Recognising positive behaviour: questions to ask yourself

In step 3.5 you looked at just one example of how to bring recognition to student’s positive behaviour and this might not work in every school or classroom; there really is no one size fits all approach to this. However, the best systems do have some things in common and here are some questions that you could ask yourself when thinking about how you recognise and celebrate positive behaviour in your school or classroom.

1. Is it possible for all students to earn recognition?

Just as you would differentiate with academic work you need to differentiate your expectations when it comes to behaviour; for some students just sitting and listening for five minutes can be a huge achievement. Even the youngest children know that it is harder for some of their classmates to behave than it is for them and do not resent you recognising these achievements for those that need it. However, there is a common pitfall that teachers can fall into of noticing the students that perform above the expected for their age and those challenging students who manage to stop disrupting your lesson for two minutes but neglecting the ‘average’ students! Make sure that you find time to notice everyone and do not make the mistake of setting the bar too low for those learners who set out to disrupt your lessons!

2. Do all students understand what is expected of them?

The target behaviours need to be explicit so that learners know what they need to do to meet expectations. This may need breaking down into steps and time may need to be spent teaching the skills needed. For example, “listening to each other” may be too difficult for some learners (even teenagers) and they will need support to understand exactly how to do this (including looking at the person who is speaking, not speaking at the same time and, where appropriate, repeating back what the person has said to check that they understand what was meant).

3. Is the Reward system manageable?

Many of us start the new school year with elaborate plans and the intention to relentlessly follow them through. However, many of us also find that things start to slide as other pressures such as extra-curricula activities, report writing or exam preparation take up much of our time and energy. Whatever system you have in place it needs to be manageable alongside all of your other commitments. Better something simple and straightforward that you are able to apply consistently than a complex system that does not always get followed through.

4. Is the system personal?

Do not underestimate the power of your personal attention when recognising student’s achievements. Knowing that their efforts have been noticed and are appreciated by you is very motivating for learners of all ages (and that includes adult colleagues!). Even if you are working within a school wide system that awards points electronically do make time to tell students personally that you have given them a point and tell them why.

5. Is the system fair?

Do you ever remember being punished as part of a whole class because of the behaviour of some of your classmates? Systems that aim to promote positive behaviour will only work if students have genuine control over the behaviour that is going to impact upon their experience of the system.

6. Does the system predominantly focus on positive behaviour?

The most effective systems ensure that most effort and energy is focused on the behaviour that you want to see most of! Remember; the behaviour you comment on most is the behaviour that you will see most often!

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre