How effective are the behaviour plans you write for challenging students? This article offers some tips on the essential components of plans that really can make a positive change to challenging or disruptive behaviour

It is unlikely that anyone would attempt to teach a lesson without a lesson plan. The plan would be a clear indication of:

  • who you are teaching
  • what topic you are covering
  • what are the primary teaching points
  • which materials and resources are required
  • what the learning objectives and desired outcomes are
  • differentiation, where necessary
  • whether it is a seated activity, discussion, written exercise, and so on
  • what the students’ existing knowledge and skills are.

With this in mind, it would be reasonable to also consider constructing a behaviour plan. Such a plan may be directed at the whole group or be constructed with a particular individual in mind. Any such plan should be in the direct interest of the group or individual and not be in conflict with existing whole-school policies. In the case of individual plans, it is essential to inform and involve all interested parties, such as the individual student, teaching and non-teaching staff, parents, carers and any outside agency representatives already involved in the case.

All behaviour plans should be formed on the basis of objective observations of student behaviour in various settings. Give an overall description of your concerns and track incidents in different parts of the school, with different members of staff – including the addition of the students’ own perception of the difficulties.

Practical Tips
Once you have a clear picture of the types and level of problems, it is important to make a decision to prioritise a specific problem. In doing so, consideration should be given to:

  • the seriousness of the problem
  • how success with this issue may have an impact on other linked difficulties
  • how the success achieved in one area will build your (and the students’) confidence to address other areas.

It is vitally important to confirm that appropriate and acceptable behaviours have actually been taught and understood by the student or group, and thereby emphasising what you want to see in place of the unwanted behaviour.

Acceptable behaviours should be stated very clearly. When part of a behaviour plan, they should take the form of SMART targets: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and to be achieved within a Time-frame.

Targets are an essential part of any behaviour plan but equally important are the arrangements which you and other teaching staff will undertake to help the student gain success. These arrangements can include:

  • environmental issues (classroom physical space, noise and so forth)
  • social groupings (seating plan, class groups)
  • movement between lessons, accessibility of essential equipment
  • meeting and greeting at the start of the day or lesson
  • reminders of targets
  • appropriate and effective rewards and sanctions.

There may also be a need to change timetable, staffing and curriculum arrangements together with staffing and adult support.

If you are to have lasting success with your behaviour plan, it is important to actively involve the student or group in regular one-to-one meetings, self-evaluation and a renegotiation of targets, rewards and sanctions when necessary.

There is also a requirement to establish effective communication systems between all relevant staff. A level of consistency can be promoted when information is easy to access and when specific strategies are included, then staff should receive ongoing advice and training to implement such strategies.

Finally, don’t forget to include the monitoring, review and evaluation arrangements. How will changes to behaviour be monitored on a day-to-day, week-by-week and term-by-term basis?

It is worthwhile naming a key worker from the school staff to ensure accurate information is gathered, shared and evaluated within agreed time-frames. This key worker should also be responsible for maintaining clear and regular updates with parents and carers, together with any outside agencies involved.

Behaviour plans by their very nature may need frequent review, notation of successful interventions and changes where necessary. These reviews should be structured to ensure objective input from all interested parties. Behaviour tracking information, incident records, rewards, notes of phone calls home and student comments are the information sources that lead to your decisions about any changes that need to be made. Make sure that these review meetings are accurately documented for future reference.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 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 writer, consultant and trainer.