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Managing student behaviour in the classroom


Managing student behaviour in the classroom

In December, a Senate inquiry into classroom disruption in Australian schools called for fundamental changes to how teachers approach classroom management, even going so far as to recommend a specialised ‘Behaviour Curriculum’.

The Inquiry’s final report revealed that school staff regularly deal with verbal abuse and physical aggression from students, further exacerbating health and wellbeing problems for a profession that has already warned it is on the brink.

In a bid to keep early career teachers in the classroom, The University of South Australia launched a research project that will investigate how improved induction programs can better support new teachers in the classroom.

Funded by a 2023 ARC Discovery grant ($371,000) the study will prioritise ‘precariously employed’ early career teachers – those on casual and short-term contracts – to effectively manage student classroom behaviour.

Professor Anna Sullivan is Director of the Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion (CRESI) and Professorial Lead (Research Performance and Evaluation) in UniSA Education Futures.

She says that has Term 1 dawns, teachers will need to spend time on bringing students together as a new group and structure ways for them to get to know each other.

“Building relationships takes time and teachers need to plan ways to build cohesive communities,” Professor Sullivan told The Educator.

“Through these activities, teachers can establish class roles, tone and expectations. This early investment is important.”

Establishing routines is important to managing recurring activities, Professor Sullivan noted.

“Teachers need clear routines for many activities including transitions during and between lessons, movement around the classroom, the collection and use of equipment/resources and toilet breaks,” she said.

“Once these routines are determined, teachers need to teach them to students, so they are aware of them.”

According to the available research, the most common types of behavioural issues among school-aged students are low-level disruptive behaviours and disengaged student behaviours. Low-level disruptive behaviours include disrupting the flow of a lesson, using a mobile phone inappropriately and mucking around, while disengaged behaviours include being late for class, avoiding doing school work and disengaging from classroom activities.

“Teachers find these disruptive and disengaged behaviours stressful and often rely on managing them using punishments. Unfortunately, punishments usually escalate issues,” Professor Sullivan said.

“Professional learning for teachers can focus on understanding different types of unproductive student behaviours and on the myriad of strategies that can help prevent them, and then how to intervene effectively with minimum disruption.”

When asked what she thinks of the recommendation for a Behaviour Curriculum in Australian schools, Professor Sullivan said the Senate Inquiry “ignores the multitude of factors that influence student behaviour.”

“Unfortunately, the Inquiry largely focused on opinion and limited experience and did not draw enough on research. I am not optimistic about the introduction of a behaviour curriculum as a quick-fix solution to improve student behaviour.”



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