Promoting Positive Behaviour in the Classroom

1720 words (7 pages) Essay in Psychology

10/01/18 Psychology Reference this

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Improving Classroom Behaviour.

This paper will address three questions based around the general topic of improving class room behaviour. The three questions to be discussed are how can teachers promote positive behaviour? How can teachers pre-empt misbehaviour? The final question is how can teachers deal with misbehaviour? As well as answering these questions, connections will be drawn to the behaviour management notes (appendix). At the conclusion of these answers a summary will be made to show how all pupils can be included in learning within the classroom environment.

How can teachers promote positive behaviour?

Psychoeducational theory is based on the individual psychology of Adler and attempts to promote positive behaviour.  Adler’s work basically states that we behave in a way that gratifies our needs. The fundamental belief of Psychoeducational theory is that it is the beliefs about the self which ultimately establishes the behavioural pattern of the individual (Arthur, Gordon & Butterfield, 2003). Within this theory it is claimed the best way to elicit positive behaviour is through development of positive self beliefs, long term behaviour change can only be established once negative self beliefs are changed (Arthur et al., 2003).

Goal-centered theory can also be use to promote positive behaviour, this is accomplished by encouraging students to feel they are valued within the classroom environment (Arthur, et al., 2003). This is a four part process, the first part of this process is a democratically negotiated set of class rules with clear logical consequences. The second part is conflict resolution techniques, such as group discussion and class meetings. The third part is systematic encouragement with the aim of all students feeling valued. The fourth part is planning for needs satisfaction, this should be very individualized to the needs and issues of each student (Arthur, et al., 2003). Systematic encouragement is demonstrated in the behaviour management notes where it is stated that encouragement and praise are offered for good behaviour.  

Curwin and Mendler (1997) support a responsibility model over the discipline based model. The responsibility model proposes four main ideas, welcoming warm environment, democratic environment, clearly defined limits and encouraging conflict resolution skills.  Curwin and Mendler (1997) admit this is a more difficult and time consuming model to implement, however they believe it worth the effort because self disciplined students are higher achievers and much simpler for teachers to work with. Holverstott (2005) offers a similar argument suggesting that increasing self-determination in students encourages more positive behaviour in the classroom.

Observational learning is another theory that can be implemented to encourage positive behaviour. All teachers should understand that they are modeling behaviour to their student at all times (Kauffman, Mostert, Trent & Pullen, 2006). Observational learning can also be implemented with students. A student is rewarded in front of other students for the behaviour that the teachers want to encourage, students will then learn vicariously to increase the desired behaviour.   This technique can be utilized when minor misbehaviour is accruing, a teacher can ignore the misbehaviour and reward another student for their positive behaviour in order to distract the misbehaving student and reinforce the desired behaviour (Kauffman et al., 2006). Observational learning could be said to be in use in the behaviour management notes where encouragement and praise are offered for good behaviour, this positive reinforcement may be vicariously teaching other students the behaviour that is desirable.  

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The final theory for enhancing positive behaviour is rewards theory, this theory works by offering students small rewards for positive behaviour, such as stickers or points that can be collected for some larger reward (Akin-Little, Eckert, Lovett & Little, 2004). This theory can be seen in behaviour management notes where students are awarded credits which, when accumulated, allow them to go on a trip at the end of the school year. This theory has attracted some controversy as not everyone supports it, however Akin-Little et al. (2004) study found it to be a useful technique when implemented correctly. When implemented incorrectly it may reduce intrinsic motivation. This theory can also be implemented in groups where a whole group of student receive reward or punishment based on the behaviour of the whole group (Demersseman, 2004). This system can be problematic for two reasons, students who do not misbehave and are punished may come to resent their teacher and students who do misbehave may be pressured by other students and this may lead to them becoming social outcasts (Demersseman, 2004). 

How can teachers pre-empt misbehaviour?

In answering this question it must be remembered that all of the above answers to the first question are also relevant to this question as any increase in positive behaviour should assist in reducing misbehaviour. Moore, Anderson and Kumar (2005) believe that some behaviour interpreted as misbehaviour is actually escape behaviour. The task set is either too difficult or too simple and therefore does not engage to student and student misbehaviours to avoid the task. Hence, their proposal to pre-empt misbehaviour is to ensure the task matches the students’ abilities to a level which is challenging, however, still within the student’s capacity.  

Another theory that offers solutions to student misbehaviour is interpreting the acting-out cycle, this theory states that the teachers should monitor misbehaviour until the cycle of it can be understood. Once the acting-out cycle is known, interventions can be made much earlier before behaviour reaches the level which is considered misbehaviour (Kaufman et al. 2006).

How can teachers deal with misbehaviour?

One of the theories that can utilized in dealing with misbehaviour is based on behaviourism, Kauffman et al. (2006) describe three ways in which behaviourism can be utilized in dealing with misbehaviour. These are extinction, response cost punishment and punishment by presenting aversives. Extinction is designed to make the undesirable behaviour become extinct, this is accomplished by removing any reward or reinforcement the student was receiving for the undesirable behaviour. This theory requires that the teacher first identify the reinforcer and this is not always a simple task as it may not be obvious (Kaufman et al. 2006). Response cost punishment is another behaviourism based way of dealing with misbehaviour. This type of punishment involves a cost to the misbehaving student, such as the loss of something which is of value to them, for example a part of their lunch break (Kaufman et al 2006 65). Punishment by presenting aversives is the final behaviourism solution to misbehaviour to be discussed, it involves reprimands or timeouts (Kaufman et al 2006). An example of response cost punishment can be seen in behaviour management notes when the teacher took one minute off the student break because they would not behave as they were being dismissed from class. This was further demonstrated when the two students whom were fighting were given a 20 minutes detention. Salend and Sylvestre (2005) held that poor classroom behaviour could be improved by implementing teaching strategies which are interesting, motivating and challenging. This belief comes from the hypothesis that misbehaviour comes from classrooms where class work is not well matched to the students abilities or the students find the work uninteresting or unmotivating. This lead students to disengage and this in turn leads to misbehaviour. Salend and Sylvestre (2005) further indicate that in some cases it is a lack of social skills which lead to misbehaviour and improving social skills such as group work and learning appropriate social interaction will improve a student’s behaviour. This may have been useful for the fighting students in the behaviour management notes, there is the possibility that these student did not have the social skills to deal with the situation they found themselves in and improving social skills may have avoided the problem.

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In regards to punishment, Spitalli (2005) states that avoiding some of the disciplining pitfalls is just as important as the discipline used. He therefore offers a list of ten do not do’s to assist teachers; 1. Never punish the many for misbehaviour of a few; 2. Never use school work as punishment; 3. Never bully students; 4. Never lower grades as punishment; 5. Never use coercion to teach; 6. Never use profanity; 7. Never rant and rave; 8. Never use sarcasm; 9. Never send students to the principal for minor infractions; 10. Never ask a student to repeat unacceptable language. Spitalli’s rule number one has been broken in the behaviour management notes when the teacher keeps all students from going to their break because a few are misbehaving.  

The final section of this paper will address the issue of how all pupils can be included in learning. Two theories discussed within this paper focus on the individual and therefore the teacher is encouraged to include and consider the needs of all students. These theories are psychoeducational and goal-centered theory. Salend and Sylvestre (2005) also support that individual attention is required to ensure that all students are given work that is at an optimal level for them. This idea is reiterated by Greenspan (2005) as a major contributing factor in creating an inclusive classroom in his article on the topic. It could be concluded from this analysis that teachers play an important role in creating of the inclusive classroom.      


Akin-Little, K. A., Eckert, T., Lovett, B., & Little, S. (2004). Extrinsic reinforcement in the classroom: Bribery or best practice. School Psychology Review, 33, 344-362.

Arthur, M., Gordon, C., & Butterfield, N. (2003). Classroom management: Creating positive learning environments. Australia: Thomson.

Curwin, R., & Mendler, A. (1997). Discipline with dignity: Beyond obedience. The Education Digest, 63, 11-14.

Demersseman, S. (2004). Finding your marbles: Group punishment or group reward.Today’s Catholic Teacher, 37, 34-35.

Greenspan, S. (2005). Creating an inclusive classroom. Scholastic Early Childhood Today, 20, 26-27.

Holverstott, J. (2005). Promote self-determination in students. Intervention in school and clinic, 41, 39-41.

Kauffman, J., Mostert, M., Trent, S., & Pullen, L. (2006). Managing classroom behavior: A reflective case-based approach.  Boston: Pearson, Allyn &         Bacon.

Moore, W., Anderson, A., & Kumar, K. (2005). Instructional adaptation in the management of escape-maintained behavior in a classroom. Journal of Positive Behavior Intervention, 7, 216-223.

Salend, S., & Sylvestre, S. (2005). Promoting positive social development: Understanding and addressing oppositional and defiant classroom behavior. Teaching exceptional children, 37, 32-37.

Spitalli, S. (2005). The don’ts of student discipline. The Education Digest, 70, 28-31.

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