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              This essay will aim to critically analyse and evaluate upon my learning journey to date regarding behaviour management. The will be achieved
through critical reflection, based upon a combination of both my own teaching practice
within a year 3 classroom, hosting 30 children, at a large urban school. As well
as the key theoretical learning frameworks which have underpinned my teaching
pedagogy, particularly concerning the behaviourist
theory of B.F. Skinner and the work of Donald Schon.

              According to Ghaye (2011) and Zeichner and Liston
(2013) reflection can be defined as the process of looking backwards to identify both successes and
failures within our actions and using this knowledge to make meaningful
improvements, which facilitate change within ourselves. Appleby (2010) and
Bolton (2010) further this point, adding that reflection allows us to take the
time to explore and ruminate upon our personal experiences. This process allows
us to re-experience and review events
from not only our own perspective but the
perspectives of different stakeholders as well. Granting a greater
understanding of our actions, their impacts and how we might meaningfully
change them in the future. Within the teaching profession, reflection is
particularly important since it is only through reflection that educators are
able to develop the unique insights and understandings into their personal
practice that can allow them to make, maintain and extend their professional
development. This must be achieved in a highly dynamic and responsive manner to
ensure that their teaching practice does not become overly ritualised or stagnant (Ghaye, 2011;
Brookfield, 1995 and Pollard 2014). Schon (2014) elaborates that without proper
reflection the ‘ritualisation’ of
teaching practice can, through repetitive and routine action, draw teachers
into a pattern of error they are unable to correct, born through the over
learning of lesson material and the repetitive nature of routine practice. Building
on these ideas, Schon identified the concepts of reflection-in-action and
reflection-on-action as a means by which teachers should reflect on their
professional practice. As such, throughout my teaching practice, I have worked to utilise
both approaches, reflecting throughout and after each day, a process which
enables me now to effectively analyse and
evaluate my progress in behaviour
management to date.

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              According to Hart (2010),
behaviour management is an educational
approach deployed within a classroom context, which is designed to first
promote and later sustain a calm, well-controlled
teaching environment, conducive to school-based learning. This goal is achieved
through the effective and consistent deployment of positive and negative
reinforcement strategies, aimed at promoting positive behaviours while simultaneously reducing opportunities for poor behaviours (Sandall et al,
2005). Pereira and Smith-Adcock (2011)
elaborate that for positive and negative reinforcement strategies to be truly
effective, they should be centered on the ideal
of allowing children to take responsibility for their actions, be they positive
or negative. Providing children with the incentives and opportunities necessary
for them to both display and maintain
positive behaviours which are conducive
to learning, while simultaneously learning from, and self-correcting their own,
negative behaviours (Paris and Paris,
2001). Effective behaviour management is essential to good
teaching pedagogy since without it the
processes of teaching and learning can become exponentially more difficult and time-consuming (Rogers, 2015). Indeed, research
conducted by the Department for Education
(2012) has shown that most teachers report regularly losing up to thirty percent
of their teaching time to behavioural
disruption. It is because of this central importance that I have decided to
reflect upon my progress in behaviour management
to date.

              When initially beginning my teaching practice I displayed a naive understanding of behaviour management which Pollard (2014)
describes as early idealism. That is to say, I wanted to be liked by the
children as well as respected by them, wherever possible avoiding negative
reinforcement in favour of positive
reinforcement. Part of this had resulted from a misunderstanding on my part of
B.F Skinner’s theory of operant
conditioning, the main theory which underpinned my practice. In his theory Skinner
describes the process of operant conditioning, a means by which behaviour can be modified through the use of
positive and negative reinforcement (Vargas, 2014). What I had failed to realise was that successive research studies
into this theory and its applications for the education system had consistently
emphasised the importance of utilising both forms of reinforcement simultaneously
for the process to be truly effective in improving behaviour (Maag, 2001; Tillery
et al, 2010 and Pas et al, 2015). Almost immediately my
approach to behaviour management proved
ineffective at dealing with the challenges present within my class. My initial
lessons were marred by notable levels of low-level
disruption and this only worsened as children began to realise that they were able to get away with these actions with few
consequences (see figure 1). Vargas (2013) explains that when a teacher fails
to adequately challenge undesirable behaviours,
those behaviours will not only continue but will become more frequent and increasingly
pronounced as time goes on. True to this assessment, the behaviour within my classroom did continue to
worsen, particularly when I began to fail in following through with threatened
sanctions and became increasingly inconsistent in my use of positive praise. Despite
this, some research was still seeming to support my practice, suggesting that
the abrupt use of negative reinforcement could, in fact, worsen the behavioural issues I was facing by dismantling
the limited positive gains I had made through an all-positive approach
(Pfiffner and O’Leary, 1987). After several weeks of watching the classrooms behaviour deteriorate, it finally became clear
to me that my idealistic philosophy was incompatible with the learning needs of
the children I was teaching. Clearly, the studies I was basing this philosophy
on, perhaps because of their ethnocentrism to their host countries or
reductionist suggestions that all children might have the same motivations and
needs, did not apply to the school context within which I was placed. 

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