How can I ensure that behaviour management systems are student-centred?

Disruptive behaviour happens in all schools and to all teachers at some point. It is a frustration to schools because it is a barrier to learning, and can easily affect the well-being of teachers.

If we accept that all behaviour is about communicating something, it is important that any behaviour management system addresses behaviour from the perspective of those who are doing the communicating – the students.

The first step for any teacher seeking to ensure that their behaviour management systems are student-centred is to ensure they know what is important to their students and what is important for them (i.e. how best to support them). Supporting students to gather this information in a one-page profile is an ideal way to increase student awareness of themselves as learners and to ensure that this rich information is kept in a simple, accessible format, thereby helping to ensure consistency of approach with students. This is a vital part of any behaviour management system.

Beginning with Appreciation (part of one-page profiles) is a good way to instil positive behaviour management that is centred on the students. Listing all the positive characteristics about a student, gathered from what others like and admire about them, enables students to develop a strong sense of themselves as valued individuals. Helping students to see that they have gifts to make a positive contribution to school life is a valuable behaviour management tool in itself.

The good day/bad day tool is an excellent way to support students to understand the factors and influences that make a good day good and a bad day bad for them. Through this, they begin to understand what is important to them in school, what makes them a better learner. This level of understanding is important to support a collaborative approach to behaviour management which is the responsibility of both teacher and students. Information drawn from using this person-centred thinking tool will help staff to think about changes they can make to the way they approach students, the way the classroom is organised, the approach to learning, etc, in order to provide a learning environment supportive of the individuals they are teaching here and now. Collating responses from a class or cohort provides a strong and valid basis on which to create a behaviour management system that is student-centred.

Accepting that disruptive behaviour does occur from time to time, a behaviour management system that includes tools to support both students and staff to reflect is important. The working/not working tool is an excellent way to gather information from different perspectives (e.g. teacher, student, teaching assistant) to identify where things are working well and where things are not working. This allows everyone, including the students, to contribute to planning what needs to happen so that what’s working is built on and what’s not working is changed.

Some students find it harder than others to behave in a way that is acceptable in school. All too often, an episode of poor behaviour results when a student needs to be told something, be that to support development of their work or to encourage them to behave in a certain way. How staff communicate at this point is really important, and a communication chart which records how staff can communicate effectively with the student is a great support tool. By recording what it is that staff want to tell the student, how they do this and who can help and support, adults will communicate key messages in a consistent way that works best for the student. This results in students feeling reassured by all adults dealing with them in the same way, and this is a good place from which to collaboratively think about what needs to happen next. As staff become more aware of how to communicate with their students, there are likely to be fewer incidents of difficult behaviour.

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