logical solutions and imagine a positive ending. For many of them the story triggers wild speculations about Jantsch’s behavior and a rather dysfunctional plot with no, uncertain or a negative ending. A seminar about CM clearly can change the thinking about disruption in a lesson in a more appropriate direction; we still see a considerable lack of an active, critical perspective in a rather standard school situation among teacher students.

6.1. Limitations of the Study

Clearly, our method has its limitations. Partly, the open answer formats produced contents that were hard to categorize as Table 5 clearly shows (ambivalent contents). Such a method is only a basis for conclusions if combined with other data. In line with our previous series of studies and the research about teacher students‘ pre-knowledge having been discussed in the theoretical part, we see that teacher students only have a weak repertoire for solving discipline problems and that many moral aspects are related with their own choice of solution. But the present method has great advantages, too. It is a method to touch teacher students’ beliefs and pre-knowledge deeply. Partly, their language is highly emotional, and partly they make moralistic attributions. With their stories teacher students provide a seminar with contents to discuss about. In addition, for us the method was a really convincing procedure to evaluate if knowledge increased, because knowledge had to be recalled and cannot be recognized as in many other procedures. All in all the stories offer a rich insight to teacher students’ imaginations. We can imagine that stories like these may be a good starting point to delve in discussions about dysfunctional and functional cognitions, emotions and behavior concerning challenges in school.

A further concern to be addressed is the reduction of nearly 18% of the sample from T1 to T2. A drop out of students in a seminar is normal, but it may be that only more motivated students stayed with positive effects for the results (T2).

Similarly, the data collected for T1 required students to write their own ending to “Der kleine Jantsch,” with these responses being coded to analyze themes in students’ perceptions. For the T2 data, students were told the original ending to “Der kleine Jantsch,” and asked to reflect upon this. This procedure raises concerns. First, the structure of T1 data collection appears to align more with research question 1, while T2 appears to align more with research question 2. The inconsistencies between number of participants and the type of data being collected at T1 and T2 would seem to make it difficult to meaningfully compare T1 and T2. Even if T1 and T2 are fundamentally designed to address different questions, having data both before and after the seminar would promote stronger conclusions.

Finally, speaking of the seminar, it’s not entirely clear what is happening in the seminar that would lead to a change in T2. Students are taught many themes. A clearer alignment between the T1 and T2 measures, the research questions, and a deeper investigation of the role of a CM seminar would be advantageous in future studies.

6.2. Implications

Along with teaching special contents, teaching CM means to teach CMK and challenge teacher students to change false beliefs. The present study does not represent an isolated empirical evidence for the fact that CM improves knowledge and competence for dealing appropriately with challenging situations but can show that it takes time to internalize the knowledge deeply. It is no new finding that it takes time to create the change in person’s private belief systems. Thus, a technology of the self is necessary to combine with all CM contents.

CM should be the red line in the Teacher Education. Facing the fact that CM expertise improves the quality of teaching and students’ learning (Hattie, 2009; Ingersoll & Smith, 2003) , it is unreasonable that CM does not have the major role in Teacher Education yet. The current situation, at least in Germany, is as if the education is flying on an airplane without explaining the needed instructions to the cockpit crew.

7. Outlook

So far there is enough empirical evidence to prove CM’s use. It would be helpful to conduct controlled studies where a treatment group is represented by teacher students who enroll an educational concept containing CM as the continuous red line and to investigate the long-term effects of a modified education on teachers and students in comparison with the traditional education.


This research is a part of the identity/role-orientation project in the “Bund-Länder- Program” and was supported by the German Bundesministery of Education and Research. We are most grateful to Bita Behravan and an unknown reviewer for their valuable comments on this manuscript.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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