How can you use data records to analyse and tackle a student’s poor behaviour? Dave Stott looks at ways to keep accurate incident notes, and provides tips for resolving issues by looking at the patterns they reveal

In these days of easily accessed information on pupil behaviour, it seems sensible to make as much use as possible of the data available to you. For this to be effective and not overly labourious it is important to be aware of:

  • Where is the relevant data stored or recorded?
  • How was the information obtained? (Is it subjective comments or observable, unbiased information?)
  • Who recorded the information?
  • Is the information up to date?

If the information relates to an individual pupil it is often the case that the data available is a catalogue of incidents or unacceptable behaviour recorded by a range of adults. ‘On report’ forms usually detail the required behaviour as stated on an IEP or contract, together with the actual behaviour recorded over a period of time. This information will certainly give you an insight into the problem behaviour (such as its frequency) but is often not very helpful in helping the pupil to change his or her behaviour. This type of recording may also not take account of contributory factors such as:

  • day of the week
  • time of day
  • activity
  • named member of staff present.

Accuracy of information is vitally important. Teacher/pupil relationships, tolerance levels and environmental issues can all be influential factors in the interpretation of data.

Simply collecting data to build up a ‘behavioural picture’ of an individual or group of pupils is really only doing half the job. If you can access accurate and clear information about a whole range of issues, it will help you to plan effective interventions that are proactive rather than reactive. Not only will the collected data give you a clear picture of the nature of the problem and help you plan appropriately, it will form the necessary baseline from which you can measure progress and the effectiveness of your interventions. Shared information will also lead to shared solutions.

Practical Tips

There are numerous systems and methods of recording and storing information that relates to behaviour management, both hard-copy and electronic. Your establishment may use an in-house recording system or may have purchased a bespoke electronic system. Both methods are capable of holding a wide variety of information, all of which can prove invaluable in effective behaviour management.

Recorded information, relating to the following details, can give essential pointers in helping you to design appropriate interventions for whole school, group or individual strategies:

  • school ‘hotspots’ – physical locations where problems have occurred
  • time of day
  • names of pupil or pupils involved in problems
  • accurate description of difficulty or problem
  • names of members of staff involved
  • what actually happened
  • style of approach used
  • existing arrangements as agreed on individual education or behaviour support plan
  • how the issue was resolved.

Attempting to find solutions to or determine the way forward with difficult behaviour problems can seem an impossible and thankless task without clear and accurate descriptors and records of behaviour. Indeed some individual pupils may seem to be spiteful and the cause of endless problems whenever they are with you. Using the data your school collects will help you determine when the behaviour is happening, with whom and what strategies have been either total failures or highly successful.

Up to date, accurate and objective data may also be used to form the basis of constructive conversations with individual pupils, other staff and parents or carers.

Once the problem has been accurately identified and placed in context, work can begin on providing appropriate interventions that in turn may be evaluated based on the information collected initially.

For whole-school issues it may be possible to identify problem areas that require extra staff on duty a key times, a change to movement around the school or scheduling , such as staggered lunch breaks, one way systems, etc. For individual pupils, identifying the problem and noting all associated influences and outcomes will give a clear indication of:

a) what the pupil needs to do to effect change
b) what you and other members of staff can do to assist the pupil in making changes.

Behaviour problems are often associated with a lack of responsibility for actions and in some cases a total denial of the problem. Use the information and data you have collected as an aid to forming a positive way forward. The information will give you an unbiased description of the problem, together with a means to demonstrate progress.

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.