Behavioural management in physical education Print E-mail

Description of EGP

Behaviour management skills are particularly of importance to teachers in the educational system. Often we talk about behaviour modification in which the focus is on changing behaviour, while in behaviour management the focus is on maintaining order. The purpose of behaviour management is all of the actions and conscious inactions to enhance the probability that students will choose behaviours which are personally fulfilling, productive, and socially  cceptable. For example, a physical education teacher may use these techniques to teach appropriate social behaviours for his/her students. Many of the principles and techniques of behaviour management used are the same as behaviour modification yet delivered in a less intensive and consistent fashion. Behaviour modification approaches involve students more actively 62 in planning and shaping their own behaviour through participation in the negotiation of contracts with their teachers and through exposure to training designed to help them to monitor and evaluate their behaviour more actively, to learn techniques of self-control and problem solving, and to set goals and reinforce themselves for meeting these goals.

Experts agree that a lack of behaviour management skills is the most significant barrier to effective physical education teaching. The inability to manage and motivate student behaviour is the most often mentioned reason given by beginner teachers for leaving the teaching profession. The problem is magnified if there are a large number of students with diverse emotional, social, cognitive, and physical abilities in the same physical education class. Lately, effective behaviour management has become even more challenging with the inclusion of an increased number of students identified as at-risk or with serious behaviour problems in general physical education classes. These students represent a growing number of all students in schools. In general behaviour management strategies have been very effective in reducing classroom disruption. The goal of all teachers is to minimise behaviour problems by creating a positive teaching and learning environment. The following strategies help teachers reinforce desirable behaviours to prevent behaviour problems (Dunn & Leitschuh 2006):

  • Structuring the physical environment: Before children enter an instructional environment they should know what they are expected to do, where they should go, and what to do when they get there. The room should be organised with activity areas and equipment clearly marked. Activity stations, for instance, can be lettered or numbered to help students who have difficulty following directions.
  • Modeling: Teachers must serve as effective models for their students. All students, including those with disabilities, look to the teacher as a standard for proper conduct.
  • Reinforcing desirable behaviour: The sensitive teacher seeks every possible opportunity to provide positive reinforcement. Using techniques such as verbal praise and public recognition increases the likelihood that appropriate behaviours will be exhibited again in future class session.
  • Regulated permission: There are times when it is desirable to permit exceptions or deviations in the normal class routine for a student who is having difficulty. For example, a student who finds it exceptionally difficult to stand in line before returning to the classroom could be assigned the responsibility of gathering and returning equipment to the proper area.
  • Developing, stating and enforcing consequences: Students need to know that there are rules, standards of behaviour, and consequences for inappropriate behaviour. The rules must be clear and reasonable and the consequences appropriate to the infraction.
  • Student and teacher contracts: There are times when it is desirable for the teacher and student to develop a contract as part of a conference in which a problem is acknowledged, expected behaviours are identified, and rewards and consequences are specified.

Beyond the formal techniques of positive reinforcement, modeling, extinction, and time-out, there are some informal approaches teachers can use to deal with undesirable behaviour. 1. Teachers employ a variety of signals that communicate to the student approval or disapproval for selected behaviours. Some of the nonverbal techniques that can be employed include: eye contact, hand gestures, snapping fingers, frowning, or various body postures. These signals, if employed before the behaviour gets out of control, can be very effective in stopping or minimising the intensity of the inappropriate behaviour. 2. A very old but effective strategy to use when a teacher senses that a student’s behaviour is beginning to deteriorate is for the teacher to move close to the child. The close presence of the teacher may assist the student in regaining self-control and/or ceasing the undesirable behaviour. 3. Most teachers are aware that humour can be very effective in defusing a tense situation. A funny comment by the teacher may release tension of the situation. Of course, care must be exercised to avoid ridicule or sarcasm. The humour must be in good taste and appropriate to the situation. For many students, inappropriate behaviour may be the only behaviour in a student’s repertoire which has been effective in meeting his or her needs. Positive programming serves to increase the options in a student’s repertoire and provide more choices for the student. Finally, it is important to remember that it is the behaviour which is troublesome, not the student. 63

It is important to make this distinction even though in some cases a student may seem to continually try your patience. Separating the student from his or her behaviour will help prevent and dissipate negative feeling that you may have about a student and help make you and your teaching more effective. Reference: Dunn, J.M & Leitschuh, C.A. 2006. Special Physical Education (8th. ed.). Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Relevance of EGP to EUSAPA project

Behavioural management is one of the key competencies of the APE teacher. The presented EGP provides a basic overview of behavioural management in the context of physical education.

EUSAPA competencies presented in this EGP

  1. Ability to provide positive/negative reinforcement of desirable/undesirable students’ behaviours where appropriate
  2. Ability to observe and keep records related to behavioural management plan.
  3. Ability to counsel/ guide students towards adopting more appropriate behaviours–choice

Example of good practice was described by Pauli Rintala from University of Jyväskylä.