The Four Common Classroom Management Styles

Lilac background with two speech bubbles and a decorative circle

Have you ever stopped to think about the way you interact with your class and control your classroom? Perhaps you greet each student at the door? Maybe group work is a big part of the learning environment in your class. Perhaps you prefer for lessons to be tightly run to schedule and for as few disruptions as possible?

You might not have realized, but the way you run your class can probably be defined as one of four classroom management styles. They are:

  • Authoritarian
  • Authoritative
  • Permissive
  • Indulgent

These styles were initially applied to parenting in the 1960s by Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. In a study of preschool children, she noticed that each child showed unique behaviors and theorized that different parenting styles could lead to those different behaviors. She identified three parenting styles — authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Subsequent researchers have found that these categories of dealing with children can also be applied to teaching styles. The indulgent style was also added to Baumrind’s initial types.

Let’s look at each type of classroom management style in a little more detail.

Authoritarian classroom management style

A teacher with an authoritarian classroom management style controls their classroom completely.

In these classes, there is no flexibility for students to make their own decisions or be involved in setting out what happens in class.

These classes usually have a rigid structure when it comes to the timetable, and lessons tend to lack any opportunity for group or class discussion. They also have very clear sets of rules, and any students who do not follow them or stay on task are likely to be punished.

Teachers who adopt this style don’t tend to be very involved with their students and don’t know much about them beyond their learning.

Authoritative classroom management style

This sounds similar to the first type but is quite different. Authoritative teachers also have a lot of control over the classroom, but how they do this is different. There is also much more student involvement.

With an authoritative approach, student participation is expected both in class discussions and group work, but there are clear guidelines so that the class doesn’t end up in chaos.

Teachers value students’ input, so they may work with the class to develop classroom rules.

Authoritative teachers also care about their students and their individual needs. They will take time to get to know each student and their background and adjust expectations as needed. This helps to develop positive relationships with each student.

Permissive classroom management style

In permissive classrooms, there are low levels of teacher control. These classes offer students lots of freedom but can often be disorderly due to a lack of guidelines and lesson plans. Permissive teachers have low involvement with their students and aren’t interested in building relationships with them.

Students are allowed to control the environment, and there are few consequences for misbehavior.

Teachers who employ this style are often considered to have lost their passion for teaching.

Indulgent classroom management style

This style is similar to permissive teaching in that the students have a lot of control, but unlike permissive teachers, indulgent teachers care a lot about their students and have good intentions.

While these types of teachers have close student-teacher relationships and are often well-liked, the low levels of control by the teacher in the classroom mean well-intentioned lesson plans often go awry.

Why is classroom management important?

Effective classroom management is important because a smoothly run classroom where students feel supported creates better learning experiences and student outcomes.

Read more about why classroom management is important here.

Which classroom management style is best?

Each style of behavior management has its advantages and disadvantages, but it’s generally considered that an authoritative teaching philosophy is best because it offers balance — students are involved and have the chance to be individuals, but the teacher also has steady control over the class as a whole. It produces students who are competent and responsible.

Authoritative and indulgent styles tend to encourage positive behavior and have the best student outcomes.

However, classroom management approaches can be affected by many things.

For example, the best style may vary depending on which year group you teach. In elementary school, students may need a more explicit set of defined rules and stricter supervision than middle school students because they have not yet learned how to regulate their own behavior. High school students may be better at self-management and being independent learners, so a more relaxed style might work. But high school also brings a broader range of issues that can affect student behavior, so you may need to be more closely involved with some students.

Which classroom management style you use will also depend on your personality.

More experienced teachers tend to have different management styles because, over the years, they have learned better classroom management techniques. For example, a more experienced teacher would know how to set up the classroom environment to minimize disruption or where to stand or move around in order to maximize their view of the class. Experienced teachers often use an authoritative style. Although those who are becoming burnt out may tend towards authoritarian or permissive as their interest in teaching wanes.

New teachers may care a lot for their class, be keen for students to like them, and opt for a more indulgent style.

How to set your classroom management style

It’s important to have a clear idea of your classroom management style so that you can set the tone right from the beginning of the school year.

Start by thinking about what student outcomes you would like to see at the end of the year. Then think about the classroom environment, your preferred teaching methods, and how you deal with disruptive behavior if it happens. By asking yourself these questions, you can understand what classroom management style might work for you. You can find questionnaires like this one online to help you determine your style.

If you aren’t sure which classroom management style suits you or you want to work towards a change, then professional development can help. We’ve also put together some classroom management strategies for elementary school, middle school, and high school for you to try.

You may also like