1947's Mr Grimes still hits the behavioural spot

6th February 2009 at 00:00
Thousands pick up tips from US-made Maintaining Classroom Discipline film clip unearthed after 60 years

Gangs and knife crime might have been unthinkable, and canes were the only violent weapons found in the classroom - but lessons learnt about behaviour more than 60 years ago are still proving popular among trainee teachers preparing to work in today's schools.

Thousands have downloaded a recently discovered film made in 1947 full of tips about classroom management.

And, amazingly, some advice doesn't seem to have changed after six decades, despite frequent criticism that behaviour among pupils has got worse.

The 13-minute clip, produced in the United States, shows teachers and trainees how to deal with pupils who misbehave using a sense of humour and warmth rather than being overly aggressive.

The film was discovered by academics at Northampton University who run the specialist behaviour management website Behaviour4Learning on behalf of the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

The video is consistently the most popular resource on the website.

Most of its clips are viewed an average of 94 times, but the 13-minute film from 1947, entitled Maintaining Classroom Discipline, has been watched more than 3,000 times so far.

Lecturers discussed whether they should remake the video, but then decided not to because the issues covered in it are still so relevant.

The clip - made for McGraw-Hill's teacher education film text series - was discovered by the Northampton academics through a Google search. It shows Mr Grimes interacting by turns both poorly and effectively with his high- school maths class. The aim is to show trainees clearly the impact of the teacher's behaviour on children.

Examples of poor classroom management, such as publicly berating pupils, scolding, nagging, poor awareness and aggression, are shown, as well as more positive approaches where Mr Grimes is more humane and supportive and has better interpersonal skills.

Philip Garner, project director of Behaviour4Learning, said: "The issues in this clip mirror virtually everything teachers face today in terms of linking behaviour to learning and the value placed in learners. We just discovered it by chance, and it's gone down a storm."

Terry Haydn, a behaviour expert and academic at the University of East Anglia, has used the video in training sessions with his PGCE students.

"The clip has a quaint and corny feel, but it's proved to be a real stimulus as a resource, especially in debates about whether behaviour has got worse over the years," Dr Haydn said. "It's interesting that behaviour seems to be a worse problem in some schools than others and some teachers seem to have more trouble.

"When I worked in a difficult school in Manchester, I used to walk around with trainees and see some classes behaving perfectly with one teacher and misbehaving with another.

"Behaviour management is not all to do with age and experience, but more to do with developing a relaxed and collaborative working atmosphere in the classroom.

"The video is very useful in showing the sophisticated and complex skills needed by teachers."

Behaviour consultant John Bayley said he had also been amused by the film. "The key message is that teachers should engage with their students to get them on side, explain the curriculum in a way they can understand, and deflect misbehaviour with a sense of humour," he said.

"And that still applies today, although now you might need some supporting policies to deal with difficult behaviour, too."

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