Sunday, 10 January 2016

Teaching 101: Behaviour Management

Behaviour Management... it can be one teacher's strength, yet an area of weakness for another. But the research is pretty clear - "good classroom management has been consistently associated with academic achievement and increased on-task time" (Bender & Mathes. et. al. cited Konza, Grainger & Bradshaw. 2003. p42).

There are many behaviour management styles out there - perhaps you lean more towards the Group Management styles such as the Assertive Discipline Model or the Jones Model? Maybe you take a Behaviourist approach that arose from the work of Skinner? Or you could attempt to modify a student's behaviour by changing they way they thing based on the Cognitive Models?... Perhaps your management techniques stem from the Psychological or Needs-Based Communication Models from Dreikurs, Adler, Balson and Glasser?... Or maybe you are eclectic in style, and use Bill Rodger's approach of incorporating several different approaches according to the needs of you and your students?

But is any one style better than another? Personally, I feel it comes down to YOU - you are ultimately the one who is in control of HOW to take charge of the class. After all, you are the adult and the one that will be caring for the students' emotional, physical and academic needs.

During the first few days and weeks at school, the most important lesson you teach may be how to behave at school - teachers who communicate rules and expectations clearly regarding desired behaviours, have more successful students (Konza. et. al. 2003. p63). Before school commences, make sure you spend some time thinking about your expectations and designing a plan to help students meet them - coming up with a plan with how the complex mix of individuals within your class is not only going to learn, but survive, is an important part of establishing an environment which will limit problem behaviours. Your classroom discipline plan should consist of 3 components:

  1. A set of classroom rules;
  2. Positive recognition for those who obey the classroom rules; and
  3. A hierarchy of consequences for those who choose to disobey the classroom rules.
So let's break down these components:

1. Developing Classroom Rules:

There are some 'rules about rules' that will establish a set of workable and realistic rules/expectations etc. in your classroom. Ensure that whatever grade and subject you teach, you set aside time at the beginning of each year, and sometimes each term, to set up and revisit the classroom rules. And remember, you don't have to call them rules - some other titles could include Classroom Expectations, Our Class Contract, Our Agreement, Rules to be Cool, Code of Conduct, Miss G's Class Code, or whatever your students can come up with.
  • Develop the rules collaboratively: Most models of classroom management acknowledge the need for students to have some ownership over the rule, reward and consequence decision-making process. YOU are ultimately responsible and therefore have the final say in what will be included in the class rules, but this provides an opportunity for your students to see that you are willing to collaborate with them and will give them the opportunity to be heard.
  • Make Rules Reasonable and Enforceable: The expectations should be achievable otherwise you'll be spending much of your precious teaching time trying to enforce them. For example, a rule of 'No Talking' is simply not reasonable BUT there should be a rule or expectations about the level of noise permitted during various learning situations.
  • Match to your School's Policy: Ensure that your classroom rules are consistent and aligned with the school's policy. This also helps to ensure that there is a consistent set of expectations across the school and that parents and visitors are aware of them.
  • Short and Sweet: Rules and expectations expressed positively provide direction as to what should be done i.e. it is more useful to say "Listen when other people are talking" rather than a general "No Talking" rule. Having rules stated in a positive tone also means that when you comment on someone for doing the correct thing, it sends a message out to others about what you expect them to do.
  • Connect Rules and Consequences: Just as students should be involved in the creation of class rules, so too should they be involved in creating the consequences. Ensure that you provide direction on appropriate consequences and that they are in line with the school's policies. The consequences should also have increasing severity for repeat negative behaviours.
  • A Few Good Rules: Three to five should be sufficient, just ensure they're general in nature. You will need one to cover talking in class, another for movement in the classroom, one addressing how students should get the attention of you or their peers and some safety issues.
  • Teach and Revise: Read through the rules at the beginning of each day, or lesson, for at least the first two weeks. Refer to them regularly and ensure that you apply them consistently. Ensure that you discuss your rules, consequences and rewards so that everyone understands them and what they mean in practice - practical examples may need to be given, especially when working with students with special needs. 
  • Reinforce Consistently: You need to reinforce the rules consistently, especially in the first few weeks or you'll have wasted your time. Each time a student infringes the rules/expectations/code, reference should be made to the relevant rule.
  • As Pretty as a Picture: In Primary School, rules should be made up and displayed prominently. You could also make up a contract style form that students, teachers and parent sign to reinforce the importance and level of expectation - don't establish them and then forget about them. This ensures that students, their parents and anyone coming into the classroom is aware of the rules that are governing the behaviour in that class. If you have a secondary class, discuss and create a set of expectations with your students, then write them in the beginning of their books and refer to them at the beginning of each lesson, and as necessary.
  • An important caveat: It is every teachers right and responsibility to develop clear and explicit guidelines for behaviour without input from the class if there is a situation or group of students that is particularly difficult. They should still be discussed, and refined as needed, but you should provide strong guidance and control.

2. Positive Recognition:

"Catch them being good" is what positive recognition is all about. Lee and Marelene Canter believed that positive recognition of those doing the right thing will encourage and motivate other to choose the appropriate behaviour. They also believe it will increase self-esteem and creates a positive learning environment and established positive relationships in the classroom.

It is also ideal to have a whole class reward system set-up. This would allow the class, as a whole, to earn reward points for on task behaviour. When a predetermined number of points is earned the whole class is rewarded with a special prize of event. If an individual student's actions are impacting upon the whole class' attempt to earn reward points, they can be placed on a personal incentive program that offers more frequent rewards, and means the class is given points when he/she reaches the interim goal.

3. The Hierarchy of Consequences:

Classroom consequences are designed to represent what happens in the real world - if you disobey the rules of society, you will receive a consequence to match the inappropriate behaviour. The Canter's believe that is important to establish a clear set of classroom rules, consequences and rewards so that students realise that the classroom is not an exception.

It is important to remember that these are not punishments but a natural outcome to the behavioural choice of the student. The consequences should be something that the student does not like, but are not embarassing and physically or pshychologically harmful.

It is also important to remember that every day is a new day! Each new day brings new opportunities to learn from the previous day's mistakes. The teacher should begin administering consequences from the lowest level to provide students with a fresh start (that is, unless the behaviour and actions of the students demand action at a school level).

It is recommended that the class discipline plan be taught using the following steps:
  1. Explain WHY rules are needed;
  2. Teach the rules;
  3. Explain how positive recognition can be used;
  4. Explain why consequences are needed; and 
  5. Begin immediate recognition of those who follow the rules.
Along with the classroom rules, you should provide your students with clear examples of how you expect your students to act towards you, other students, other members of staff and visitors to the school and classroom. These types of cues help students understand the decent, responsible behaviour that is expected not only in your classroom, but by the wider community. You can do this by:
  • Listening to students
  • Teaching them how to behave
  • Disciplining respectfully
  • Use positive before punitive strategies
  • Providing choices
  • "Nipping it in the bud"
  • Not over reacting
  • Staingy calm
  • Avoiding secondary behaviour
  • Always following up
  • Being on their side
  • Always rewarding appropriate behaviour.

For more information on the The Canter Model of behaviour management, also known as the Assertive Management Model, check out this presentation I created for a subject in my Masters Degree. It should provide you with a good overview of this model, as well as links to other management models. 

So what does the Canter Model look like in a classroom...

In my first ever teaching position, I'd set up the student's desks so that they were sitting independently. I created a seating chart that had them sitting in alphabetical order, boy-girl-boy-girl (I was lucky I had a fairly even mix). I made them line up before entering the class before school and at the end of each break. On my first day we sat down together and created a set of class rules, consequences and rewards, and went through these every day for the most of the first term!!!! At the beginning of every lesson I made sure to be explicit in what I wanted them to achieve in the allocated time. And I didn't waver  in my expectations or the rules/consequences for certain students - I had a boy who was on the Spectrum in my class - up until this point (half way through Year 4!!!!) he would chuck a tanty and get out of doing any class work. Unfortunately he got me as his new teacher, and much to his dismay, I didn't give in to his shenanigans. While I provided assistance for him to complete his work, the expectations on him were the same as the rest of the class - as were the consequences. He soon learned, and was completing all tasks and assessments - he even got up and did a speech in front of the class!!!!!!!!!! (That was my first memorable teaching moment!).

Don't confuse being assertive with being power hungry - the assertive teaching style is about:
  • Knowing your students;
  • Developing warm relationships with them;
  • Stating your expectations clearly;
  • Developing a clear and concise classroom discipline  plan that is fair and reasonable;
  • Recognising and rewarding those who choose to follow the rules and do the right thing; and
  • Consistently applying consequences when rules are not followed.
Rules exist in every social situation and group - they just may not be explicitly stated.  Students need to understand that they need to abide by rules or there will be consequences. And don't be afraid to show students that you mean business from the get-go. You will earn their respect, and once that happens you will be able to relax and start having fun with your group!

I'd love to hear what behaviour management style works for you and what strategies you employ in your classroom.


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