Paul Dix’s seminar on behaviour management was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the course so far. He demonstrated what effective teaching looks like and he had the ability to engage and ‘hold’ the attention of a lecture theatre crammed with 180 students. No mean feat!
Dix was clear that you cannot just learn a set of behaviour management techniques. During his early teaching career he worked alongside a colleague who managed classroom behaviour effectively. His colleague displayed the following three characteristics; consistency, certainty and relationships. He was quite strict but fair; he followed up incidents personally and forged relationships over time.
There are two key themes I would like to focus on during this post as a response to Paul’s lecture; these are the behaviour of the adult and praising the 90 percent.
The behaviour of the adult
Our behaviour as a teacher has a profound influence on the behaviour of the pupils; in his lecture Dix stated ‘we need to step through incidents calmly without anger’. How can we expect the children to behave if we shout, use humiliation, are intimidating, make assumptions and judge without asking questions? We must model the behaviour we want from our pupils. We must be polite, fair, show unconditional respect, be encouraging, listen, empathise, and give praise.
I have the tendency to be really patient and then finally lose the plot. According to Cowley (2010), an assertive teaching style is the ideal approach for effective behaviour management. I need to develop my level of assertiveness as I tend to lean towards a passive approach. Cowley (2002) interviewed students from a range of age groups, ability groups, cultural and social backgrounds. The students identified two types of teachers who are good at controlling behaviour, ‘firm but fun’ or ‘strict and scary’. I aspire to be a ‘firm but fun’ teacher.
Praise the 90 percent
Paul told us that 90 percent of the children we teach will be fine, only 10 percent will struggle with their behaviour, a reassuring statistic! Yet too often the children being naughty will receive all the attention of the teacher, only reinforcing the notion that being badly behaved works. What we should do is praise the 90 percent that are being well-behaved, and give them our first attention. Focus on the positive and not the negative behaviour. Whilst on a learning walk at my placement school, I have witnessed the power of positive praise in action. The Year 6 teacher used language such as ‘I am particularly pleased with…’ and ‘well done, fantastic to see you looking and listening’. This helped to achieve a very positive atmosphere in her classroom.
The Asch Experiment looked at human conformity, the influence of group pressure and the desire to conform. Cowley (2002) suggests that if you can get the majority of students on your side, then they will often influence the behaviour of the trouble makers, who will start to feel like the odd ones out and adjust their behaviour accordingly.
Charlie Taylor is an expert advisor to the government on behaviour in schools and has compiled a really useful behaviour checklist for head teachers and teachers on how to get the simple things right.
At my placement school the new head teacher has implemented a new behaviour policy and school rules system, see the following link:
The school have high expectations of children’s behaviour and positive behaviour strategies are used. There is now a real consistency across the whole school, with all teachers speaking with one voice. A laminated set of rules are displayed in each classroom. I have seen my class teacher refer to these rules when giving a child a sanction; this helps the child to know the teacher is simply following the school policy and not personally ‘attacking’ them.
There are a number of challenging pupils in my Year 4 placement class. During SBT1 my main aims are to learn how to achieve a consistently assertive style and to be a ‘firm but fair’ teacher. If I can achieve these outcomes, I will be in a good position for SBT2 and beyond.
Cowley, S. (2006) Getting the buggers to behave 2. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Cowley, S. (2010) Getting the buggers to behave (4th edition). Continuum International Publishing Group.
DFE Charlie Taylor checklist (2014)
Western Road Community Primary School Behaviour Policy