Many schools have been reporting an increase in poor or disruptive behaviour, citing the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic as the primary reason. Whether behaviour has deteriorated or not has been open to debate amongst the education community, however, what can be agreed upon is that the classroom needs to be a positive learning environment for effective learning to take place.
Schools will have their own guidance around how teachers and support staff are expected to deal with unacceptable behaviour. The EEF’s Improving behaviour in schools is a useful starting point for school leaders to evaluate and improve their strategies to support improvement in this area. The six recommendations have been compiled from a meta-analysis of international research and input from teachers and other experts. They provide not only the recommendations but also some practical examples of how to approach the areas identified. This work will underpin the work to be undertaken by Behaviour Hubs in the three year, Department for Education funded programme which started in the summer term to improve student behaviour.
There are, of course, lots of tools and strategies that can be used to support positive behaviour and learning in the classroom. Here are some of our top tips for achieving this in your classroom. We’ve also signposted some additional resources and support if you would like to develop this area further.
So what are our 10 top tips for managing behaviour?
- Manage your own behaviours. Children mimic the behaviours they witness. As the adult and professional you should model the correct behaviour. Take more notice of the good behaviour than you do of the poorer behaviour and this will improve your paradigm. Stay calm at all times and avoid bringing emotion into your behaviour management.
- Know your children. Know what makes them tick, get to know their triggers and understand their needs. There are some students who may find it difficult to behave in line with expectations due to identified SEND. Keep your high expectations, follow school policy but adapt your approach.
- Build positive relationships. This is not just being nice, this is by being fair and consistent with clearly defined rules and boundaries - and moreover, good communication of them. Application of the first two tips will help you build this relationship quicker.
- Non-verbal communication. Use positive body language. Smile as often as you can to show students that you are enthusiastic and happy to teach them. Often a stern stare is more powerful than a shout. Low level disruptive behaviour can often be simply addressed by techniques such as walking over to stand near pupils or putting your hand in the air when waiting for quiet.
- Verbal communication. Following on from the use of body language, the use of positive language is important. A positive word when the pupils arrive at your door goes a long way. Think about your instructions, especially when relating to behaviour. For example, rather than saying “Stop talking” try saying “I’m waiting for all students to focus on me”. Instead of saying “Why are you not working?” try repeating the task again to the individual.
- Routines set the standard for behaviour. They provide a consistent structure and demonstrates that you are in control. This can be particularly helpful in organising group or practical work. Your routines should embed any school-wide policies, such as how students enter the classroom.
- Noticing any positive behaviour and giving it the recognition it deserves is essential. You can praise your pupils immediately or catch them later in the day. You can send a note home or a quick call home. Perhaps even use rewards if this is part of your school policy. This noticing of good behaviour will help you with top tip 1.
- Early intervention and prevention. Much of what has been suggested so far are preventative measures, but where issues are starting to arise be sure to nip them in the bud early. Calm them at the door, walk over to those chatting while you’re talking, have a positive conversation with someone who looks like they’re having a bad day.
- Relentless follow up. Never promise a reward or threaten a sanction that you won’t follow through with. Pupils need to know that you are fair and consistent and you mean what you say. Make sure you follow up by using strategies such as phoning home, catching them in the corridor, completing their behaviour log, and providing continual praise. This hard work will pay off over time.
- Follow the school policy. If all of the above have been exhausted, be sure to follow the school’s behaviour policy to ensure consistency. Be careful not to revert straight to school policy driven sanctions.
If you would like to explore further strategies on general pedagogical approaches to managing behaviour then we have a variety of resources and professional development to support you:
Online (self-guided) course
Our Managing behaviour for learning self-guided course is a generic course suitable for all phases which explores how your behaviour influences your students. Drawing upon examples experienced in the UK, it is suitable for any teachers and support staff that want to develop their skills in this area. You will leave the course with some of the latest behaviour management techniques to develop your classroom effectiveness.
Our Behaviour for learning resource collection covers a wide range of topics relating to behaviour management
Some subjects, such as practical subjects, may have additional classroom management requirements. Managing a practical activity, whether in terms of self-directed learning and research on a laptop, or gathering equipment for an experiment in the laboratory. We have a number of more subject-specific CPD that can help to support you in these areas:
Online (self-guided) course
Managing the practical classroom : secondary science is a self-guided course which explores all aspects of practical activities in the school or college laboratory, including managing behaviour and fostering positive attitudes.
Science Learning Partnership (Face to face course)
Behaviour management in science develops your classroom style with strategies to create a positive learning environment in science. This will enable students who may not behave positively to engage with the challenges they may face in learning literacy, numeracy and practical skills.
Science Learning Partnership (Remote course)
Teaching assistants supporting science in primary school supports teaching assistants to work with pupils with challenging behaviour. The course looks at strategies to promote vocabulary, develop thinking skills and to organise engaging practical learning.
Science Network Meetings also often cover topical issues such as behaviour management. There are a number of different types of network meetings that we offer. Follow the links below to see what is available to access remotely or face to face in your region:
Primary science subject leaders’ network meetings (Primary)
Early career secondary science network meetings (Secondary)
Subject leader network meetings (Secondary)
Coming soon from the NCCE:
Behaviour for learning in the computing environment. This short course takes some of the key learnings from our Managing behaviour for learning self-guided course and applies it to the computing environment. The course looks at the issues you are likely to see in a computing lab and while using digital devices and also covers rules, routines, recognition and early interventions.
DfE (2021) Behaviour hubs – Guidance
EEF (2019) Improving behaviour in schools – guidance report https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/education-evidence/guidance-reports/behaviour
Join the discussion and tell us your top tips in the Primary STEM & 11-19 Science groups.