Behaviour Management in the classroom

Tags: behaviour, management, secondary, education, rewards, sanctions, policy, whole-school, challenge, progress, learning, teaching standards.

From my own, albeit short, experience in teaching, I have found the most challenging aspect of the job is behaviour management.

As a trainee teacher, you are always being told that as soon as you have the behaviour under control, the rest of your teaching will fall into place.

Considering that low-level disruption is one of the biggest complaints from teachers across the country (Bennett, 2010), I chose ‘behaviour management strategy’ as an area I would like to explore further to help my own practice.

The purpose, of this blog entry is to evaluate behaviour management in schools and to focus on one strategy (use of rewards & sanctions for behaviour management), critically review its use, assess my implementation of this strategy as a part of my own practice and how this will affect the well-being and progress made by learners.

Students will not learn effectively in a classroom unless effective behavior management is in place (Ellis, 2013). This is something we are all aware of, and as we enter a classroom with a huge diversity of needs and personalities, it is something we need to get to grips with fast – or the lesson will more than likely flop.

If the behavior management within the classroom is effective, the pupils will learn more and enjoy their learning environment. This makes the classroom more welcoming and productive, which in turn increases pupil progress and well-being (S1,2).

A brilliant resource on the Department for Education website, Charlie Taylors behavior check list, provides a simple list of factors teachers should be mindful of when looking to improve behavior management (Taylor, 2011). This has been a useful resource that I have used to inform my own practice and help me to ensure that my role is consistent in the classroom.

There is a legal obligation for all schools within England to have a behavior policy in place, the requirements of which are outlined in the Education & Inspections Act (Department for Education, 2006). The policy should promote good behavior, prevent bullying within the school and ensure that pupils complete all their work to an acceptable standard (Department for education, 2013).

I have found that having a policy in place (based on both national and school policy) is reassuring as a trainee teacher, having support in the form of a policy enables me, to help my own behavior management become consistent. This in turn is important for the well-being of the pupils I teach and helps them to learn effectively.

This consistency is crucial, pupils show a greater attachment to school when they feel they are being treated fairly by teachers (Hallinan, 2008).

Case Study: Year 8

 When I started my teacher training placement last September I was timetabled a top set year 8 class, all to myself. I was so excited to have the responsibility of being the sole class teacher to this high achieving group!

The reality of teaching this group hit me like a ton of bricks, their behaviour felt like it was out of control and they seemed to hate me and everything I did to try and teach them science. On reflection, I believe it was more a case of a lot of low-level disruption occurring all at once.

I tried all the advice I was given, but made no progress. From September until Christmas, every lesson was a battle, I dreaded teaching them and would feel sick with nerves before each lesson.

After Christmas I went on a 6-week placement to another school and this gave me a new-found enthusiasm and confidence, the behaviour in every class was a dream, I could complete the whole lesson I had planned! Going back to my year 8’s after those 6 weeks was daunting, but I went in there confident and more importantly, consistent. Now I was the one coming down on them like a ton of bricks. There was a complete power shift, the pupils were learning, making good progress and enjoying science! It was my true Eureka moment!

Reflection on my own practice

The methods I have put in place to improve my behavior management have included a combination of ensuring the schools own behavior policy is implemented consistently, at all times, in lessons and in the wider school environment.

I have also found myself adapting the strategies I use with specific, high profile students. An example of this includes allowing some of these pupils to copy work from text books, this was something they felt they could achieve and focus on and allowing them to do this has shown a huge reduction in their disruptive behaviour (S5).

One student who started doing this now likes to have the text book available, but will also complete most of the class work quietly. Using praise with these pupils, recognizing their efforts to not disrupt learning, has had a cascade effect on their behaviour, ultimately making the classroom a more productive work environment (S1).

By having effective behaviour management in place, I have seen a massive difference in the progress my students are making in lessons compared to before this was in place (S2).

One area that I have focused on to do this effectively is the use of rewards and sanctions – this feeds into teaching standard 7(b) which specifies the use of ‘praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly’.

I have adapted the reward system I use in the classroom to mirror the sanctions policy in place by the school. I found that before this, the system favoured the use of sanctions over rewards.

The school sanctions ‘ladder’ has three levels: C1 (verbal warning given), C2 (sanction to be given according to teacher judgement e.g. move seat, 10 mins at end of the day) and a C3 (detention – lunch/break time).

My rewards ladder mirrors this with praise and extra rewards available; R1 (good work recognized, name on the board, verbal praise), R2 (Praise points – school wide reward), R3 (positive phone call/postcard home). This has shown a particular improvement with regards to the behaviour of the younger year groups (8 & 9), but has shown effect on the behaviour of some of the more high profile behaviour pupils in year 10 and 11.

When I designed this reward system, I asked the pupils what they valued the most as a means of praise. The pupils favoured parental contact over other rewards, this has been seen before in both primary schools (Miller et al, 1998) and secondary schools (Payne, 2015) as a highly effective praise tool.

Teaching Standards linked to this blog post:

S1: Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.

S2: Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils.

S5: Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.

S7: Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment.

Reference List:

Bennett, T. (2010) The behaviour guru. London: Continuum.

Department for Education (2013) Behaviour and discipline in schools: guidance for head teachers and staff [pdf] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/488034/Behaviour_and_Discipline_in_Schools_-_A_guide_for_headteachers_and_School_Staff.pdf [Accessed 13 April 2017]

Department for Education. (2006) Education and Inspections Act 2006. London: OPSI.

Ellis, V. (2013) Learning and teaching in secondary schools. Fifth edn. Learning Matters, London.

Hallinan, M. T. (2008) “Teacher Influences on Students’ Attachment to School.” Sociology of Education vol. 81, no. 3, pp. 271–283.

Miller, A., Ferguson, E. & Simpson, R. (1998) “The Perceived Effectiveness of Rewards and Sanctions in Primary Schools: adding in the parental perspectives”, Educational Psychology, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 55.

Payne, R. (2015) “Using rewards and sanctions in the classroom: pupils’ perceptions of their own responses to current behaviour management strategies”, Educational Review, vol. 67, no. 4, pp. 483-504.

Taylor, C. (2011) Getting the simple things right: Charlie Taylor’s behaviour checklists [pdf] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/571640/Getting_the_simple_things_right_Charlie_Taylor_s_behaviour_checklists.pdf [Accessed 13 April 2017]

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