Ed started his career in chemistry, working for ICI Organics Division in Blackley. Having decided that 21 days holiday a year was simply not enough, he left industry to take up teaching at the age of 30. He spent the next twenty odd years teaching chemistry to GCSE and A level - and learning about behaviour management the hard way. Early in his teaching career he became interested in classroom management techniques following some Keystone Kops style episodes in his Y9 lessons. For the last few years of his teaching career Ed was the behaviour lead in a large Manchester comprehensive and was responsible for the successful introduction of BFL into the school. In July 2008 Ed left teaching to form Schools Data Services Ltd, specifically to promote IRIS, an on-line behaviour and rewards management facility devised by Ed and ex school MIS manager Andrew Rose.
Ed lives in Rochdale with wife Helen, two boys and a dog of very small brain called Archie. His main ambition is to make a difference in education by providing an alternative low cost, high value MIS to schools.
Effective and positive behaviour management is achievable through the combination of a well-designed, robust IT system and properly supported teachers following a clear and fair behaviour policy. Sounds like a simple strategy, but putting a software system in place that enables a school to record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour can be problematic.
Teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school: without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever its severity, impacts on every aspect of school life, from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing. As a result, managing pupil behaviour effectively is at the centre of a school’s core business.
When I used to provide sessions on classroom management to our regular cohorts of trainee teachers, one thing I noted was how poorly they prepared themselves to deal with misbehaviour. Though they all planned their lesson content - their starter activity, plenary and so on - virtually none had a plan for how he would respond to bad behaviour.
Yet misbehaviour in lessons is almost certain. If you enter a classroom without a clear idea of how to respond to it, you will have to make things up on the spot.
This is generally not a good idea. For one thing, a punishment contrived and applied on the spur of the moment can be as much of an inconvenience to you as to the miscreant. “Right, you can spend your lunchtime with me!” Oh dear, that’s your well-earned lunch break spent in a classroom with a warm sandwich and sulky teenager.
In my previous article I discussed ways of minimising misbehaviour and creating a positive classroom climate. But, like an English summer, even the most temperate lesson is prone to showers. The following tips are designed to help you prevent a drizzle of mischief becoming a deluge of disobedience.
Keep the lesson flowing. When dealing with misbehaviour, always start off with the least intrusive intervention possible. For example, a pupil is tapping a pencil whilst you are talking. He might be doing it absent- mindedly, or he might be trying to provoke a reaction. In either case, try ignoring it. (This is called “tactical ignoring”: you are making a positive choice to ignore the behaviour, not failing to act because you are unsure of what to do.) If the tapping doesn’t stop, point your gaze at the source of the noise or move towards it. That will usually be enough to get it to stop. Other low-level intervention techniques include asking a relevant question (which is often all that is needed to bring the pupil back on task), and using non-verbal signals - such as a finger to the lips or even just a raised eyebrow. These enable you to maintain the flow of your lesson and not distract other pupils while ensuring that the class knows you’re monitoring its behaviour. Responding too quickly or too aggressively to minor misdemeanours can leave pupils feeling aggrieved or humiliated – and faced with a choice between defying the teacher and losing face in front of peers, many will defy the teacher. The issue then escalates, the disruption is drawn out, and the lesson flow is interrupted.
Everyone knows the old adage “prevention is better than cure”. This is as true of classroom management as it is of anything else. Preventing disruption from occurring in the first place is far better than struggling to regain control when things have all gone pear-shaped.
As staff mentor, I was once asked by a newly-qualified teacher if he could come and observe one of my lessons. He wanted, he said, to see “How you deal with confrontation”. I told him he was welcome to come and see my lesson, but he was unlikely to see any confrontation because I tried hard to make sure it didn’t happen. Of course, the question he should have asked is “How do I avoid confrontation in the first place?”.
Driving efficiencies to provide real cost savings will be top of every secondary school Headteacher’s agenda in 2011. Managing and monitoring pupil behaviour is often administration heavy causing it to be a common time thief for both teachers and non-pastoral staff. An effective way of easing this burden is to implement a well-designed robust IT system that can record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour.
As teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school, managing pupil behaviour efficiently is a core consideration for Headteachers. Without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever the severity, impacts on every aspect of school life; from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing.
Effective and positive behaviour management is achievable in every UK secondary school, through the combination of a well-designed robust IT system and properly supported and trained teachers. Sounds like a simple strategy, but putting a software system in place that enables a school to record, monitor, analyse and manage pupil behaviour effectively can be problematic. This article discusses some of the key considerations when procuring and implementing an effective behaviour management IT system.
Teaching, learning and behaviour are inseparable issues in school. Without good order in the classroom, effective teaching cannot take place and pupils’ learning is inhibited. Even low-level disruption in the classroom is a significant source of stress for teachers. Poor behaviour, whatever the severity, impacts on every aspect of school life; from exam results to teacher and pupil wellbeing. As a result, managing pupil behaviour effectively is at the centre of a school’s core business.
Reading the MIS forum contributions on Edugeek, it’s interesting the number of people who are apparently happy to come up with 'workarounds' to get round the failings of their MIS. Someone, an IT technician in a school usually, will post a query on the forum asking for help with a particular issue he’s having with the school’s MIS. The replies usually run along the lines of “No, you can’t do that on SIMS (CMIS, e1, Integris, whatever) but you can ...” there follows some description of a workaround usually ending with “Dunno why, but it seemed to work for us”. I suppose this is okay if you were paying 150 quid a year, you might expect to have to do that. But MIS systems are very expensive; I could buy a decent car for what some high schools are paying annually for their MIS. Would I be happy to pay £20k for a car, only to find that it did not, for example, do left turns and I had to ‘workaround’ that by doing three right turns? I think not. So why do schools apparently seem happy to do that with their MIS solutions? One reason is the perfectly human and understandable desire to stick with what you know and are comfortable with, foibles and all. The other reason is ... well, what is the alternative? This is a good question; all the MIS systems available from the major suppliers are all (more or less) equally expensive and each has its own particular drawbacks. So, the argument goes, you might as well stick with what you know, workarounds and all. I’m sure that these MIS systems like SIMS and CMIS were good bits of software when they were first introduced. However, years of bolting bits on, adding extra functions, being worked on by a succession of different software developers have taken their toll and the software becomes less and less reliable over time. These sea changes happen slowly, not in quantum leaps, so that the shortcomings creep up slowly on data managers in schools. After a while, you just get so used to a way of working that you don’t question it.
There has been a rather unfortunate tendency from MIS suppliers in recent years to try and provide a ‘complete solution’ for schools. MIS systems come complete with attendance modules, parent portals, achievement trackers, finance packages and more, usually all at extra cost. Alongside this there is the suspicion that some MIS providers contrive to make it difficult, by means of stiff licence fees and conditions, for smaller independent companies to compete in this ‘add-on’ market. Frequent changes and updates to the MIS software also serve to make things difficult for the small provider; though to be fair, the situation is complicated by the continuous stream of demands coming out of the DfE. Constantly having to update MIS systems to accommodate these statutory requirements has been cited as being one of the reasons for them being so expensive. Schools vary so much in size and character that it is unlikely that the solutions bundled with the MIS system will be flexible enough to provide exactly what each school wants and needs. This is why we need small, independent suppliers who can fill these niches with bespoke products. Unfortunately, the tendency for MIS providers to want to dominate the whole supply chain is stifling this market.
Are some schools confusing behaviour modification with punishment?
Many schools use the system of ‘on report’ for managing individual pupil’s behaviour. This can take several forms, but the most usual is a card or sheet with the day’s lessons in a grid and a space for the teacher to make a comment or mark a grade and sign. Often there will be some sort of target set for the day or week. Most schools will have several types of report, usually at increasing levels of staff seniority: Form Tutor Report, Head of Year Report, SLT or Head Teacher Report, for example. On report can be a very useful tool in modifying pupil behaviour, but I wonder to what extent some staff in schools just miss the point?
The recently released Interoperability Review from Education, Skills and Children’s Services appears to pour a considerable quantity of cold water on the idea of adopting the US based Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF). The report declares that there is a compelling case for a national interoperability capability, but goes on to suggest that SIF probably isn’t it. The report outlines several issues with SIF and suggests that unless these can be effectively resolved then SIF is unlikely to be able to provide an effective solution for current UK interoperability needs.
SIF is another example of the way UK governments scour the world looking for solutions to issues here in Britain. Now, whilst I’m all in favour of not re-inventing the wheel, the idea that you can pluck a system from its home environment – for which it was purpose designed and in which it may well function perfectly – and drop it into a UK context is to me both lazy and somewhat naive. For example, the Swedish model of free schools / open schools or whatever touted by Team Gove may work perfectly well in Sweden; but why should they do so here; where social values and issues, parental engagement, pupil work ethic etc may be quite different? Surely, rather than continually come up with workarounds in order to ram the square SIF peg into a decidedly round UK hole, it would be much better to come up with our own solution to suit our needs, not America’s. Indeed, the report does suggest looking at the work of the Information Standards Board, which has an evolving set of national business data standards.
I was watching David Cameron doing a public Q+A session on TV a week or so ago. In response to a question from a teacher he began to explain where the Conservatives stand on education and, in particular, how they will ‘Restore Order and Discipline in the Classroom’. One of the ideas he pushed quite strongly was to do away with the requirement to provide parents with 24 hours notice of detention. Good soundbite: let's get tough on the little blighters, show 'em who's boss, eh?
But I wonder how many schools would actually make use of the legal right to detain without notice? There are good reasons why schools give parents 24 hours notice; and those reasons don't go away if you remove the legal requirement for notice. I believe that detaining children after school without notice would do nothing other than damage the relationship between school and parent. Many pupils have familial responsibilities outside school time, from collecting younger siblings to doing shopping on the way home. They may also have appointments with a dentist or doctor. How thrilled would you be if your family visit to see Gran in hospital was kiboshed by little Johnny being an hour late home from school without notice? Even if a child didn’t have a commitment after school, many are wily enough to claim one – leaving the teacher in the position of having to either substantiate the claim with a phone call home or accept it: