By monitoring behaviour — identifying patterns of disruption and collecting information over time — you will move some way towards finding a solution to behaviour problems. This ebulletin explains how to do this in an easy and effective manner

The traditional method of tracking and monitoring the behaviour of an individual or groups of students is to collect vital pieces of information from members of staff who have either observed inappropriate behaviour, or who have in fact been the victim of it. For many schools it may be class teachers, form tutors and heads of year sending out requests for information (round-robins) or, in the case of challenging behaviour, the same staff may receive written notes, phone calls or face-to-face reports of various incidents.

Information is certainly shared, reported and often filed. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this style of collection and recording, not to mention the sheer avalanche of information, it is:

  • difficult to interpret and record the information accurately
  • almost impossible to obtain an objective view of the problem
  • time-consuming
  • usually ineffective in creating a positive change in pupil behaviour.

Information collected in this manner often results in a confusing picture. Not only is there a distinct focus on only the negative (with behaviour management using a model of failure prior to intervention), but also this type of system will produce information that is contradictory and sometimes irrelevant.

There is a real danger of information overload. Remember the main reason for tracking behaviour is to monitor the type of difficulty, the location and the key players involved, and to begin to use appropriate interventions to effect a positive change. Merely confirming that eight out of 10 members of staff all have difficulties in managing an individual pupil most days of the week will probably tell you how bad the difficulty is perceived by staff but will not be particularly helpful in determining a solution to the problem.

Clear and accurate tracking of behaviour, both in the classroom and around the school site, will form not only the baseline or benchmark for the current behaviour, (thus allowing you to evaluate interventions and monitor improvement) but will enable members of staff to develop effective and consistent interventions. Clear, accurate and unbiased information is also vital if schools are to involve all the relevant stakeholders in the process. The information should be readily available to, and easily shared with:

  • teaching and non-teaching staff
  • the senior leadership team
  • tutors, heads of year and curriculum managers
  • parents and carers
  • outside agencies, governors, off-site provision (where appropriate).

Practical Tips

When tracking behaviour, try to focus on collecting information that will be of use when deciding how to intervene with the problem. Simply annotating all the difficulties, problems and details of various outbursts is insufficient. Your information should include a range of observations including:

  • pupil or pupils involved
  • time of day
  • lesson or activity
  • name of staff present
  • location in the school building
  • any relevant information about what led up to the incident or behaviour
  • how the issue was dealt with by attending staff
  • the result of the staff intervention
  • any sanctions used
  • who was notified of the incident or behaviour (include parent or carer if necessary)
  • how the behaviour was recorded
  • who recorded the behaviour
  • any damage caused
  • any injuries
  • what follow-up with the pupil has been planned

This type of information collecting, or tracking, will give a much clearer picture of the behaviour and will provide a less personal or subjective version of events than accounts from members of staff of the specific behaviour problem encountered.

Unfortunately, tracking behaviour can generate a vast quantity of information which needs recording, managing and processing. Schools should consider the various electronic options available to them when tracking behaviour, which may include their own network or other commercially produced systems.

Key points to effective tracking of behaviour should include:

  • consistency of input (schools may decide to input information via one member of staff or department, rather than allowing all staff to have direct access to inputting data)
  • use of input – recorded information should be seen as a proactive tool in effecting a change to challenging or disruptive behaviour, not simply as a means to record.
  • ease of access to system

With an effective tracking system in place, all members of staff will have access to accurate and detailed information relating to specific behaviour problems. It will be possible to isolate key areas or ‘hotspots’ around the school site, assist in the identification of CPD activities and share this information with all key stakeholders. Perhaps most important of all, tracking behaviour will enable teaching and non-teaching staff to put in place effective action plans to manage individual pupils whilse also contributing to the whole-school development plan.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2009

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.