In an ideal world, there would always be a harmonious learning environment. However, this is not always possible. It is important to try to build good teacher-student relationships as this can lead to a more manageable classroom. If the lecturer builds good rapport and establishes a mutual respect with the learners then it will encourage good behaviour and positivity from the outset.
Gordon Thomas’ Teacher Effectiveness Training (TET) Theory is based on building a good quality teacher-student relationship. This theory states that to promote good behaviour, it is not about the learner being taught or the subject being delivered, but more the relationship between the lecturer and the learner. If this is good then there will be more effective learning taking place and less conflict.
I aim to instil this the TET theory within my classroom environment from the outset of the programme. I find that it takes around 6 weeks for the learners to settle in and for the lecturer to have built a good relationship with the learner. Part of building this relationship means finding out what interests the learner has and what makes them tick. When the learner realises you are taking a keen interest of them as an individual, it works well to break down barriers and build relationships.
It is highly likely a lecturer may be confronted with challenging behaviour from time to time with particular individuals. The lecturer can approach and try to contain challenging behaviour by using a range of different methods.
A way to try and encourage a safe and inclusive environment for all is to instigate a set of rules and guidelines from the start of the programme. The rules and regulations should be clearly stated and explained to the learners so they are aware of procedures and boundaries they must adhere to.
In my own teaching practice, I put together a set of class rules in addition to the learning provider’s main rules and regulations. The learners put forward their own ideas of what rules they think will be important to implement within their class. This gives them the responsibility of choosing rules they believe are important and because they have this authority, it is likely they will stick to these guidelines as they now have even further added value. It also creates a record to refer back to when unfavourable behaviour does approach and must be dealt with.
This method takes on a more democratic approach enabling each learner in the group to add their own ideas and opinions. The promotion of this inclusive environment is effective in itself as it strengthens relationships between different learners from the outset of the course. All of these points can promote a safe and inclusive environment for all with promising behaviour from the start.
‘Inappropriate behaviour soon spreads unless it is dealt with promptly.’ Geoff Petty, Teaching Today. Page 10
Depending on the type of behavioural issue, I choose different methods to tackle it. This is all part of managing a classroom effectively. I will go on to discuss some of the methods that I use within my own teaching practice and what I have found to be beneficial to address behaviour concerns.
One of the main tactics I try first is to talk to the learner on a one on one basis. I follow a four step process within this conversation. Firstly, I ask the learner what they think the problem is and I will listen well to the answer they give. Next it is important to agree a solution. I will ask a question such as, ‘What do you think will resolve this situation?’ This encourages the learner to put forward a relevant and manageable solution that they have thought up on their own. If the learner is unable to provide a clear solution, I put one forward and then ask if they can think of anything else that could be better. Again this is giving the learner responsibility of their actions. From here a target can be set to work towards this solution and I aim to summarise the conversation so the learner is clear on what has been discussed and agreed moving forward.
For example, I had a learner (learner 1) who was presenting challenging behaviour towards another learner (learner 2), making sarcastic remarks and showing unwillingness to cooperate. I requested learner 1 to step outside and here I asked what the problem was. She went on to explain that the two of them had not been speaking for the past week and presumed that it was because learner 2 had got jealous that learner 1 had made another friend and started spending more time them.
Next, it was time to come up with a solution so I asked how she thought the situation could be resolved. She put forward the idea that she should talk to learner 2 to assure her that she still wants to be friends and maybe the 3 individuals could come together and make friends as a group. A target was set for Learner 1 to speak to Learner 2 before the next session and feedback to myself on the update. The learner came back from break and said the discussion went very well and it was just a misunderstanding. Learner 1 also apologised to me for being rude in the previous session.
I find that taking this sort of approach works effectively in unmasking the real problem. When you pin point a particular individuals actions and draw attention to them in the middle of the session it makes the wider audience aware of the situation and there could flare up, encouraging further challenging behaviour.
If any inappropriate behaviour arises in a classroom, I will always put a stop to it as quickly as possible. For example, if a learner is continually trying to engage others in conversation that is irrelevant to the session, or talking when they should not, I try the firefighting approach. I will drop their name in to what I am saying as this makes them aware that I am aware they misbehaving. This is extremely effective in itself and mostly always deters away from the negative behaviour.
If learners feel motivated to achieve in their learning environment then they are more likely to behave in a more positive manner. Overall I think it is most important to get to know your learners and what makes them tick in both good and bad ways. Whatever you know motivates them and ignites passion, focus on that as this will encourage a fun and exciting learning environment.
If learners chose to present challenging behaviour then deal with in in a way that you know works for that individual. For example for some of my younger learners a good way to discipline them is to take time off of their break, ask them to wait behind at the end of the session or to move seat in the class, depending on the situation. However, this would not be a good approach to some of the more mature learners in the group.
Another theory I inherit within my teaching practice is B.F. Skinner’s Contribution to Learning Theory which states that ‘Changes in behaviour are a result of individuals’ responses to events, or stimuli that occur in their environment.’ This means that if a learner is rewarded for something positive they have done, then they are more likely to continue actions and behaviour such as this in the future.
The most effective way of encouraging positive behaviour is by the use of praise. I find praising learners to be a very powerful tool. If you praise good behaviour, then learners are more likely to continue in this manner as they want to be praised more so. This motivates them to do better, but can also build on core skills such as self-esteem and communication. All in all, focus less on the bad and more on the good.