Arguably, the ability to manage classroom behavior is one of the most important skills teachers need to acquire. Based on my observations and experience from my previous placement, one of the biggest challenges teachers face is establishing effective behavior management strategies within the classroom.
During placement I have witnessed a number of different behavior management strategies deployed by the teacher within the classroom. Some strategies were more effective at managing the children’s behaviour than others. For example, during story time with the whole class, one child displayed challenging behaviour by being disruptive. The teacher dealt with this situation by raising her voice and asking the child to sit on the “thinking” chair away from the rest of the class. The lack of communication between the teacher and child highlighted the ineffectiveness of this strategy as the child was not fully cognisant of the reason they had been placed on the chair. This, in turn, led the child to become more distracted and the majority of the teacher’s time and attention was then devoted to this child.
Vygotsky (1978) emphasises that children model their behaviour on the verbal instructions provided by the teacher. “The child seeks to understand the actions or instructions provided by the tutor then internalize the information, using it to guide or regulate their own performance”. In order to address this challenge, instead of raising her voice, the teacher should have adopted a calm, nurturing tone as it is more likely the child will mimic the behaviour the teacher displays. Schenck (1995, p.350) supports this view arguing that “communication is more effective if both people are on the same level. Adults need to stoop down to the child’s level or sit beside them. Making eye contact with the child lets them know that they have your attention which is much less intimidating to the child”.
Another strategy deployed was the reward chart system. The teacher would award stickers for good behaviour and a sad face for bad behaviour. When enough stickers were collected the child would be rewarded. The potential pitfalls that may result from this strategy is that long-term dependency on rewards may have long-term negative effects on children’s intrinsic motivation and self-discipline. In addition, the children could learn that as well as being rewarded for good behaviour, bad behaviour also incites a response from the teacher and arguably, the child could behave badly to obtain a reaction. Rogers (2015) suggests that learners need to learn that the teacher will give their attention if they do the right thing not the wrong thing so as to discourage the children from behaving badly.
Teachers should emphasize the positive behavior that children display rather than focus on the negative. Rogers (2015) argues that teachers should implement strategies that help connect and build relationships with students. Gaining the children’s appreciation will make the learners feel important and valued. Skinner (1938) reinforcement theory supports this view as it implies that positive reinforcement stimulates occurrence of a behaviour. According to Magg (2001), positive reinforcement arises when the consequences of behavior when added to a situation after a response, most likely, the teaching increase the chances of the response’s being repeated in similar situations.
The last behavior management strategy I experienced was the ‘countdown’ during the end of tidy up time, when the teacher instructed the children to sit down quietly on the carpet. Whilst this got the attention of the whole class it was not used continuously throughout the week and resulted in the children experiencing confusion as to the purpose of the countdown. Rogers (2015) argues that teaching a range of children with different needs, attention spans and behavior can be challenging however, creating a positive learning culture will enable the children to learn better as they will have an understanding of their expectations. Thus, to address this, Rogers (2015) also suggests that the teacher and the children should, between them, identify a set of classroom routines and agreements which are understood by all children.
Harrelson, P (2009) Communicating with Young children. Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 350-022. Virginia State University
Maag, J.W. (2001) Rewarded by punishment: Reflections on the disuse of positive reinforcement in schools. The Council for Exceptional Children, 67, 173-186.
Pivotal Education Behavior experts (2016) Available at: http://www.pivotaleducation.com Accessed: 03/10/2016
Rogers, B. (2015) ‘New class, new year: the establishment phase of behaviour management’ (4th edition). London: Sage.
Schenck, B. (1995) Virginia Cooperative Extension. Winning Ways to Talk with Young Children. Virginia Tech and Virginia State. Publication P.350-721.
Skinner, B. F. (1938). The Behaviour of organisms: An experimental analysis. New York: Appleton-Century.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.