New resource: Teaching for Positive Behaviour

Issue: Volume 96, Number 22

Posted: 11 December 2017
Reference #: 1H9gnW

What teachers do in the classroom makes a huge difference to student wellbeing. Teaching for Positive Behaviour has been written for teachers in all New Zealand schools and kura to help them support the behaviour, engagement, participation and learning of children and young people.

The author of Teaching for Positive Behaviour, Dr Tracy Rohan, says that it is the book that she would like to have had, particularly when she was a beginning teacher.

“I’m hoping that teachers will be able to dip into the resource and find something that might be an ‘oldie but a goodie’, and that teachers might think, ‘that’s something that I should try’. The resource is strongly linked to The New Zealand Curriculum, effective pedagogies and key competencies, as well as the principles of universal design. Those principles are all about removing barriers to learning, participation, achievement and learning for all of our students.”

As an example of the resource’s potential, Tracy talks about the section that addresses teaching social behaviours for group work. Education Gazette asked Tracy to outline some of the strategies that teachers might enlist.

“I think sometimes it’s hard for children to shift from thinking about their own interests to thinking about the collective interests of a group, and to prioritise how others are feeling.

“We have to model that. Sometimes just little scripts, just little sentence starters work well. Noticing and providing feedback when students are working well within groups is important, for example, or when they include others in a learning activity or game.”

It’s important, says Tracy, to provide examples for students of how people interact successfully in groups – for example, helping them to understand how a group discussion involves acknowledging the contribution of a member, then building on what’s been said.

Included within the resource is a self-assessment tool, which Tracy says is designed to support teachers to reflect on their own practice, and think about key strategies that they may need to strengthen in their classrooms.

“We suggest that perhaps you work with another teacher, or a group of teachers, to help each other with that reflection and self-assessment.

“The idea is that there’s a series of signposts and things to look for, that will help a teacher to be confident that they’re supporting students to be successful with their learning and relationships in the classroom.”

While Teaching for Positive Behaviour works as a companion piece for the Positive Behaviour for Learning School-wide resources that are already in place, it speaks directly to teachers, in whatever kind of learning space they are in regardless of whether they are a PB4L school or not. 

Tracy says that, as the resource is designed for teachers, her approach had to be different. She says that many existing resources dealing with behaviour are American in origin, that have been ‘culturally enhanced’ for use in New Zealand, whereas Teaching for Positive Behaviour starts with New Zealand teachers in mind.

Teaching for Positive Behaviour draws on the depth of New Zealand research that we have in the areas of effective and inclusive pedagogy, as well as cultural responsiveness. It was really important that that research was a solid foundation for this text, and particularly that cultural response was deeply embedded.”

Teaching crucial skills for success

Katrina Snowden is principal of Manukorihi Intermediate in Waitara, northeast of New Plymouth. While it is already a PB4L School-wide school, Katrina says that the new resource will add to a framework that is a “no-brainer” when implemented and sustained well.

For Katrina, it’s this reframing of behaviour as a learning issue, not something that’s ingrained, that truly captures the essence of the PB4L and Teaching for Positive Behaviour approach.

“When a child can’t read, we teach them to read. When a child can’t do maths, we teach them to do maths. But when a child can’t behave [in a pro-social way], why do we punish? Social skills is an area of learning – probably the most important thing we learn in order to be successful – so we need to teach those skills that a student might lack.

“If you put the time and effort into it to create a school culture and climate that is safe, inclusive, and responsive, [the approach] is a ‘no-brainer’.

“It’s aligned with everything – with your appraisal system, with the way you speak to children, with the way that you are re-teaching. It’s not about punishment, it’s about re-teaching behaviours. You’re always going back to those core school values. That resonates throughout the school.” 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 11 December 2017

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