Managing behaviour in your classroom is one of the biggest challenges you will face as a teacher; as you go into schools on placements it’s bound to be among your priorities.
The following are a few points that should help, but remember that other teachers may well have their own suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – and don’t get disheartened if you struggle initially, because managing pupil behaviour gets easier and easier as you become more experienced.
Firstly, think about the school in which you are teaching and how it impacts on the behaviour of pupils. Research shows that schools which are more successful in dealing with challenging behaviour are those:
- which are proactive
- which have a strong sense of community in which pupils have a strong role
- where teachers collaborate with each other
- which promote pupil autonomy, self-discipline and involvement in the learning process.
What helps reduce conflict?
- Co-operation - helping children and young people to learn to work together and trust, help, and share with each other.
- Communication - helping children to learn to observe carefully, communicate well, and listen to each other.
- Respect - helping children to learn to respect and enjoy people’s differences and to understand prejudice and why it is wrong.
- Positive expression - helping children to learn to express their feelings, particularly anger, in ways that are not destructive, and to learn self-control.
- Conflict resolution - helping children learn how to resolve a conflict by talking it through.
Identify the patterns in classroom difficulty
It is useful to attempt an analysis of what factors are present when difficulties occur. If there is a particular disaffection in your classroom it might be useful to ask whether this disaffection relates to the following:
- specific teacher/pupil interactions - here you can examine your own skills in handling conflict and avoid escalations
- a particular classroom context - analyse the physical, social and psychological features of your classroom
- particular activities - analyse the design and message of these activities
- A sub-group of pupils - analyse the role of this group within the class and the roles of key members within the group.
If the disaffection is more general, it is useful to ask the following questions:
- Is the curriculum offered appropriate for this class?
- Are the activities and activity structures clear, engaging and involving the pupils?
- Are the responsibilities in this class developed and shared, and are pupils involved in planning?
- Are classroom rules agreed, understood, accepted and used?
- Is there a positive sense of community in this classroom?
If you are experiencing problems making sense of an individual’s behaviour, it is useful to ask questions such as those appearing below.
- What behaviour is causing concern? (Specify this as clearly as you can).
- In what situations (ie settings/contexts, with whom) does the behaviour occur?
- In what situations does the behaviour not occur?
- What happens before the behaviour? Look for a precipitating pattern, a build-up or a trigger.
- What follows the behaviour causing concern – is it something which maintains the behaviour?
- What skills does the person demonstrate? Social/communication skills? Learning/classroom skills?
- What skills does the person apparently not demonstrate? How may these be developed?
- What view does the person have of their behaviour? What does it mean to them?
- What view does the person have of themselves? May their behaviour enhance that view?
- What view do others have of the person? How has this developed? Is it self-fulfilling? Can it change?
Avoid glib ways of ‘explaining’ behaviour, ie, ‘she’s an attention seeker’, ‘it’s adolescence: they have to challenge authority’, as they disempower you as the teacher and do not lead to a proactive approach.
Thinking about your own reactions
- As a key member of any teacher-pupil relationship, it is important that you understand your own reactions and behaviours.
- What are your triggers?
- What are your own preconceptions of schools, classrooms and pupils.
- How do you handle conflict?
If you are a member of ATL, think about taking advantage of one of our free training courses in managing behaviour that you could atttend. To find out more, see the training pages on the ATL website. You should also download (or order a hardcopy, if you are a member) Managing Classroom Behaviour, ATL’s popular publication.
You could also look at available tools for understanding behaviour and building learning relationships, such as transactional analysis, solution focussed therapy and many others.
Download ATL's free publication for students, Into the classroom, for further advice on how to get the most out of your studies.
Help and support
For further advice on this issue, ATL members can speak to their school rep, their branch secretary or their regional official. They can also call the London (020 7930 6441), Cardiff (029 2046 5000) or Belfast office (02890 327 990) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For out of hours enquiries, call the out of office hours helpline on 020 7782 1612 (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm during term time).
If you are not a member, join now.