Case Study and Professional Discussion- Dealing with Challenging Behaviours of Learners
“Our thoughts create our reality – where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.”
A range of factors that may underlie different behaviours in the lifelong learning sector are as follows:
A: Major / general factors
1. Cultural/social background
2. Family/religious background
3. Illnesses/disease/abnormalities/learning difficulties
4. Learning styles
5. Educational background/influence
6. Peer pressure
7. Poor emotional/social/language skills
B: other factors:
1. Lack of support from teachers/peers/parents
2. Lack of motivation
3. Addiction to illegal substance e.g. drugs
4. Low self esteem
5. Love/relationship problems
6. Pressure at work- for working students
7. Time constraints
8. Effect of regular medication e.g. temperamental, tantrum, impatience
9. Classroom geography
10. Addiction to computers e.g. games, social sites, pornographic pages
11. Boring topic/ tasks
12. wrong levelling
This is an excerpt from an Ofsted article re- managing challenging behaviour:
Number 16 in the article “Behaviour: the national picture
16.” A survey undertaken in 2003 on behalf of the Youth Justice Board showed that youth offending in all contexts showed a slight decline over the previous two years. Research commissioned by the Board provides a good understanding of the factors in young people’s lives which make offending more likely. These factors are:
• aggressive behaviour by the young person, including bullying
• family conflict and breakdown
• low achievement beginning in primary school
• lack of commitment to school, reflected in truancy
• peer involvement in problem behaviour
• the availability of drugs
All of the above factors that underlie different behaviours contribute to one common effect; disturbed learning environment.
“As you begin changing your thinking, start immediately to change your behaviour. Begin to act the part of the person you would like to become. Take action on your behaviour. Too many people want to feel, then take action. This never works.”
John Maxwell quotes American Author and motivational speaker
The impact of different learning behaviours varies. In my ESOL class where the learners are adults, the effect seems to be minimal. The learners are almost autonomous and feelings such as embarrassment and shame seem to be stopping them to query if something is not understood. However for absenteeism and tardiness the direct effect is for the teacher who always has to explain for the benefit of the late comers and for those who were absent from previous sessions. Learners are affected too because much of the time is consumed for review of past lessons.
With the new group of learners I have from the foundation college, every behaviour matters.
Most of the students show enthusiasm towards tasks given but they seem to be short with patience and focus is also quick to diminish. A lot of them need individual support for every task. There are few boys who talk so loud and even swear and verbal warnings seem to be taken on board but only for a short time. The class is disturbed for every noise and chattering that seem to be unending. There are few who are attention seekers and the environment is more likely to be chaotic with this kind of learners. One negative behaviour, results to a chain of more negative behaviours that could totally ruin the whole session. One of the tasks in my first session at the foundation college involved a lot of internet use. I was monitoring some of the students and noticed that they would at times navigate to sites with images of almost naked women. I gave them verbal warning to make them aware for the consequence of their actions. The group I was working with were all focused except for the one who showed much enthusiasm at the start of the activity by starting the task immediately, but as we went along his enthusiasm faded that made his partner for the task lost interest as well. In situations like this, aims, targets and learning outcomes are at stake.
Targeted time to finish a task is always the worst affected.
Different learning styles for every learner and a single simple tantrum could disturb the focus or interest of another.
Legislations are relevant to managing behaviour in the learning environment to safeguard the right of every child and to every teacher as well. Without legislations as guidelines for protection for both parties, better learning environment is at stake.
“A negative emphasis in behaviour policies often results in a focus on dealing with problems after they have occurred.” Managing challenging behaviour pp10.
Organisational policies are important to manage behaviour in the learning environment.
In the FEDA publication ‘Ain’t misbehaving’ Mitchell et all (1998) propose that for disruptive behaviour to be managed successfully organisational systems need to be in place.
Areas suggested in the publication include:
• Learner discipline
• Learner attendance
• Learner lateness
• Use of mobile phones
• Smoking, alcohol, drug abuse
• Harassment and bullying
• Comments related to inequality
Organisational orders have key players to promote “ordered” environment because students prefer an ordered environment as a basis for creativity and learning.
Organisational policies relevant to managing behaviour in the learning environment vary in the extent to which disruptive behaviour impacts on teaching/learning. This means there is no ‘one size’ that fits all. “Ain’t misbehavin” (1998)
One widely held principle of effective punishment is that it should never breed resentment.
These are ways of encouraging behaviours that contribute to an effective learning environment.
Giving positive feedback is one sure way to boost a learner’s motivation and confidence and this would result to a positive behaviour towards learning as suggested by Petty (2004) in his book Teaching Today.
• Medals: This is information about what a student has done well, e.g. ‘Your paragraphs and punctuation are good’ or ‘That’s good evidence’ written in the margin next to a well made point by the student. Grades and marks are measurements not medals. Medals are information about what exactly was done well.
• Missions: This is information about what the student needs to improve, correct, or work on. It is best when it is forward looking and positive. e.g. ‘try to give more evidence for your views’ or ‘Use more paragraphs to show the structure of your writing’. Again, measurements such as grades do not usually give this information.
• Clear goals: the medals and missions need to be given in relation to clear goals usually best given in advance. Goals might include assessment criteria such as ‘use paragraphing to show the structure of your writing’ or ‘give evidence, illustrations for the points of view you express’.
As the saying goes “give credit where credit is due” learners will be inspired to behave well in a learning environment if they are praised and acknowledged for their good work and in my experience as a teacher, this has worked all the time. The class at the Foundation College needs this style to encourage learners to do more and I have proven this last Wednesday, the 18th of March, 2009, in my first day, the learners showed more enthusiasm when I praised the art work they did as a group and individually praised them as well. This way made them finish all the tasks given.
Individual learning styles should be acknowledged by the teacher to encourage good behaviours. Another way is to make a lesson with interesting tasks that are common among the mainstream of youth today. Giving attention and support when needed is also a tool. One to one tutorial is one good way to access to the learner in a deeper scope to know what his/her needs are.
“I praise loudly, I blame softly”
Catherine the Great quotes
Strategies for encouraging behaviours that disrupt an effective learning environment must be used to maximise learning. The use of merits and medals is number one in my list to encourage learners to do more and better. Disruptive behaviours are always present in an environment especially if the learners are with a lot of issues like learning difficulties, family problems, personality issues etc. so what strategies should be used to encourage them? Making them feel important and giving them responsibility to promote inclusion is one tool to minimise a possible untoward behaviour. Setting ground rules with cause and effect awareness will also make learners know their limitations and boundaries. A student who is more likely to create disrupting behaviour could be grouped in a task with learners who are keen to learning to make him/her aware that good behaviours by students always produce excellent outcomes. He or she will be challenged to do better because he would feel the pressure to be better to get equal with the learners he/she is with. Knowing what a learner’s interests and expertise is important element in making lesson plans/ tasks and with the use of the discipline for “every child matters” are good tools to encourage behaviours that disrupt an effective learning environment. Reflective practice is also a strategy to encourage behaviours that disrupt an effective learning environment. If you reflect and analyse how and what to do next about something that went wrong; problems will be identified and will be given actions. Transactional analysis is also a theory to put into practice. Be a nurturing parent if you must to pacify and to show authority that at times is needed to give the signal that there is a boundary between the learners and the teacher.
A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man.
Ways of managing behaviours that disrupt an effective learning environment are tools to be practiced to maximise learning. Ways like medals and honours are good considerations to boost a learner’s self esteem and motivation. Consistency of approach is also a good way to show that the teacher is serious about how she/he deals with the learners when it comes to behavioural management. A close liaison with parents must be practiced as well to make all concerned know what is going on.
A school’s ethos provides the context within which children feel secure, know they are valued as individuals, are safe from emotional and physical harm and are able to discuss their interests and open about their fears if the atmosphere provides them not only support but also concern. Appropriate adaptation of the curriculum is also a way to capture students’ interest. Flexibility is also a must to make sure that every child matters in a learning environment. If a curriculum and the level are rightly matched, a sure way to better learning is visible.
The use of strategies for managing behaviours that disrupt an effective learning environment must always be taken into account. Looking at learners’ strengths and areas for development and making them as starting point for a positive learning environment is helpful to promote inclusion. If the idea of inclusion is evident in a learning environment, disruptive behaviours could be avoided. In the class where all the learners are with learning difficulties, disruptive behaviours such as disinterest and impatience are likely to happen. One strategy that I used during my first day was an unnoticed push because I praised everything a student did to maintain their interest and finish what they were doing. I noticed that they become so easily destructed just by simple annoyance like noise but when I started a gentle push through praise, they got back to what they were doing with more enthusiasm.
Giving emphasis to the importance of literacy and numeracy by giving more tasks filled to be better in these two fields will improve the communication skills of students; a skill that could be the reason why a student becomes disruptive. Not having the ability to communicate is a barrier that could stop a student to connect with peers and teachers making him a vulnerable victim of abuse from peers and this may lead to behavioural problems. A good quality of teaching is the prime ingredient to get learners’ interest. If lessons are rendered with good subject knowledge, a learning session is most likely to be active and without any disruptive behaviours. A one to one tutorial must always be offered to learners to make them feel their importance in the process. A student with disruptive behaviour must be involved in group works with learners who are with better behaviours and interests to make him feel responsible and challenged.
My own approaches, strengths and development needs in relation to managing different behaviours in the learning environment are somehow a combination of how I was disciplined at school in the Philippines and the new approaches learned in the DTLLS course. In the Philippines, teachers are highly respected. They are considered as second parents so disciplining a child with behaviour problems is a part of his/her job. Physical harm as a punishment is not legally allowed anymore physical harm is not the only way to discipline students. There are written orders clearly imposed set as guidelines to manage disturbing behaviours. Teachers in the Philippines in my time acted as imposers of things to be done in the learning process. The tasks are taken more as to avoid embarrassment from being picked on as a slow learner which was not fully helpful because there is a concrete barrier between the teacher and the students. As a teacher now myself, I would like to get involved in the process not as a source of fear but as a source of motivation for a learner to get involved in the whole learning process; however the barrier between the teacher and a learner that was imminent in my school days should just be taken as boundaries by both the teacher and the learner. If there is a barrier, communication is deterred. A boundary with communication between the teacher and the learner is a good tool to harmonise professionalism in teacher student relationship inside a learning environment. In my peers and tutors comments in my micro teach, they said I showed classroom management by imposing authority and because of my good subject knowledge. I believe that excellent subject knowledge could make a learning environment interesting for learners. The first placement I have, the ESOL class is an ideal group. All the learners are adults and there are no behavioural problems going on. Frequent absenteeism and tardiness are the only problems at times because of their individual circumstances. They are all working students and some are with young children that’s why at times being absent couldn’t be avoided.
The new class I am with at the foundation college is a challenge for me. I believe I have to put into practice all the theories like transactional analysis, reflective practice, Kolb’s learning styles model and experiential theories to promote a better approach towards teaching.
Ways to adapt and improve own practices in relation to managing different behaviours in the learning environment are as follows:
As per suggested in “Behaviour Management, A whole organisation approach” by learning and skills development agency, Northern Ireland, knowledge about these occurrences is a good suggestion on where to start with managing disruptive behaviour.
1. Where does the disruption take place?
2. What type of behaviour?
3. Who is involved?
4. Why does the organisation experience disruptive behaviour?
5. When does the disruption take place?
These questions help to get to the bottom line of a problem.
LSDA NI has also devised a short staff training programme in behaviour management that I find a helpful tool on dealing with behavioural problems.
The centre of resource for the following scheme is the whole organisation.
They are called “The Four Focus Model.”
4. Dealing with
I believe that actions for management should start from the whole organisation. If there are clear written objectives and rules to be imposed, behavioural management will be easier. As a teacher, reflective practice is always a must to consider about dealing with all the aspects in a learning process. Reflective practice and action plans; to make all learners involved in the whole process. Knowing what the needs of your learners are, communication, tutorials, consideration of individual learning styles and needs are tools to make a learning environment a good experience for all learners. if the environment is with recognition for individual strengths, understanding for individual areas for developments, preventive measures for challenging behaviours, and knowledge in dealing with all of the above as a whole process, maximised learning without chaos is most likely to be achieved.
“The successful teacher is no longer on a height; pumping knowledge at high pressure into passive receptacles…He is a senior student anxious to help his juniors.” -Sir William Osler, The Student Life