Reflective Assignment on Teaching Practice
Number of words: 3066
Rationale for choosing behaviour management
Of the three themes covered in the formative element of this assignment (the others being Literacy across the Curriculum and Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities), I have selected behaviour management being the one which is of most relevance to me being a teacher. This is something which seems to be covered by the literature which is available in the teaching sector. Fleming (2012) is particularly forthright on this point, saying that behaviour management is one of the biggest pre-occupations of students during their training, also being clear that it is an aspect of teaching which cannot be learnt fully from reading books, with practical experience seemingly a must in developing the expertise of trainees in this area. Behaviour management certainly seems to be core element of teacher’s skills. Rogers (2004) makes the point that all teachers, at any level in a school, face similar issues of behaviour, ranging from typical errant behaviour such as calling out to more serious incidents such as victimisation and bullying. Cowley (2010) advocates a behaviour management approach which is not immersed in theory, whereas Adams (2009) feels that theory is important. Ultimately though, Brown and McNamara (2011) assert that ‘classroom management overrides everything that you’re [the teacher] is doing in the day’ (p.82), which explicitly demonstrates the importance of behaviour management to teaching.
As teachers face behaviour management challenges on a daily basis, the University of Nottingham (2011) note that resilience is something which teachers must possess in abundance to thrive and prosper, an asset which is cultivated through education, regular practice and collaboration. Although the abilities of the teacher are certainly important in the success of behaviour management strategies, the mindset of the students may be the crucial determinant in predicting academic attainment and behaviour. Relating this specifically to maths and the sciences, Dweck (2008) observed that students with a ‘growth’ mindset were significantly more orientated towards their learning goals, and cared about learning more than their grades. This is an interesting point and implies that if I inspire an intellectual curiosity in the children, then they may be more likely to succeed and present with less behaviour management challenges. DfE (2013), in the standards which they lay out for attaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), say that it is one of a teacher’s responsibilities to promote scholarship and a love of learning, which is something which I will aim to achieve through my practice, which could be achieved through altering my teaching strategies. Bartlett (2013) is an advocate of differentiation by interest, in matching resources with children’s needs and introducing real-life examples to contextualise their learning and motivate them more. Nevertheless, the learning styles of pupils should also be considered by the teacher as they learn in different ways and different speeds (Grey, 2009) and a suitable alignment between the approaches a teacher uses and the learning styles of the pupils could realistically boost engagement and reduce the focus on behaviour management.
There may be a tendency to focus on controlling challenging behaviour in behaviour management, but the type of praise which a teacher gives is also important. Dweck (1999) carried out some research on students and the effect of praise on them and their performance. She found that those children who were praised for their effort, rather than intelligence, performed better on the task and were more willing to take on challenges. Again though, such a strategy depends on the responsiveness of the pupils, something which depends on their personality and level of maturity.
A supposition could be made that if I familiarise myself with the more technical aspects of behaviour management then this will allow me to become more resilient and ultimately a better teacher. Furthermore, this could allow me to project and propagate attributes of my practice which align well with my own personal philosophy of being a teacher in being very committed to my craft. Becoming clear about the type of teacher who I like to become may help and assist my practice and the behaviour management challenges which I may encounter. Loughran and Russell (2002) state that there are many roles which a teacher can hold, including being problem solvers, change agents and reflective. It may be wise for me to decide which of my attributes align with the style of teaching which I wish to espouse so I can become comfortable in my teaching. Kyricou (2009) cites Maslow’s work of this enlightened state as being known as self-actualisation: the need to ‘realise one’s potentiality’ (p.26) and becoming a capable practitioner who is confident in their teaching. Kyricou (2009) also notes that self-actualisation can be an important motivational tool for learning and inspire a need for achievement in the pupils, which could have applications in reducing the incidences of behaviour management which I encounter.
Having ‘control’ could be something which could help me to become more proactive at dealing with behaviour management, although this may be hard to obtain in some classes. Pollard (2006) suggests this could be obtained by the teacher possessing ‘withitness’ and being aware of a wide variety of things which are going on in the classroom. However, pupils are still susceptible to meander off task and not comply with the directions the teacher has set them, as I have observed in my own practice on frequent occasions. So in this manner, Pollard is seemingly implying that certain behaviours need to be intrinsically present in the children for classroom management to be successful, such as the ability to follow orders and comply with rules willingly and perhaps recognise when they have gone beyond a certain level with their misbehaviour. However, it seems doubtful that children would possess such skills, particularly at such a young age, although it may not be wise to under-estimate their abilities. In this sense, Pollard seems to advocate a ‘reactive’ approach where the teacher deals with incidents as they arise or ‘the unexpected’ as he defines it. A ‘proactive’ approach could also pay dividends though as there could be some elements of misbehaviour which a teacher can predict such as if children dislike a certain activity (which could be Mathematics). Such a reactive approach may also be dependent on the culture which exists within the school, particularly amongst boys. Long (2007) states that in some schools boys are controlled by dominant teachers who may exude authority over pupils, who may not be responsive to a more level approach, where a teacher tries to instil values of fairness and democracy.
Theories of Behaviour Management
There are several theories concerning behaviour management. Behaviourism is perhaps one of the most eminent theories surrounding this area. Wollard (2010) comments that this school of thought was particularly popular during the 1970s and is based on the notion that behaviour can be learned and changed or modified through teaching, training or tutoring. Relating this to previous arguments, it seems that the strategies of the teacher can be really effective in changing the behaviour of the learner and that any pre-existing schemes of behaviour can be changed. In fairness, it could be argued that schools have adopted some of the ideals of this approach with the consequence and rewards system which many have instituted to both reward and punish pupils. However, the rudiments of behaviourism are arguably dependent on the experiments which the main theorist B. F. Skinner conducted on rats and other vermin, which could limit the accuracy of his theory and the generalisability of it to humans. Kohn (2001) is a vehement critic of such a school of thought, saying that it manipulates their behaviour and causes them to become reliant on external rewards or ‘praise junkies’, who require external stimulation to complete a task. This brings the question of whether students are extrinsically motivated to behave well for selfish reasons in order to attain some kind of reward or whether they are intrinsically motivated to behave well. The answer to this ultimately depends on the personality of the child and their relationship with the teacher. Here, behaviourism seems slightly simplistic and does not seem to cover the vast multitude of variables which are present in the present classroom. Behaviourism does not allow room for individuality and other tailored approaches. However, Corrie (2002) recognises that behaviour management is a complex thing for teachers to master and argues that classroom management could be tailored for each individual child, although the need for whole school behaviour policies is also recognised. An observation which I made myself on placement was the fairly unique behaviour management policies which the mathematics teachers in my department had, which seemed to be achieved naturally, rather than being forced or planned. Graham and Phelps (2003) articulate that this should be part of degree courses, in students discovering their personal identity whilst they are they training to be teachers, as well as becoming immersed in the ‘know-who’ of becoming a teacher. Studying the nature of how mathematics teachers come to build such policies would be interesting for me, as it may help me to develop my own style faster.
Another theory on the behaviour of children is the social learning theory. This, devised by Bandura, argues that children can learn from role-models in their day-day life and copy and imitate their behaviour. Potentially, if adults model the behaviours they want pupils to display, then children may subsequently adopt such behaviours and actions. With regards to my own practice, if I model good behaviour and demonstrate values of respect and courtesy then pupils may show this to me in return. However, this theory could also be interpreted slightly differently as children could perhaps learn misbehaviour off their peers and not be completely receptive to what the teacher is saying. In essence, children are still individuals and possess a unique personality, although some groups may conform to a certain style of behaving. Pupils are clearly individuals and ‘managing up to 30 of them is a complicated business’ (Haydn, 2007, p.104), although behaviour management should help in regulating children’s behaviour to a certain extent. It also may be rather negative to assume that children are going to misbehave as some may be well-behaved.
Teacher-student relationships may impact the success of behaviour management strategies. Granitz et al. (2009) define rapport as the ability to cultivate and maintain relationships based on a sense of affinity and mutual respect, something which they argue is conducive to building trust and respect in the classroom with your students. This indicates that behaviour management needs to have a personal focus, so that children feel respected and valued. However, care should be taken to ensure that a teacher is not overly informal, so that professional boundaries are not blurred and that children still learn in a manner which allows them to develop as holistic individuals. Rogers (2009) argues that trainee teachers or ones that are struggling with behaviour management may benefit from having a supportive mentor or colleague in the classroom so that they are not isolated, which for myself could be my subject mentor or a fellow colleague. This could be a useful asset to employ, although it may be inadvisable to become overly reliant on this.
How and why has my practice changed throughout the year
Initially I was quite cautious in my approach to behaviour management as I did not want to make too much of an impression on pupils, recognising the advantages of a patient and progressive approach, which would hopefully pay dividends over time. Porter (2007) discusses the merits of the teacher having the right to enforce order in a classroom, an approach which Pollard (2006) disagrees with. Porter and Pollard disagree with their approaches to behaviour management, but still concur that behaviour management is imperative. At the beginning of the placement, my approach probably related more to Pollard’s methods of choice, in using subtle approaches such as body language and gestures to establish authority and gain control. Occasionally when misbehaviour occurred I utilised Porter’s tactics of employing more overt methods, such as projecting my voice and establishing clear boundaries and routines which will enable a class to acknowledge the teacher exuding confidence in their approach rather than being hesitant and unsure. Fortunately, the pupils in the school where I am on placement at are relatively well behaved, which means the need for any stringent behaviour management policies is not required and I could establish the necessary rapport quickly.
The approach which I instigated at the beginning of the placement was more reminiscent of behaviourism than anything else as I focussed on the students’ reaction to a particular stimulus in the manner and policies which I displayed (Pritchard, 2008). However, I learned to be more lenient in my approach and the ‘one-size’ fits all model of behaviour management employed initially became redundant as I learned to tailor my approach to suit each class, aligning with their maturity and level of cognitive development. This possibly justifies a differentiated approach for each year group, theoretically supporting the bespoke approach of behaviour management I employ. It will be hard for children to regain this acceleration of cognition, which means that pupils may not adapt well to any new behaviour management systems integrated by a teacher, particularly if they are different to anything that they have encountered before. I have my own personal behaviour management system, whilst still complying with the schools’ own policies. It seems apt to clarify the difference between the terms policy and system. Roffey (2004) states that policy is what is expected of staff in responding to challenging behaviour and also outlines the rules, rewards and sanctions which the school has in operation. Consulting Steer’s (2005) report seems to imply that the system is how the behaviour management policies are enacted in practice and carried out by education staff, although the report also comes to the authoritative conclusion that behaviour is the responsibility of school leaders to promote, so support from the school management team is also needed to facilitate excellent behaviour management.
Formality was another aspect of behaviour management which progressed as the placement went on. At the start of the placement, I was formal until I had established a suitable rapport with pupils. Once I had done this I begin to communicate with pupils in a consultative register, which embraces the duality of formal and informal language (Joos, 1961) and paid dividends with pupils in the long-term relationships which I built with them. In this sense, behaviourism could be relevant here in dissecting the relationship between the pupils and the teacher, with behaviourism seemingly advocating a consistent approach from the teacher in the regular enforcement of rules and boundaries. However, this could be blurred in some cases. Brooks, Bills and Abbott (2007) acknowledge that it is the teacher’s duty to act in loco parentis and be responsible for the care and welfare of their students, which could naturally result in some emotionally-charged conversations. This is something which I see the need to pay heed to. Evidently, there is a need for myself to demonstrate professionalism in my dealings with pupils in maintaining suitable boundaries, whilst also being an approachable figure. This seems particularly pertinent as some children (perhaps those who have suffered early emotional neglect or trauma) can build up an unhealthy attachment to teachers or other staff, which could have some undesirable consequences (Marshall, 2014).
My approach in behaviour management has changed considerably throughout the course of the placement. This is something which I will work to in my career as a teacher, subsequently refining and altering my practice as appropriate. It may be advisable for myself to adopt a different set of strategies to an experienced teacher, who may have more tools in their armoury. It may take a little time for me to master behaviour management, but it is worth the effort for the positive impact it will have on my teaching.
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