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Effective Classroom and Behaviour Management | November 5
There are many approaches available to teachers to support classroom and behaviour management. Many approaches take ideas from a variety of theoretical bases, using and adapting strategies to create a functional and valuable approach. This essay aims to provide a critical analysis of some of these approaches and also details priorities for personal and professional development. | Approaches to Classroom and Behavior Management |


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Introduction 3
Prominent Theories 4
Behaviourism 4
Cognitivism 4
Humanism 5
Constructivism 5
Assertive Discipline 6
Whole School Approach 8
Application of Approach within School (A) 10
Application of Approach with regards to EBD Students 12
Professional Development Priorities for BTE1 14
Conclusion 15
References 16


There are a plethora of theories and approaches to behaviour and classroom management available to teachers today, these theories empower us, allowing us to organise our ideas, and develop a clearer approach to our practices (Porter, 2000). Many approaches take ideas from a variety of theoretical bases, using and adapting strategies to create a functional and valuable approach.

There are a range of expectations faced by teachers today to deliver, with one of the most daunting aspects for trainee teachers being behaviour management (Konza et al 2001). Therefore it is imperative to consider some approaches to managing such behaviour; this is a view supported by Moles (1990) who suggests that many events occur simultaneously, requiring teachers to act often and immediately to circumstances, where the course of events is often unpredictable. Classroom management is sometimes attributed to, or considered a reaction to, pupil misbehaviour, the reality is however, that order within a class is achieved and maintained by the teacher??™s ability to systematise and guide a complex scheme of activities, as well as academic work (Moles, 1990).

This essay begins by outlining some of the underlying theories on which some behaviour and classroom management approaches are based upon. It goes onto consider and critically analyse two approaches, ???Assertive Discipline??™ by Lee and Marlene Canter and the ???Whole School Approach??™ by Bill Rogers. The latter of these, the ???Whole School Approach??™ will be given particular focus as it is widely implemented and is the approach adopted by my placement school. The approach is considered with regards to students with ???Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties???, with the essay concluding on the priorities for my professional development and practice, to be applied during my first block teaching placement.
Prominent Theories

Educators and psychologists, among others, promote many theories, approaches and strategies for school teachers, with many having overlapping ideas and conceptual bases, becoming an amalgamation of thoughts and opinions (Steere, 1988). This section provides a brief outline on some of the more fundamental and commonly exploited theories, and aims to identify some underlying theoretical concepts.

Behaviourism is based upon on the theory that all ???behaviours??™ are actions in response to external and environmental stimuli. The theory is attributed to J B Watson, and defines learning as the acquiring of new behaviour through conditioning. Conditioning itself is divided into two major categories, classic conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is the observed effect of a natural reflex to an external stimulus. Operant conditioning however, takes its routes from B F Skinner, who further developed Pavlov??™s ideas, building on the role on positive and negative stimuli, as well as behaviour reinforcement (Nevid 2008).

The cognitive movement first came to light around 1929 with Bode challenging and criticising behaviourism for its apparent disregard for the activities of the mind. Cognitivists argued that mental processes of the mind required further exploration, with thought given to thinking, memory and emotions. This lead to the creation of many approaches we see today, which are widely implemented by teachers who favour its theoretical foundations.
A humanistic approach to learning focuses on the learner itself as an individual, giving superiority to human needs and interests. The theory goes onto suggest that it is important to observe an individual as a whole, through their lifespan and as one develops (Huitt 2001). This is a stark contrast compared to behaviourism and the view of operant conditioning, which as previously mentioned; adopts an approach which disregards such factors when considering human learning.

Lastly, constructivism is based upon the learner constructing knowledge, rather than acquiring it. Constructivism is thought to have risen from Piaget??™s disaffection from the current theories of the day (Steffe et al, 1995). The theory proposes that learning occurs from the construction of knowledge through experiences, which Glasersfeld (1996) observes, are all essentially subjective. Vygotsky further developed this theory, suggesting learning is more effective in groups, as opposed to individual learning, and this is now referred to as social constructivism.

Assertive Discipline

Assertive discipline is an approach put forward by Lee and Marlene Canter. It aims to provide educators with a framework to establish order and discipline within a learning environment. The approach is predominantly founded upon the ideology of the behaviourist movement, and adapts consistent rules regarding positive and negative behaviour. An underlying theme expressed is one where the teacher has ???a right to teach??™ and the learner has ???a right to learn??™ (Tauber 2007).

The approach stems from the perceived lack of respect for authority which is observed within society today, and is therefore considered an authoritarian approach (Porter 2007). In order to achieve this, Canter and Canter recommend the teacher has high levels of control within the classroom environment, thus asserting themselves and demanding respect from all. The approach applies itself by defining clear and concise behaviour boundaries, setting fixed and consistent limits. It also encourages positive recognition and positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour, as well as definite and firm consequences and sanctions for behaviour deemed inappropriate.

Canter and Canter??™s approach to classroom management has had success when practically implemented, studies have shown a marked improvement in pupil performance and diminished disruptive behaviour, under the assertive discipline approach. One such study conducted by Mandlebaum, 1983, found a class wide reduction of out-of-seat behaviour and inappropriate talking (McCormack 1987). A separate study by McCormack (1985/1986) concluded that classes in which the assertive discipline approach was adopted, showed significant reductions in off-task behaviour (McCormack 1987).

However, there is concern voiced by some regarding Canter and Canter??™s assertive discipline, predominantly surrounding it authoritarian and ???take-control??™ nature. Some of its more fierce critics include Curwin and Mendler (1988), who argued that such ???obedience models??™, their view on assertive discipline, were a method of achieving quick results and less likely to develop pupils who recognised and understood the deep and underlying principles behind the rules set by the school (Tauber 2007). This is a view supported by Render et al (1989) who rejected Canter and Canter??™s claims, due to the limited research that had been conducted, which suggested otherwise. Concern was also expressed regarding the emphasis put on the teacher authoritative role as opposed to encouraging building constructive between pupils and teacher (Tauber 2007).

Conversely, Canter responded by clarifying how the approach focuses on positive behaviour as well as negative behaviour, claiming the approach had been misunderstood and misinterpreted (Tauber 2007). Canter goes onto say that a teacher should find ???something for which to praise a child, at least once a day??™, conveying how praise is an integral part of the approach. This is a view supported by McCormack (1987) who describes how some teachers start by using the approach with good intentions, but begin ignoring the praise aspect of the approach and focus on the negatives, thus the negative reputation.

Although ???Assertive Discipline??™ has been shown to be effective in achieving improvements in classroom management and pupil performance, these studies have been limited and are not considered thorough by many, Render et al 1989, for example. Therefore an approach which is less teacher centred and more focused on a collaborative effort between all involved entities, I believe, may be more beneficial, a view supported by Curwin et al (1999)

Whole School Approach

The whole school approach is again one that finds its roots under the behaviourism branch of psychology. The approach grounds itself on ???pupil ownership??™ of behaviour and is often associated with Bill Rogers (2007). As a predominantly behaviourist approach, conditioning ideas are drawn upon and positive reinforcement is encouraged. It is formed from a range of strategies which combine to form a ???whole school??™ strategy to promote positive behaviour and to discourage inappropriate behaviour.

Rogers presents the approach as one which includes all those who are involved in a students learning, ranging from the student themselves, to the teachers and parents. This integration of all entities involved, allows creating an environment where all are aware of expected standards and therefore hopes to generate a positive and productive environment (Rogers 2007). In order to achieve this, school rules and expectations are set mutually between staff and students, also, consequences to breaking these rules are also agreed upon, therefore creating an atmosphere of cooperation and one where it is hoped, bad behaviour will be minimised. As its name suggests, this approach needs to be adopted by the whole school, therefore individual and personal management strategies may be detrimental to its implementation, hence the approach requires everyone to work as part of a common framework of discipline and praise.

One of the more predominant strategies used by the whole school approach, is one of ???positive discipline??™. It puts onus on the teacher to behave in a manner which creates a positive learning environment, using appraisal and appropriate corrective language, thus correction is given in a way which minimises stress and promotes the self-esteem of those being corrected. (Rogers 2007). Although language plays a major role, other strategies including changing the tone of voice or body posture, eye contact and ones proximity to the students can also be as effective as corrective and reinforcement policies.

Although studies have revealed the whole school approach to be successful when implemented, (Luiselli et al 2005), these studies are not conclusive and require further implementation across a wider spectrum, to fully analyse and evaluate the approach. However, many have commented on its successful and seamless integration, a view which I support. The Improving Schools Program, part of the National Primary Strategy, supported and promoted the approach as one which strengthens accountability and raises pupil expectation, creating a supportive framework to place teaching and learning securely at the heart of the schools agenda (DCSF, 2009).

I believe the whole school approach is one where a positive learning environment is achieved with utmost urgency, and is an approach which encourages pupils to take responsibilities for their own learning. The under emphasis on teacher authoritarianism creates a positive and mutual atmosphere where pupils are more likely to choose behaviour deemed appropriate. Although it is largely based upon behaviourist theory, it tends to also draw upon emotions and behaviours of individuals, which is largely attributed to the cognitive movement. Also, influences of humanistic and constructivist theories can be observed, whereby pupil integration is encouraged and communication is championed, Rogers asks teacher to be aware of a pupils emotional pathology and home environment (Rogers 2007).

Application of Whole School Approach within School (A)

School A, a large comprehensive school at which I am based at for my placement, adopts a classroom and behaviour management approach which has many parallels with that of Bill Rogers??™ ???whole school approach??™. The feedback from teachers seems to suggest that the approach is successful at achieving a learning environment which is not only positive, but one where pupils are responsible for their actions, which are in turn, reinforced positively. The school aims to provide a clear framework to support teachers in providing discipline in a concise yet consistent manner across the school, which I believe has resulted in increased classroom management and an environment where teachers are able to collaborate and share concerns openly, thus further enhancing the delivery of the strategies.

The schools policy booklet gives particular emphasis to praise and reward, and actively encourages the recognition of behaviour which the school considers appropriate. As well as consistent praise for good behaviour, teachers use class and individual merits to reinforce positive behaviour, merits are accumulated by individuals and classes with rewards provided to students who have, time after time, exceeded expectations. The whole process is reemphasised by each class displaying a ???Praise Triangle??™, which clearly outlines a hierarchical pathway to possible rewards for student who act in line with the school behaviour policy. This practice was more evident at KS3 and less so at KS4, with the focus at KS4 diverting to possible nominations for the school??™s annual awards ceremony. All in all, these practices share common ground with Rogers (2007) who promotes positive behaviour and this approach seems to be very effective at school A.

As well as consistent praise, the schools policy booklet clearly outlines sanctions of bad behaviour, with opportunity given at all stages for the student to change their behaviour, thus pupils are responsible for their own behaviour. The sanctions take the form of a ???consequence triangle??™ which is a clearly and well defined hierarchical structure of positive discipline, with parents, teachers and pupils involved at all stages. Although it is predominantly consistent with Rogers??™ approach, the school does not agree upon creating rules mutually with pupils, and adopts some strategies which take root from Canter and Canter??™s assertive discipline.

School A??™s consistent application of the approach has resulted in much improved behaviour throughout, and teachers feel confident of the support structure in place when dealing with pupil misbehaviour. Many teachers I have observed implement the approach with positive and immediate results, creating a positive learning environment in line with Rogers??™s whole school approach.

Application of Whole School Approach with regards to EBD Students

EBD, emotional and behavioural difficulties, is a category in which pupils, who may have underlying issues to their behaviour, are sometimes grouped in. Pupils regarded as having EBD??™s present special challenges to parents, teachers and other professionals alike (Cooper 2005). A particular issue regarding EBD??™s is the effect of such actions on others who do not exhibit the problems, thus leading to an environment where learning can be inhibited for others. Cooper (2005) suggests that this can manifest itself as a personal threat to the authority of the teacher and the teacher??™s competency to provide a safe and positive learning environment. Therefore it is imperative to teachers to consider and evaluate approaches to dealing with such issues and develop and understanding of some of the underlying factors.

The whole school approach acknowledges the possible impact of EBD??™s and defines how parents and teachers can improve behaviour, through increased collaboration (Rogers 2007). Rogers suggests an individual behaviour plan to be created for pupils with EBD??™s, he goes onto express how pupils with EBD??™s are less likely to learn positive behaviour from their peers, rather they require plans to specifically teach academic and social survival skills (Rogers 2007).

A behaviour management plan is one created by both teacher and pupil, with the teacher adopting a sympathetic approach, considering social and environmental factors. The plans aim to emphasise appropriate behaviour and do not make assumptions regarding the student??™s prior experiences (Rogers 2007). Rogers identifies behaviour plans as contractual agreement and emphasises the importance of its implementation with the whole school approach, highlighting the significance of colleague support to augment moral and motivation of all teaching staff (Rogers 2007).
The whole school approach takes an active interest in pupils with EBD??™s as it takes into account the detrimental effect such behaviour can have within the learning environment of a classroom. This further enhances my support for the approach, as I believe behaviour plans increase pupil motivation due to being a mutual arrangement which defines how improvements could be made, to both a pupil??™s academic, social behaviour, and achievement.

At school A, Rogers??™ approach is championed, whereby students have specific and tailored behaviour plans. These are formed on a one-to-one basis with pupils, with support from the schools own behaviour management unit. Short term achievable targets and aims are produced mutually, which are expected to increase motivation and promote pupil self esteem. I am persuaded that this approach will result in greater feeling of pupil self responsibility and management of ones own behaviour, and is therefore something to consider for all trainee teachers.

Professional Development Priorities for BTE1

As a trainee teacher, I intend to further enhance my knowledge surrounding behaviour management, trying out new ideas and strategies to adapt an approach which is specific to its learning environment. In order to achieve this, I endeavour to take a holistic approach, taking influences from all the main psychological theories. I also recognise the importance of the need to adapt and fit in a school??™s existing approach, therefore flexibility and willingness are key, hence my desire to strive towards these attributes.

As a classroom teacher, I will aim to actively engage with pupils, and define clear boundaries, mutually agreed upon, consequently, having defined outcomes to inappropriate behaviour in order to discourage it. Conversely, I will praise and reward positive behaviour, and aim to establish a positive learning environment where all pupils have the right to learn and the teacher has the right to teach, with the ultimate goal of pupils becoming responsible for their own actions and behaviours.

I will seek to continually reflect on my approach to behaviour management and my interaction with pupil behaviours. I will aspire to gain knowledge from all peers, in order to evaluate some of the strategies they use, allowing me to revise and analyse my own strategies. In the future, I would like to develop an approach, in consultation with colleagues, which is pre-eminently tailored to the pupils I will be teaching.


There are many approaches, with an assortment of underlying theories, available to teachers to support classroom and behaviour management. Many approaches have been implemented, with varying degrees of success, but these studies become an invaluable resource for data and knowledge concerning how children learn. No one approach addresses all issues which a teacher could be faced with, rather it is a combination of strategies, customised for its audience.

It must however be considered, that many viewpoints surrounding behaviour management approaches, in fact all approaches, are deeply subjective, therefore one must keep an open mind and be inviting to new ideas and strategies. Even though one may make every effort to discourage inappropriate behaviour, the likelihood suggests that it will still remain present, thus requiring teachers to focus on individual behaviour rather than the individual themselves. Isolating behaviour from the individual allows the teacher to make more appropriate reinforcement actions, while remaining calm and collected.

To conclude, the whole school approach is one which is in line with my beliefs regarding pupil learning, also, the approach seems to be very systematic and is accepted by all when implemented. It gives the pupils a sense of ownership and gives the teacher a structural and mutual manner in which to manage their classroom environment. I am sure my views and opinions will be modified as I progress through my teaching career, but I remain sure that a pupil??™s elementary right to ???learn??™ must be a fundamental basis upon which all approaches should be built.
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