Rethinking (Soft) Behaviour

4 March, 2019

Behaviours that involves physical harm to others, damage to property or perpetuate bullying need one type of attention. The so called lower order issues quite another. It is to those this article addresses itself.

How to manage the soft stuff so behaviour problems dissolve

Zero Tolerance doesn’t work. Or at least there is very little empirical evidence it has any positive impact on learners or their achievement in the short or long run.

Yet schools across the country are emphasising behavioural approaches.

And in the long run it could be causing more harm than good.

The problems with approaches to behaviour management and modification

They focus on observable behaviour (80% is not observable)

Rewards and punishments undermine self-discipline and the intrinsic rewards hard work brings

Evidence on best approaches for turning behaviour management into desirable learning outcomes is paper thin, so there are no reliable methodologies

What works is so often a combination of personality, context and what the child/children bring to the table (nature x nurture) it is very difficult to assimilate.

By establishing a ‘doing to’ culture, more in line with a command and control ethos, we may be undermining initiative and responsibility taking

Studies show that children who are frequently rewarded and praised for caring behaviour tend to be less generous and caring to peers

So what can we do?


Recognise that we are part of the problem as well as the solution.

Dr Bill Rogers – “Managing the Difficult Class”-

Paul Dix –

Authentic Engagement       

A four part model; Academic, Cognitive, Behavioural (attendance and participation) and psychological

James Appleton

Classroom environment

Safe and purposeful. Clear expectations, instructions, strong guidance and constructive feedback

Edward L Deci –

Relational trust

Use open to learning constructs. These are typified by willingness to take risks and make mistakes in the struggle for learning

Viviane Robinson – “Open to Learning”

Sharing authority      

Approaches that include learners in democratic and consensual decision-making around rules and codes; bullying, classroom protocols, movement around school, homework

Alfie Khon –


Placing mutual respect at the centre of policy and privilege.

Osiris Educational is the UK’s leading independent training provider for teachers.

We work at the forefront of innovation in education providing pioneering, challenging and effective training solutions in teaching. We use the best and most renowned trainers to help teachers improve their ways of thinking and approaches to teaching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *