Behaviour Management


a guide for classroom teachers and teacher aides

Two teachers having a discussion in a classroom.

When we develop and implement systems, life becomes easier and less stressful. We have more emotional energy to devote to other causes – to solve problems – to help others. Systems are developed by high- performing teachers so they can frame, categorise and conceptualise the strange and dynamic happenings of the classroom into an approachable, user-friendly set of tasks. All professionals use systems in one way or another to efficiently manage both regular and irregular events. They allow practitioners to take a risk-based approach and to be proactive.

Research has shown that effective classroom systems include the explicit teaching of expectations, continual monitoring, effective responses to issues, and high-quality teaching strategies (Borgmeier et al., 2016).

Proactive programs such as PBS are really just systems and processes encased by a philosophical or guiding principle. These systems are essentially a set of rules or procedures not dissimilar to the classroom and school-wide rules of the past. However, the differences are in their sophistication, emphasis on being proactive, concern with motivation (particularly intrinsic motivation and self-esteem) and their links between teaching strategies (often called instructional strategies) and behaviour management. Research has shown that effective classroom systems include the explicit teaching of expectations, continual monitoring, effective responses to issues, and high-quality teaching strategies (Borgmeier et al., 2016).

Here’s why behaviour management systems are so important:

  • They are holistic, meaning that a system covers all eventualities including ways of managing ‘black-swan events’ (situations that we could never predict).
  • They allow teachers to think-through the most effective ways to manage their classes.
  • They help to create a positive learning environment built on positive supports (Egeberg et al., 2016).
  • They provide a philosophical and principle-based foundation from which ethical and ‘tough’ decisions can be made.
  • They allow the system developer to think-through every aspect of their work at a time when they are not stressed or under time pressure.
  • They allow the developer to continually tweak and perfect their system to create conditions that make the desirable behaviour more likely (Hardman & Smith, 1999).
  • They provide a mechanism by which teachers can control environmental stimuli (Banks, 2014) which may affect behaviour and learning.
  • They can include categories (for example, proactive/reactive, inside/outside, maths/reading) which allow teachers to focus on key areas and to compartmentalise (i.e. issues are siloed, making the focus narrow and targeted).
  • They allow others involved in the education process (parents, volunteers, specialists, managers, temporary/relief staff) to work in tandem under a comprehensive, fair and well-engineered set of rules, expectations and processes.
  • They allow the teacher to review and reflect on each aspect in order to find improvements.
  • They provide an additional layer of authority which the teacher can refer to: ‘it’s not my rule, it’s the class policy’.
  • Students are less likely to see teachers as being unfair when they are following a system.
  • They can be expanded over time to incorporate more strategies and become more detailed.
  • They allow teachers to take a top-down view to ensure their work incorporates best practices such as maximising structure, expectations, active engagement, positive prompting, low-key techniques and redirection (Simonsen et al., 2008).

Hint: Your system could include a section that outlines your professional goals (for improving your own skills and knowledge). Use SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based).

Your behaviour management system should be a single document. It really isn’t enough to have it in your head. It can be in any format and length that suits you – there is no right or wrong way – start with a page or 2. What it does require is a sense of functionality, practicality and user-friendliness. It is not the type of document that you develop and never refer to (although just the process of making it, updating it now and then, and knowing it exists is very helpful in itself).

Like all projects that are worth doing, the hardest part is getting started. Begin by writing a title and placing your name at the top as well as all other relevant details such as class, school, date and number of students. This can be your cover page. On page 2, write the heading “Teaching Philosophy” and write a paragraph. Beneath that, list your 5 principles of teaching – these are your guiding beacons that you can refer to when tough decisions need to be made. Again, there is no right or wrong here – there is also no rush – take your time (this is a draft). If you have very few behavioural issues, your system may be a few pages. If you have lots of issues or work with large numbers of rotating classes, you will need a more comprehensive system. To start with however, keep it simple and expand out.

Hint: A good system is one which another teacher could pick up, read and implement straight away – knowing exactly what to do. In a way, your system is a handbook on best practice behaviour management as it applies to your classroom and teaching style.

Next you should include a list of headings such as unit and lesson planning, daily routines, seating plan, subjects (art, English etc.), specific areas of the classroom, motivational strategies, equipment, class rules, school rules, excursion rules, relief/substitute teachers, consequences, common issues and response, transitions, suggested behaviour management techniques, communicating with home policy, and so forth. For now, write a few dot points in each section outlining the expectations, rules, consequences, processes and routines. Use techniques from this book that appeal to you. It is good practice to use consistent terminology (including when speaking with students) – a shared vocabulary.

Research has shown that effective classroom systems include the explicit teaching of expectations, continual monitoring, effective responses to issues, and high-quality teaching strategies (Borgmeier et al., 2016).

As you learn more about behaviour management, you can update your system with new ideas and strategies. You may want to include new sections such as individual behaviour management plans (IBMPs), buddy systems and defiant behaviour. List key strategies and techniques such as ‘minimum necessary force’ and ‘selective ignoring’. If there are specific routines and processes you want students to follow, add them in as well. Add a section towards the end outlining how and when you will review and update your system. You now have the makings of your very own behaviour management system – congratulations! Over time, gradually expand your system to be as detailed as you need it to be (20 pages or so including diagrams, dot points and so forth is not unusual).

Hint: Your behaviour management system may contain a classroom behaviour improvement plan (CBIP). These are smaller documents (often a 1-pager) usually aimed at improving the general behaviour of an entire class. Your system is the core document (not dissimilar to a business plan) that links to a variety of other documents such as school policies and CBIPs.

Remember that your system is there to support you – to help you think through your problems, ideas, processes, routines and expectations. If it does not help you, you have not developed a good system, at least not one that suits you and your teaching style. Try again. While developing a system is not easy, the process alone is worthwhile. Having a comprehensive, engineered, well thought-out plan will help you to sleep at night. It gives you maximum confidence when stepping into the classroom; no matter what happens, there is a system to guide you, a process to follow and a series of fail safes. You don’t even need to worry about ‘system failure’ because failure is built into the system as an expectation. In fact, system failure is an opportunity to build a more robust system.

Hint: Systems reduce stress in another subtle but important way. If you have spent the time devising the best possible process and set of techniques to address a particular behaviour, all you need to do is confidently follow your system. Failure only happens if you fail to follow the system. If the system itself fails to achieve the desired outcome, it can be adjusted for next time. Think of it like this: you did not fail, the system or process did and therefore it needs adjustments – there is substantial difference.


Borgmeier, C., Loman, S. L., & Hara, M. (2016). Teacher self-assessment of evidence-based classroom practices: preliminary findings across primary, intermediate and secondary level teachers. Teacher Development, 20(1), 40-56.

Egeberg, H. M., McConney, A., & Price, A. (2016). Classroom Management and National Professional Standards for Teachers: A Review of the Literature on Theory and Practice. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 41(7).

Hardman, E., & Smith, S. W. (1999). Promoting Positive Interactions in the Classroom. Intervention in School & Clinic, 34, 178-201

Banks, T. (2014). Creating Positive Learning Environments: Antecedent Strategies for Managing the Classroom Environment & Student Behavior. Creative Education, 5, 519-524.

Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education & Treatment of Children, 31(3), 351–380.

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.


Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.


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