Research School Network: Behaviour – Back to Basics Tips for going back to basics and preventing misbehaviour from happening.


Behaviour – Back to Basics

Tips for going back to basics and preventing misbehaviour from happening.

by Shotton Hall Research School
on the

In this blog, Director of Training and Research, Alicia McKenna writes about getting to know your pupils and their influences in order to build relationships and prevent misbehaviour from happening.

Screenshot 2024 03 11 at 14 24 53
Kenneth John Freeman, paraphrasing Hellenic perceptions of the youth in 600-300 BC

Re-reading the introduction of the EEF’s guidance report Improving Behaviour In Schools’ over the weekend made me laugh and roll my eyes in equal measure. As a teacher and mother of 3, this statement is a timely reminder that children have been exasperating their parents and teachers since time began.

That said, we are frequently reminded by news headlines and heated teacher debates on social media, that there is a feeling that pupil behaviour has worsened, with low-level disruption, refusal behaviour, and talking-back cited as the most frequent behaviour issues.

So where do we start? How do we address this?

Looking back on my career, I’ve had my fair share of negative encounters with pupils. Particularly earlier on in my career, when I was trying to establish myself and desperately trying not to be seen as a pushover’. With more experience, disruption was far less frequent in my classroom and this reflects the findings of the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), which suggests that there is a substantial improvement in classroom climate associated with being in the profession longer than 5 years.

In this blog, we look at proactive, prevention strategies, which have promising results. The Establish, Maintain, Restore (EMR) method focuses on developing positive relationships with those hard to reach pupils. All of these strategies should take place during the time you already spend with the pupil, i.e. lesson time or form time. Sometimes we get bogged down in new initiatives and strategies, but most of the time, it’s the little habits and routines, that work and make the biggest difference.

Step 1 – Establish 

At this point, you are intentional about building a relationship with your pupils. We know that most pupils behave well, most of the time. Some of them, however, need a bit of time and effort.

Be interested – find out about your pupils. What are their interests? What are their lives outside of the classroom like?

Communicate positively:
- Be warm
- Use positive body language
- Refer to things you know about them
- Listen actively

Step 2 – Maintain

Now, we need to continue with ongoing positive interactions.

According to relationship researcher John Gottman, the magic ratio is 5 to 1. This means that for every one negative feeling or interaction there must be five positive feelings or interactions. (This tip goes for all relationships as well as classrooms – so one to remember at home too)!

This includes things like positive verbal praise, phone calls home, postcards home etc.

It would also include smiles in the corridor, a welcome at the school gate and a warm greeting at the classroom door.

Step 3 – Restore

Sometimes things go wrong and when they do, we need to remember that we are the adults and it is our job to sanction appropriately and fairly, but to then seek to repair the relationship. You might do that by:

- Engaging in a restorative conversation with the pupil.
- Communicating your care for the pupil.
- Letting go of the previous incident and start fresh next time.
- At any stage in your career, following the EMR method is a practical approach to building positive relationships.

You can read more about improving behaviour in secondary schools here.

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