Resolving Behaviour Problems in Your School: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Support Staff


Chris Lee

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    I am indebted to all those who have supported me in writing this book, especially Liz, Nick and Ben. I should like to dedicate it to all the teachers, teaching assistants and other school staff who have worked with me in professional development sessions and who have informed and helped to develop the ideas herein. Special thanks go to Teri-Anne, Jeff, Carolyn and Maureen.

    About the Author

    Dr Chris Lee is Head of the School of Continuing Professional Development at the University of Plymouth. His main researching and lecturing foci are bullying and behaviour management. Prior to his career in higher education he taught in both secondary and special schools.


    In this book Chris Lee clearly demonstrates his wide experience and knowledge in behaviour leadership and behaviour concerns in schools.

    The concepts, practices, skills and policy guidelines are well argued and grounded in what teachers face in their day-to-day teaching. Indeed Chris always presents his arguments in light of realistic, practical, effective and humane practice.

    At all times Chris Lee emphasises that no one single (or simple) argument, policy or practice can match the concerns raised about behaviour in contemporary education – particularly in the area of behaviour and discipline concerns.

    A significant feature of Chris' work is the consistent emphasis on informed and reflective professional understandings that need to underpin classroom and school discipline.

    This book will enable an informed policy process and practice in behaviour leadership in schools. Its emphasis on consciously informed skill and practice is enhanced by use of discussion and policy frameworks, guidelines and question formats (photocopiable).

    Chris Lee's book ably balances well argued and developed theoretical and practical approaches to behaviour policy and practice. There is also a consistent emphasis – a crucial emphasis – on the need to develop a collegially supportive culture in the management and support of student behaviour in schools. Again Chris sets out useful, credible and practical guidelines for such support.

    I commend this book to teachers and school leaders to enable an informed, serious and grounded review of behaviour management.



    The initial idea for this book emerged from groups of teachers who were studying behaviour management issues as a modular component of their university MA studies. We talked about the need for a textbook that supported and helped them in the creation of whole school policies that addressed behavioural issues. After several conversations with these groups and other education professionals I decided to try to write the book and to retain a focus on the key areas that arose from the concerns of staff including their emphasis upon policy generation. However, with the focus on policy I am not just aiming towards the production of a document that informs, examines and enhances practice in classrooms and schools, laudable though that those ambitions are. I want to go deeper and capture the spirit of ideas and concepts that teachers, teaching assistants and other staff wrestle with in their professional development and their everyday working lives.

    As part of the Masters programme mentioned above, teachers and other education professionals are required to address their studies through collecting data and analysing it, investigating and interrogating research literature, developing projects, reflecting on their practice and considering education issues through making an argument, not necessarily a debate, but addressing the tensions, difficulties and stances that surround most contemporary educational issues. In many ways it was the approach through argument that was both the most difficult and the most rewarding for participants as it demanded that teachers arrive at a clear personal stance on what are central concerns or topics. They did so by evaluating and reflecting upon perspectives from research literature, professional literature, the opinions of others and, most importantly, their own experiences in the classroom. So many times they embarked on their studies looking for answers as if studying education, and our focus on behaviour management issues, would elicit the ‘blacks’ and the ‘whites’. What they found, however, was that there were no blacks and whites but simply a set of ‘greys’ and that through argument they could find the greys that resonated with their ideas, values and experiences and also the depths of those greys. Argument was not about opposing views and heated moments of debate and contradictions but about seeing a cause, seeing different views, making the case and understanding the reasoning behind it. It was not only finding out about theories and practices that matched personal ideologies, it was also about examining their effectiveness as successful strategies in the classroom.

    Behaviour management policy includes identifying and developing skills that prevent or resolve classroom and school problems as well as staff attending courses to explore everything from the key hot tips to total solutions. So many of the thinkers in this area advocate their theories as if they are the only way forward – ‘the answer’ – and the documents from central government and agencies assert their latest mantras as the solution for all. This book does none of that – it advocates instead that education professionals need to be informed, make decisions, perceive the alternatives, understand the complexity and come to a solution that matches their personal professionalism. It is not a book of answers but of ideas and choices. It is not a book of quick fixes but it is one which hopefully will nurture thoughtful professional reflection that leads to consistent practice. Not all the ideas mentioned will:

    • work all the time (this will depend on skills, applicability, context and class/pupil response)
    • apply to your situation (age taught, school ethos, group chemistry)
    • resonate with your own ideas and values as an education professional.

    The book contains ideas and debates and, inevitably, some personally advocated ‘greys’ that are not offered as answers but have resounded with me and seem worth sharing. The aim of the book is simply to help you identify your ideas, clarify your values, improve your practice and come closer to your greys and know them well.

    In terms of audience, it is designed for teachers, teaching assistants and any other professional staff including educational psychologists who work with pupils. Unless stated otherwise, the generic term ‘staff’ is used to cover the range of adults who come into contact with pupils in schools. Students undertaking training may also find useful discussion points and practices.

    Finally, during a research project in a primary school I came across a group of caring and professional staff who were thoughtful about all that they did but tended to blame early afternoon disruption on the mealtime assistants/lunchtime supervisors. This group of underpaid workers are often untrained and ignored in terms of staff development. This book contains a plea for ‘whole school’ to mean just that – everyone working in a school. One of the main purposes of this book is to inform staff development and it must be remembered that staff include secretaries, caretakers and mealtime assistants.

    How to Use This Book

    The title of this book has two key words within it – ‘resolving’ and ‘your’. ‘Resolving’ does not imply that simply by enacting ideas, theories and practice suggested in this book all problems will be resolved; rather it indicates a journey towards resolution, and practitioners in schools are fully aware that there is not a ‘day of resolution’ but a constant journey to secure the best learning environment for children. Resolution, in this context, is more about offering clear direction on how this might be achieved and considering the skills and processes that constitute effective policy generation and practice. It is as much about the resolution of problem behaviour as an issue at whole school level as it is about dealing with day-to-day problem behaviours and it acknowledges that classroom control is an illusion. Forcing pupils to undertake tasks and respond to orders from staff is not control but can invite resistance, and no one can truly control such complex systems as classrooms and schools. What is more important is that staff recognise they are part of the complex system and only in control of their own behaviour and their own skills and that what this brings is influence (Gordon, 1996). Once teachers and teaching assistants recognise how much their behaviour influences their pupils and they discard notions of ‘top down’ control, they can engage more positively in activities that enhance their relationships with their pupils through professional development. This book contains many such activities.

    ‘Your’ is used to suggest that not all the ideas and practices discussed in the book are applicable to you and you are encouraged to select those which best suit the culture of your school, the environment in which you work, your role within that environment, current policy and practice and your own views and opinions. It also serves to indicate that whatever approaches are adopted they need to align with your own personal and professional values since the alternative is a feeling of dislocation and the likely outcome is stress.

    Chapter Summary

    Chapter 1 addresses some of the broad issues of constructing policy on behaviour management and how these policies relate to the practices in schools. It offers a model of a policy before suggesting a way forward in the process of devising and reviewing that policy.

    Chapter 2 considers the significance of theory to effective practice in behaviour management before offering a profile of the major groups of theories on behaviour management.

    Chapter 3 evaluates key issues concerning rights, rules and rewards in schools. It helps staff to engage in thinking about positive behaviour management systems and directly informs statements that can be made in a policy and the resultant practices.

    Chapter 4 looks at approaches to the more negative aspect of systems when behaviour is continually disruptive and rules are broken. It provides a continuum that moves from punishment, sanctions and consequences to restorative justice approaches and, like its predecessor, directly informs statements that can be made in a policy and the consequent practices.

    Chapter 5 considers what everyday practices staff can adopt to prevent disruptive behaviour in the school and classroom. It aims to inform behaviour policy statements and certainly will have an impact on the tone of a statement.

    Chapter 6 considers how staff can react to classroom problems. As with all the chapters, it is underpinned by the idea that adults are powerful forces in the classroom and make a difference that is not based upon authority but upon their skills as professional practitioners.

    Chapter 7 concludes with a summary of key themes and ideas linked to behaviour management issues.

    Additional Features

    Throughout the book there are tables that analyse concepts, provide information, consider data and develop categories. The material in the tables has been drawn from analysis and reading of relevant literature, and includes extended lists of points for personal information and staff development that can be used in any way deemed fit.

    All the tables and activities are designed to support professional development at a variety of levels. They can be engaged with at a personal level permitting reflection and self-analysis, or at classroom level inviting teachers and teaching assistants to consider their thinking and practice. They may help inform sessions in a higher education context but most of all they have been designed to provide a framework for policy development at whole school level. Policy in this context does not only mean the document that encapsulates the school's approaches on matters behavioural for multiple audiences but it also means the ideals and theories that drive everyday practices in classrooms and the principles that inform them. It is then identifiable beyond statements in writing.

    Main Themes and Ideas

    There are five ideas that underpin the ideas set out in the book.

    • Behaviour management is complex Behaviour management in schools is a highly complex matter. It is not simply about dealing with difficult pupil behaviour but is a way in which pupils and staff can develop positive relationships that facilitate full participation in school – for all parties – and enhance learning. There are no instant fixes, simple remedies or ‘magic bullets’ contained within – if there were you could file it under ‘fiction’ – but there are suggestions linked to ideas and theories.
    • The focus for change is on staff The focus is on staff, teachers, teaching assistants and support staff, and their responses to pupils. It is therefore about developing policy and practice within the school and, although it is impossible not to consider parents by implication, classroom and school interaction remain the foci. What the book seeks to do is address the areas that staff have control over and not deal with issues that schools have minimal influence over, for example parents, government policy and pupil backgrounds. Such is the breadth of issues related to behaviour that it is inevitable that certain areas will be omitted and others understated.
    • Professional development is important The ideas and approaches suggested within the book have a theoretical base for which there is no apology as theory, research and effective practice interact to bring about professional development and substantive change in schools. It is hoped that staff in schools will undertake all or some of the tasks in order to arrive at their own personal answers.
    • A sharing culture is essential Central to the thinking behind the book is that behaviour management cannot be decontextualised from the school, its staff, culture, history, pedagogy, catchment area and all other individual forces that impact upon that school. Real change and effective behaviour policy is brought about best in a school climate and organisation where expertise is shared although, even in a school with a strong collaborative culture, it is often the case that effective practice is shared reluctantly. The extraction of the most suitable of the ideas explored and exercises offered in this book is essential and can form part of the research that staff need to undertake into their practices as they seek, through enquiry, to enhance both their professional knowledge, understanding and practice and the behaviour policy of their school.
    • It is important to develop a whole school policy There is a belief that a whole school policy not only reflects staff practices but drives them. To facilitate the development of all aspects of the policy each chapter contains a series of questions, issues and challenges that lead to decisions that inform a whole school policy – inevitably a personal one, but hopefully one which can be adapted by the staff or school for their own needs.
  • Appendix: Planning Sheet for Staff Development Exercises

    Resolving Behaviour Problems in Your School, Paul Chapman Publishing © Chris Lee 2007.


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