When a pupil continually misbehaves in a classroom, it is easy to blame the student for lack of discipline and motivation as mentioned in the article Understanding the role motivation plays in education. For some students, this may be the case, however, it cannot be stressed too strongly that when a teacher is frequently faced with misbehavior a more thorough inspection of their teaching methods and practice must be investigated. This is before seeking to establish discipline and control by continually administering reprimands and punishments.
All teachers throughout their career will encounter pupil misbehavior no matter how effective their teaching is. Being able to deal with such misbehavior is extremely important towards ensuring all students in the class can progress to their full potential and not be held back by others in the class. Handling discipline in class creates a calm, supportive atmosphere for pupils to learn and thrive instead of rebelling and retaliating. If the techniques and skills involved in dealing with misbehavior are not joined with effective learning experiences, teachers run the risk of resentment from both sides leading to frustration and hostility.
Research into pupils’ behavior in class has stressed the following as of most importance when dealing with classroom discipline.
- Sound preparation and presentation
- Good teacher-pupil relationship
- Good classroom teaching skills
- Pre-empting misbehavior before it starts
- Avoiding confrontation.
- Making sure any punishments are in line with school policy
It is noted that while there is much information available on misbehavior in the classroom, there is very little on how to deal with such behavior. Experienced teachers have recognized the fact that it is not how to deal with misbehavior but how to prevent it in the first place.
Causes of misbehavior
Whilst most teachers will agree with certain actions as misbehavior such as refusal to do work and hitting other pupils, there are some areas where there is a high degree of variation. For example, how much talking a teacher allows in the classroom. Each teacher must decide, for each class and each pupil, how far they will allow the student to deviate from their ‘ideal behavior’. This decision must be based on how much such behavior will not undermined learning, if it is unrealistic to attempt to modify and to what degree it requires action.
Reprimands and Punishments
Much behavior management in the classroom can be resolved quickly with a look or stance however there are inevitably times when a teacher must address misbehavior using a more formal approach. Such approaches can be placed into three categories.
- Verbal – including orders to cease, reprimands, threats of punishment, statement of rule, use of humor, and statements encouraging work.
- Non-verbal – including gestures, facial expressions, proximity, touch, and dramatic pause.
- Punishment – including extra work, moving a pupil, confiscation, detention and involving another teacher.
There are text that have been written on effective behavior practice however, here are some specific strategies that are believed to be the most effective when dealing with misbehavior.
- Reasoning with the pupil or pupils outside the classroom setting
- Keeping a pupil or pupils in (eg detention)
- Sending a pupil or pupils direct to the head
- Asking a pupil to withdraw temporarily from the room or classroom
- Discussing with the whole class why things are going wrong
- Removing privileges
- Deliberately ignoring minor disruptions or infringements.
Of course so of the above will depend on the schools policy on punishment and it is best to refer to the schools handbook first before implementing such strategies.
As well as the above strategies there are certain mannerisms teachers are advised to follow when confronting misbehavior. These are:
- Calmness –Remain calm when reprimanding pupils and do not shout, even when they do, thus minimizing embarrassment
- Rule clarity and reasonableness- Rules are made clear, reasons for sanctions are stated and based on ensuring that learning is not disrupted
- Appropriate punishment – Avoid the use of extreme punishments and punishments unrelated to misbehavior
- Fairness – Give fair warning and correctly identify the misbehaving pupil
- Acceptance of responsibility – Accept responsibility to maintain a sound learning atmosphere.
Certain strategies will work with certain pupils and some will be more effective than others. Setting an example by following through with threats and showing pupils that you will carry out the rules stated if they misbehave will quickly show the class that there are boundaries and rules that must be abide and consequences given when the rules are broken.