There’s a lot to know in effective teaching. Sure, you’ve got to pin down your subject and study the curriculum – that’s a given. But there’s also all that admin to do, there’s the emotional support that you’re often required to give, and then there’s that thing called behaviour management.
Behaviour management is perhaps the hardest part of being a teacher. It’s for sure the bit that people applying to be teachers dread the most. It requires an awful lot of guts, a cool-headedness, and a conviction in your own ability to handle the situation. These things aren’t nothing, really. However, luckily, they can be learned.
Getting to grips with behaviour management strategies and theories is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. It isn’t just abstract teaching philosophy; it has real practical implications for your ability to manage a classroom.
Knowing the principles behind behaviour management will help you to reduce disruptive behaviour in the classroom environment – and it will get you back in control of your lessons and teaching.
It’s really important – for both new teachers and tutors and more experienced one – to pay attention to it. So, let’s run through some of the basics. Here is all you might need to know about effective behaviour management.
Why Effective Behaviour Management is Important
Now, we’ve said that behaviour management is important. But it is important to look at why this is the case.
Strong classroom management skills are the fundamental element for teaching that works. Above and beyond everything else – knowledge of your subject or your general niceness and care – behaviour management is the thing that turns a bad teacher into a good one.
The thing is that it is impossible to get onto positive learning if the class is out of control. It is impossible to get onto the content in your lesson plans if you have to deal with constant interruptions or inattention.
So, effective behaviour management wins every single time. And this is not about your ability to praise or reward or discipline or give out punishments. No. Rather, it is about the ways that you can bring the best out of your students and prepare them for success in the future.
Here are some reasons why behaviour management is so important.
Effective Classroom Management Helps Student Engagement – and Student Achievement
You’re not there to be punishing and praising, no. You’re really there to create a learning environment that works for every single person in the class.
This is what effective class management does: it allows the whole group to engage with the subject and give the best possible conditions for student learning.
The endgame here is not a group of kids that sit quietly and do as they are told. But a class where lively and respectful conversations are possible – and where everyone can be stretched to fulfil their full academic potential.
Classroom Management Strategies Create Consistency and Routine
It is difficult to dedicate your attention to learning when, with every new day, there are different expectations on you.
Managing behaviour well means managing it consistently, in a way in which actions have predictable consequences. If you are following a set of classroom procedures, do actually follow them – or the alternative is that your students do not know where they are at.
If they are paying more attention navigating constantly changing rules, they are paying less attention to their work. And it is consistency and routine that makes this happen.
Behaviour Management Skills Save You Time – and Energy
According to one study by Ofsted, nearly forty days are lost a year on classroom disruptions. That’s forty days of learning wasted, forty days of potential progress.
Whilst it is difficult to imagine how precisely this is measured, the point remains: if you are continuously trying to manage classroom behaviour and explaining to your students what is expected, you are allowing less learning time.
So, develop your behaviour management skills – because you’ll save yourself a lot of energy too.
Behaviour Management Theories
As we said, behaviour management is much more nuanced and interesting than a phrase like ‘classroom discipline’ would have you believe. Classroom discipline would rightly be the very last moment in the whole progression of behaviour management – yet the theories span infinitely further back.
Behaviour management theories are, rather, full accounts of the reasons and motivators behind people’s behaviour. And it is for this reason that you should pay attention to what they have to say.
B.F. Skinner is known for two different terms in behaviour management theory. The first, operant conditioning, was the name that he gave to the process he identified. ‘Positive reinforcement’, however, was the name of the technique he argued for within the process of managing behaviour.
This, roughly, followed the theories of classical conditioning in science, which observed that animals develop automatic responses to neutral stimuli when those stimuli are associated with positive or negative results.
For Skinner, if people associate a behaviour with a positive consequence, they are more likely to repeat it; if with a negative consequence, they are less likely. This became the basis for his management practice.
The ideas of William Glasser were a bit more unusual – and his theories were not free from criticism.
In what came to be known as Glasser’s ‘choice theory’, the assumption was that all of someone’s behaviour is a choice. If, as a teacher, you tell a child to do something or not to do it, all you are doing is transferring information to that child; in the end, it is their choice whether or not to do it.
Alfie Kohn is a behaviour theorist who is known for ideas that are student-directed. For Kohn, the students’ ideas and contributions drive the programme of study – rather than a curriculum that is dished out from on high.
Kohn believes that school should be more about making meaning than receiving information – whilst the motivators for study and good behaviour need to be intrinsic. They need to be found within the process of learning itself.
Why You Should Learn Behaviour Management Theory
Does this stuff sound of any relevance to you at all? Is there a way that you could integrate some of these ideas into your classroom management style?
Behaviour management theory is important because it informs the strategy that you use as a teacher every day. From understanding what makes your kids tick to considering the appropriate consequence for a particular behaviour – behaviour management theory really helps.
Find out more about some essential behaviour management theories in our dedicated article.
Some Essential Classroom Management Techniques
Developing a classroom management strategy that does prevent children from misbehaving – calling out or whatever it might be – does require some thought. However, there are ways that have been very successful for many teachers in getting their kids to behave well and in developing an environment for the classroom in which they develop their social skills and be learn simultaneously.
Here are some classroom management tips for you to get the most out of your students’ behaviour.
Allow Students to Contribute to Creating Classroom Rules and Procedures
One of the most effective ways to get your students onside is to invite them to contribute to the rules and procedures that control the classroom.
Have a discussion about what they think are appropriate expectations on everyone and ask them what they think would be an effective consequence if anyone broke the rules.
It will be fun – and it will give the students a stake in the rules themselves.
Be Consistent in Your Classroom Management
Once you have decided your rules, stick to them. It is important for children to be able to associate a given behaviour with a given consequence – otherwise, they don’t know what to expect at all.
Allow the class to navigate the rules correctly, by being consistent in the way that you apply them. They won’t be happy if they see what they think is unfairness.
Encourage Curiosity in Your Students
Curiosity should be one of the central qualities that you develop in your students: an interest in the world around them and a desire to keep on learning.
Finding ways to develop this hunger for learning is key to behaviour management. Set them tasks that are open-ended and self-directed. Let them discuss things that interest them. Allow them to share their ideas with other people.
Finally, one of the under-recognised elements of behaviour management is the need for you to stay personally detached. You need to stay cool and calm regardless of what happens.