“Inclusive schooling involves the creation of accessible learning environments where everyone feels safe, supported, stimulated and able to express themselves.” ~ Loren Swancutt
Supportive environments are critical to the provision of inclusive schooling. Research has consistently demonstrated the correlation between positive relationships and effective classroom management, and the effect they have on both academic performance and wellbeing.
A number of supportive frameworks and practices are explored below.
Positive Behaviour for Learning:
Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) is a whole-school approach to supporting student wellbeing and engagement. It is a comprehensive, positive and effective framework that is evidence-based and responsive to the diverse academic and social needs of all students. Within this framework, pro-social behaviours that assist students to be safe and respectful learners are explicitly taught and reinforced in much the same way as academic skills. Instead of simply responding with negativity and punishment, behaviour is recognised as a communication and students are positively supported to develop self-regulation skills and to communicate their needs and wants more effectively.
PBL is based on a three-tiered continuum of prevention and intervention:
- Tier 1 – Universal prevention: school-wide and classroom systems for all students, staff and settings.
- Tier 2 – Targeted interventions: small group systems for students at-risk behaviourally and academically.
- Tier 3 – Intensive interventions: systems for students with high-risk behaviour and/or learning needs.
The tiers work most effectively when:
- A whole-school framework for behaviour, curriculum and wellbeing support is in place
- School-wide systems for teaching, acknowledging and responding to behaviours and wellbeing are in place
- Implementation is guided by data-based decision making
- Individual classroom management systems are underpinned by the school-wide system
- Quality differentiated teaching and learning is enacted in every classroom
More information and resources on PBL in Australian contexts can be found here.
More information and resources on the USA version known as Positive Behavioural Interventions & Supports (PBIS) can be found here.
Effective Classroom Management:
As considered in the PBL section above, effective classroom management strategies that are underpinned by positive school-wide systems are demonstrated by extensive research to increase positive behaviours, engagement and achievement.
According to the extensive meta-analysis carried out by the US National Council on Teacher Quality, the five most effective strategies for positive classroom management are:
- Fostering and maintaining student engagement
- Establishing and explicitly teaching expectations
- Building structure and establishing routines
- Reinforcing positive behaviour
- Consistent and appropriate consequences for misbehaviour
These strategies become more effective when they are built on a foundation of positive teacher-student relationships, quality differentiated instruction, and are implemented with frequency and fidelity.
It can also be argued that investment in antecedent-based intervention of the physical environment, utilising least-intrusive practices, attending to social/cultural/emotional factors, and partnering with parents and the community are also vital components in the classroom management mix. These aspects and those mentioned above are explored in more depth below.
Positive relationships between students and adults and between students and their peers, are at the centre of a proactive approach to classroom management. Establishing positive relationships fosters open and respectful communication and interaction, and a level of trust and safety.
There are many different ways that teachers can develop positive relationships with their students and foster a positive classroom culture between peers. These include:
- Creating a secure and safe environment (both physiologically and psychologically)
- Modelling a positive and inclusive attitude
- Demonstrating genuine interest in students as individuals
- Communicating high-expectations and belief in student ability/success
- Acknowledging effort and achievement
- Engaging in humour and showing enthusiasm
- Providing non-contingent reinforcement
- Investing in student wellbeing
- Utilising collaborative learning and interaction
- Including opportunities for all students to contribute
Teachers are in a position to act as a powerful and effective means of support and encouragement when they establish and invest in respectful and positive relationships.
Actively engaging students is demonstrated to decrease the occurrence of disruptive behaviour. Providing students with multiple opportunities to interact with content and instruction and to demonstrate their learning is an effective way to increase active engagement and improve academic outcomes.
Further exploration of designing inclusive lessons can be found on the Teaching and Learning page under the School Inclusion Tab.
Quality Differentiated Instruction:
Quality differentiated instruction equitably responds to the diverse learning needs and impacts of students as a regular part of curriculum delivery and monitoring of learning. Failure to provide differentiation often results in disengagement and problem behaviour. Therefore, teachers must consider and analysis student data in order to drive responsive adaptations to instruction and interaction as a proactive measure.
Further exploration of quality differentiated instruction can be found on the Teaching and Learning page under the School Inclusion Tab.
Classroom expectations should be explicitly taught to students regularly. The explicit teaching should include opportunity for students to identify and practice expectations in context, with prompt monitoring and feedback provided.
Identified social skills for students to meet behavioural expectations should also be taught in the exact same way as academic instruction. This involves the identification of the skill, explanation of the key steps, modelling, practice, monitoring and reinforcement.
Explicit teaching can occur as a whole-class, with groups, or with individuals, but should not be presented as a form of punishment. Explicit teaching should be utilised as a proactive measure that inclusively provides all students with the support and skills required for success.
Structure and Routine:
Consistent classroom procedures and patterns for accomplishing tasks and the demands of the day assist students in meeting expectations and self-regulating their engagement.
Just like with behaviour expectations and social skills, routines and procedures must be taught, practiced and reinforced. When structures and routines are explicit, students have a greater sense of security and become more independent.
Consideration of the purpose of structures and routines, how they are communicated, how change/amendment is supported, and what their impact and effectiveness is for all students, should occur in the development phase and during regular review.
Antecedent Based Intervention:
Antecedent Based Intervention (ABI) are evidence-based, proactive strategies designed to reduce the impact of external influences on a students ability to engage and regulate. ABI focuses on modifying the environment and changing pedagogical approaches to impact positively on student experience and success. Some ABI practices include:
Providing flexible seating options in classrooms acknowledges the impact that the standard physical environment can have on student engagement and learning. Incorporating flexible seating options in the classroom can increase productivity, collaboration and academic performance, as well as aid in attention and sensory regulation. Flexible seating allows students to be comfortable in their environment and to interact with the classroom space in a manner that encourages them to do their best.
An infographic summary of the what, why and how of flexible seating can be found here.
Focused Attention and Brain Breaks
Focused Attention is the practice of quieting thoughts and eliminating distraction. When Focused Attention strategies are utilised, students experience improved thinking and regulation of emotion. These strategies are often used at the commencement of a lesson to prepare students for the learning ahead.
Brain Breaks involve incorporating short movement activities into the instructional environment/lesson as a form of stimulation. Allowing students the opportunity to get up and move at timed intervals increases productivity, energizes for future tasks, allows for increased focus, and extends concentration.
Examples of Focused Attention and Brain Break Activities can be found here.
Environmental Audits are a proactive way of identifying and assessing the impacts that the broader classroom environment can have on the diverse sensory impacts of students. Analysing aspects such as lighting, colour, stimulus material, textures and noise, and altering such to be more sensory sensitive, may result in the classroom being more welcoming and supportive for all students.
An example of an Environmental Audit can be found here.
Positively reinforcing expected behaviours acknowledges and supports students to learn and maintain a behaviour or skill. The reinforcement should be provided frequently when students are learning a new skill, and gradually faded as students become more familiar and competent.
For positive reinforcement to be effective, it should be sincere, contextual, and driven by student interest and motivation. The reinforcement should occur in conjunction with specific, descriptive feedback, allowing students to make connections between their actions and the receiving of the reward response.
Least Intrusive Practices:
The Essential Skills for Classroom Management (ESCM’s) are a series of micro-skills that allow teachers to establish order in their classrooms and to respond flexibly to student management in a least-intrusive manner. Application of the skills allows for individualised teaching approaches while supporting responsible behaviour and improved engagement.
The application of ESCM’s are supported by three core concepts: setting clear expectations, acknowledging appropriate behaviour, and timely correction of inappropriate behaviour. It is identified that ESCM’s are most effective when they are paired with engaging lesson delivery, differentiated instruction, and an understanding of behavioural development and the cognitive and physical influences that impact student learning.
The 10 strategies that make up the ESCM’s are:
- Establishing expectations
- Giving instructions
- Waiting and scanning
- Cueing with parallel acknowledgement
- Body language encouraging
- Descriptive encouraging
- Selective attending
- Redirecting to the learning
- Giving a choice
- Following through
More information about the ESCM’s can be found here – Essential Skills for Classroom Management Micro_Skills_
Emphasis on preventative and positive behaviour support strategies is critical in the implementation of effective classroom management. However, it is also important for teachers to consider how they will respond to problem behaviours.
The purpose of a consequences is to correct and teach. Therefore the provision of a consequence should be respectful, fair, logical and predictable; and should provide opportunity to reteach and reconnect.
Consequences should be adaptable and take into consideration the individual nature of the student, the behaviour, the context, and the frequency and severity of impact.
In order to avoid frequent and sustained application of consequences, data should be analysed to determine the root cause and communication of the student’s behaviour, and a proactive solution identified and applied.