Are you aware of the many, varied learning styles adopted by your students and how they affect behaviour? This week’s Behaviour Matters explores the benefits of differentiating within the classroom and your own presentation style to accommodate these differences

Learning styles and their effect on behaviour
Are you aware of the many, varied learning styles adopted by your students and how they affect behaviour? This week’s Behaviour Matters explores the benefits of differentiating within the classroom and your own presentation style to accommodate these differences

There is no denying the value of developing a ‘tool box’ of strategies, techniques and systems to manage students’ challenging behaviour. Rewards and consequences are usually put in place as whole-school measures, as well as being used for managing class groups and dealing with individual difficulties. While this may be a justifiable system within the teaching and learning environment, there is clearly an issue when comparing proactive and reactive responses.

If your own management techniques rely on reactive strategies, used after difficult behaviour has taken place, there is a danger that you are not only giving attention to unwanted behaviour but – and more importantly – you are permitting the problems to develop and affect the learning of all students.

What strategies can you employ to become more proactive? Using individual learning styles as a starting point, you will be able to identify the optimum learning environments for individuals and groups of students. How do you accommodate student learning styles in your own lesson plans and presentations? Opportunities for students to work as individuals, members of groups, facilitators, leaders or coaches can vastly alter their perception of the learning environment and their behaviour.

If we recognise that individuals prefer different learning styles and techniques, sometimes using different styles in different circumstances, then it follows that if we as educators provide suitable learning environments for these styles to develop, we will encourage more on-task behaviour and less disruption. Students will be able to match their learning style to the situation and be more engaged and focused.

Students who recognise their own learning styles and learning environments which meet these needs improve the speed and quality of learning. The aim is to establish a proactive response to managing possible disruption and challenging off-task behaviour.

Practical tips
In order to establish and develop a proactive teaching and learning environment for students, you must identify the learning styles you are trying to provide for. Once identified, you will be able to construct lesson plans focusing on on-task behaviour rather than building in systems to respond to difficult behaviour. Clearly these reactive systems must be in place as a catch-all for those students who demonstrate chronic (ongoing, day-in, day-out) or severe poor behaviour. Using the proactive learning and teaching style approach will certainly reduce the numbers of students who are pushing the boundaries and failing to meet expectations.

Learning styles to consider can include:

  • Verbal: a preference for a learning environment which emphasises speech and the written word.
  • Aural: a preference for a learning environment in which sound and/or music is involved.
  • Kinaesthetic or physical: a preference for ‘doing’ using movement and the sense of touch.
  • Social: a preference for a learning environment which allows students to work in groups or with a partner.
  • Individual or solitary: a preference for private, individual study, often seated at a table or desk.
  • Logical: a preference for a learning environment which encourages the use of logic and reasoning.

There are obvious problems in attempting to provide a learning environment which meets the needs of every student at all times. Remember the saying: ‘You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time’.

However, the main aim is to reduce off-task and disruptive behaviour and to encourage engagement, on-task behaviour and involvement. It is worth auditing the environment you provide for students and how that environment is able to meet the varying needs of individuals. A strong proactive approach to classroom management, coupled with a clear and consistent behaviour management system, will enable you to respond quickly and fairly to problems. Embed a proactive system of behaviour management into all your lesson plans; identify the learning styles of individual students and provide opportunities in your presentation; and you will be able to reduce the number of students presenting challenging behaviour.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2011

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.

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