Home Research PapersThis (2014) elaborates on the importance of reflection for

This (2014) elaborates on the importance of reflection for

              This essay
will aim to critically analyse and evaluate upon my learning journey to date regarding
behaviour management. The will be achieved through critical reflection, based
upon a combination of both my own teaching practice within a year 3 classroom,
hosting 30 children, at a large urban school and the key theoretical learning
frameworks which have underpinned my teaching pedagogy. Particularly concerning
the behaviourist theory of B.F. Skinner and Albert Bandura’s social learning theory.

              According to Ghaye (2011) and Zeichner and Liston
(2013) reflection can be defined as the process of looking backwards to
identify both successes and failures within our actions and using this
knowledge to make meaningful improvements and facilitate change within
ourselves. Appleby (2010) and
Bolton (2010) further this point, adding that reflection also allows us
to take the time to explore and ruminate upon our personal experiences,
allowing us to re-experience and review events from not only our
own perspective, but the perspectives of different stakeholders as well,
granting a greater understanding of our actions, their impacts and how we might
meaningfully change them in the future. Within the teaching profession,
reflection is particularly important since it is only through reflection that educators
are able to develop the unique insights and understandings into their personal
practice that can allow them to make, maintain and extend their professional
development in the highly dynamic and responsive manner that is required of
them in order to ensure that
their teaching practice does not become overly ritualised or stagnant (Ghaye, 2011;
Brookfield, 1995 and Pollard 2014). Schon (2014) elaborates on the importance
of reflection for teachers, explaining that without proper reflection the
‘ritualisation’ of teaching practice can, through repetitive and routine
action, draw teachers into a pattern of error they are unable to correct, born through the over learning of
lesson material and the repetitive nature of routine practice. Building on
these ideas, Schon identified the concepts of reflection-in-action and
reflection-on-action as a means by which teachers should reflect on their
professional practice. As such, throughout my teaching practice, I have worked to utilise both approaches, reflecting throughout
and after each day, a process which enables me now to effectively analyse and
evaluate my progress in behaviour management to date.

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              According to Hart (2010),
behaviour management is as an educational approach deployed within a classroom
context, which is designed to first promote and later sustain a calm, well
controlled teaching environment, conducive to school-based learning. This goal
is achieved through the effective and consistent deployment of both positive
and negative reinforcement strategies, aimed at promoting positive behaviours
while simultaneously reducing opportunities for poor behaviours (Sandall et al, 2005). Pereira and
Smith-Adcock (2011) elaborate that in order for these positive and negative
reinforcement strategies to be truly effective, they should be centered on the
ideal of allowing children to take responsibility for their actions, be they
positive or negative. Providing children with the incentives and opportunities
necessary for them to both display and
maintain positive behaviours which are conducive to learning, while
simultaneously learning from, and self-correcting their own, negative
behaviours (Paris and Paris, 2001). Effective behaviour management is essential
to good teaching pedagogy since without
it the processes of teaching and learning can become exponentially much more
difficult and time consuming (Rogers, 2015). Indeed, research conduced by Department
for Education (2012) has shown that most teachers report regularly losing up to
thirty percent of their teaching time to behavioural disruption, a figure which
by the end of the school year can equate to as much as 3 months of wasted
teaching time for particularly challenging classes. It is because of this
central importance that I have decided to reflect upon my progress in behaviour
management to date.

              When initially beginning my teaching practise I
displayed a naive understanding of behaviour management which Pollard
(2014) describes as early idealism.
That is to say, I wanted to be liked by the children as well as respected by
them, wherever possible avoiding negative reinforcement in favour of positive
reinforcement. Part of this had also resulted from a misunderstanding on my
part of B.F Skinner’s theory of operant
conditioning, the main theory which underpinned my practice. In his theory Skinner
describes the process of operant conditioning, a means by which behaviour can
be modified through the use of positive and negative reinforcement (Vargas,
2014). What I had failed to realise was that
successive research studies into this theory and its applications for the
education system had consistently emphasised the importance of utilising both
forms of reinforcement simultaneously for the strategy to be truly effective (reference;
reference). Almost immediately my
approach to behaviour management proved ineffective in dealing with the
challenges present within my class. Initial lessons were marred by notable
levels of low level disruption and this only began to worsen as children began
to realise that they were able to get away with these actions with few
consequences. (reference)
explains that when a teacher fails to adequately challenge undesirable
behaviours, those behaviours will not only continue
but will become more frequent and more pronounced as time goes on. True to this
assessment, the behaviour within my classroom did continue to worsen,
particularly when I began to fail in following through with threatened
sanctions and became inconsistent in my use of positive praise. Yet some
research was still seeming to support my practice. (reference) explains that… (reference) elaborates that… .
However, after several weeks of watching the classrooms behaviour deteriorate, it
finally became clear to me that my idealistic philosophy was incompatible with the
learning needs of the children I was teaching and that the studies I was basing
this philosophy on, perhaps because of their …… did not apply to the school
context within which I was placed.

              At the beginning of my
placement, it became clear to me that behaviour management more than any other
aspect of teaching was proving a serious concern for me. Indeed, this was
highlighted throughout my early observations (see figure …)  and my initial PRP (see figure …). This issue
was worsened by the already behaviourally challenging nature of the children
within my class, which alongside my initial unwillingness to follow through
with negative sanctions and inconsistency in offering positive praise, as
discussed earlier, became a potent combination. From this evidence and
reflections upon my strategies, it had
become clear to me that something had to change,
since without effective behaviour management most other aspects of my practice
were also to suffer (reference). The opportunity and necessity for this change
came when my mentor was forced to take an extended absence away from the class
for several weeks and I was left covering the class alone. It was at this time
that the behavioural issues which had always been evident within my lessons became increasingly
pronounced. Reflecting on a particularly poor first week teaching alone, I
decided it was time to fully embrace both aspects of B.F. Skinners operant
conditioning, with a particular emphasis on the negative reinforcement aspect
of the theory I had initially neglected during my early practice. This was
because recent research had found that this aspect was far more effective at
sparking initial behavioural changes than positive reinforcements which were
best suited to maintaining new positive behaviours and preventing regressions
in behaviour (reference). This change in behavioural approaches was gradually
introduced over the course of a week and occurred in several stages. To begin I
made it very clear to the class what my expectations were going to be from this
point on, with the introduction of clear and consistent systems for rewards and
sanctions, grounded around the central concept operant conditioning. The
centrepiece of this change was the ‘happy/sad list’ which was to be ever-present
within the classroom on the main whiteboard. The concept was a simple one, if
children were well engaged and well behaved they were added to the happy list,
if they misbehaved or were disengaged they were added to the sad list. Once
names were added to the lists, every point tallied against their name from that
point would represent 2 minutes of their lunchtime, be it losing time or going
out early. This method would seek to incentivise positive behaviours throughout
the lesson, not simply until the child’s name was on the board and would come
to represent somewhat of a competitive game for students to see who could tally
up the most points. When dealing with my initial negative behaviours from this
point on I specifically began to make a point of following through with every
detail of threatened sanctions, one key example of this being the use of stopwatch
to time the minutes I took away from students lunchtime so that they were
completely aware that they would be made to wait for every second and not be
let off easy or early, as had been endemic to my early practice. Additionally,
I began to have private chats about behaviour following their sanctions in an
effort to try and determine the causes of these issues and how I might be able
to eliminate them. By the time my mentor had returned the low-level disruption
and frequent behavioural episodes endemic to my early lessons were almost
entirely eliminated, unrecognisable from what they had been previously. In some
cases, strategies and tricks I had developed during this time were found to
work even better than my mentors own, a fact which was reflected throughout my
later observations and final PRP. I now feel more confident than ever in my
abilities to maintain a solid presence within the classroom and elicit appropriate
behavioural changes through positive and negative reinforcement strategies.

               In conclusion, the effective deployment of behaviour management
strategies within a classroom environment, both in terms of positive rewards
and negative sanctions are essential to the process of effective teaching and
learning. While I still believe I have a long way to go in order to truly
master my behaviour management, particularly within the context of a new
school, classroom and key stage. From the evidence provided I believe it is
clear that I have made great strides thus far within this area and hope to
continue to do so through a combination of critical reflection and the
continued application of new research strategies to my practice.  Of particular importance to me during this
time will be to cement my behavioural expectations and strategies as early as
possible into my new classroom. It is my hope that solidifying my presence
within the class as one of authority early on, will allow me to elicit
behavioural changes without the need for the challenges and difficulties I
initially faced when I was forced to switch strategies mid-way through my first
placement. This in turn will allow me to focus more specifically on
strength-based reflection, rather than deficit-based reflection, permitting me
to further enhance my teaching practice. 

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