Classroom Management for Engagement, Empowerment, and Achievement

Classroom management issues lead many of the schools and districts that I work with to seek outside support, such as our approach here at CT3. However, the ultimate goal of classroom management is not to achieve compliance or control, but to provide all students with equitable opportunities for learning (Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke and Curran, 2004). To that end, we’ve learned that the route to achievement starts with classroom management so that true engagement and empowerment for all students is possible. Management sets the stage for a strong classroom culture so that it is primed for all students to thrive both academically and socially.  

True Engagement

At CT3 Education, we train teachers to achieve true engagement by embedding the No-Nonsense Nurturer® approach into all of their interactions with students each day. By utilizing the steps of the No-Nonsense Nurturer model, teachers provide a consistent and positive classroom environment where every minute of class time is used for learning. No-Nonsense Nurturers strive for true engagement by:

    • Getting to know students and their families and creating a safe environment where students have positive relationships, feel safe, and are comfortable to take academic risks (Hammond, 2015).
    • Providing clarity and precise directions for behaviors as well as the “how” and the “what” of learning. For example, an effective Think Pair Share involves very clear directions for maximizing the think time, engaging in productive talk, active listening, and accurately sharing their partner’s response using a sentence frame.
    • Consistently using positive language that is specific and reinforces how to learn. For example, a teacher might notice out loud students who are utilizing the sentence frame to recognize them for maintaining focus in their response and to motivate students who are not yet using it.
  • Consistently using accountability and incentive systems so students can both understand the drawbacks of not following directions and be celebrated for classroom community efforts to meet high expectations.

Using a no-nonsense yet nurturing approach with students helps them
 build confidence and embrace mistakes as opportunities, and sends consistent messages to students throughout the day that they are both valued and held to high expectations. This allows them to truly engage in the learning taking place in the classroom without worrying about unsafe or distracting classroom behavior.

Student Empowerment

True engagement of 100% of students is just the first step to increase student achievement. The second step is empowering students. Empowered learners feel ownership and are enthusiastic about the purpose of learning (Hattie, 2008). How do we empower students?

    • Make the purpose of learning clear to students so that they see how it relates to their lives (Hammond, 2015). For example, if the learning objective is to interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study, then the teacher could point out that social media is all-encompassing in students’ lives and enlist students in considering the consequences of using it, both good and bad.
    • Apply the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework (Fisher & Frey, 2015) so that students have opportunities to benefit from modeling, collaboration, guided instruction, and independent practice in order to reach mastery and own their learning.
  • Provide ample opportunities for student voice, which inspires empowerment. Teachers do this by posing high-rigor questions that are truly relevant to students’ lives. The following is an example of a rigorous and relevant question for a Think Pair Share: Your parents/grandparents have decided that social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter) are not appropriate for middle schoolers to use. Do you agree or disagree? Give supporting reasons for your argument.

Student Achievement

True engagement and student empowerment are crucial, but how do they actually lead to the end goal of student achievement? Some of the answers to that question come from research by Hattie on collective efficacy (2018).

When teachers believe they can impact student learning and that what they do matters, they acquire a sense of collective efficacy. Students know and sense this from their teacher’s words and actions, and the resulting classroom culture has important benefits for the students. Simply put, students build a growth mindset and do not give up on themselves academically, because they know their teacher isn’t giving up on them.

    • Students will achieve if they can see their learning happening on a day-to-day basis by receiving objective feedback. Through consistent feedback, they become invested in what they knew before and what they gained after learning, as well as what they still have to learn (Hattie, 2008).
  • Effective educators also know that using data to drive instruction leads to greater student gains. Employing research-based pedagogical strategies that generate data points (such as Do Nows and Exit Tickets) will inform daily instructional decisions and daily feedback to students. This feedback loop empowers both teachers and students, reinforcing the belief that together they can achieve on a daily basis (Lupoli, 2018).

By reimagining how building a strong classroom culture can be used to achieve true engagement and student empowerment, we can move closer to realizing academic achievement. This formula relies on teachers being both no-nonsense and nurturing by developing a strong classroom culture with authentic relationships and having a commitment to 100% student engagement.

By Leah Pearson, CT3 Associate

For further reading, visit the posts below:


Fisher, D., Frey, N.  (2015). Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility, 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA.: ASCD.

Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse StudentsThousand Oaks, California: Corwin, a SAGE Company.

Hattie, John. 2008. Visible Learning. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Hattie, J., Zierer, K. (2018). Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lupoli, C. (2018, April 20). Deepening Student Voice and Empowerment. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Tomlinson-Clarke, S., Curran, M., Weinstein, C. (2003). Culturally Responsive Classroom Management: Awareness Into Action. Theory Into Practice,  42(4), 270-276.
Check out other CT3 programs such as Real Time Teacher Coaching and Real Time Leadership Coaching to find out more about Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders, and building relationships with students and their families.
Category: Teaching