Alongside our TeachMeets on Behaviour Management (Thurs 12 September and Friday 8 November, at 1.30 in the Smallbone Library Meeting Room) this blog seeks to translate some of the key strands of behaviour management theory into a tool kit of practical strategies for use in the classroom.
Though debate rages over how to generate a positive ethos of behaviour, research carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation (2019) points to a need for consistency across schools and over time (behaviour management strategies require at least two terms of regular implementation and monitoring) to be at their most effective. A range of relevant strategies are required at each level of the school (individual, classroom, institution). Importantly though, consistency does not mean conformity and uniformity. Equally, rules need not be harsh. The severity of the punishment is less important than the certainty that a punishment will be imposed if rules are broken. Schools should not rush and dictate; they need to discuss the best strategies for their unique environment, involving all of the key stakeholders.
If done well, behaviour management policies will boost not only behaviour but, more promisingly, attainment. Below are some of the most tried, tested and effective strategies across pedagogical literature and research today…
1. Consistency – Do not rely on being the ‘cool’/’sporty’/’funny’/etc teacher. We are all very different teachers, which is why our expectations and rules need to be enforced equally. Set the same boundaries with every student. It should be your classroom routines that define you; they make students feel settled and secure. Expect high standards in the small things; please and thank you, punctuality and care towards others.
2. Rewards – Praise should only be given when it is earned. Rewarding a student for a basic action just because your expectations of that student are low harms them and their peers, not to mention your own authority. Set expectations high and create meaningful rewards for specific achievements. Announce rewards at the end of the lesson to avoid negotiations and disappointment seeping into lesson time.
3. Sanctions – Have labels in the top corner of the board, such as Tx, Bx and Late. As a warning for students who might be pushing boundaries, walk over to that side of the board with pen at the ready to show they are in danger of being sanctioned. Nothing needs to be said, but the student in question might choose to focus rather quickly. If they do not, take no excuses. Some teachers suggest carrying a small notebook to record sanctions in, so you can action them later. Don’t fall into the habit of letting things go – apply the rules even (especially) for the small things early on to show intent. Remember to stay calm, confident and proportional when sanctioning.
4. Seating Plans – First, think differently about your position in the room rather than the students’. Do not hide behind your desk. Get out into the room and alternate where you sit. Some staff have even put their desk at the very back. If you need a seating plan, change it regularly and base it on the activities you are planning for each lesson. Differentiate by ability as well as just behaviour.
5. Beginning – Greet students at the door with a confident smile and use of their names (this is a free and highly effective habit that comes up in all of the research). Discreetly point out expectations for the lesson and remind students of any prep due or work missed. Over time, build in a little more questioning over what the students have been up to, so you get to know what makes them tick.
6. End – Share timings with students so they are aware of how long they have left on a task. Plan a quick exit quiz on the spot towards the end, and leave time to set prep and pack away. You must be in charge of this; do not let students dictate when they want the lesson to wind down.
7. Dealing with Disruption – One way to pre-empt this is to keep the students busy with well-planned (and frequently independent) work. Try to chunk this into manageable periods of time. If you are expecting to have to provide a longer explanation of something, give it to students as written text to read silently, rather than delivering it verbally. When disruption occurs, offer the student(s) a ‘directed choice’, which gives you total control but offers them a way out. Get down to the student’s eye line and avoid rhetorical and open questions that could lead to side-disputes. Give the sanction discreetly, then allow ‘take-up time’ by walking away and dealing with other members of the class, before returning and checking in on the student again. This should allow people to cool off, limits scope for negotiation and does not create a scene.
8. Mobile phones – regardless of age, make a habit of collecting them in at the front at the beginning of every lesson. You decide when, and if, they are to be used. Though there is still not enough evidence to decide the debate between total bans and minimal regulation, taking away the temptation and directing phone use is a sensible starting point.
9. Habits – Practise little techniques that save time and show who’s boss – the ‘stare’, the ‘scan’, refraining from shouting unless necessary, saying “thank you” to achieve an ‘assumed close’, using a silent countdown for attention, and pausing instead of raising your voice are all calm and authoritative habits to build into your routine. You should also make it clear whether you want hands up or not. Whatever you choose, stick to it. Don’t let anyone speak over you or others.
10. We’re all responsible – we must work together and mine each other’s experiences of how to deal with behaviour. Observing other teachers is a positive habit, and helps us better model good behaviour and practice. But more important is upholding the rules in your lesson so that students don’t enter a colleagues lesson afterwards in the wrong frame of mind. This is also true of our movements around the school site; pick up on bad language, dawdling and lack of care for equipment.
You can find some great articles from the list below, as well as the books suggested by the library on the stand outside.