One secondary school teacher once said: ‘Make sure expectations are consistent and reinforced by all – I am fed up of being the disliked teacher because I follow school expectations and others don’t – this has happened in every school I’ve worked in.’

What Are Teachers Saying About Behavior Management?

According to an OfSTED (Office for Standards in Education based in the UK) survey of 2014, of teachers themselves, an average secondary school might contain five or six teachers who lose at least 10 minutes of learning time per lesson as they struggle to maintain good order.

Problems range from:

  • Hard-working teachers having their efforts to maintain discipline undermined by the inconsistent approach of other teaching staff to behaviour management.
  • Inconsistency in applying behaviour policies annoy students and parents.
  • Some teachers lack the skills to enforce consistently high standards of behaviour management.  Too often, teachers complained that their senior leaders did not assert their authority.
  • In some schools, teachers blur the boundaries between friendliness and familiarity, for example, by allowing the use of their first names.
  • In certain circumstances, students too often, demonstrate a lack of respect for staff by talking across them or taking too long to respond to instructions.
  • Enthusiasm and lack of self-control – The lack of awareness among students that interrupting is inappropriate.
  • Teachers’ confidence is sometimes undermined by fear of discussing problems with senior staff, who, instead of supporting the teachers, blame them when poor behaviour is brought up to the leadership team.
  • Sending mixed messages -Students can be observed behaving impeccably in one lesson with different teachers and worse off in another because rules of behaviour varied according to the teacher.

Broadly, one in twelf secondary teachers said that more than 10 minutes of learning was lost per hour.

pexels-photo-416322.jpegNow that we have reflected on where the problems lie with inappropriate behaviour, let’s think about our relationships, as teachers, with our students.

What Type Of Teacher Are You?

There are SIX types of teachers when it comes to behaviour management in the classroom. Which of the following best describes your relationships with students?


  • The teacher has strong sense of purpose in pursuing clear goals for learning and for the class.
  • The teacher shows leadership qualities.
  • The teacher tends to guide and control.
  • The teacher is prepared to discipline unapologetically.

Too dominant/assertive

  • The teacher is too controlling.
  • The teacher shows lack of concern for students.
  • The teacher-students relationship is damaged.


  • The teacher shows great concern for the needs and opinions of students.
  • The teacher is helpful and friendly.
  • The teacher avoids strife and seeks consensus.
  • The teacher enjoys working together with students.

Too cooperative/collaborative

  • The teacher is too understanding and accepting of apologies.
  • The teacher waits for students to be ready and lets students dictate.
  • The teacher is too keen to be accepted by students.
  • The teacher passes responsibility completely to students.
  • The teacher abdicates responsibility and leadership.


  • The teacher treats students as the enemy.
  • The teacher expresses anger and irritation.
  • The teacher needs to ’win’ if there is a disagreement between teacher and pupil.
  • The teacher sees the classroom as a battleground.


  • The teacher lacks clarity of purpose.
  • The teacher keeps a low profile.
  • The teacher tends to submit to the will of the class.
  • The teacher is entirely unassertive, rather glum and apologetic.
  • The teacher expects difficulties.

RESEARCH has found that the most effective teachers find a balance between dominance and cooperation. We will look at how you can improve these areas when we look at strategies to improve behaviour.

Robert Marzano’s (2003) findings from his study of over 100 reports on classroom management, including 134 experiments designed to fInd the most successful classroom strategies as well as finding that pupils prefer the dominant cooperative style mix twice as much as the purely cooperative style or indeed any other style .

Behaviour Improvement

There are, of course, many strategies designed to improve behaviour, but remember it is not solely your responsibility to do so.

Any strategy you choose to use will only work, if it is underpinned by the following principles:

  • They are clear and robust.
  • They follow behaviour and discipline systems and a framework of consequences, which are understood and contributed to by teachers and students.
  • There is a whole school approach.
  • There is a focus on positive recognition of appropriate behaviour.
  • Positive relationships are developed and maintained.
  • The school works in partnership with agencies and stakeholders, including
  • There is an awareness of the adults’ emotional responses to inappropriate behaviour.

pexels-photo.jpgFour Basics To Improving Behaviour

There are four basic approaches, which research has found to improve classroom behaviour:

1.  Rules and procedure
2. Teacher-pupil/student relationships
3. Disciplinary interventions
4. Mental set

Think back to how you said you responded to inappropriate behaviour and consider these two questions:

  • Is there anything you may want to change or improve?
  • Could a small change have a dramatic effect?

You are, like many other teachers, concerned about behaviour, but think about it this way:

If you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting the same responses.

1. Rules And Procedures

Classrooms become more orderly places when rules are clearly stated and perform even better when rules have been negotiated, discussed and justified.

Here are 10 steps to improving rules and procedures:

1. Create rules and express them positively. It shouldn’t just be a list of don’ts.
2. Justify rules and rehearse them! “Because I say so” is not a persuasive justification.
3. Discuss rules with the class. Explain their purpose, i.e. to improve learning.
4. Negotiate with the students to get commitment. Ask for suggestions and
remember to justify and compromise. Make posters and get them to sign up!
5. Regularly review the rules together.
6. Encourage students to devise rules and take ownership of them.
7. Remind students of any relevant rules before a potentially disruptive activity or if you are aware of “something brewing”. This kind of response can drastically reduce inappropriate behavior.
8. Encourage and develop team working (team rules for success).

9. Regularly get students to self-assess their own behaviour set against the rules.

2. Teacher-Pupil/Student Relationships

Think about the style of relationship you have with your students. Your relationship will, of course, depend on the class or group, but a balance between a dominant and cooperative style is regarded as the most effective way to improve classroom management.

How do you increase your dominance and assertiveness?

Dominance and assertiveness is about effective leadership, having a clear path to learning goals and good behaviour, pursued with vigour and enthusiasm. It should also be student-centred.

Here are a number of tips to increase dominance and assertiveness in the classroom:

For the class or group

  • Negotiate ground rules.
  • Set goals and assessment criteria.
  • Set learning objectives.
  • Set specific behaviour objectives.

For you

  • Be authoritative – in your speech and in your body language.
  • Fake it until you make it – be absolutely confident and in control even if you don’t feel it.
  • Get out of the habit of sitting behind the desk.

Try the PEP Approach

  • Proximity: Walk around the classroom, stand by a pupil that may be about to misbehave. Stand a “little too close for comfort” but don’t invade personal space. This is a difficult judgement, sometimes. You don’t want to come over as aggressive or intimidating.
  • Eye contact: Holding eye contact expresses dominance. What you say will be taken more seriously if you can maintain eye contact before, during and after speaking.
  • Posing questions: Rather than telling a student off, pose a question, such as “Why have you not started your work?
    These actions are often more effective and far less exhausting than getting angry or shouting and will make you appear in control (even if you do not feel it).


Try the CASPER Approach

  • Calm – Always try to appear calm, even if you are not feeling calm. The first step in a difficult situation is to create thinking time, taking a deep breath.
  • Assertive  – Have a good eye contact. State your needs clearly and use “I” statements, eg: “I want . . .”; “I need . . .”
  • Status Preservation – Students operate within a peer group. When correcting behaviour always be aware of this and use private rather than public reprimands.
  • Empathy – Show empathy and avoid challenging questions such as “What do you think you are doing?”
  • Respect – Model appropriate behaviour to reinforce your expectations. Always show your students respect, even if they are disrespectful.

group hand fist bump

Behaviour Improvement

How do you increase cooperation and collaboration?
We all know how challenging it can be to cooperative with badly behaved pupils. Sometimes a cycle can develop between the teacher and the students that make things even worse: the pupils misbehave more, you dislike them more, you are less positive and friendly, they dislike you and your classes more, they disrupt more and so it goes on. The cycle needs to be broken.

The next time you have a class with a particularly difficult student or a challenging group, why not try the following:

              First  . . .

Try focusing on putting negotiated and clear rules in place. This will often require a great deal of emotional generosity and patience or restraint! The main aims are to be more positive, friendly and fair.

            Then . . .
1. Meet and greet students by the door. Get off to a good start.
2. Catch them doing the right thing and comment positively in private. A lot of inappropriate behaviour is attention seeking.
3. Put the student in “intensive care!” No it’s not what you think! Smile, use their name positively, ask for their opinion, make a point at looking at their work, comment favourably about genuine effort or achievement. Talk to them, be patient and helpful, have high expectations and keep calm. Show that you value them. But don’t overdo it! Be fair, use this approach with your well-behaved students as well.
4. Learn their names. This is especially valuable when you are new to a school.
5. Engage students in an informal way. Let them know you don’t just see them as students but as individuals with interests, hobbies and lives outside of school.
6. Use eye contact and proximity.
7. Collaborate and problem solve together. What’s the problem here? What can we do about this?
8. Build team and group work.
9. Have high expectations and let them know what those are.
10. Develop flexible responses and teaching styles.
11. Give responsibilities to particular students.
12. Avoid sarcasm. What you might think is light may be damaging your teacher- student relationship.
13. Check for understanding, reinforce learning goals and expectations.
14. Be a good role model for your students by acting in the way that you want them to behave.

3. Disciplinary Interventions

Think back again to how you respond to inappropriate behaviour in the classroom.

  • Are you reactive?
  • Do you wait for problems to happen and then respond?
  • Are you consistent?
  • Are you fair?

A proactive approach to improving behaviour is usually much more effective. Remember managing behaviour is not just about responding to inappropriate behaviour. It is about creating conditions that encourage positive actions.

Try the following approaches:

  • Remind students of the rules before activities take place.
  • Reinforce appropriate behaviour. Use tokens and symbols which can be used for privileges.
  • Encourage students to self-assess their behaviour and award themselves appropriate tokens/points.
  • Use individual, group and whole class rewards. To receive these, there needs to be very clear success criteria.
  • Mild punishments: What’s important is the consistency and fairness of the punishment. Its success is also dependent on the assertiveness in which it is given. It means being firm, unemotional, unapologetic and confident. It does not mean being hostile or aggressive.

At a Glance: Top Tips For Managing Student Behaviour

  • Learn names quickly and with correct pronunciation
  • Use a seating plan
  • Greet at the door
  • Be positive (and don’t take it personally)
  • Set clear rules for behaviour
  • Follow up everything – that means EVERYTHING – no matter how small.
  • Keep your cool
  • Follow the CASPER approach.

4. Mental Set

Although, you are not solely responsible for improving student behavior, improving your attitude to classroom management can have dramatic effects. There are two parts to this:


This ‘Withitness’ is a term first used by Kounin (1970) meaning an awareness of what is going on in all areas of your classroom and having a quick response to actual and possible disruptions. It’s a “nip in the bud” approach that stops inappropriate behaviour spreading. Think about how you will respond to
disruption and not letting your emotions lead the way.

Withitness Strategies

  • Invest time getting to know your classroom and students.
  • Understand the physical, social and psychological settings that you and your students find themselves.
  • Find out where the “hot spots” are. Run a behaviour audit or make this part of classroom observation.
  • Position yourself so you can scan regularly and make eye contact with as many of the class as you can.
  • Intervene promptly. Make your students know straight away, or even before it happens that their disruptive behaviour will not be tolerated.
  • Combine eye contact and proximity approaches as mentioned earlier. Early identification and intervention is an essential factor in successful behaviour management.
  • Use of names combined with eye contact and a sharp tone.
  • Use a silent and still approach. Stop what you are doing and remain silent.
    Maintain eye contact until you get the response you want, then continue.
  • Non-verbal reminders and commands. These are quite traditional but are still effective e.g. finger to lips to ask for silence, standing straight with hands on hips to signal displeasure, clicking fingers to signal “stop it”.
  • Be organised. Prepare your classroom and have materials ready!
  • Use reminders and warnings about rules before an activity.
  • Walk about with plenty of eye contact.

Emotional Objectivity

It is not always easy to remember, but bad behaviour is not an attack on you. It is not personal. If you do see it as something personal, you are more likely to get angry, upset, depressed or resentful. Try to remain unemotional. This does not mean being distant. You should be alert and business like, but you are protecting yourself and your emotional well-being.

Understand Yourself

Try not to show anger or frustration, you’ll look and feel more in control. Remember what upset you, so that you recognise the situation next time. Practice. Practice. Practice!

Students Have Their Own Issues

Remember that your students may well be dealing with difficulties or issues themselves that may be causing the inappropriate behaviour.

Seek Support – You Have Allies

You do not need to suffer inappropriate behaviour alone. You can get support from within your school but it is important to recognise your own feelings. Talk things over with a friend, or colleague, your head of department or senior management team.

The support available from each school will differ, so please get to know where and when to seek support.

This is an approach I have used for many years with amendments here and there. It is not easy at all but with perseverance, enthusiasm and commitment, you will get it right.  I have also worked with RTS – Respect; Trust and Support – with my students:

  • I Respect them,
  • I Trust them too and
  • I value their Support.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL


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