The Classroom Management Styles Guide: Find Your Best Fit

Zhun Yee Chew

Zhun Yee Chew

The Classroom Management Styles Guide: Find Your Best Fit

Have you ever experienced times when, no matter how hard you try to implement innovative teaching tools and interactive activities, student engagement and participation seem to remain disappointingly low? 

The Problem 😵‍💫

Educators often grapple with the challenge of shaping a productive and conducive learning environment, even after seemingly doing everything they can in their capacity. The problem is that the solution to building an effective and well-managed classroom does not lie in the tools, lesson plans, or activities; instead, it hinges on the classroom management style employed by the teacher.

What distinguishes a poorly conducted classroom from an effective classroom environment, where students reach their full potential, is a classroom management style that best fits the needs of both the teacher and the students. Having the right classroom management style is like finding a lifetime companion that will either make or break your students’ future. Yes, it is that serious. 

The Solution 😌

Whether you are new to teaching or you have established your own classroom management style, this comprehensive guide serves as a guide to lay a strong foundation or revisit your current classroom management styles. Let’s get started!

What Are Classroom Management Styles

Classroom management styles are approaches used by educators to establish and maintain a conducive and productive learning environment for students. Think of them as techniques and a set of guiding principles that differentiate one lesson from the other.

Classroom management styles typically vary based on: 

  • Level of teacher control
  • Level of teacher involvement
  • Level of student involvement
  • The role a teacher plays
  • Presence and absence of classroom rules 
Classroom Management Styles

Classroom management styles can vary widely based on teacher’s beliefs and philosophies about teaching and learning. The 4 most popular classroom management styles are: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and indulgent classroom management styles. All these classroom management styles can have significant advantages and disadvantages to student development and education outcomes, as we shall see later on. 

Importance of Classroom Management Styles

Classroom management styles have a profound impact on a student’s future trajectory. Consider the stark contrast between a classroom where a teacher actively engages students in decision-making and learning activities, and one where the teacher has lost enthusiasm for teaching, leaving students to fend for themselves. Which of these scenarios do you believe offers students a better chance at a brighter future? Of course the first, right?

Here are the top 3 reasons why classroom management style plays a pivotal role in shaping the learning environment:

  • Conducive Learning Environment: An effective classroom management style establishes a safe and motivated environment where students feel respected, valued and open to share their opinions. This is the strongest motivator for students to actively participate in their own learning.
  • Teacher-Student Relationships: An effective classroom management style promotes positive teacher-student relationships based on trust and respect, leading to more two-way communication, a positive classroom culture and ultimately, better learning outcomes.
  • Preparation for Real-World Skills: Finally, an effective classroom management style teach students valuable life skills such as responsibility, respect, discipline, teamwork, and social-emotional skills that are applicable beyond the classroom. 

Read more on the importance of classroom management and effective classroom management strategies here. 

What Is Your Classroom Management Style?

As you go through the list, you may encounter classroom management styles you have tried, or you may have personal biases. However, we encourage you to maintain an open mind and consider the merits of each style objectively before making a decision.

The list is organised based on the levels of involvement and control required of a teacher. Let’s get started with classroom management styles that require high level of control or involvement from a teacher. 

Quick Glance of All Classroom Management Styles ⚡️

StylesTeacher ControlTeacher InvolvementStudent InvolvementProsCons
AuthoritarianHighHighLow· Clear Structure
· Clear Expectations
Minimize Disruptions
· Impaired Skills Development
· Negative Emotional Impact
· Lacks Adaptability
AuthoritativeHighHighHigh· Sense of Responsibility
· Respect for Individuality
· Skill Development
Preparation for the Real World
· Time-Consuming
· Complexity
BehavioristHighHighLow· Efficient Discipline
· Minimize Disruptions
Measurable Progress
· Short-Term, Extrinsic Focus
· Limited Autonomy and Maximum Compliance
Negative Emotional Impact
CollaborativeModerateHighHigh· Enhances Teamwork and Social Skills
· Sense of Ownership
· Fosters Inclusivity
· Time-Consuming
· Potential Conflicts
· Difficult to Accommodate Shy Students
DemocraticModerateHighHigh· Inclusivity
· Promotes Critical Thinking
· Positive Relationships
· Time-Consuming
· Potential Conflicts.
· Difficult to Accommodate Shy Students
MontessoriLowLowHigh· Autonomy and Independence
· Hands-On Learning
· Individualized Instruction 
· Teacher Training
· Resource-Intensive
· Lacks Standardized Testing
IndulgentLowHighHigh· Safety and Security
· Positive Teacher-Student Relationships
Enhanced Creativity
· Deviation from Lesson Delivery
· Potential for Chaos
· Lacks Preparation for Real-World Situations
PermissiveLowLowHigh· Freedom of Expression
· Individualized Learning
· Lack of Structure
· Potential for Disengagement
· Missed Learning Opportunities
· Limited Accountability
Difficulty Transitioning
Classroom Management Styles

The Top 8 Classroom Management Styles

Authoritarian Classroom Management Style/The Commander

Level of Teacher Control: High

Level of Teacher Involvement: High

Level of Student Involvement: Low

Authoritarian Classroom Management Style

The authoritarian classroom management style is the most domineering classroom management style where the teacher has complete control over the classroom, with minimal student involvement and autonomy. This classroom management style is centered around established rules and structures. In the most rigid form of this classroom management style, non-compliance with established rules may lead to disciplinary measures. 

Advantages:

  • Clear Structure: Establishes a structured classroom environment with a clear sense of order.
  • Clear Expectations: Provides clear and unambiguous rules and expectations of the students. 
  • Minimize Disruptions: The high level of control involved in this classroom management style leads to minimal classroom disruptions or deviations.

Disadvantages:

  • Impaired Skills Development: Authoritarian teachers typically favor one-way, regurgitative teaching, discouraging critical thinking and independent thinking, as well as collaborative learning, inhibiting proper development of these skills.
  • Negative Emotional Impact: Authoritarian classrooms may lead to negative emotional experiences for students, such as anxiety, fear, or resentment, as well as lack of motivation in learning.
  • Lacks Adaptability: The rigid nature of authoritarian management cannot accommodate diverse learning styles or individual needs, inevitably leaving some students feeling marginalized or left behind.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Classroom Management Style

  • Lecture
  • Direct Instruction
  • Drills and Worksheets
  • Recitation
  • Teacher-Directed Projects
  • Teacher-Directed Experiments
  • Quizzes and Tests
Unless there is a compelling reason, it is advisable to avoid implementing an authoritarian classroom management system. It is completely fine to implement rules and lecture-style teaching, but it is essential to balance structure with opportunities for student engagement, active learning, and collaboration.

Authoritative Classroom Management Style/The Guide

Level of Teacher Control: High

Level of Teacher Involvement: High

Level of Student Involvement: High

Authoritative Classroom Management Style

Similar to teachers employing an authoritarian classroom management style, teachers employing an authoritative classroom management style maintain a high degree of control in their classrooms. 

However, authoritative instructors always strike a balance between teacher-directed instruction and active student participation. This approach allows student autonomy and voice to be heard in a structured setting, adhering to established rules while actively participating in the classroom. This approach has come to show that rules and student autonomy are not mutually exclusive entities, and with effective communication and positive reinforcement, the two can exist harmoniously. 

Advantages:

  • Sense of Responsibility: The authoritative management style encourages the freedom to take ownership of their learning, nurturing a sense of responsibility among the students.
  • Respect for Individuality: The authoritative management style respects the individuality of each student, allowing them to express themselves within the framework of established guidelines.
  • Skill Development: Students develop essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication when encouraged to participate in class discussions and decision-making processes.
  • Preparation for the Real World: Students are better prepared for real-world situations where they navigate rules and expectations while exercising their own judgment.

Disadvantages:

  • Time-Consuming: Implementing the authoritative management style requires regular communication and collaboration with students, as well as responsiveness to their feedback, which can be time-consuming.
  • Complexity: Managing an authoritative classroom can be more complex than employing the more rigid authoritarian style as teachers must continuously adapt and respond to student needs.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Socratic Seminars
  • Debates
  • Group Projects
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Interactive Simulations
  • Classroom Discussions
  • Student Presentations
  • Problem-Based Learning
To be a successful authoritative style teacher, practice setting clear expectations and rules with your students, at the same time value your students’ input and feedback and be open to suggestions.

Behaviorist Classroom Management Style/The Reinforcer

Level of Teacher Control: High

Level of Teacher Involvement: High

Level of Student Involvement: Low

Behaviorist Classroom Management Style

The behaviorist classroom management style is another teacher-centered approach that emphasizes the use of rewards and consequences to shape and modify student behavior. 

Similar to the authoritarian classroom management style, the behaviorist style emphasizes the importance of clear rules and consequences through a system of rewards and punishments. However, in contrast to the authoritarian classroom management style, the behaviorist style does not motivate student behavior solely based on fear, and it is also more flexible when it comes to rule enforcement. 

In this style, rules are enforced consistently and are used as positive reinforcement for desired behaviors while applying consequences for undesirable ones. 

Advantages:

  • Efficient Discipline: Students are aware of the consequences for their actions, leading to better classroom discipline.
  • Minimize Disruptions: Minimal disruptions in the classroom allows for smoother lesson delivery.
  • Measurable Progress: The use of rewards and consequences in behaviorist management also allows for clearer measurement of student progress and behavior improvement.

Disadvantages:

  • Short-Term, Extrinsic Focus: Behaviorist management tends to address immediate behaviors but miss out on promoting long-term character development or intrinsic motivation.
  • Limited Autonomy and Maximum Compliance: Student autonomy, creativity, and critical thinking are limited as they focus on conforming to external expectations.
  • Negative Emotional Impact: The use of consequences and rewards can lead to negative emotional experiences, such as anxiety, fear, or resentment, similar to the authoritarian style.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Direct Instruction
  • Token Systems
  • Positive Reinforcement (Rewards for Desirable Behaviors)
  • Time-Outs
  • Response Cost (Costs of Inappropriate Behaviors)
  • Behavioral Interventions

Collaborative Classroom Management Style/The Facilitator

Level of Teacher Control: Moderate

Level of Teacher Involvement: High

Level of Student Involvement: High

Collaborative Classroom Management Style

Collaborative classroom management style places a strong emphasis on fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility among students and teachers. In this style, classroom rules, expectations and norms are a result of collaboration between teachers and students. 

Teaching is largely based on collaborative work, discussions and group projects. A student council or committee may also be established to facilitate communication between students and teachers. To be a successful collaborative style teacher, you can try implementing more group projects and cooperative learning activities, as well as peer teaching and assessments in the classroom to encourage teamwork and collaboration. 

Advantages:

  • Enhances Teamwork and Social Skills: Collaborative classroom management encourages students to collaborate and work together, developing strong social and communication skills.
  • Sense of Ownership: Students develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for the classroom environment, leading to increased engagement.
  • Fosters Inclusivity: Collaborative classroom management promotes inclusivity and values differing opinions and voices.

Disadvantages:

  • Time-Consuming: The collaborative decision-making process can be time-consuming, potentially compromising lesson delivery.
  • Potential Conflicts: Differences of opinion and conflicts may arise during collaborative activities, requiring intervention from the teacher.
  • Difficult to Accommodate Shy Students: Not all students may feel comfortable expressing their opinions in a collaborative setting.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Group Projects
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Peer Teaching and Assessments
  • Collaborative Discussions
  • Student Council or Committees
  • Interactive Simulations
  • Service Learning and Community-Building Projects
  • Problem-Solving Challenges
Pro tip: Use ClassPoint’s Name Picker to put students into groups and ClassPoint’s Timer to keep track of the timed activities and group projects you are running.

Democratic Classroom Management Style/The Democratic Leader

Level of Teacher Control: Moderate

Level of Teacher Involvement: High

Level of Student Involvement: High

Democratic Classroom Management Style

Democratic classroom management style can be seen as a subset of collaborative classroom management style. 

Just like a democratic society, a democratic classroom management style is built on the principles of equality, shared decision-making, and active involvement. Unlike authoritarian and behaviorist approaches, teachers collaborate with students to establish classroom rules, expectations, and consequences in democratic classroom management style. 

To be a successful democratic style teacher, you can encourage students to voice their opinions, participate in discussions, and take ownership of their learning experience through classroom voting, discussions and activities.

Advantages:

  • Inclusivity: The voice of every student is heard, fostering a sense of inclusivity and respect for diversity.
  • Promotes Critical Thinking: As students are actively involved in shaping the classroom culture and their learning, they are encouraged to think critically, thereby enhancing their problem-solving and analytical skills.
  • Positive Relationships: Teachers are able to build positive relationships with students based on trust, respect, and open communication.

Disadvantages:

  • Time-Consuming: Collaborative decision-making and open discussions can be time-consuming, potentially compromising lesson delivery.
  • Potential Conflicts: Differences in opinion among students may lead to conflicts that require careful mediation and resolution.
  • Difficult to Accommodate Shy Students: Not all students may feel comfortable expressing their opinions in a democratic classroom.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Classroom Voting
  • Socratic Seminars
  • Group Projects
  • Debates
  • Problem-Solving Challenges
  • Student Council or Committees
  • Student-Designed Assignments
  • Interest-Based Learning
  • Peer Teaching and Assessments
Pro tip: Use ClassPoint’s quick poll and interactive quizzes to engage with your students and keep them involved in your lessons.

Montessori Classroom Management Style/The Discoverer

Level of Teacher Control: Low

Level of Teacher Involvement: Low

Level of Student Involvement: High

Montessori Classroom Management Style

The Montessori classroom management style is based on the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, emphasizing student-centered and self-paced learning. In Montessori classrooms, the teacher merely serves as a facilitator, offering guidance and resources while allowing the students to explore and learn at their own pace, based on their interests and intrinsic motivation. Teachers typically utilize Montessori materials which are specially designed educational tools and resources to support children’s development across various domains, including cognitive, sensory, and motor skills. 

Some common Montessori materials include the Pink Tower, the Montessori Golden Beads, the Moveable Alphabet, and the Sensorial materials like the Broad Stair and Red Rods, among many others. Each material serves a specific educational purpose and encourages self-discovery and exploration. Most Montessori programs begin at the Early Childhood level and continue through the Secondary level.

Advantages:

  • Autonomy and Independence: Montessori style prioritizes student-centered learning, fostering a strong sense of autonomy, independence and self-directed learning.
  • Hands-On Learning: In Montessori classrooms, students engage in a lot of hands-on and experiential activities that encourage exploration and problem-solving.
  • Individualized Instruction: The Montessori style allows individualized instruction and discovery at the students’ own pace. 

Disadvantages:

  • Teacher Training: Implementing the Montessori approach requires specialized teacher training, and may not be suitable to all teachers.
  • Resource-Intensive: Montessori classrooms require specific materials and resources, which may not be feasible for all schools.
  • Lacks Standardized Testing: The Montessori style often does not have standardized testing or grades, which can be challenging when transitioning to traditional educational settings.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Sensorial Activities
  • Practical Life Skills Activities
  • Math and Language Materials
  • Art and Creative Expression
  • Individual and Small Group Work
  • Nature and Outdoor Exploration
  • Student-Led Conference

Indulgent Classroom Management Style/The Empowerment Enabler

Level of Teacher Control: Low

Level of Teacher Involvement: High

Level of Student Involvement: High

Indulgent Classroom Management Style

The indulgent classroom management style is characterized by a high degree of teacher involvement but a minimal level of control. In this style, teachers prioritize building teacher-student relationship and emotional wellbeing of the students. 

Teachers are often viewed as a friendly figure albeit with diminished authority. Students are given significant freedom to express themselves and take initiative in their learning. The teaching curriculum is also flexible and adaptable based on student interests. 

Advantages:

  • Safety and Security: Students in an indulgent classroom feel safe to voice out due to their positive relationships with the teacher. 
  • Positive Teacher-Student Relationships: The informal and approachable nature of indulgent teachers easily promotes trust and open communication in a classroom.
  • Enhanced Creativity: Fosters greater creativity and self-expression among students without constraints.

Disadvantages:

  • Deviation from Lesson Delivery: The lack of structure and control may lead to unproductive and off-track lessons, hindering learning outcomes.
  • Potential for Chaos: An overemphasis on freedom and minimal control can lead to chaos and confusion in the classroom, and disciplinary problems. 
  • Lacks Preparation for Real-World Situations: Excessive indulgence may not adequately prepare students for real-world environments where rules, expectations, and boundaries are more defined and less flexible.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Creative Projects
  • Student-Led Activities and Discussions
  • Exploratory Learning
  • Flexible Learning Paths
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Student-Designed Assessments
  • Free Reading and Writing Time

Permissive Classroom Management Style/The Freedom Advocate

Level of Teacher Control: Low

Level of Teacher Involvement: Low

Level of Student Involvement: High

Permissive Classroom Management Style

Similar to indulgent classroom management style, permissive classroom management style prioritizes a high level of freedom and autonomy among the students. Indulgent classroom management removes all layers of control in the classroom and basically allows the students full liberty to follow their own inclinations, as rules and regulations are notably absent.  

Unlike an indulgent teacher, a permissive teacher takes a hands-off approach, does not prioritize lesson preparation, and relies heavily on impromptu activities to fill class time.

Advantages:

  • Freedom of Expression: Students have no restrictions in self-expressions.
  • Individualized Learning: With fewer rules and restrictions, students may have more flexibility to pursue personalized learning paths, catering to their strengths and interests.

Disadvantages:

  • Lack of Structure: The absence of clear rules and structure can lead to chaos and confusion in the classroom, as well as disciplinary problems.
  • Potential for Disengagement: Some students may become disengaged or apathetic in a permissive classroom, as they may not feel challenged or motivated.
  • Missed Learning Opportunities: Permissive classrooms miss out on valuable learning opportunities due to a lack of lesson planning, hindering students from reaching their full potential.
  • Limited Accountability: Students in permissive classrooms may not develop a strong sense of accountability with fewer expectations placed on them.
  • Difficulty Transitioning: Students may struggle to transition into more structured and rule-bound environments, such as college or workplace.

Classroom Activities Typically Associated with This Management Style

  • Self-Directed Projects
  • Open-Ended Discussions
  • Independent Research
  • Flexible Learning Stations
  • Student-Created Assessments
  • Choice-Based Reading
  • Peer-Led Activities
  • Individualized Learning Plans
  • Exploratory Projects
Like authoritarian classroom management style, which is at the extreme end of rigidity, permissive classroom management style is at the other extreme end of flexibility. It is advisable to avoid implementing these two classroom management styles in your teaching as there are no clear benefits to these management styles.

Tips to Choose the Best Classroom Management Style

The choice of a classroom management style should align with the teacher’s educational philosophy, student needs, and the desired classroom environment. Selecting the right style is a crucial decision for educators, as it can significantly impact the learning experience and outcomes for both teachers and students. Therefore, it’s important to choose wisely based on your teaching goals and the unique needs of your classroom.

Classroom Management Styles Level of Control

Fret not, as we have prepared a list of carefully curated, tried and tested tips and questions to consider when selecting a classroom management style: 

  • Balance Structure and Freedom: Strive to strike a balance between structure and freedom in your classroom. As shown in the list classroom management styles above, it is not ideal to go for the extremes where there is very little room for structure and freedom. Craft a classroom management style that provides guidance and boundaries while allowing space for student autonomy. Don’t hesitate to blend elements from multiple approaches and make adaptations to conventional models when necessary, tailoring your strategy to meet the unique needs and dynamics of your students and your specific teaching context.
  • Know Your Students: Put your students first before anything else. To select a suitable classroom management style for your class, first understand the diverse needs, personalities, and learning styles of your students. And consider how the different management styles may align with their needs and characteristics.
    • 💡 Question to consider: What are my students like? 
  • Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses: It is not enough to tailor a classroom management style that best fits your students. It is equally important to introspect and assess your own teaching style, recognizing your unique strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to harmonize your innate abilities and instructional preferences with your student needs, creating a seamless and effective educational experience.
    • 💡 Question to consider: What are my strengths and weaknesses as an educator?
  • Assess Your Educational Philosophy: Reflect on your personal educational philosophy and values, and select the classroom management style that aligns best with your beliefs about teaching and learning, as well as your strengths.
    • 💡 Question to consider: What is my teaching philosophy?
  • Set Clear Objectives: Define your educational goals and objectives for your classroom, and determine the academic, social and emotional goals you want to achieve with your lessons.
    • 💡 Question to consider: What are my teaching goals?
  • Democratic in Decision-Making: To craft an effective classroom management style, it makes sense to involve the subjects of your teaching – your students, in the discussions about classroom rules and expectations. Listening to how they want the classroom culture to be shaped is the best way to help you find the most suitable classroom management style.
    • 💡 Question to consider: How can I involve students in decision-making?
  • Be Adaptive: Remember, the classroom management style you have selected is not set in stone. Be flexible and willing to adapt your management style as needed. Different situations or classes may require varying approaches.
    • 💡 Question to consider: Am I willing to adapt and grow?
  • Measure the Success: Explore different means and metrics to measure the success of your classroom management style and be prepared to apply the insights you have gathered to improve. Identify metrics that hold significance within your specific classroom context, whether it’s gauging student engagement, tracking academic performance, monitoring attention levels, or a blend of these indicators.
    • 💡 Question to consider: How can I assess the effectiveness of my management style?
Here are 20 effective classroom management strategies to pair with your chosen classroom management style for a classroom set for success. If you are a teacher new to the teaching scene, you may want to explore these 26 classroom management strategies for new teachers

Conclusion

Quick takeaways ✅

  • Avoid Extreme Styles: Recognize that there is no one-size-fit-all classroom management style. Extremes, whether they involve rigid control or complete freedom, may not yield the best results for your students.
  • Listen to Your Student Needs: Be attentive and listen to your student needs and preferences. Their input can be invaluable in shaping a classroom environment that fosters engagement and learning.
  • Reflect on Your Teaching Philosophy Constantly reflect on your teaching philosophy and strengths and be ready to adapt your classroom management style to your core values and objectives.

Finally, take advantage of the tips and guides we have shared above to tailor a classroom management style that not only suits your needs as an educator but also caters to the diverse needs of your students. By doing so, you are ready to create an inclusive, engaging, and productive learning environment.

In the dynamic world of education, flexibility and adaptability are key. Embrace the opportunity to refine your teaching approach, always keeping in mind the ultimate goal: to provide a supportive, enriching, and fulfilling educational experience for your students. 

Zhun Yee Chew

About Zhun Yee Chew

Zhun Yee Chew is the Content Lead at ClassPoint. She aims to empower educators to build engaging classrooms through valuable and innovative content. Zhun is a passionate advocate and leader of educational transformation, as well as an educator. Before joining ClassPoint, she spent her past 7 years spearheading efforts to revolutionize education systems across different countries. She kickstarted an educational NGO, developed innovative solutions and curricula for various programmes, and actively volunteered with various NGOs and rural communities as an educator driving change.

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