1. What is behaviour for learning?
Most student teachers start out on PGCE or GTP English courses feeling passionate about language, literature, drama and media, and enthusiastic about the prospect of sharing their passion with young people. But for most, this enthusiasm is combined with a sense of trepidation about the behaviour of the young people they will encounter in their classrooms. Indeed, student teachers at the beginning of their courses frequently express acute anxiety about whether they will be able to teach pupils anything, or whether they will simply spend the whole time controlling pupils’ behaviour.
Implicit in the way in which student teachers often express these fears is an assumption that teaching English and managing pupils’ behaviour are two separate things. The phrase ‘behaviour for learning’ is helpful here in placing an emphasis on the connection between pupils’ learning and their behaviour. It encourages student teachers not to see managing pupils’ behaviour as something quite separate from their teaching, but rather to understand how everything about the ways in which they approach lessons – thoughtful, rigorous and creative planning; preparing resources; giving clear instructions; managing transitions from one activity to the next; pacing activities appropriately; managing discussion; and marking pupils’ work – has an impact on pupils’ behaviour as well as their learning. Behaviour for learning approaches encourage student teachers to see managing pupils’ behaviour not so much as something teachers do during lessons but rather as something teachers do before lessons begin. And they encourage student teachers to understand that positive pupil behaviour is not an end in itself, but rather something which provides pupils with the best opportunities to learn and make progress.
The Behaviour for Learning website gives a clear introduction to the general principles underlying this concept. It describes how ‘Behaviour for Learning’ emerged from a review of theories of effective behaviour management which suggested that poor behaviour in schools does not occur in isolation. The diagram below, taken from the website, shows the three sets of relationships which are considered to contribute most to a culture or ethos of ‘learning behaviour’:
The website further explains these relationships like this:
- Relationship with self: a pupil who does not feel confident as a learner and who has ‘internalised’ a view that s/he is unable to succeed as a learner will be less likely to engage in the challenge of learning and (in consequence) may be more inclined to present ‘unwanted behaviours’.
- Relationship with others: all ‘behaviour’ needs to be understood as ‘behaviour in context’. Behaviour by pupils is triggered as much by their interactions with others (pupils, teachers or other adults in schools/settings) as it is by factors internal to the child.
- Relationship with the curriculum: pupil behaviour and curriculum progress are inextricably linked. Teachers who promote a sense of meaningful curriculum progress in learning for each pupil will be more likely to create a positive behavioural environment.
The ‘Behaviour for Learning’ website provides access to a wealth of resources on the topic as a whole and related links to other websites, many of which are extremely useful for teacher educators, as well as being well worth directing student teachers to for guidance. In terms of a more subject-specific approach, what’s most useful here is the third bullet point which directs teachers to consider the relationship between pupil behaviour and the curriculum. These web pages will aim to provide an introduction to ways in which student teachers can be encouraged to think about how ‘a positive behavioural environment’ can be created and maintained specifically through their teaching of English.
Q1, Q2, Q21, Q14, Q10, Q18, Q25, Q30, Q31