Behaviour in the classroom

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Poor behaviour can hijack your teaching, especially in practical lessons such as science. Getting it right doesn’t have to be difficult. Becca Knowles offers her advice.

A key concern for many of teachers is making sure that they can secure good teaching by building positive relationships with pupils and ensuring good behaviour in their classes.

The disruption caused by the impact of low-level behaviour problems (as highlighted in Ofsted’s recent Below the Radar report) is a recurring theme that many teachers are all too aware of.

The YouGov survey run as part of the Ofsted research showed that pupils are potentially losing up to an hour of learning each day in schools because of this kind of disruption.

Despite this, the evidence is clear that behaviour in schools and generally in society is actually improving. The number of exclusions from schools has been falling year-on-year and crime figures among the young have also fallen over the last 10 years.

However, we must remember that all teachers will have issues with behaviour in their classrooms at some point. Even experienced teachers can find it difficult sometimes, especially in a new school or with older pupils.

Within all classrooms, decreasing the learning time lost through low-level disruption goes hand-in-hand with inspiring and engaging lessons and developing strong relationships with classes and pupils.

Building positive relationships and developing excellence in teaching takes time and experience. External support helps but for teachers new to the profession the time it takes to develop these relationships can seem endless.

Consistency in the classroom and across the school is vital in supporting behavioural management, and only around a third of teachers surveyed by Ofsted’s report said that behaviour policies were applied consistently across their school. This consistency includes teachers taking charge in their own classrooms and setting clear and manageable rules that everyone understands. 

Inconsistency in managing behaviour also has an impact on pupils and parents, with Ofsted highlighting pupils’ and parents’ frustration when disruption is not dealt with effectively.

Teaching practical subjects can also add complications as teachers want to make engaging with practical work a central part of the work they do. This gives added challenge to the teacher due to safety concerns and the different routines found in the lab. 

Moving around the classroom and using equipment is a vital part of the practical experience and good teaching to support this becomes even more vital. 

Routines and clear expectations are really important and it is vital not to give pupils too many rules to remember. Choose three basic rules, perhaps starting with “I’m in charge” – this means that there is no questioning and it shows confidence in the teacher being the adult in the room.

On many occasions, good planning, active, involving lessons that tap in to pupils’ own interests can stop many behavioural issues before they start. This does not mean teachers should become entertainers, but does highlight that the best teachers engage students in such a way that they want to take part and learn. 

Collaborative planning with other teachers within departments can share expertise and ideas as well as giving an understanding of the common misconceptions that pupils may have. 

Subject-specific understanding in departments such as science can also support teachers who may be teaching outside of their specialism and it is vital teachers keep their knowledge up-to-date. 

It is also important to engage with current contemporary contexts to engage young people who are always keen to use the latest technological developments and understand how their lessons relate to the world around them.

The most important part of improving behaviour in the classroom is not to struggle alone. It is extremely rare to find a colleague who is not willing to help and support you.

  • Becca Knowles is head of STEM CPD at the National Science Learning Centre and has 23 years of teaching experience including leading staff development and support. Visit www.slcs.ac.uk

Free online seminar
The National Science Learning Centre is hosting a free online course, Managing Behaviour for Learning, from November 3, led by behaviour management expert, Paul Dix. Visit www.canvas.net/courses/managing-behaviour-for-learning


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