Disruptive pupil behaviour is a frustration for many teachers. In fact, 70% of teachers told us they had considered quitting the profession over poor behaviour. (Teacher Support Network and Family Lives Behaviour survey 2010)
Poor behaviour is a barrier to learning and can easily threaten the health and wellbeing of teachers. On top of other pressures that can occur, the result is lost teaching days, unhappy teachers and failing students.
Our top tips outline four basic approaches found to improve classroom behaviour:
Classrooms become more orderly places when rules are clearly stated and perform even better when rules have been negotiated, discussed and justified.
Here are 10 steps to improving rules and procedures:
Think about the style of relationship you have with your pupils or students. Your relationship will, of course, depend on the class or group, but a balance between a dominant and cooperative style is regarded as the most effective way to improve classroom management.
How do you increase your dominance and assertiveness?
Dominance and assertiveness is about effective leadership, having a clear path to learning goals and good behaviour, pursued with vigour and enthusiasm. It should also be pupil - or student - centred. Here are a number of tips to increase dominance and assertiveness in the classroom:
For the class or group:
Proximity: Walk around the classroom, stand by a pupil that may be about to misbehave. Stand a “little too close for comfort” but don’t invade personal space. A difficult judgement sometimes. You don’t want to come over as aggressive or intimidating.
Eye contact: holding eye contact expresses dominance. What you say will be taken more seriously if you can maintain eye contact before, during and after speaking.
Posing questions: rather than telling a pupil off, pose a question, such as “Why have you not started your work?
These actions are often more effective and far less exhausting than getting angry or shouting and will make you appear in control (even if you do not feel it).
How do you increase cooperation and collaboration?
We all know how challenging it can be to cooperative with badly behaved pupils. How many times have we or our colleagues talked about that class or that year group.
Sometimes a cycle can develop between the teacher and the students that makes things even worse: the pupils misbehave more, you dislike them more, you are less positive and friendly, they dislike you and your classes more, they disrupt more and so it goes on. The cycle needs to be broken.
The next time you have a class with a particularly difficult student or a challenging group, why not try the following:
First try focusing on putting negotiated and clear rules in place. This will often require a great deal of emotional generosity and patience or restraint! The main aims are to be more positive, friendly and fair.
1. Meet and greet pupils by the door. Get off to a good start.
2. Catch them doing the right thing and comment positively in private. A lot of inappropriate behaviour is attention seeking.
3. Give the pupil in “intensive care”. Smile, use their name positively, ask for their opinion, make a point at looking at their work, comment favourably about genuine effort or achievement. Talk to them, be patient and helpful, have high expectations and keep calm. Show that you value them. But don’t overdo it! Be fair, use this approach with your well-behaved pupils as well.
4. Learn their names. This is especially valuable when you are new to a school.
5. Engage pupils in an informal way. Let them know you don’t just see them as pupils but as individuals with interests, hobbies, and lives outside of school.
6. Use eye contact and proximity.
7. Collaborate and problem solve together. What’s the problem here? What can we do about this?
8. Build team and group work.
9. Have high expectations and let them know what those are.
10. Develop flexible responses and teaching styles.
11. Give responsibilities to particular pupils.
12. Avoid sarcasm. What you might think is light may be damaging your teacher-pupil relationship.
13. Check for understanding, reinforce learning goals and expectations.
14. Be a good role model for your pupils by acting in the way that you want them to behave.
A proactive approach to improving behaviour is usually much more effective. Remember managing behaviour is not just about responding to inappropriate behaviour. It is about creating conditions that encourage positive actions.
Try the following approaches:
In our 2010 behaviour survey over 60% of respondents said that additional training for teachers on challenging behaviour and using restraint and search powers were essential to improving pupil behaviour.
Although, you are not solely responsible for improving pupil behaviour improving your attitude to classroom management can have dramatic effects. There are two parts to this:
This ‘with-it-ness, a term first used by educational theorist Kounin in the 1970s, means an awareness of what is going on in all areas of your classroom and having a quick response to actual and possible disruptions. It’s a “nip in the bud” approach that stops inappropriate behaviour spreading.
Think about how you will respond to disruption and not letting your emotions lead the way.
For more information, please download our full guide to below.
You do not need to suffer inappropriate behaviour alone. You can get support from within your school or college and outside of the workplace, but it is important to recognise your own feelings. Talk things over with a friend, family or colleague, your union or contact our 24/7 confidential helpline.