What is Proximity Control?

Teachers are disrupted multiple times throughout a school day. There are fire drills, phone calls, loudspeaker announcements, bathroom breaks, and the list goes on and on. Disruptive student behaviors can also ruin the flow of a lesson, hence, the extreme importance of classroom management. There are many different strategies for classroom management. Teachers have to find those that work best for them and for the students that are in front of them every year.

Proximity control is an effective and easy classroom management strategy. It is easy because all a teacher needs to do is move toward a disruptive student. Physical closeness to a student has been proven to redirect the student back on task. This type of strategy helps to increase student engagement while at the same decrease problem behaviors.

How Does Proximity Control Work as Classroom Management?

Classroom management encompasses skills and techniques that a teacher uses to keep control of the students in his/her classroom. These techniques are used to minimize disruptive behaviors that could impede learning. Proximity control keeps students focused and on task in a non-confrontational manner. This specific type of classroom management strategy helps maintain those students who have limited attention spans or are in need of additional interaction with someone. Once proximity control becomes a constant in a classroom, students are more likely to stay on task all of the time because they never know whose desk the teacher may be coming to next.

What are the Benefits of Proximity Control?

Great classroom management is the key to any successful teacher. Including proximity control into a teacher’s daily routines will create an incredible learning environment for all students. When students are disciplined in front of their peers, they often become embarrassed and angry. This can cause an elevation in disruptive behaviors rather than a de-escalation. Proximity control is an excellent method to redirect students back on task without calling them out in front of their friends. Many times, students are being disruptive because they want extra attention. Physical proximity by the teacher can be all the attention that disruptive students need.

Proximity control also preserves a student’s confidence. Being yelled at in front of peers can be devastating to a student, even if he/she does not seem to care. Proximity control redirects students in a respectful way. When students feel that they are being respected by their teachers, they are more likely to behave in a respectful way in the school or classroom.

Another advantage of proximity control is that it allows for a teacher to maintain the flow of a lesson. Having to pause what you are teaching to tell a student to stop a problematic behavior ruins the lesson for everyone. A teacher can become distracted, lose his/her train of thought, and then lose control of the entire class. Through proximity control, a teacher keeps the lesson going while moving around the classroom especially toward the student who needs to be redirected. The teacher never has to stop the lesson because the student will likely get back on task without having to be told verbally.

Proximity control has further benefits. Teachers can use this as an opportunity to assess all students. By walking around the classroom, anxious students may be more likely to ask a teacher a question. The teacher becomes more accessible and thus increases student engagement and on-task behaviors.

How to Use Proximity Control Effectively

In order for proximity control to work effectively, a teacher has to keep moving. He/she cannot just sit at her desk or be up at the board. Moving throughout the rows of desks and room during a lesson increases the positive effects of proximity control. Teachers also need to be aware of how close they are to the disruptive student. It is extremely important not to hover around that student because this will draw unwelcomed attention.

A teacher must also continue teaching. Do not lose the flow of the lesson otherwise all students will become off task to watch your reaction toward the disruptive student. You should also use proximity control to check in with all students. You can make sure students are on the right page and that they are completing the activity properly. You can answer questions from all students, even from those who are usually too timid to ask a question in front of the whole class.

Proximity control encourages a teacher to stand near a talkative student to get him/her back on task. A teacher can also use this technique during group work to determine if all students are doing their part. Classroom management is the key to creating a successful learning environment. Proximity control is an effective, useful technique that all teachers should use in their classrooms. This strategy can help even the most distracted student to stay on task throughout a lesson.


*Updated February, 2021