Managing learning and teaching

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Identify an issue concerning the management of learning and teaching that might be explored further through empirical study.

Evaluation of Strategies for creating a positive learning environment - A case study of Year 11 ICT group in a secondary school.


Concerns about the behaviour of students and behaviour management in secondary schools have featured high on the agenda of everybody involved with education for many years now. Gillham (1981) observed 'There was a point in the early seventies when it seemed as if many secondary schools in the major urban areas were heading for breakdown.' Everybody has a perspective on the subject of behaviour in school. Public pronouncements from many quarters, legislation, media coverage and reports, on behaviour issues have flooded into the public consciousness at an increasing pace. (See Steer Report (2005) & Review (2009)

Achenbach et al. (2002) reported a wide claim of deterioration in student behaviour. In the Elton Report (1989), 97 percent of primary and secondary teachers reported that they were called on to deal with behaviour such as 'calling out' and 'distracting others by chattering'. Ravet (2007), indicates that when this disengagemend behaviour becomes persistent and chronic, it inevitably undermines pupil performance and has a deleterious effect on pupil achievement. This could also have a powerful impact on teachers. For example, it caused all stakeholders, frustration / stress, generated fears of inadequacy in teachers and created tensions within school relationship.

Disruptive behaviours whilst, seem relatively trivial, research repeatedly indicates that they present a serious problem to schools - Munn et al, (2004). They are also considered to be unacceptable because they violate the rights of surrounding students and indeed interfere with the learning of the wrongdoers themselves. School's Ofsted report (2005) cited that the most common forms of misbehaviour are incessant chatter, inattention and other forms of nuisance that irritate staff and interrupt learning.

DfES report suggested a strategy of creating effective learning and teaching environment rooted in good behaviour, where the needs of the school community are met (DfES 2003),

School's Ofsted report (2008) confirmed that Strategies for behaviour management / reward system are in place and in but disruptive behaviour persists.

Y11 ICT will be the focus of this study because it is a true representation of the school. The students are from diverse ethnic background, with Pakistanis the largest minority group, white British students / black African Caribbean children forming around half the cohort. About one third of students speak a language other than English with those with special educational needs and claiming school meals above the national average.

I would like to

  1. identify the factors perceived by stakeholders of this school as responsible for and identify strategies being used to tackle behaviour problems.
  2. Evaluate these strategies and suggest new and innovative strategies.

Literature Review:

The systems approach to organisational behaviour suggests there should be a tight / focused environment committed to the overall purpose of the organisation and provides a model for analysing the parts that contribute to its overall structure and organisational climate, i.e. artefacts and inter personal relationships or overall atmosphere of the school (Mortimore et all., 1988; Jones, 1988), often refer to as the Ethos within education community. Ethos within a system also includes tacit assumptions about values - the quality of internal environment of the organisation as experienced by, and influences members' behaviour and purpose. The school absorbs from its environment, information - including the value system, pupils, staff (teaching and non-teaching); other resources as input and transforming by various processes into outputs back into the community as (Nadler and Tushman, 1980) observed.

The school environment is made up of complex human psychosocial system with many emotions, boundaries, perceptions, guidelines and relationships / expectations; personal characteristics; that stakeholders will develop, must understand, and work within. A system is an assembly of parts connected together in an organised way. In most the connector could be shared agenda such as values, culture, informal and formal written policies / procedures, expectations /mode of interactions published upon which accountability and evaluation exercises are carried out. For a system to operate the set of rules or principles to support individuals / groups needs within that system would have been developed through discussion by leadership, groups, and other external component which input into that system - such as the Local Authority, parents group etc.

Good practice suggests that the ethos of a school will have been developed from a consensus, using the system analogy, input in by all stakeholders. National / local guidelines would be reflected in how the school ethos will promote inclusiveness, individual responsibilities, equal opportunities, special educational needs and the cognition of diversity. Fundamental to raising achievement, the development of behaviour management, anti-bullying, peer support and other whole school strategies is positive ethos. Similarly, DfES said that school ethos 'is reflected in the way pupils relate to each other, how pupils relate to staff and how the school relates to the community it serves'

Schools are challenged to examine what their pupils are offered, how and whether it meets pupils needs. The demands of the National Curriculum reflect this. Chaplain (2003) suggests that a school behaviour policy is a formal representation of its vision of how it will manage behaviour, reflects expectations, informs practice and dictates the school's climate. Chaplain reiterates that a school's unique nature creates a distinct culture and climate which prescribe how stakeholders should behave. Behaviour is therefore situational, and misbehaviour can be resolved in the situation where it occurs.

There is a need to establish / develop a system that promotes good behaviour / discipline, and guides decision making at all levels within the system (The School Standards and Framework Act requires one to be produced HMSO, 1998). The system put in place should also be flexible, practicable and allows group synergy, individual needs and the whole school philosophy,

Behaviour management issues should therefore be looked at on the following levels

  1. The whole system behaviour policy - should be an over aching policy which represents the school vision, reflects values, philosophy, inform practice, expectations and contribute to the overall school climate of "we" and not "them and us".
  2. Perception that the subsystems i.e. leadership / managers; classrooms, assemblies, other psychosocial areas,- intervention strategies available to deal with difficult students are capable of sustaining the appropriate values, attitude and beliefs within the school. - see Visser, Cole and Daniels ( 2002)

For the Policy to work it requires shared responsibility, meaning, understanding, and ownership. What constitutes unacceptable behaviour; rewards / sanctions are clear and agreed. The policy must be communicated to all stakeholders to remove opportunity for exploitation by any of the co-owners.

Evidence shows that schools do affect their pupils' behaviour. Herbert and Wookey (2004) indicate that schools are most effective when all stakeholders work cooperatively toward the same goal. What the school offers help to determine whether pupils respond in desirable or undesirable way.

Similarly, Galloway et al (1992) suggested that knowledge of a school's policies and its teachers' attitude is often important in understanding disruptive behaviour. Teachers are generally constructed as victims within this discourse, and are required to use their expertise to ameliorate the worst effects of indiscipline by managing misbehaviour and changing pupil responses in the classroom.

Young people spend 1500 hours in school, which provides a significant time frame in which they can learn. This is verified by comprehensive research showing that differences in achievement outcomes, attitude to school, and to a lesser extent, rates of absenteeism and other behavioural difficulties are systematically related to schools' quality (Rutter & Maughan 2002). Indeed, schools have a more direct effect on students' academic progress and behaviour than does their family, accounting for between 20 and 25 per cent of the difference between schools in student progress, (Osterman, 2000).

Motivation Theory

Eggen and Kauchak (1999) and Pintrich and Schunk (1996) in their works show the relationship between levels of motivation and performances / achievements

Similarly, Steers, Mowday and Shapiro (2004) show that behaviour can be reinforced or dissuaded.

Skinner (1985) demonstrates through experiments with rats that behaviour can be taught through rewards and withdrawals. This is true of pupil in school / classroom situation where teachers reward good behaviour or ignore / punish bad behaviour when it happens to increase good behaviour.

Parental / Home Factor

Leaman (2005) suggests that the role and influence of parents on the ability of their children to function / operate in the harsh reality of their environment cannot be ignored. She suggests further that there are factors in the environment that contribute to the weakening of a young person's emotional and social development and their inability to conform to structured and organised environment of school and classroom.

A young person's behaviour may also be affected by situations that can arise out of the blues such as arguments with friends, challenges at home, bereavement- can lead to a change in an individual's manner or an increase in anger (Leaman ibid).

It is generally agreed that behavioural problems in the school is attributed to a breakdown of discipline in the home at micro level and society at large with a particular focus on pupils from broken homes, working class backgrounds, ethnic minorities and inner city communities (Araujo, 2005).

There are numerous and very complex reasons why a student is inattentive, distracted or disruptive. Wolfgang labels them as, "'causative pathologies' issues associated with poverty and dysfunctionality and "compensatory behaviours" the 'need to belong.' such as fervent attention and power-seeking (Wolfgang, 2004).

Other Partnership approach

Partnership approaches recognise the complementary roles of teachers and learners. According to Silcock and Brundrett (2001) partnership policies are about seeking to establish an inclusive and participatory democracy in school and classroom organisation. Every member of that social group (classroom) will be in the discussion of activities, issues are debated, co-operation and collaboration in the resolution of disagreements arising between individual students and groups and between students and those more formally responsible for making decisions are sought. The proponents of partnership approach stated that parental and community commitments should also be included and that successful education demands a fruitful collaboration between stakeholders because each has complementary roles, rather than one being subsidiary to others.

School Values, Principle and Believes

Deal & Peterson (1999) state that developing or identifying values can be done efficiently and effectively in respectful of group make-up there will be general agreement on the values selected.

In a school setting, values should be easily identifiable. The challenge is in aligning collective action consistently over time. Therefore, all aspect of the values the school has set must be addressed and discussed on a regular basis. These will then shape the culture and provide referent points for all staff and others within the school.

The studied school, like many others, devotes significant amount of time on a regular schedule to develop shared understanding of their principles as they want all their staff and pupils to live them at school.

Examples include:

A school matter - all pupils are entitled to a secure and simulating learning environment, School meets the needs of its students and to assist them to acquire the skills necessary to participate effectively in a learning environment. This includes recognition of the social and emotional skills they might need to help them achieve. School is part of wider community culture and has a significant influence on the quality of learning / learning process, therefore the school will be responsible for articulating social, moral values and respect for others.

Corridor Code - This code puts equal responsibility on teachers and pupils. Teachers are to be treated with respect and courtesy at all times and teachers are entrusted with their pupils' quality of the learning experience and safety. Teachers are also to ensure that pupils are well equipped, punctual and in school with correct uniform.

The current criterion for judging school effectiveness is based on measurement of student learning and attainment. The emphasis on outcome data alone misses the essential issues of effectiveness because it is the culture of the school as set by the leaders that mostly influence this. Leaders therefore, must understand goals and outcomes are essential but leaders must inspire a culture that will enable these to happen.

To attain the goals of an organization, various internal structures and processes need to be in place including the right culture and other variables that impact on learning such as developing norms of collegiality; fostering high staff morale; focus on organisational health; communication, and decision-making processes that ensure this code to work.

The investigation and Research methods.

The concern here is behaviour management, I will therefore, collect and examine information from students and staff about causes of low level behaviour among year 11 ICT, strategies employed or should be used to improve behaviour.

Terminologies used to describe evidence gathering in education research are many. For this investigation, I will use what Cohen et al (2007), Bell (2005), Walliman (2003) and Denscombe (2003) call methods. I will use survey method which embraces questionnaires and interviews to explore the perception of cause(s) and effect of low level behaviour challenges in the school.

I will explain the type of information that is needed, research method used to gain the required data and why I chose this method. For my investigation, 50 students and 50 staff were served questionnaires and interviewed. The result will be collated and analysed with the result in form of graphs. As Denscombe (2003) suggests, I will complete the process of research with the write up, conclusion and my recommendations.


Questionnaires are a widely use and useful instrument for collecting peoples' thoughts and opinions, survey information, providing structure, often allowing for quantitative data, be administered without the researcher, and often being comparatively straightforward to analyse (Wilson and Mclean, 1994). Business and other organisations rely heavily on survey results for feedback and decision making, so large amounts of money are invested into their designs. Because of questionnaires general potential and simplicity (Taber 2007) and being such an effective method of recording information, it is one of the methods that I will use to collect relevant information, and I will be using two different types of questionnaires for the students and the staff.


The use of interview in research marks a move away from seeing human subjects as simply manipulable and data as somehow external to individuals, and towards regarding knowledge as generated between humans, foundation of human interaction through conversations and an interchange of views between two or more people on a topic of mutual interest within a social context (Kvale, 1996).

According to Tuckman, (1972) Interviews where properly structured will deal with specifics, general, direct or indirect issues to be measured and where to start and affords the researcher opportunity to set out the various stages of the research from formulating of purpose to communicating the findings (Kvale, 1996).

Burton et al (2008), in support of the use of interviews in educational research suggest that, 'this approach is particularly appropriate for accessing key information from an important individual who perhaps has a unique perception of the issues under consideration'. Taber (2007), supports the use of interviews in educational research for similar reason; but also forward that interviews provide a more in-depth view of an issue, where conversations can be extended or answers clarified which cannot be easily done with questionnaires and observational methods of research. Taber opines that flexibility of interviews provides fluidity in research; a list of questions guided into a completely different direction and validity of information checked on the spot without wasting additional valuable time. He suggests, 'one strength of interviewing is its flexibility: allowing the interviewer to rephrase questionnaires, clarify answers, seek elaboration and so forth'.

In order to access the perspective of as many stakeholders as necessary and to gain required information for the purpose of assessing behaviour management in the school,

I included as many of the stakeholders in the interview as each has experienced behaviour issues and have a story to tell from individual / group perspective. I tried to minimized bias and inaccuracy in answers to gain depth / wealth of information on this issue.

Factors responsible for low level behaviour problem.

During my investigation, most staff and students highlighted a number of factors they perceived as contributing to the apparent increase in disruptive behaviour.

Top of the list was 'Old fashion teaching methods' that exist with a number of teachers feeling that respect should be automatically given rather than earned through the way they manage their classes.

Students expressed the feeling that they are not seen as stakeholders who should participate in the planning and management of learning. They expressed the view that they have been ignored in the planning and teaching of lessons, a view shared by McCall et al (2001) "that the pupil's voice bas been ignored".

Most staff felt that parenting role of school has increased with teachers spending as much time dealing with issues parent should have dealt with as well as teaching. Staff intimated that in some cases parents did not take responsibility for their child's behaviour and lay that responsibility on teachers.

I found tension between acceptable behaviour standards in school and home which was evident in the language of some parents at the school gates at 3pm or during parents evening.

Lateness to lesson is another factor that all agreed that causes distraction in classrooms.

Strategies put in place to manage behaviour.

  • Departmental detention (after school detention)
  • Shadowing
  • Deduction of Vivo miles
  • Detentions (24 hours notice)
  • Friday afternoon senior detention

Evaluation of behaviour management strategies

After school detention is not an effective way of managing behaviour. Majority of interviews disagreed that after school detention is an effective way of stopping bad behaviour in lessons. Most of the student opined that some of the teachers use detention as a threat to cover up for their inability to manage their classes. They were of the opinion that teachers "are not being fair and they do not listen to our reasons / why there are disturbances in the lessons".

Incidentally majority of the staff also disagreed with this form of behaviour management for a different reason. Staffs think it's a waste of their time as most students do not turned up for detention and emphasised that they do get enough support from parents when pupils are detained. Some parents have also complaint of lack of teachers for 'not supporting' or 'picking on' their children which supports Miller, (2003).

Shadowing and recording of incident in SIMS

Shadowing (departmental parking) is behaviour management tool whereby a disruptive pupil is sent to another teacher or class - taken out of the environment. A significant number of the student interviewed was of the opinion that Shadowing does work. From the result it is also true that some students disagreed about its effectiveness in managing behaviour. The students expressed the view that bad behaviour can just be transferred from one lesson to another, because "students sent out from one teacher's classroom will continue to disrupt the other class they are sent to if they have their friends in that classroom". Pupils also offered that some students "deliberately disturbed lessons so they can be shadowed in another lesson where they know their friends will be in".

A significant number of the teachers agree with shadowing as well. They expressed the view that removing the offending student from the class sent a message to others that might be thinking of disturbing or distracting the lesson. This shows that shadowing can work if properly managed and due attention is given to it.

This is the only Behaviour Management strategy use ICT department.

Smart detention

This is a system whereby a teacher places a student on a Saturday senior detention. From the staff viewpoint, this detention system helps them in terms of reducing low level / bad behaviour in lessons. It removes the problem from lessons.

However, majority of pupils interviewed disagreed with the effectiveness or usefulness of Smart Detention but they like it. Their view was that "it's a waste of everyone's time, as time is not use constructively". "Saturday detention is fun for us and also allows us to leave the house to meet with our friends in town after the detention, unfortunately, the school has to cancel this sanction due to lack of funding".

Deduction of vivo miles (The new behaviour school policy)

Vivo Miles is a behaviour management system based on the concept of Air Miles. Point is awarded for good behaviour and deducted for bad behaviour. Accumulated points can be exchanged for an item in school in accordance with the agreed 'Sanction ladder'. (See appendix) This form of behaviour management was introduced to the school policy at the request of the School Student Council in 2007. The policy was reviewed in 2009 by the Council members and they voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining it.

During the interview and from the results of the questionnaire, (see chart below) I found that majority of students liked the concept of this sanction and its effectiveness in managing behaviour, but strongly disagree with the way it has been used by the teachers. Students felt that "some teachers are quick to deduct Vivo Miles from us than awarding them in the lessons".

Majority of the school staff strongly agreed with this sanction and its effectiveness. Their view was that students behave well in their lessons if they knew that they will lose some Vivo Miles that they are saving to purchase an item that they think will benefit them.


For low level behaviour challenges to be eradicated in School there must be a well thought out policy, shared understanding of what constitute a problem, understood and generally accepted by all stakeholders because the situation is different for each school and each community. As Messiou (2004) argues, "the picture for the puzzle is unique in each case" and must be fit for purpose. In the case of the school under review it appears that understanding of what constitute a low level disruptive behaviour is not understood nor shared even though policy document is available to all the school stakeholders.

During my interviews I found that some students do not understand what low level disturbance is. They think that as long as they are getting on with their set tasks in the lesson, the teachers should allow them to talk to their friends during the lessons. In my second round of interviews, some interviewee suggested that some of the students embarked on a strategy of behaving poorly and disruption of lesson in order to win cheap popular points with their friends. They see misbehaviour as a way of belonging in their social group / society as a way of developing their character.

It is important that there should be a shared meaning, whereby all stakeholders are aware of what the policy is all about and agreed on what constitute disruptive behaviour, its causes or sources and this should be communicated widely within the school community and external stakeholders - such as parents, L.A and other agencies etc. Shared meaning should be just that without any perception of any member of the system manipulating it for personal advantage as in the case of Vivo Miles and Shadowing.

Since the policy belongs to the whole school system, there must be opportunity for everyone to contribute to what they jointly owned and have responsibility for otherwise, as Messiou (2004) states, unless the views of all stakeholders affected are seriously taken into account in this process with no limits (Ballard 1995), then opportunities for development will be overlook.

Chaplain (2003) cited that if a behaviour policy is working correctly it should eliminate many of the low level disruptive behaviours, making life easier for teachers and providing them with more time to teach.


Involving parents in their child / children's education

It is recommended that parents should be involved in the education of their child or children. This proposal is supported by a number of researches that indicate that parents' involvement will have a positive impact on their child / children's education irrespective of family, cultural background and school resources. Cotton and Reed Wikelund (2001) conclude "parental involvement in children's learning is positively related to achievement". They also said that the more energy parents impute in their children's learning the better the outcome.

Ownership & Pupils' Views

The Governing body should therefore ensure that all stakeholders are consulted with and are aware of what is meant by the policy. There should be agreement on what constitute disruptive and bad behaviour and how this behaviour will be dealt with.

Contrary to the view that supports a notion of pupils as passive with a behaviour that is difficult to manage, see Wearmouth et al (2004), students have a voice and should be engaged / consulted on any decision that will affect them, and their views should be taken into account. School policies are not just for school governors, headteachers, other professionals and ancillary staff in school, they are for the whole school including pupils and their parents, and therefore, all should be encouraged to contribute and share ownership, responsibility and be trusted with the policing of policy issues on regular basis.

Lumby (2001), suggests that pupils despise relationships where power is overemphasis on control and where authority is shifting focus from working effectively, but they like teachers who maintain a balance between discipline and friendliness. Chaplain (2003) states that positive impact is achievable with less emphasis on punishment and critical control, but with greater emphasis on rewarding pupils.

All school staff, including volunteers, should be responsible for ensuring that policies and procedures are followed consistently and fairly applied. Mutual support amongst all staff in the implementation of the policy should be essential. Staff should have a key role in advising the headteacher on the effectiveness of this policy and procedures. Staffs also should have responsibility with headteacher's support for creating a high quality learning environment, teaching good behaviour and implementing the agreed policy and procedures consistently.

Effectiveness of Teaching, support staffs and learning

During my investigation, the major reason students gave for misbehaving or disrupting a class was "lessons are boring". If a lesson is not well planned it will lead to boredom for the pupils, this in turn leads to pupils losing interest / concentration and making them behave poorly. Herbert and Wookey (2004) supports this view when they suggest that meeting the needs of the pupils through organised classroom and curriculum will motivate the of children. The school's Ofsted report (2005) concentrates on improved quality of teaching and provision of an appropriate curriculum that engages the more challenging pupils, similarly Rogers (2006) advocates for acquisition by teachers of skills and ability to engage pupils attention and interest in basic through effective teaching, well prepared lessons, the ability to present and communicate well and to impart information and knowledge. There should be help and training as recommended by Ofsted school report (2005). In a resent statement Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Ofsted, said that the effectiveness of the workforce reforms of 2003, depends on "all school staff being valued and treated as professionals" and all headteachers should see the development and skilling up of their staff as important. She concluded that staffs are most effective when properly trained; their skills appropriately deployed, and are held accountable for their contribution to pupils' learning.

Clear and concise communication; direction and support of all teaching and ancillary staffs are keys to maintain positive environment and culture in which pupils will learn to manage and improve their behaviours as valued and respected members.

Behaviour Management Policy

School policy should be reviewed regularly, may be twice in a term since the behaviour management strategies that are in place now are ineffective (see appendix 1a). In the Ofsted Report for the school in 2005, a concern was raised about the complexity of the school policies and how policies did not promote consistency of approach and expectation of the students. This is still the same at the time of this investigation.

If possible the school should rewrite its policy based on my suggestions below:

  1. Complicated policy statements are counterproductive, so policy
    • should be made simpler and straight to the point.
    • to promote good behaviour and discipline needs to be appropriate, realistic and hierarchical;
    • encourage consistency of response to both positive and negative behaviour
    • should be seen to promote self-esteem, self-discipline, proper regard for authority / self and based on mutual respect and trust;
    • ensure fairness of treatment for all;
    • flexible enough to promoting early intervention;
    • shared in order for all concerned to know what it means
    • communicated throughout the school and the 'school public', thereby encouraging a positive relationship / involvement of parents and carers in the development and implementation of the school's policy and associated procedures.
  2. Headteacher to be responsible for the implementation and day-to-day management of the policy and procedures. Support for staff faced with challenging behaviour should be an important element of the responsibility of the headteacher and senior management team.
  3. (SPOT) A system of senior managers going round the school regularly was noticeable during my investigation and it provided a calming effect on the school poor behaviour, allow managers to understand the challenges faced by teachers and ancillary staff and provided some support to the school. This should be used until the review of policy is completed and clear understanding of policy is achieved.


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