Behaviour Management Episode 11: Managing inappropriate student behaviour

Thanks for downloading this podcast from Teacher magazine. I’m Dominique Russell.

As a teacher, how can you best manage when a student in your classroom makes an inappropriate comment in the middle of the lesson, catching you off-guard and disrupting other students too? What about when this behaviour happens in the playground? And, what if the comments that they’re making are offensive?

In this episode of Behaviour Management, we unpack these questions in-depth with our two guests – Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the Master of Applied Behaviour Analysis at Monash University, Erin Leif, and Russell Fox, Lecturer in Behaviour Analysis, also from Monash University.

We’re also going to delve into how school leaders can best support their staff in this area in this episode. It’s a bit of a longer discussion today, so let’s jump straight in.

Dominique Russell: Erin and Russ, thanks for joining us for this episode of Behaviour Management. An issue that we know is common in classrooms – which can be pretty confronting and difficult to deal with for teachers – is when a student makes an inappropriate comment in the middle of a lesson. So, that might be something racist, sexist, homophobic, or using a swear word. It’s probably best to delve into why this sort of behaviour might occur to begin with before we go into responding to it. So, is there any research to indicate why a student might act in this way at school?

Erin Leif: Yeah, that's a great question. So, it's great to start with a discussion of some of the reasons why these behaviours might happen at school and we can get some good information from research on sort of typical child development. So, it's important first and foremost to remember that kids are like little sponges. They soak up everything they see and hear and experience around them.

So, the first thing we need to think about is where in the big wide world are kids seeing these behaviours, both inside and outside of school? So, think about the types of activities that kids might engage with outside of the classroom, for example spending time on social media, playing video games, watching TV shows, listening to music, or spending time with their older siblings and friends. And I think that it's clear that they're just seeing these behaviours modelled around them in the world that we live in.

And it's likely that they're going to model the behaviours that they see. And that's how kids learn. They learn through observation and they learn by imitating what they see around them.

And it's also important to remember that kids are risk-takers and this is a normal part of child development. As children learn and grow, they will ‘try on’ different behaviours and they'll say different things and, as a result, experience different consequences. And often we start to see very young children use swear words or inappropriate words because they’re exploring language. They might be testing on a new word or perhaps trying to understand its meaning. So those are some considerations from the area of child development.

But we also need to think about not just what the behaviour looks like (for example the student said a specific inappropriate word), but we need to look below the surface to better understand why these behaviours are happening. So you may have heard us talk about this before, but we use the word ‘function’ when we talk about the ‘why’.

So let's think about an iceberg. What we see on the surface is what the behaviour looks like, for example, swearing. But this doesn't actually tell us much about why the behaviour is occurring. So we need to go underwater to see the bigger picture and to get to the why we have to think about what is the student may be trying to communicate or express to us? So it could be that the student is feeling really frustrated or overwhelmed and swearing or using an inappropriate comment is essentially a way to say ‘hey, I need some help’ or ‘hey, I'm feeling really overwhelmed right now’. So, it's a way that students learn to express their emotions.

Or the student could be looking to get a reaction from other students. In some cases it might be a positive reaction like laughter from peers or it might be a way to get other students to just bugger off. And it might actually help the student get out of doing things that they don't want to do. So by swearing, and it being quite confrontational to the teacher, the teacher could in essence remove the child from the classroom or remove the instructional demand.

So, it's important to keep in mind that sometimes when we hear this type of language from children it's actually really normal, even though it can be difficult and not very nice. But it's through trying out different behaviours and experiencing the consequences of their actions that kids learn the boundaries and they learn what type of behaviours might pay off in certain contacts and what behaviours are acceptable in other contexts.

So bear in mind that your students may not realise the inappropriateness of their language. They might tell you that they heard the words, or they think the words are okay, because they heard them used by friends or parents or on television.

And we do tend to see an increase in behaviours like swearing in kids between the ages of 5 and 12, but as students grow into adolescence they often develop what I like to call audience control. In other words, they start to learn who they can use those words in front of and who they shouldn't.

So teens might also view swearing as a sign of maturity. They might, say, see that dropping the F bomb makes them feel more adult and cool. So, there's lots of reasons why you might see these behaviours and many of the reasons have nothing to do with children wanting to intentionally harm their classmates or teachers, even though it can feel like that sometimes.

Russell Fox: And I think one of the challenges here as teachers is to know when and where and how to reflect on the things that Erin’s just talked about. Teachers are right in the thick of it and so to know that there are sort of different functions of behaviour, that behaviour might be communicating different things or they might be in response to a situation, to kind of do that reflection and problem solving in the moment can be really, really hard for teachers.

And so, if you're really familiar with this idea or experienced at thinking functionally about behaviour, you might be able to assess the conditions and the functions of behaviour in the moment – but that’s if you’re really, really experienced – and for a lot of teachers we haven't had enough training in this type of thinking.

So experienced teachers might be asking questions like ‘what happened in this environment before the behaviour occurred?’ or ‘was this in response to work? A request or demand or in the presence of a peer?’ Because those questions are really trying to understand the relationship between the behaviour in the classroom environment. You know, that reflection from experienced teachers would be things like ‘what's changing in the environment as a result of this behaviour? How are others responding to it? What might they be gaining from this environment in this moment? What might they be getting away from in this environment in this moment?’

But, again, this is this can be a really tough juggle. If you're not familiar with this function of understanding of behaviour I would suggest just to stay curious about the behaviour. If we stay curious about it, we are more likely to be open and empathetic, but ultimately these questions are really best asked by the teacher in reflection after we’ve managed a situation, after we've responded.

Because ultimately our job as teachers is to maintain safe and productive learning environments. We're not asking teachers to get out a psychologist’s couch, you know, we're not asking teachers to pull a therapist’s hat on and spend 15/20 minutes in the session engaging in therapy in the classroom. We’re teachers and we haven't been necessarily prepared to do that.

If you have the skillset to think functionally then give it a go. If you don't, then maintain a safe and supportive environment (and we’ll talk about this later on) and we can then reflect on this after the event has occurred, and help us to plan to avoid this in future. So our priority is to support the student and the rest of the class and we might need to do some of this deeper thinking a bit later on.

DR: Let’s look at the example of this behaviour occurring in the classroom first, and let’s think about a student who calls out something inappropriate in the middle of the lesson. It’s not directed at anyone in particular, but it’s clearly disruptive to other students and has caught the teacher by surprise. Can you talk through how a teacher can approach responding to this scenario?

EL: My very first recommendation is for the teacher to model the behaviours that they wish to see in their students. So, if a student appears dysregulated and is acting out in the classroom, I encourage the teacher to take a breath and model calm and regulated behaviour. Even if that’s not what they’re feeling on the inside.

So again, remember that our students are little sponges and they model what they see. So often what happens is that kids become escalated or they engage in an unwanted behaviour and all the adults in the room become really stressed out and frustrated and escalated. So in this moment what we’re now modelling to kids is how to freak out instead of how to calm down and get back on track.

So my first recommendation is just to stay calm. But I’ll turn it over to Russ to talk more specifically about what teachers can do.

RF: Erin’s so right about this. And I’ll talk in a second about a few practical steps that we can take, but these practical steps really do need us to model that calm. So as we're engaging in the practical steps, what Erin’s talked about is really critical. That we can sort of put that that sort of ‘coat of calm’ on as we go about it.

So practically in situations like this, I'd suggest that teachers correct first, check, reteach and/or redirect at the end. So, creating positive classroom environments does not mean that we do not correct inappropriate behaviour in our rooms.

So sometimes I think that teachers might find themselves questioning whether they can correct student behaviour, and we might second guess ourselves here because we hear a lot of different voices. You know, we might wonder about parent emails or complaints we might have corrected a student in the past and it's gone badly, or we might have seemingly contradictory advice floating around in our head.

So, I know that I've talked to a lot of teachers about maintaining a high ratio of positive comments in the class … so, thinking about that the ratio of positive to corrective or negative statements in the class. And there's some really good research on the impact of these ratios. And we hear things like four-to-one positive comments to negative or corrective comments. Paul Calderella has some really good research on this and I believe he was on the podcast not that long ago too.

So we might hear this and sort of think like, ‘Oh, if I was to do four-to-one or five-to-one of positives to correctives, can I correct behaviour or am I starting to wreck my ratios? I know I’m meant to be positive’. And so we get puzzled about, like, ‘what do I actually do about it?’ And so we hear all these different things and sometimes we second guess ourselves about whether we should correct.

But creating a positive climate within our environment does not mean we do not correct inappropriate behaviour. We need to, it's a critical component of our job. But how we do it is just so important.

So, we suggest a three-step error correction procedure. So, making sure we complete each step gives us the best chance to improve our student responses in the future.

So the first step is to identify and correct the error by reminding of our expectation in the classroom. So this idea of calling out – and before that, the actual correction depends on the expectations of our school and of classrooms. So common relevant expectations that we see are things like ‘be respectful’ or ‘be responsible’ or ‘do our best’. And so linking the behaviour correction to these expectations or to the positive behaviours that we want to see that have been defined in our expectations is really important. That's the first step.

And so to give an example, and I'll use my name because, you know, I had a bit of fun in school. So it might be something like ‘Russ, that does not sound like how we show respect during learning time. We show respect by working quietly or putting up our hand talk’. So I've directed it to the expectation of our room; I've stated what isn't happening; and I'm pointing to the behaviour we want to see. So step one, is to correct and to direct that correction explicitly to the expectations of the room.

The second step is to provide an opportunity for the student to demonstrate the behaviour that we want to see – ‘can you show me what being respectful looks like?’, and so I'm asking this. Now, we might get us a cheeky comment like ‘yes’, or they might actually engage, if they say something like ‘yes I can show you’ … ‘great, then show me, thank you’. So the second step is to provide an opportunity to actually respond to the correction with the behaviour we want to see.

And the third step is to then provide reinforcement or feedback to the student after they respond. ‘That's it Russ, thanks for working quietly or for putting up your hand’. Or you can say ‘thanks, love that you’re working quietly now, that’s spot on’. We don't have to get flowery or too effusive in our praise, we just have to specifically state the behaviour that they’re now engaging in and let them know that it's made a difference.

So this might be done really quietly with a student. So sometimes I might do this in a classroom, if we've got a really well-established environment; I might do this across the room to the student. Or, I might move to where the student is. And sometimes when this kind of disruptive stuff happens in the class, the heart rate can go up in the room, we can sort of feel hot and it's starting to – ‘oh, my lesson, I don't want it to derail’. So I might use the walk to the table to where the student is sitting to deliver behaviour-specific praise to all of the students I pass on the way.

Sometimes we as teachers are concerned about, when behaviour occurs in our room we spend all our time trying to correct behaviour for students who are engaged in problem behaviour and the other students might miss out. So we can use time on our way to manage behaviour to give the other students a strong message that what they're doing is noticed; that their behaviour is important; and it continues to reinforce them for engaging in the behaviours that we would hope to see across our room. So we're not missing them and we're letting them know that it's okay and that we're going to manage the situation. So once we actually get to the student we might lower our tone of voice and engage in the error correction there. We might be with a smile, really calmly.

So I I'm sure there'll actually a lot of teachers that are listening to this and going, ‘well, that kind of error correction, that's what I do with my academic errors’. Yeah, that's right. We're getting to the point here where we want to make it really clear that what we're doing is teaching. When we're dealing with behavioural incidents like this we're correcting errors, we’re teaching the behaviour we want to see, and then we’re reinforcing students for engaging in that.

So it might just be like what I would do with the student who is, you know, having trouble with identifying nouns in a sentence. So, we identify the error, we provide feedback or correction, and we get the student to have another go at it. Then we provide reinforcement.

So the three steps here are really important. Teachers are really good at step one. And if I think back to some of my recent classroom experiences I might have been really good at spotting a behaviour occurring and correcting that behaviour using a ‘don't do’ or a ‘no, not that’ or a ‘we don't do that’, but then I haven't given the student the opportunity to respond with the actual behaviour we want to see and then I haven't given the direct feedback or praise. And those steps are really important.

If we're thinking about the positive-to-corrective ratio that we talked about earlier, if I'm giving the student an opportunity to engage in the desired behaviour and I'm reinforcing them for doing it, even though I'm delivering a corrective statement I'm also delivering a positive statement.

So you can correct, you must correct, but if you do it in a way that allows a student to engage in the behaviour we want see, and then we reinforce that behaviour, we still maintain that really, really positive and instructive classroom climate. So we need to remember all three.

And once we get used to this kind of process you might not need to do all this stuff verbally – you might be able to use nonverbal cues; you might be able to gesture to our expectations. You know, I see teachers expertly narrow their eyes and sort of look sideways at the student and then point to the expectations and, you know, mime putting their hand up, and then when the student does it they give a thumbs up.

So we can do all three steps of the error correction procedure without even saying a word, but we do need all three steps.

So the check component, once we've done the error correction, the step that's often missed is we don't check whether the student knows what they're actually learning (the content or the task). So I would straight away check with a question, a checking for understanding question, that requires the student to answer with specific content or task knowledge. Not something from prior learning, not something from last week’s lesson but this one right here.

So I used the idea of teaching here. So if this is a lesson on nouns I might look at the student’s page and ask ‘which of the words in this sentence is an example of a proper noun?’ And if the student’s response shows that they don't understand, then I reteach. Moving away with the student that doesn't understand the task after I've corrected a disruptive behaviour is asking for more disruptive behaviour.

If the student doesn't know what they're doing with the learning, then the chances of them engaging in more disruptive behaviour is really, really high. So we re-teach. We reteach the content to the student in that moment and so Erin’s discussion earlier about what behaviour might be about, well if we do a checking for understanding question it's a really good opportunity for us to see whether this is about the learning and then we can re-teach and get on with things.

If a student can tell what the lesson is, then I would redirect them back to their work and remind them of our expectations for the learning and maybe what might happen if they don't complete the task by the end of the session.

DR: Now let’s add in another layer, where a comment might be directed at another student, or the teacher themselves. How does this change how a teacher responds?

EL: So, I think here we need to first recognise that this puts teachers in a grey area. So, we have minor inappropriate behaviour/disruptive behaviour in the classroom, which teachers can really develop their skill and confidence to redirect.

But then we have other types of behaviours that really threaten the safety and wellbeing of everybody in the classroom environment. And those behaviours could be classified as bullying or harassment or just really can negatively impact other students or the teacher.

And so often teachers find themself in the grey area. And often when dealing with these more major behaviours that pose a risk, teachers feel tension between on one hand supporting the psychological safety and wellbeing of all the students in the classroom, and on the other hand continuing to include the student who's displaying the behaviour to ensure that that student can access their right to an education.

And there isn't an easy answer, there isn't a quick fix to that challenge that teachers find themselves in. So, we just want to identify that first and say that, yeah, that's real and we recognise that. But I’ll turn it over to Russ to talk a little bit more about that.

RF: Yeah and the best responses for teachers are structural responses in this instance. So, this comes down to what kind of systems and structures do we have in our school to identify what is a major behaviour and what is a minor behaviour?

These are conversations that really need to be had with the whole staff group and everyone on the same page. So, I think if we’re aware of our school context and if we have this clear idea of what would constitute a major behaviour and what would constitute a minor behaviour then it really helps us make decisions about ‘okay, well what am I going to work on myself as a teacher in my room and when do I send up a flare for some additional help?’

And so the actual processes of what we would do in terms of responding to this next level of behaviour are still really consistent. We’re still correcting first using the same kind of correction procedure. We still then check, and we might check thinking about social learning (so we might actually start to ask some questions to determine whether the student understands the social expectations really clearly in this instance), we're not assuming that they have the skills. And then it would be a re-teach or redirect, but some of these re-teaching and redirecting might require some additional support.

So I think when we're talking about majors and minors, and we're thinking about sort of a referral pathway, I do want to be really, really clear that we're not talking about a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ kind of thing. We're not talking about, you know, you're on the escalation ladder and once you get to step two well then you're booted out of the room. Now some schools might have systems like that and if that's your school system, then you need to work within the system of your school, but what we're talking about really are systems that help teachers make really difficult judgments about which behaviour might require greater support, more detailed assessment, more time and resourcing required in support of that instruction, and a greater level of skill required from staff.

So there might be a situation which is just above the pay grade and expertise of a beginning teacher, for example, in which case we should seek help and there should be a clear pathway for teachers to seek help and to get support for that student behaviour. So it's not a ‘three strikes and you’re out’, it's a process to understand how to better support students’ needs and there might actually be a requirement around a behaviour like this for more time to restore relationships. The staff might need time to plan, they might actually need time to support students who have been affected by the behaviour, and they might actually need time to build those relationships back in the classroom up.

So, the core practises in responding to a situation like this really are – I’m not going to go back over the error correction procedure – but we're doing error correction first as we as we make these decisions, we're still going through those same steps, so the procedures themselves aren't entirely different. We just need to be thinking about who should be doing them and with what support.

DR: Now, changing the setting in this example again, and let’s say something inappropriate is said in the playground. How could a teacher on duty respond to this?

EL: Yeah, it's definitely similar. Sometimes the behaviour doesn't actually occur in the classroom anymore, but it occurs on the playground. And the student has now perhaps learned that there are these classroom expectations and they are able to adjust their behaviour in that environment. So they are able to participate in academic activities, they are able to express their frustration and get help in different ways and they've experienced those error corrections from the classroom teacher.

So swearing and other inappropriate comments no longer occur in the classroom, but out on the yard it's party time. So now the student is in a completely new environment that's much less structured with a lot more peers to impress.

And so the student might have a new audience; they also might not have a relationship with the teacher on yard duty. So they don't actually have history with understanding the expectations and experiencing those corrections in a different environment, so they may be more likely to push the boundaries. But the good news is that teaching and reinforcing expected behaviour can occur in all settings.

RF: Yeah, and I think that Erin is spot on. So, essentially, we're going to use the same kind of procedures again. So, teaching and reinforcing behaviour, that is what we're talking about with the error correction procedure. It's just how we deliver it might be different.

If we don't know students coming in cold and being like ‘that's not the expected behaviour, what does safe look like in the playground?’ is likely to be met with ‘who are you, mate?’ and so approaching with a level of curiosity – and I'm not suggesting that this is how the listeners of the Teacher podcast are going to be approaching them – but it's just to stay curious and maybe to ask some more questions.

One of the first things I often do when I'm in the yard with students that I don't know is to introduce myself: ‘hi I'm Russ, what's your name? How do we go about this part of the yard play? How do we go about moving around the yard?’

I mean some high schools where you have sort of Year 9 and 10 kids running around corners and things like that, you know, I’ve sort of bumped into someone, I’m like ‘hi I'm Russ, what's your name? Are you okay? How do you move around the yard here? Because that didn't feel particularly safe. Can you show me around the next corner?’

So there are lots of ways that we can adapt our practices to work with students that we’re less familiar with, it's just those relationship building kind of things and to really remain curious. But again the steps are really, really consistent.

DR: Are instances like these something teachers can work with students to prevent, or is it more a matter of being prepared to deal with them if/when they arise?

EL: So absolutely prevention is key. So there are few easy and practical things that we can do to prevent or minimise these behaviours from occurring. So, the first is that we should really focus on developing positive and trusting relationships with students.

Students are more likely to thrive in environments where they feel seen and heard and they feel like they belong. So especially at the start of a new school year taking that time to really get to know your students and their strengths and their interests and incorporating all of that into your lesson planning can go a long way.

Next, we recommend establishing and teaching positive classroom expectations, and better yet, involve the students in developing the classroom expectations so they feel a sense of shared ownership over what happens in the classroom.

And call out the students that display positive and expected behaviours, right. Get that four-to-one ratio of positive-to-corrective feedback going right at the beginning of the school year in the classroom. And also encourage students to call each other out for doing the right thing. Boost those positive statements in your classroom even more.

We also recommend establishing and teaching classroom routines. So, teachers should really think about what they want their students to be able to do from the moment they walk through the door, first thing in the morning. And make sure that students actually have the skills to do those types of things.

It's important to remember that transitions and routines (the things that happen in between academic lessons) tend to be less structured and kids are more likely to get off task and perhaps get into mischief or engage in unwanted behaviours during those less structured times. So, it's important to focus on ensuring that kids know the routines, the routines are predictable, the kids have the skills to fully participate – and that will really cut down on those disruptions.

Again, we want teachers to model and richly reinforce what I call the ‘positive opposite’ to unwanted behaviour. So for example if you notice that a student is swearing when they make a mistake and it's a way that they are expressing their frustration, teach them a different word that they can use in that context that helps them achieve the same outcome.

And finally, as Russ mentioned before, that good classroom behaviour management is really just good teaching. And so we want to make sure that when we're delivering teaching to our students that we're providing our students with lots of scaffolding of the learning process when learning new skills, that they’re receiving direct instruction in foundational academic skills, that students have lots of opportunities to respond and actively engage with the material, and they also receive lots of feedback (both positive and corrective) at all times.

So, the take home here really is that students will thrive in classrooms that are predictable, that are safe and structured, and that meet their needs. So, it's important that teachers, you know, work within their schools to develop and implement a whole continuum of strategies that will support the behavioural success of all students – such as the preventative strategies that I just discussed, and the, what we might call the stop/correct/represent the teachable moment/and then redirect the error correction, as a reactive strategy that Russ previously talked about.

DR: For school leaders listening to this episode, is there anything in particular they should keep in mind in terms of behaviour management policy development covering instances like the ones we’ve discussed today?

RF: I think this is such an interesting question. We've talked a bit about the school level stuff throughout this podcast and really all of the things that Erin described, all those things we talked about throughout – the prevention steps in particular – are so much more effective and more efficient for teachers if they are part of a consistent, systematic schoolwide approach.

And I know we can be really worn out in education from all the initiatives that we see coming in (and see off, I'll add). We see and see off more new initiatives in education than in lots of other professions.

But there is an approach, a systematic framework for delivering the supports that we've described today (the prevention things that that Erin described just before and some of the other functional thinking and more target responsive stuff to more significant or serious behaviours) and that system is Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Support. So this is also known as positive behaviour for learning. And this really does provide a structure for school teams to implement, assess and adapt the positive from proactive behaviour supports we've talked about.

Now if the appetite’s not there for such a school change, then I would say it's most important for teachers to understand very clearly – my messages to school leaders: it's most important for teachers to understand very clearly what behaviours would constitute a minor behaviour (one that they’re working on an supporting as part of their role, one where they do the follow-up and might determine some classroom-level consequences) or one that actually requires greater support, where they would send that flare up for help. It can be really challenging for teachers if they’re required to work this out for themselves.

And also without this, school leaders themselves – if you’re a principal listing here – you might notice a lack of consistency across your school in how staff respond. Sometimes you may be called in as a leader to support behaviour that's disruptive, but with really good prevention strategies or preventive behaviour supports like we’ve described, it might actually be better defined as a minor behaviour. Meanwhile there are other teachers who are working tirelessly in their classrooms to support behaviour that actually really needs more comprehensive team-based support.

EL: So, I think one of our recommendations is instead of immediately resorting to punitive and reactive disciplinary actions, schools should really stay curious about their students and the reasons why they might be dealing with behaviours that are sort of more minor or more major and what new skills they ultimately need to teach when supporting all students.

But if teachers notice, or schools notice, that swearing or inappropriate language seems to be a pretty pervasive problem across the whole school, or they're having more major instances of this behaviour, then putting a team together within the school to solve the problem and working through a process of data-based problem solving can be really, really helpful. So really sharing the responsibility of generating solutions and evaluating solutions.

So, with teaming it's generally about who's going to be part of the team – you might have a school leader, you might have a wellbeing support person, you might have a few teachers – to talk about ‘how big is this problem?’ and ‘when and where are we seeing these behaviours?’ and ‘why do we think these behaviours are happening?

The next step would be to propose some solutions and think about what solutions are going to be practical? What can we implement? What's going to be a challenge with implementing these proposed solutions? Then implementation – so making sure everybody in the school has the skills to implement the solution to the problem. And then finally evaluating. How is this solution working?

And the team can spend some time looking at the sources of data that the teachers might have access to within their school to be able to determine how well the solution is working. That could be things like attendance, number of times students are being exited from the classroom, general teacher perceptions of the safety and climate within their classroom. So, we really encourage schools to build teams to solve these sorts of problems.

But we have really enjoyed speaking with everyone today and we always welcome people coming to us directly by email if they have certain questions or they'd like to chat more about this area.

That’s all for this episode. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to reach out to Erin and Russell, you can find their email details in the transcript for this podcast, under the podcast tab on our website, You’ll also be able to find some links there for some related readings for this topic. If you’d like to catch up on the Paul Caldarella podcast episode Russ mentioned, it’s episode 7 in our Behaviour Management series, and the episode is titled ‘Effects of teacher praise and reprimands’. You can find it by searching ‘Behaviour Management Episode 7’ wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast channel on Spotify, Apple podcasts or SoundCloud. And, while you’re there, we’d love if you could rate and review us.

To contact Dr Erin Leif or Russell Fox, you can email them at and

Related reading

Leif, E., Allen, K., Fox, R., Stocker, K. (2021, 8 November). How to develop effective positive behaviour support plans in schools. Teachspace.

Bennett, T. (2020). Running the Room: The Teacher's Guide to Behaviour. John Catt Educational LTD.

Simonsen, B. & Myers, D. (2015). Classwide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports: A Guide to Proactive Classroom Management. The Guilford Press.

Dr Erin Leif and Russell Fox say it’s important for schools to have systems and structures in place for identifying what is a minor behaviour issue and what is a major behaviour issue.

As a school leader, take some time to think about your current behaviour management policy. Is it being reviewed frequently enough? Does it include clear guidelines for identifying minor and major behaviour incidents? If a pervasive behaviour problem is identified in the school, what structures exist for managing it? Could a team approach work for your school, as recommended by our podcast guests?