Let's talk about Behaviour Management

ATEAN event

 In association with

Critical Publishing


On Monday 27th March 2017 colleagues came together at the University of Cumbria to talk about Behaviour Management.

Why we thought it was a good idea to talk about this: Behaviour management in schools is an area for perennial discussion. There are many theories and talk of ‘easy fixes’ on the one hand and great complexity on the other. Questions are myriad. How is ‘good’ behaviour promoted? What is ‘good’ behaviour? What is ‘bad’ behaviour? What are effective strategies? What about rewards and sanctions? Whose responsibility is behaviour in school? The individual? The school? The senior management? What about ‘low level’ disruption? How can consistency be attained? Is it important how you teach, what you teach, when you teach…? This event aimed to give colleagues the opportunity to consider many issues and share ideas and inspirations.

Critical Publishing and TEAN were delighted to welcome Professor Susan Wallace, Nottingham Trent University to lead this day. Susan Wallace is Emeritus Professor of Education at Nottingham Trent University where, for many years, part of her role was to support learning on the initial training courses for teachers in the FE sector. She has researched and published extensively on education, training and management of behaviour, and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences. Her particular interests are in mentoring and the motivation and behaviour of students.

Many thanks to Susan Wallace for an excellent day – and also to all the delegates who showed such enthusiasm and interest in our topic and gave such excellent presentations to everyone on the day.

Among many the messages that Susan Wallace shared with us were these:

  • What is ‘bad’ behaviour? = That which is not conducive to learning or blocks others’ learning.
  • ‘Disengaged’ behaviour.
  • Consider power. How can power be used/shared to good effect?
  • Set up systems to avoid discipline problems before they arise.
  • Be careful with language – avoid negatives – use phrases like: ‘I would like you to …’
  • Smile!
  • Demotivators are things like: fear (of failure etc.), boredom, previous negative experiences, loss of hope.
  • People need to: see the point in doing something; have the ability to do it; need to take pride in what they are doing; do something which fits the image of who they are.
  • Teacher discourse is key.

Notes from the group discussions can be accessed below

Group notes

What messages have you considered during the day which will be useful to share with colleagues?

Group 1

  • The interface between theory, literature and practice (vignettes / case study examples) is key in understanding aspects of a complex phenomenon such as Behaviour Management.
  • There is essentially no quick fix. Many variables affect the success of effective classroom management and experience plays a key part in developing appropriate skills.
  • Behaviour Management is a whole-school issue. It may be that individual teaches are better behaviour managers that others, but a whole school support system will help all teachers.
  • Good teaching with associated pupil learning is probably the most/ one of the most effective Behaviour Management strategies.
  • Motivators are important in learning and may be responsible for aspects of behaviour that are not necessarily due to the teacher or their peer teaching.

Group 2

  • Learners are motivated when doing the task fits their image of who they are. We feel this links to the identity issues of students.
  • Research by the University of Chicago – monetary rewards work for straightforward and moderate tasks but not for more complex tasks as autonomy, mastery and purpose are the students’ own reward.
  • The best reward is a teacher who is enthusiastic and happy. This is a hard act, and can be an act, but smiling achieves a great deal. Show you like them. Two thirds of the group said that this was a feature of their best teacher.
  • Rules should be easy to understand in practice, few in number, apply to staff as well as learners, be positive where possible.
  • The responsibility for supporting good behaviour is with the institution.

Group 3

  • Assessment driven focus has impacted on consumer attitude from students in the classroom.
  • Encouraging a positive attitude/ façade in order to positively impact in the classroom.
  • Essential to have clear expectations – occasionally frustrated by a lack of management support.
  • Student/ teacher exchanges need to be transparent/ honest communication.

Group 4

  • Teaching is a human experience. First we need to understand our own behaviours, responses and triggers.
  • Theory versus experience or theory and experience complementing one another.
  • Institutional approach / infrastructure to support staff and students.
  • To acknowledge that we do not know what it is like to be an adolescent today (Pressure/ distraction of social media etc.)

Groups 5

  • Consistency of approach – ‘brand image’ so everyone knows what your classroom is like. Praising all who deserve it no matter if this is their ‘normal’ behaviour.
  • Rewards/sanctions – teacher being clear and consistent. Enthusiastic, happy teacher is rewarding. ‘Withholding’ might work.
  • Knowing that you did not create the problem – do not take it personally.
  • Gurus and Czars – a critical perspective.

Ideas drawn from you own experience

Group 1

  • Pupils should have the right to learn (and teachers should have the right to teach).
  • Respect others and give them the courtesy of listening / supporting whilst they give their contributions.
  • Opinions are valued and this classroom is a safe space for everyone.
  • Acting as a positive role model is important. If you treat others with respect and consideration they are more likely to do the same to you.
  • You have to try to get pupils to recognise that it is their own control of their behaviour, rather than solely the teacher’s responsibility.
  • Whole school rules and their consistent enforcement are key to individual class rules.

Group 2

  • Attend all lessons and be on time.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to the group agreement.
  • Be respectful to yourself and others in our classroom.
  • Plan our time to meet all deadlines.
  • Value all feedback from peers and teacher.

Group 3

  • Ensure you listen when your teacher or another student is talking – you would want them to listen to you.
  • Create the classroom environment that you would want to be taught in / teach in.
  • Remember that everyone’s opinion is important and we need to respect this and treat all views as worthy of consideration.
  • Provide an instruction rather than an order.
  • Collaborative design of classroom rules allows learners to have some ownership of the rules – also allows them to be revisited and reinforced as they were drawn up together.
  • Comes a point when you may have to stand firm.

Group 4

  • Positive rules are more assertive – say what you want the behaviours to be.
  • Co-construct rules with learners. They know what they need and will ‘buy in.


  • Commit to learning – it’s OK to get it wrong along the way.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Celebrate each others’ success.
  • Arrive at lessons prepared for the class (materials, pre-reading, attitude).

Group 5

  • Clarity of the message and clarity of expectations – easy to make visual.
  • Shared responsibility – we versus me – therefore inclusive
  • ‘Do nots’ are infinite, compared to a finite amount of ‘dos’. (However N.B. Do nots’ are necessary for health and safety reasons – so link them to positives.)
  • Positive rules – ‘depersonalises’ ‘misbehaviour’ management.


  • Rules??? Possible code of conduct, class/group charters
  • Essential safety rules identified – rules appropriate to classroom/ scenario/ subject.
  • It is important to build ‘relationships and getting to know the children – e.g. how do children want to learn?
  • Encourage compliance – towards an agreed code of conduct – through: Reminders linked to code of conduct; glances, ‘looks’; physical presence; Are you OK?; ‘marble jar’ – class working towards shared goal.


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