The Behaviour Question

25th November 2011 at 00:00

I'm a PGCE student writing an essay on behaviour management. I have looked at the theory behind the practice, but was wondering what 'top tips' teachers would give an NQT? I'm hoping to compile a list to submit with my assignment.

What you said


It might be more worthwhile filling your report with fully referenced research. My experience at teacher training was that university work was strictly academic - trusted sources and all that. But, with that in mind, I find a great way of dealing with mobile phones is to give pupils the option of putting them in their bags or on the desk. The pupil doesn't feel challenged as their item isn't being taken away, and it's out of the way so the lesson can continue smoothly.


A "top tips" way of going about your essay is the worst thing you could do (I'm an initial teacher training lecturer and an essay like that wouldn't come up to scratch on our course). Approach it from the perspective of some underlying pedagogical philosophy.


Never smile until after Christmas.

The expert view

The link between academia and practice is a topic close to my heart, principally because I found, and I think many teachers find, that the theory can be about as much use to your early years in the classroom as a sherbet suppository. One of the training problems I have observed in the transition from the lecture hall to the classroom is that, in the former, theory trumps practice; in the latter, theory goes out the window.

Papers on behaviour management are often written by people who do not teach and, in some cases, never have. As a result, they are looking at a culture from the outside. And theory is often written by people who have taught in rarefied, non-representative situations: for only a few years, perhaps, or in a school with oddly biddable demographics, such as an Amish finishing school. Educational research also suffers from the problems of all social sciences: they try to ape the natural sciences, looking for predictive powers that their methods simply cannot sustain.

Teaching is a craft as much as a science and crafts are best developed by practice, imitation and experience. A joiner does not learn to plane a table by being lectured; he puts tool to wood. What most educational research is good at doing is offering a commentary on the practice of teaching; the wise teacher reads, reflects, filters and repeats.

I think your idea of gathering experiential evidence is a good one as long as you contextualise it by, perhaps, contrasting it with the theories of academics. Other commentators have rightly said above that teacher training programmes require essays to be thoroughly researched and referenced. So why not look at both angles?

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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