- It is important that teachers follow the school policy on behaviour and take a consistent approach in order for the policy to be effective.
- Consistency is vital in the following areas: the beginning and end of lessons; the use of rewards; the application of sanctions; the management of discussion and questioning.
- Strategies for teachers include: learning pupils’ names quickly; developing awareness of what is going on throughout the classroom; getting lessons off to purposeful starts; anticipating situations where poor behaviour might develop; modelling appropriate behaviour; recognising that behaviour strategies work differently for different people.
- The school should work towards pupils managing their own behaviour.
‘Pupils are highly adept at managing their own behaviour in the classroom and in social situations, supported by systematic, consistently applied approaches to behaviour management.’ (Ofsted Evaluation Schedule for Schools: grade descriptor for ‘outstanding’).
In order to secure outstanding classroom behaviour, there are three elements that need to work together:
- the consistent application of the school’s policy by all teachers
- the skill and awareness of the individual teacher
- the extent to which pupils learn to control and manage their own behaviour.
The consistent application of agreed classroom behaviour policies
In some ways, consistency is more important than what the particular elements of the policy might say. Classroom behaviour is undermined when weaker or less experienced teachers struggle to apply agreed strategies because established teachers rely on their own experience and disregard the importance of a consistent approach. There are a number of crucial areas where consistency is vital to support the development of excellent behaviour:
- the beginning and end of lessons
- the use of rewards
- the application of sanctions
- the management of discussion and questioning.
The beginning and end of lessons
The beginning and end of lessons are a crucial time. For example, if it is agreed policy that classes line up outside the room at the start of each lesson to be welcomed by the teacher before they enter, teachers who let pupils wander in casually make it much harder for everyone else to insist on the practice themselves. Failing to end lessons promptly or keeping pupils behind and making them late for the next lesson is also likely to be disruptive.
The use of rewards
Teachers who do not make use of agreed reward systems devalue those systems in the eyes of pupils.
The application of sanctions
If there is a system of progressive warnings prior to a pupil’s removal or referral from a lesson, then it must be used by all teachers consistently. This will prevent pupils arguing that, ‘Ms X or Mr Y wouldn’t have done that’.
The management of discussion and questioning
Strategies to ensure that pupils wait their turn, listen and do not interrupt others may be difficult to apply but are worth pursuing in order to prevent discussion becoming a ‘no-go’ area as a last resort in some lessons.
Developing behaviour management awareness and skills
There are some aspects of behaviour management that may lie outside the school’s system but depend on the ability of the teacher to be aware of and adapt and respond to different situations. Some will come with experience, but there are some pointers to follow from the earliest days in the classroom:
- learning pupils’ names quickly
- developing awareness of what is going on throughout the classroom
- getting lessons off to purposeful starts
- anticipating situations where poor behaviour might develop
- modelling appropriate behaviour
- recognising that behaviour strategies work differently for different people.
Learning pupils’ names quickly
This is much easier when it is linked to a seating plan. If the school does not insist on one, it is invaluable to develop one yourself.
Developing awareness of what is going on throughout the classroom
It is easy for teachers to get absorbed in the work of groups of pupils and become detached from what is happening elsewhere in the room. It is vital to look up constantly to check that each group is on task.
Getting lessons off to a purposeful start
Meeting the class in the corridor may be the ideal and help start the lesson more sharply. Rather than wait for latecomers before taking the register, it is usually better to have something for students to do as soon as they arrive.
Anticipating situations where poor behaviour might develop
Are students sitting in the ‘right’ place? Are there times when they will have to move around? Will there be times when concentration is interrupted because, for instance, materials will be handed out or collected in?
Modelling appropriate behaviour
While insisting that classroom rules are applied consistently, teachers should follow them as well, for example, ensuring that pupils’ views are listened to.
Behaviour strategies work differently for different groups
It is important to recognise that behaviour strategies work differently for different groups and to be prepared to adapt your practice accordingly.
Supporting the development of skills in teachers
Supporting the development of these skills in new and inexperienced teachers needs to be an absolute priority within the school’s continual professional development (CPD) programme. Peer observations and learning walks can usefully focus on these aspects of classroom management and bring to teachers’ attention aspects of their practice that they are unaware of. It is also important that they have the opportunity to see how experienced practitioners develop these skills themselves.
Pupils’ management of their own behaviour
This is much more likely to be in evidence if the elements in the first two sections above are implemented. Self-management of behaviour is likely to follow on as a result of the consistent application of policy. However, there are some strategies that can promote the active engagement of pupils in securing outstanding behaviour:
- Classroom rules are made fully clear and pupils are given a role in refining or prioritising them. For example: ‘What does this rule in mean in practice for the way in which we organise, say, group work?’
- Pupils are given responsibility for planning and leading learning episodes and are given active roles in group discussion. They should be working harder than the teacher for learning to be really effective.
- It is important to recognise the contribution of pupils who find it difficult to participate actively, for example, a brief word after the lesson along the lines of, ‘Well done. I noticed how hard you worked at … today”.
An observer watching a lesson where pupils are active in managing their behaviour should, above all, be able to see that behaviour is outstanding. This, not because of the absence of low-level disruption or lack of concentration, but because pupils actively contribute to the lesson: they are listening actively, they are sensitive to others’ contributions and they show resilience when tasks are challenging.
- Useful advice on classroom management for new teachers can be found at: http://bit.ly/behaviour2learn
- Getting the simple things right: Charlie Taylor’s behaviour checklist can be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/BehaviourChecklist
- Behaviour and discipline in schools – DfE advice on developing a school behaviour policy can be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/BehaviourDiscipline
Use the following itmes in the Toolkit to help you put the ideas in this article into practice:
- Policy - Behaviour management at Worle Community School (BEAM)25.9 KB
- Handout - Evaluating behaviour: checklists for public areas and the classroom21.48 KB
- Checklist - Evaluating behaviour in shared areas22.85 KB
- Checklist - Evaluating behaviour in the classroom74 KB
About the author
This article was first published in July 2014 edition of School Inspection & Improvement magazine.