How will your response to disruptive pupils set the tone for their future behaviour? In this Behaviour Matters, author Dave Stott looks at appropriate reactions and the use of reflection sheets to conquer this common problem

Whole-school behaviour policies and classroom rules generally feature a hierarchy of responses employed by teachers and adults working with young people. The hierarchy will begin with the lowest intervention, often ‘the look’ followed by a range of responses intended to help the pupil focus on their own behaviour and therefore not escalate the response stages. For the teacher, the effectiveness of this style of approach relies on consistency, delivery and inevitability of consequences. The clear message from this style of behaviour management is a reminder of behavioural expectations and the opportunity to reassess actions.

If the strategy is used simply as a reactionary response to inappropriate behaviour, there is little or no opportunity for the pupil to consider their actions and to reflect or visualise likely consequences. The system is in danger of become merely a staged response to unwanted behaviour with the chances are the pupil, or at worst – the adult, will simply move from step to step, eventually escalating towards unnecessary high-level responses.

If your hierarchy of responses contains stages such as:

  • ‘the look’
  • physical proximity
  • privately understood non verbal signal
  • verbal warning
  • loss of time as punishment (stay behind after lesson/break etc)

then you have the opportunity to present the pupil with a consequence that requires them to reflect on their behaviour, consider what happened and also suggest what may have been a better, more considered course of action.

The days of pupils writing out pages of lines, or copying large extracts of text as so-called sanctions or punishments are thankfully long gone. The concept of ‘using the pupils time’, however, is still with us and with some creative thinking can be used to reinforce behavioural expectations, while embedding a process of problem solving and self-review. Use the opportunity for the pupil to undertake a structured review of their actions. A reflection sheet or reflective meeting will form an effective step in your hierarchical approach to managing behaviour. The reflective sheet may be a hard-copy or electronic document completed by the pupil or may even be a structured discussion at a time when tempers are under control and any audience has moved on.

Practical Tips
The intention of the reflective sheet or reflective meeting is to give the pupil a clear and structured format to consider their behaviour which led to the meeting or completion of the sheet, to review the rules and expectations of the work area and to then indicate what, after some detailed consideration, would be a more appropriate response.

The written sheet may look something like:

1. This is what I did……………..2. This is rule I ignored/the expectation of the teaching and learning area

3. This is what I should have done/what I will do next time.

The structure gives the pupils a formal reflective review process, enabling them to begin a problem-solving process and consider how their behaviour is affecting themselves, other pupils and the teaching and learning environment.

This reflective process will also provide distinct links with the work on social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL). The intervention requires the pupil to be self-aware and to begin to use their learnt skills in managing their emotions. Being aware of how their actions are affecting others and planning more appropriate actions given the same situation provides the opportunity to reflect on both motivational skills and the ability to demonstrate empathy. Finally, once the pupil has reflected on their behaviour and reinforced the expectations of their behaviour, they can plan their future behaviour in similar circumstances, visualising all of this in a social environment.

The completed reflection sheets may also be collected and recorded as part of your monitoring of behaviour. Evidence of previous behaviour and outcomes or observations can be an effective tool to assist you in your ongoing discussions with individual pupils. Reflective sheets or meetings can form a baseline of evidence to demonstrate number of incidents, pupil attitude and effectiveness of your strategies.

As with all suggested responses to inappropriate behaviour, you should constantly review their effectiveness. The use of reflective sheets may have a dramatic initial effect and may also affect long-term changes to the behaviour of the individual. Make sure you continually monitor their effectiveness. Like all good strategies they should be used, monitored and evaluated.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2008

About the author: Dave Stott has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a wrtier, consultant and trainer.