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Route to handling an unruly class

As teachers queue up to take the OU's behaviour management course, Su Clark finds out how four participants have been coping

High on the wish list of most teachers are pupils who behave.

But few teachers face rows of angels sitting still, concentrating fully, and even fewer expect to. So the other, and perhaps more realistic, wish could be improved behaviour management skills.

The Open University Managing Behaviour in Schools course is now in its second year. Since October 2004, over 500 teachers have taken part and already 54 have signed up for next year.

In Scotland the course is delivered by Heather Gorton, an OU associate lecturer who is also a part-time educational psychologist with Edinburgh City Council.

"It is a comprehensive course that covers behaviour, different conditions that can cause disruptive behaviour and strategies for dealing with them,"

she explains. "It also looks at developing school policies and practice, legislations and local policy initiatives.

"It is a 60-point course that can be part of a masters degree and usually takes around 600 hours to complete at 16 hours per week."

Full course materials are provided by the OU as part of the pound;880 fee, including a study calendar that shows which areas are covered and when. The course covers perspectives on behaviour and behaviour management in schools; behaviour management strategies; developing school policies and practices on behaviour; national and local policy initiatives and developments; and methodology and planning practitioner research.

Students are expected to complete three assignments, with the final, major one incorporating a research project completed at their school.

"They must chose a research topic, identify a group of pupils for the project, collect data, plan intervention, put that intervention into place and then evaluate," says Mrs Gorton.

With students located across Scotland, most of the work is done remotely, although Mrs Gorton does hold four tutorials each year that last two and half hours.

Like all OU courses, it is highly flexible for those who have other commitments. If a student cannot make the tutorials, class notes are provided. A community is encouraged using the student forum and participants are encouraged to keep in touch with one another through email. Mrs Gorton has regular email contact with them all and offers advice online.

"Because of the assignments and projects, this is a practical course, based on working in their own institution and looking at changing policies," says Mrs Gorton. "The feedback has been positive and we've only had a couple of students pull out because of work commitments."

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