Critically Reflect on the Issues Related to Behaviour Management in the Classroom, Linking this to Theory and Practice.
Major issues with behaviour management are typically associated either with positive or negative behaviour. “When dealing with behaviour incidents in the classroom, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture; that is the other 95% of the classroom that are displaying the desired behaviour” (Cowley, 2010). It is also important to note that this may not always be the case where children whom usually depict positive behaviour, show signs of negative behaviour and this may be dependent on certain circumstances, including external and internal factors.
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With this insight, I have chosen to focus on the topic of negative behaviour management problems in a classroom setting based on prior research and experience from my first school placement. Through my experience in my SE1 school placement, I noticed that even during the most effective lessons, with the most experienced and skilful teachers, there are incidents of problematic behaviour. “Two thirds of teachers say that negative behaviour [has driven] people out of the profession, and the most frequent factor cited as a cause of classroom stress is pupil’s lack of respect towards teaching staff: in 2007, almost 18,000 pupils were permanently excluded or suspended for attacking staff” (Department of Education, 2010). This has increased teachers workload as today teachers must come to the classroom, not only well prepared for the school lesson but also prepared with strategies to ensure that pupils behave appropriately (Canter and Canter, 2010). I have seen this first hand while on my ‘meeting the needs placement’, whereby four teachers had left a position in the same class within one year.
Within the United Kingdom, several studies have been conducted to explore behaviour management and within these the most common negative behaviour indicators from a teacher’s perspective are disruption and unacceptable behaviour exhibited from students. As a trainee teacher, I strongly agree that the issue of behaviour management is as a result of negative behaviour and disruptive students. Certain teachers perceived student problem behaviours as those behaviours involving rule-breaking, violating the implicit expectations, being inappropriate in the classroom setting and interrupting teaching and learning. (Sun and Shek, 2012) stated that “these forms of negative behaviour required interventions from teachers”, I believe adding to the issues relating to behaviour management within the classroom. If the class teacher or teaching assistant are out doing interventions, other children are more likely to act out. Other results stated that the most common and disruptive problem behaviour was talking out of turn, followed by non-attentiveness, daydreaming, and idleness. Overall, the most unacceptable problem behaviour recorded was disrespecting teachers in terms of disobedience and rudeness, followed by talking out of turn and verbal aggression.
Due to an increase in these forms of negative behaviour, behaviour management is now a major issue itself that teachers are confronted with. Disruptive pupils are omnipresent in a classroom setting. These pupils come to school with all sorts of emotional and behavioural problems ranging from defiance, attention deficits, aggression and hyperactivity, resistance to authority, temper tantrums and low motivation, causing them to be inattentive during lessons. Issues with behaviour management in the classroom not only on account of the type of behaviour but why the behaviour is generated. As a trainee teacher, I understand that determining why these behaviours are portrayed is not an easy task. There are several factors that determine the likelihood of why a behaviour is occurring. These determinants can be classified as internal (for example anxiety) or external (for example social support). It can often be the case that internal and external factors interact, which increases the risk of the challenging behaviour being exhibited. When both factors combine it may lead to a child feeling frustrated or ignored. The child might then behave in a challenging way in order to get people to listen or take notice of them. This had occurred numerous times in a Year Four class while I was on placement. Child Z had numerous safe-guarding issues at home meaning that they were quite a vulnerable child. Without any change occurring throughout the day, she coped well. However, if the routine changed or if something else happened out of the norm it would trigger her abusive, negative behaviour. Once this occurred, it was very different to control the rest of the class and make sure the other children stayed on target. Typically, this child would be taken out of the room in this circumstance, yet I feel this still influences the other children and their learning.
Attachment issues may arise as a result of these factors, ultimately leading to behaviour management problems within the classroom. Bowlby (1969) considered that children need to develop a secure attachment with their main caregiver via sufficiently consistent, responsive, sensitive, appropriate and predictable care and support. This attachment or relationship would then be a prototype for all future relationships. Bowlby (1969) argued that should an attachment fail to form during childhood or be disrupted, then several consequences would follow, including behavioural problems and reduced ability to learn.
Research conducted by Moss and St Laurent (2001) has shown that secure attachments create mental processes that enable a child to regulate emotions and attune to others. In turn, these processes support the foundation of “executive functioning skills”. These entail a range of key skills that enable children to focus, hold and manipulate information, solve problems, make decisions, persist at tasks, inhibit impulsive behaviour, set goals and monitor their progress. These are all the skills needed for academic learning in the classroom. Negative behaviour typically occurs when insecure attachments develop, i.e., interactions between a child and their guardian are more negative, more inconsistent or more insensitive. They can also develop if the parent is unresponsive, inappropriate or unpredictable. This can have unfortunate consequences for a child’s achievements in school.
Attachment research indicates that at least “one-third of children have an insecure attachment with at least one guardian, which in turn is likely to affect their school performance and behaviour(Schore, 2001)”. “One study in 2004, of 162 primary school children living in Clackmannanshire, indicated that 98% had experienced one or more external event (such as divorce or an accident) and for one in four this resulted in behavioural or emotional disturbance (O’Connor and Russell)”. Other studies have suggested that a large proportion of children with problems ranging from attention deficits, ADHD, low motivation and defiance have attachment issues. On the other hand, children with permissive guardians or overly secure attachment issues can exhibit just as much challenging behaviour as a child with insecure attachment issues. Children where guardians do everything for them at home, typically cause disruption in school as they want attention. Though their goal is often not to annoy, disrespect or frustrate teachers. Rather, their goal is often to feel significant, internal factors may still play a part in the true intentions of the child.
During my school experience placements, I witnessed both forms of attachment issues which led to severe behavioural problems. Personally, I found that the child X with an insecure attachment bond displayed more challenging behaviour than the child Y who had an overly secure attachment bond with his guardian. Child Y would shout out of turn interrupting teaching, would demonstrate inappropriate behaviour within the classroom and showed a complete lack of respect to the teacher and the teaching assistant. After observing child Y, it was clear to see he just wanted attention as he was an only child at home. Child X, on the other hand, had created an unhealthy attachment to his class teacher. This became so extreme that the class teacher found it difficult to work with any other child in her class. Child X would throw a tantrum, run out of the class, run across the tables and throw items around the room if his teacher was always not focused on him. I could see this was becoming a huge problem for the other children in the class as they were not receiving the support they needed. In some instances, the class teacher would have to stop the whole lesson to regain control of the class.
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Attachment can also link to issues with conditioned behaviour. This can be of a result of guardians or teachers themselves, without knowing it. In home settings, reinforcement techniques have typically been used to combat behavioural issues. If used incorrectly at home, reinforcement techniques can cause issues in the school setting. If a guardian rewards negative behaviour by giving said child attention, this child may then be disruptive in class to get others attention. If a guardian uses negative reinforcement it is likely that the child may suffer emotional instability. This child may then portray negative abusive behaviour in the classroom.
Negative modelling in the home setting is seen as the main issue relating to behaviour management in the classroom. Studies of parenting and children’s antisocial behaviour have examined a wide array of parenting practices, child behaviour, and correlates of both. Parenting practices such as the degree of involvement, parent-child conflict management, monitoring and harsh and inconsistent discipline have been correlated with children’s disruptive or delinquent behaviour (Frick, Lahey, Loeber, Stouthamer-Loeber, Christ and Hanson, 1992). Bandura’s social learning theory, derived from Skinner, states that children learn by observing then imitating their models (peers, guardians and teachers). In many cases, children imitate their “models”, even behaviour that the latter would like to discourage such as smoking or cursing. Children are constantly learning whether it is good or bad behaviour by observation. Rosenthal and Bandura (1978) acknowledge in their theory that ‘learning occurs through direct experience; a large body of research across different contexts and populations has supported the idea that observation of others influences individuals’ self-referent thoughts. Lickona (1992) points out that teachers should be role models, “who exemplify the qualities they wish their pupils to follow such as responsibility, tolerance, fairness, honesty and respect”. This can be extremely difficult for teachers especially if negative behaviour is modelled at home. Parenting practices and children’s disruptive behaviour have been theorized to be reciprocally influential for over three decades (Patterson and Reid 1970), ultimately causing behavioural problems in school settings.
For example, if a child is treated with little or no respect, they will probably not know how to treat others with respect. If for example a child’s father or siblings dismiss said child as unimportant or belittle their mother, they too will see no wrong in disrespecting women in general. Children need someone to display good character, but on the off chance the teacher also belittles them, then the message that they get is that it is fine to behave in that manner. Whilst observing on placement I found that many children do not have good manners modelled at home. It is therefore important for teachers to model and reinforce manners to help develop children‘s social skills. Manners not only make a good impression on others but also make us feel good about ourselves. Just like good manners, I feel respect should be modelled at home. I believe one of the huge issues with behaviour management in the class is correlated to a lack of respect for the teacher from students and their guardians. As I am from a different country, I have seen the different ways teachers in the United Kingdom are treated and respected. In Ireland, teachers are top of the pyramid of hierarchy. Whatever a teacher says goes and a teacher is always right no matter what. In this country, I have seen teachers being back talked to and completely disregarded. If a guardian does not respect the teacher, why would a child? As a result, we need to act to restore the authority of teachers and head teachers, so that they can inaugurate an ethos of respect and safety, with zero tolerance of bullying, clear boundaries and early intervention to address behavioural problems. As a last resort, head teachers have the power to exclude disruptive children and be confident that their authority in taking these difficult decisions will not be undermined, by children’s guardians.
In order to combat these behavioural issues, I believe a combination of a good classroom setting, effective preventive measures, implementation of interesting and engaging curriculums and appropriate interventions are needed. In my classroom management plan, the main goal is to have the right environment for all learners and healthy, positive relationships and respect between pupils, teachers, and guardians. Another important factor in ensuring effective behaviour management is to know how or when to react to these behaviours. I hope that one day I will be able to overcome these issues in my own classroom and promote a safe stimulating environment where children feel safe and ready to learn.
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- Cowley, S. (2010). Getting the Buggers to Behave. London: Continuum International Publishing.
- Department for Education, (2010). The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper(2010). Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175429/CM-7980.pdf
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- Lickona, T. (1992). Educating for Character: How our Schools can teach Respect and Responsibility.. New York: Bantam Books.
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