Learning, achievement and behaviour

Focusing only on learning or only on behaviour can lead to an imbalance in the teaching and learning environment. Dave Stott looks at how to create an integrated learning/behavior plan Student learning and student behaviour are inextricably linked. In other words, the two cannot be disentangled or untied.

A familiar approach to lesson planning is first to consider all the learning issues and plan, structure and deliver accordingly. Only then are the behavioural issues dealt with.

In fact, it is not unusual for school development plans or classroom planning to state: ‘Term one will focus on teaching and learning, whilst term two will move onto behaviour issues.’

This model inevitably leads to too many compromises. Achievement and learning expectations will be reduced because of inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour and a major focus on behaviour will significantly reduce the teaching and learning opportunities.

Addressing these two areas individually will create an imbalance. Students need their expectations to be presented as one very clear and consistent whole. Lesson planning should include not just lesson content, differentiation, materials and outcomes but should also consider learning styles, behaviour expectations, rewards and consequences. A simple overall plan for any lesson would include the following basic guidelines:

  1. During this scheme of work/project/lesson, where do you want your students to go?
  2. How will the students get there?
  3. How will you/they know when they have arrived?

National Curriculum and school/faculty planning will give you clear advice and direction for sections one and three, but to achieve a satisfactory outcome for number two there will need to be significant planning for behaviour. In other words, a full and comprehensive lesson/teaching plan should, by definition, include a behaviour plan.

A reactive system where you apply your school/classroom behaviour policy only when problems arise will compound the imbalance between learning and behaviour. A proactive learning/behaviour plan will create the optimum teaching and learning environment.

Practical Tips

Select one of your current or old lesson plans and carefully check the content using the following guidelines:

1. Goals
These should determine the aim or purpose of the lesson or activity. Pay particular attention to the behavioural goals of the lesson.

a) What are the broad behavioural expectations of this lesson?
(Eg, students arrive on time, have the correct equipment, demonstrate appropriate listening skills, to be able to attract your attention appropriately, to remain seated, to know what to do when faced with a problem or when they have completed the tasks.)

b) What do you expect students will be able to do by the end of the session?
(Work quietly on their own? Work in a group? Work to a time schedule? Act as a peer mentor? Act as a group leader?)

2. Objectives
This should focus on how students should behave during the session.

a) Where will they be seated? Working in groups? How to ask questions? How to seek further info if required?

b) What are your expectations of student behaviour by the end of the session?

3. Current knowledge/abilities
In order for students to begin to meet your expectations they must
have a certain level of skill to cope with the learning situation presented to them.

a) How do you know what skills individual students possess? (IEPs, behaviour plans, tracking systems, etc.)

b) Do you need to teach new behavioural expectations or skills before starting the session? It is unwise to assume that all students are at a similar level of skill or understanding, even in terms of behaviour. Certainly some students will need to be taught a skill more than once!

c) How will you record and track student behaviour during the lesson, thereby avoiding subjective judgements?

4. Materials/differentiation
Students’ behavioural needs are similar to their learning needs. Your expectations/rules will need to be understood at all levels together with the need to provide effective rewards and sanctions.

a) Rewards/sanctions which work well with some students may need significant changes for others.

b) This is also true of your style of teaching. Behaviour is driven by feelings, emotions and beliefs. Students who believe they cannot do something or who feel threatened by the learning environment will behave significantly different from those students who are comfortable and confident.

5. Evaluation
a) Evaluation and recording of student behaviour is just as important as evaluation of attainment and achievement. How do you evaluate student behaviour during a lesson? Is your system as objective as your learning evaluation or do you rely on subjective feelings?

Once learning and behaviour become an integral and equal part of lesson planning, then clear and informed judgments can be made about student progress.

The inextricable link between the two will demonstrate that good behaviour produces excellent progress and engaged, motivated learning leaves no room for unacceptable and challenging behaviour.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2011

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.