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Focusing on positive behavior found to improve student conduct

Most reasonable people would agree that being a teacher is a tough job. You spend an entire day helping kids learn, when most of them would rather be outside running around than be stuck inside a classroom. That is why it is imperative teachers be given all the tools they need to teach properly and effectively, including being taught themselves how to best educate our youth.

Now, a new study has revealed the focusing on positive behavior rather than jumping to small disruptions improves the conduct of students.

The study, led by the University of Exeter Medical School has been published in Psychological Medicine, analyzed the success of a training program called the Incredible Years® Teacher Classroom Management Programme. This program is based around building a strong social relationship between teachers and children, encouraging teachers to focus on relationship building, age appropriate motivation, proactive management of bad behavior, and acknowledgement of good behavior.

The outcomes of this project were measured using a combination of questionnaires completed by teachers, parents, and children. The children’s academic attainment and use of NHS and social services were also assessed. Furthermore, independent observers sat in on lessons in some of the schools that participated, without knowing whether or not the teachers had undergone this training.

Results showed that teachers found the training to be useful, and led to improvements in students’ mental health, behavior, and concentration. Observers in the classroom noted that it changed students’ behavior and improved compliance.

Our findings suggest that this training potentially improves all children’s mental health but it’s particularly exciting to see the larger benefit on the children who were initially struggling,” says Tamsin Ford, a professor at the University of Exeter Medical School. “These effects might be larger were this training offered to all teachers and teaching assistants. Let’s remember that training one teacher potentially benefits every child that they subsequently teach. Our study offers evidence that we should explore this training further as a whole school approach.”

The most common and persistent mental health condition within schools is severe behavior problems amongst children. A child with “conduct disorder” is at risk of mental health conditions as an adult, along with poor educational and social outcomes.

This training helped us to use techniques to raise the profile of positive behavior and diminish the emphasis placed on low level disruptive behavior,” explains Kate Holden, a teacher at Ipplepen Primary School. “Consistent clear rewards and sanctions highlighted expectations in a manageable and positive framework and preserved the high-quality relationships which underpin the whole ethos. This is far from woolly or accepting of poor behavior. it is actually proactive and highly effective when used correctly in conjunction with a model to support behavior across the whole school.”

Improving education through programs such as this, and studies that test their effectiveness, can only help to better serve our children and the teachers who educate them. Refining the way teachers run the classroom may take some time on a larger scale, but these initial results are encouraging.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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