I often listen to podcasts while I run. Dr Gaston Weizs podcast, ‘School Psychology‘, has some great insights in basic behavioural psychology that relates to the classroom.
One podcast described the reasons for challenging behaviours. Dr Weizs describes the behaviour as being a learned action that someone uses because it gets them a desired result. He says that we do what we do because of the three ‘E’s’ – it’s easy, efficient and effective. This is to say that the student ‘acts out’, for example, because it’s their first reaction, it gets the desired attention and then the desired result.
The majority of behaviour management in schools is precisely that; management. How often do we simply deal with a negative behaviour after it happens, ‘mop’ up the damage and dish out the punishment. And then we foolishly believe that the student will learn something from the episode.
Dr Weizs suggests that we should be teaching the student to ‘replace’ the negative behaviour with something that is equally the three ‘Es’ but much more positive and socially acceptable.
I can already think of how this approach might be successful with one student who continually challenges authority if he believes he is being dealt an injustice – no matter how small or insignificant and in a disproportionate manner. We already have an arrangement where he reflects on an incident afterwards and I think our next step is to construct a strategy that will replace his outbursts with something equally easy, efficient and effective.
The more challenging behaviour to replace is a student’s disengagement from the learning process, the topic of my teacher inquiry this year. If I was to apply the three ‘Es’ to this behaviour (as a way of understanding the action more deeply than, ‘They are just lazy!’) could I, perhaps, be on a journey to helping the student replace this disengagment with engagement?
Maybe a way forward will involve some conversation time with the students involved. My instinct tells me that the disengagement is a learned behaviour that has developed from a lack of confidence, a fear of failure and low self efficacy.
I’m sure there will be some interesting conversations around the corner.
Photo left used under Creative Commons License from ‘Foreversouls’, sourced from flickr.com. Image above from http://drweisz.blogspot.com/