Reflections from a sunlounger – The Behaviour Debate (Part 2)

Having reflected on my own thoughts about the different approaches to behaviour management regularly discussed across Twitter in my first blog, my mind has continued to ponder the different viewpoints and, crucially, why we seem to be in a place where the dialogue is continually separating behaviour and pastoral issues from teaching (I could continue this with separate from disadvantaged students from SEND from boys from high prior attainers from research informed practice).

We like our labels in education. We like putting students and teachers into boxes. We like compartmentalising the issues. We like putting order to a situation. If there’s a label, there’s a named thing we need to deal with then we’ve got something tangible to work on – we can write a target and an improvement plan.

But the reality is much more complex and I don’t believe we can separate the component parts – for me they all come down to teaching. I don’t see how you can separate teaching from anything else. Behaviour management is about teaching – we need to teach students the correct behaviours for different situations now and in the future (what I teach in sociology as secondary socialisation). Pastoral support is about teaching – we need to teach students how to ensure their own wellbeing now and in the future. I could go on with my list. Everything comes back to teaching yet we treat them like they are separate – and with the big push on curriculum at the moment it seems like the divide is becoming bigger.

But is this ‘separation’ doing more harm than good? Are we going down a path equally as dangerous to our students’ success as previous fads and whims? Is saying behaviour and pastoral support is someone else’s job and teachers need to be freed up from these to be able to teach really what we should be saying?

Now from part one, I’ve already concluded I think behaviour is everyone’s job (and I think the same of pastoral support) – albeit that people have different roles. So for me the next challenge is to think about really what this could look like. The dominant dialogue about behaviour is about reactive systems and teachers and SLT roles within these but I am increasingly wondering why we aren’t spending more time advocating the proactive and preventative side of behaviour and pastoral systems. We are talking a lot about a research informed, knowledge driven curriculum and subject pedagogy but why aren’t we talking about a research informed, knowledge driven approach to behaviour and pastoral support?

I’ll honest here and say I don’t really know what this might look like as it seems so alien to my experiences in education. But if we consciously took the same direct instruction, explicit teaching, live modelling, retrieval practice (to name but a few) approaches we’re seeing increasingly advocated in the ‘curriculum’ and applied these to teaching behaviours and supporting students to look after their own wellbeing (I’m not talking PSHE or character education here but more friendship fallouts and such things that get labelled ‘pastoral’ will sort that in schools) would we not see an improvement in our schools?

To put it simply, could we have a knowledge driven approach to behaviour and pastoral support in schools? And, given my current EdD research related to how we support and retain early career teachers, could a knowledge driven approach to behaviour and pastoral support contribute in any way to increasing retention rates through better equipping early career teachers to deal with this aspect of school life?

Something to ponder, research, read and explore when I get home…

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