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Managing Behaviour in a Learning Environment

Managing and Responding to Behaviours in a Learning Environment Task 1 – The Context of Behaviour Issues i. Describe and discuss the aspects of national legislation which have relevance to behaviour in the learning environment. (300 words) There are a number of legislative acts that impact on the learning environment and cater for both learners and staff in any institution.

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The following Acts: Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001); Race Relations Act (1976) and Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000); Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006) and the Equality Act (2006) essentially set out that there should be no discrimination against any person on the grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief (OPSI, 2009). This is relevant for learners and staff since there should be no discrimination in recruitment, allocation of courses, assessment, the application of college rules and regulations, disciplinary procedures or the provision of resources and facilities.

In practical terms this means that an organisation should provide for the needs of different students. This can relate to the physical learning environment – providing accessible classrooms for students with mobility difficulties. However the resources available to provide for inclusion are not necessarily there, especially in the current climate. At a basic level the concept of inclusion relates to Dreikurs’ theories of behaviour. He suggested that misbehaviour can come about because a person’s basic needs of belonging to, and contributing to, a social group are not met (New World Encyclopedia, 2007).

It could be argued these legislative acts encourage inclusion thereby helping people to meet their basic needs and consequently reducing misbehaviour. An organisation must set out policies and procedures that are clearly framed by these Acts. Furthermore, they should ensure that both staff and learners are aware of their rights and responsibilities. This can be easier said than done. Learners may lack the linguistic skills to deal with dense policy documents and tutors may simply lack the time to read them.

Nonetheless, within a classroom tensions can arise because of prejudice and it is important that an organisation has a clear policy on equal opportunities and also behaviour in order to deal with such situations. Whilst the previous Acts guard against discrimination Every Child Matters sets out guidelines to ensure the well-being of children and young-people from birth to age 25. It outlines 5 themes that organisations will need to meet and will be assessed on (Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2003:11): 1. Being Healthy 2. Staying Safe 3.

Enjoying and Achieving 4. Making a positive contribution 5. Achieving economic well being It is interesting to note how these themes are similar to the basic needs set out in Glasser’s Choice Theory (William Glasser Institute, 2005). Every Child Matters has implications for those working in the FE and Adult education sector not only because of the increasing number of 16 – 25 year olds studying at such institutions because of difficulties accessing Higher Education, but also because of the large number of parents who are returning to education.

This clearly has implications for services that cater for a large number of mothers and thus the provision of adequate childcare facilities and the timing of courses so that parents can drop off and pick up their children. A lack of awareness of such factors may cause learners to ‘misbehave’ because they have to arrive late or leave early so as to be able to drop off or pick up their children. Such misbehaviour could be analysed in terms of Huxley’s notion of mismatch (1987, cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001). i. Review the policies relevant to managing behaviour in your organization, identifying areas for improvement where appropriate. (300 words) Westminster Adult Education Services (WAES) has a number of policies that are relevant to managing behaviour (WAES, 2008): • Race Equality Policy • Equality ; Diversity Policy • Harassment Policy • Anti-bullying Policy • Student disciplinary policy • Student exclusion policy. All the policies can be accessed by tutors through the service website.

Recently the service published a handbook for tutors aimed at supporting the induction process. Whilst it clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of the tutor it does not mention any of the policies and procedures that have been drawn up by the service and how they can be accessed. Learners should receive a copy of the student charter when they begin a course and depending on the tutor they either receive a copy of the WAES class rules or work as a group to establish the rules for their own particular class. The handbook does talk about punctuality and attendance.

It states that, “WAES, the SFA and Ofsted all expect a commitment to attendance and punctuality from our learners. ” (WAES, 2010:14) It suggests that tutors firstly find out why a student may be arriving late or attending poorly, which shows an awareness that our students are adult learners and often have other commitments. However, recently tutors were reminded that it is their legal responsibility to complete the register on-line within the first 15 minutes of the class starting due to Health and Safety guidelines.

Clearly this can create a possible tension; on the one hand the tutor is asked to be understanding of a learner’s reason for a lack of punctuality, whilst on the other the tutor will have mark as absent a student arriving after 15 minutes. This can have further knock on effects due to policy regarding the withdrawal of learners, which is related to retention. SFA funding requirements state that if a learner on a course of more than 24 weeks duration does not attend a class for at least four continuous weeks, excluding holidays, they must be withdrawn (SFA, 2010: 36).

This is unless there is evidence that the learner will return. The time limit varies according to the length of the course. Tutors have been made very aware that funding is related to success rate calculations, which factor in the number of students that start and finish a course. Learners may be withdrawn from a course within a given period of time without them being considered a start. Therefore it has been stressed that tutors need to be much more rigorous regarding both the attendance and whether learners will succeed in achieving qualification criteria.

On the one hand this could be considered positive because it may reduce misbehaviour in class due to mismatch (Huxley, 2001). Learners are more likely to be placed at the level which is suitable for them. However, it could also be suggested that tutors will not take any risks with potentially ‘difficult’ students who will be transferred to classes that are not challenging enough for them – which may well result in behavioural issues too. Task 2 – Case Study Choose negative or disruptive behaviour which is demonstrated by an individual or a group in a class that you have observed. . Summarise the behaviour and the possible impact on learning and the learning environment. (200 words) I had been called to observe a BTEC Fashion and Textiles; the tutor was having difficulty with a learner who was presenting challenging behaviour. Student A was a Ghanaian woman in her mid 40s. She had been resident in the UK for 15 years. She consistently arrived late for class. Once she was in class she would constantly seek the attention of the tutor and complained that the tutor was not helping her enough.

Furthermore, she would become aggressive and had threatened the tutor. The learner arrived very late for class which disrupted the learning environment. It broke the rhythm of the class in a variety of ways. The impact on the individual was significant because it often meant that she had missed an important demonstration and as a result she would be unable to get on with her work without the attention of the tutor. The tutor had spoken to the student about her timekeeping with no effect and consequently was becoming frustrated with the student.

Also, the other learners in the class resented the fact that the pace of lessons was often slowed due to the fact that the tutor had to go back over explanations and demonstrations with this individual. ii. Discuss the possible factors which may underlie the behaviour, with reference to your reading on this subject. (400 words) It is important to bear in mind that disruption is “not a unitary phenomenon with a single cause” (Bradley, cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:144), there are a variety of possible factors underlying the behaviour in the case study above.

It is possible to analyse the behaviour at a variety of levels ranging from the individual through an institutional (college) level and up to a wider social level. For example, with regard to student A, at an individual level there was an issue of mental health. The student had lost her husband a few years previously and had been clinically depressed for some time. At the college level it could be argued that there was an element of mismatch – was the student on the correct course – did she have the relevant skills to complete the course?

Perhaps she had been enrolled on a course that was too advanced for her level. Finally on a wider social level the student was receiving incapacity benefit and had been ‘encouraged’ to study a course in order to continue qualifying for benefit. Consequently there was considerable pressure on her from a third party to study which brings in to question her motivation. As McPhillimy suggests, from a cognitive perspective “misbehaviour is a symptom of a problem” (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:181). In this case one symptom is poor time-keeping.

The problem could be many faceted. One facet could be that the learner suffers from depression; she may be taking medication whose side effects may include finding it difficult to get up in the morning. Another could simply be that she lives a long way from the college. However, this is often an easy excuse which masks a deeper problem which could be a lack of motivation. It has already been seen that a third party has pushed the learner to enrol on the course which suggests that at an individual level she is not that motivated.

However, we need to be wary of simply placing blame on the individual since, as Bradley points out, disruptive behaviour may be a warning signal and “may express a legitimate criticism of college organisation and teacher practices” (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:143). The tutor and college play a key role in motivating students. Therefore another facet to the problem may well be de-motivating classes; the student may not be challenged or may find the material too difficult. iii. Discuss ways you could improve behaviour in this situation and the possible effectiveness of these methods.

You should make reference to your reading on this subject. (1000 words) Bradley encourages a “multidimensional approach” (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:147) where changes at different levels can have a positive effect. Let us analyse this case study at these different levels. At an institutional level perhaps lessons should be learnt about initial assessment and attempting to place students at the correct level. One of the problems contributing to the disruptive behaviour in the case study was the fact that the learner was not able to deal with the basic skills required for dress-making.

The student had already done an entry level course, but the jump between the levels was too great and the learner found herself out of her depth. This was picked up by the tutor through diagnostic assessment at the beginning of the course. The tutor suggested an alternative course for the learner, but the learner was adamant that she would be able to pick up the skills and was determined to remain on the course. It was eventually agreed that she attend another course in parallel so that she had more opportunity to practice the necessary skills.

Unfortunately this compromise did not improve the situation because the learner’s attendance was both irregular and lacked punctuality. Huxley points out, “the expectations of teachers, learners and institutions often do not coincide” (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:157). This being the case the expectations of each party should be clarified. Therefore, perhaps clearer boundaries would have helped the situation. On paper tutors do have clear guidelines regarding the withdrawal of students, but they are often loathed to use them because they feel a duty to the learner.

How could the situation have been improved at a classroom level? Smith and Laslett set out four basic rules of classroom management (1993): Get them in – starting, greeting, seating Get them out – concluding, dismissing Get on with it – content, momentum, smoothness Get on with them – names, awareness Working in an adult education college brings its own particular challenges and as illustrated in the case study – punctuality can be one of them. Thus the rule of ‘getting them in’ can be more complex than in a traditional school setting. There can be a multitude of reasons why adult learners are regularly late.

Clearly this is where ‘getting on with them’ becomes important. The tutor had already talked to the learner about her punctuality. Through this discussion she may have become aware of the student’s mental health and consequently her difficulties in terms of arriving on time. This conversation may have also given clues about the learner’s self-view. Developing a full awareness of a learner’s needs both emotionally and educationally is crucial to classroom management. McPhillimy suggests that the tutor needs to try to see the situation from the other’s point of view (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:179).

The development of an awareness regarding the differing needs of our learners can help when we are trying to ‘get on with it’. The tutor could make some adjustments to mitigate the impact of the learner’s late arrival: reviewing material from the previous class at the beginning of each lesson to ensure that the learner does not miss demonstrations of new techniques; using new technology to have demonstrations on-line so that students can access them if they miss one or needed a refresher; accessible handouts that guide learners through the steps of new processes.

Differentiation is important, but the tutor needs to take care with regard to the momentum of the class. If the pace is too slow some learners will become impatient and the tutor will be confronted by equally disruptive behaviour – as was evidenced in the case study. Another tool that the tutor could have used was peer learning. This not only can recognise the previous knowledge of the student, but it also illustrates that the tutor is not necessarily the fount of all knowledge. Being asked to teach something is a good test of whether a learner has understood and is able to apply what the tutor has been trying to teach.

The tutor could have asked another student to demonstrate a new technique that the learner had missed. Of course this strategy has its own pitfalls. The learners may object because they think it is the tutor’s responsibility to impart information. Often people’s experiences of learning can be in a very traditional framework where the tutor is ‘actively’ giving information whilst the learner is a ‘passive’ receiver. If this is the case then the tutor would need to carefully lay the groundwork in order to encourage peer learning.

Delegating to a student does not mean delegating responsibility – in fact it is even more vital that the tutor monitors to ensure that the correct knowledge is being passed on effectively. At an individual level it is important to recognise the importance of our own responses with regard to disruptive behaviour; rather than emphasising the characteristics of individuals the tutor should try to view disruption in terms of interaction and consequently develop effective strategies to deal with situations (Bradley cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:144).

Equally relevant is Mc Phillimy’s argument the learner’s self-view is often important in determining how they behave (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:179) (it could be argued that McPhillimy’s statement equally applies to tutors). In this case the learner was returning to college after a long absence. She had received a basic education when she was a girl. Whilst she was one of the senior members of the class in terms of age, she had much less classroom experience than most of the other learners. This reversal of status may have also been an issue.

Perhaps the tutor had not appreciated how afraid the learner was of failing. As Mc Phillimy points out “Not trying is often a means to avoid failing” (cited in Atkinson and Chandler, 2001:180). Therefore the tutor would need to try to create a sufficiently supportive learning environment. Finally there is the wider social level. The learner was ‘encouraged’ to enrol on the course otherwise the benefits that she received would be cut. Towards the end of the course there were changes in the benefits policy and incapacity support for the learner was withdrawn and she was placed on job seekers allowance.

This resulted in a loss of income and also meant that she had to attend job centre courses. Consequently she was unable to continue attending the course and she failed to complete it, even though she was probably going to scrape a pass. This just goes to show that whilst a tutor can take responsibility for many factors regarding the management of behaviour in the classroom, not everything is in their control. Task 3 – Future development Identify and discuss the future development of your skills in connection with promoting positive learning behaviour. (300 words)

There are three areas that I would like to develop regarding my skills in connection with promoting positive learning behaviour: teaching techniques; special educational needs and stress management. Clearly I would like to continue developing my range of teaching techniques because they provide tools to help deal with different situations. Having an awareness of your learners’ needs is crucial, but so too is having a variety of tools to suit those needs. Therefore, for example, I might have been able to do some joint lesson planning with the fashion tutor to ensure that the differing needs of the learners in the class were being met.

Working in the Learning Support department of my college has brought me into contact with a variety of learners with very specific needs and as a result I would like to understand these needs better. The case study set out above is an example of this. It was one of my first experiences of working with a clinically depressed student. A better knowledge of the implications of the condition on learning may have helped us to define a clearer strategy with boundaries for each party. Finally, stress plays an important role in the lives of both learners and tutors.

Having a better understanding of stress and how it can be mitigated would be beneficial to promoting positive learning behaviour. Again, with regard to the case study this sort of knowledge would have been useful for me, the tutor and the learner in terms of understanding how stress can be a factor behind confrontation and how this can be defused thereby promoting a positive learning environment. Reference List Bradley, J. (2001) ‘Approaches to Disruption: a Review of the Literature. ’ In: Atkinson, C. ; Chandler, B. Student Support: Tutoring, Guidance and Dealing with Disruption.

http://www. newworldencyclopedia. org/entry/Rudolf_Dreikurs

http://www. statutelaw. gov. uk/Home. aspx

http://www. choicetheory. com/ct. htm

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