All students have a deep need to succeed. Use these simple steps to help them do just that

Tiny students climbing ladders among lab equipment as directed by a teacher to claim chemistry prizes

Source: © Adam Larkum via IllustrationX

Behaviour management is an incredibly important part of our craft. Chemistry teachers are confronted with this task in the most challenging of classroom settings, science labs. On top of this, each of our students is unique and has different needs, so although there are approaches and good practice that work for most students, teachers can’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Recommendation 5 from the 2019 Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Improving behaviour in schools guidance report covers this in detail, looking into the importance of using targeted approaches to meet the needs of individuals. If we get this right, we can set our students up to succeed.

Ensure you have high expectations for all students in your classroom

When targeting students’ needs it’s important to understand that most pupils want to succeed. Success can look different to everyone and it’s so important that we as teachers lead our pupils towards individual success. We should adopt an adaptive and accessible approach to lessons so pupils can contribute in ways they are comfortable with. When secure in the classroom setting, individuals can find it easier to develop working relationships and so begin to meet the expectations of the school.

1. Use passports for access

School students at the base of a ladder

As teachers, we are constantly planning for solutions to scenarios that may arise within our lessons. When working with pupils who present more of a challenge, it’s important to maintain this proactive approach and liaise with others to develop plans to tackle the behaviours. For pupils with SEN, the school SENCO will have strategies in place for individuals and information which will help you provide targeted approaches, while also maintaining consistency for those students. By taking the time to read the pupil passports of those in your classroom and practising the implementation of the strategies, you should have a better picture of who each individual is and what you can do to help them be more successful in the classroom.

2. Embrace a reporting system

If behaviour becomes very challenging, using a report system to identify key targets for a student can work wonders. A report is not only beneficial in cases of poor behaviour, but can also nurture students who work better when given precise instructions for a lesson. The report provides a clear pathway for you to guide a student to success in your teaching environment. Give the student clear, achievable goals and encourage them to align their behaviour with their personalised targets. It’s crucial that you put sanctions in place in case of failure to meet the agreed standards. With a consistent boundary, the pupil can visualise what’s required to be successful in the classroom.

A school boy climbs a ladder reaching for something

3. Raise the bar

A common thread in the EEF behaviour management recommendations is consistency. On the face of it, this can seem to contradict the idea of a targeted approach. Surely using different approaches for different people means consistency isn’t possible?

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. When considering appropriate classroom behaviour, a better way to phrase it would be: there’s more than one way of maintaining high expectations for individuals within your classroom. Despite being a less catchy phrase, it highlights the importance of ensuring you have high expectations for all students in your classroom.

But why are high expectations so important? The targeted approaches above are examples of how to create a positive environment for students, but the implementation of these is essential. Don’t fall into the trap of setting a lower bar for students with particular needs. Essentially, we promote what we permit in our classrooms, so by letting students off when we shouldn’t, we are letting them down. 

4. Take ownership

It’s important to remember that you are not solely responsible for the behaviour, attitudes and culture across your school – that is the responsibility of the senior leadership team. However, it’s important you take ownership of the behaviours in your classroom and reflect on your own practice. Over time, as relationships build and you further develop your understanding of the particular needs of students in your classroom, it becomes easier to be proactive and ensure the environment you foster is one that allows all students to thrive and, ultimately, learn.

A teacher directing students to climb a ladder

Remember: you are not alone and the experience of others in your school (and beyond) is key. As teachers and schools are being asked to do more and more for our communities, we must continue to adapt and develop our understanding of the complex needs of the students we are fortunate enough to teach.

Interested in more behaviour management tips?

Then read Louise Hussein’s article on how to deliberately embed consistency in your teaching to improve behaviour in your classroom.