Promoting Positive Behaviour


Dr Elizabeth Stafford explores themes from Unit 4 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators.

Why is it important to promote positive behaviour?

The question ‘why is it important to promote positive behaviour’ may seem an obvious one; of course we need positive behaviour from our pupils, or they will not learn anything, and will disrupt the learning of others. However, the promotion of positive behaviour is not just about controlling the learning environment. Promoting positive behaviour can help children and young people to:

  • Feel safe
  • Make positive contributions
  • Develop social and emotional skills
  • Understand expectations and limits
  • Stay motivated

All of the above will result in a better chance of learning for your pupils within your lessons, but they also have wider applications to your pupils’ wellbeing and development.

Feel Safe

If your lessons do not promote positive behaviour, then pupils may not feel safe in the learning environment. They may feel that they cannot express an opinion or give a performance in case they are jeered at, or they may even feel that they are at risk from physical violence. Creating an atmosphere in which positive behaviour is expected from all pupils means that vulnerable pupils feel safe to participate fully in your lesson and will therefore have the best possible chance of learning.

Make positive contributions

If you promote positive behaviour in your sessions, then you encourage pupils to make positive contributions. Rather than misbehaving and disrupting others, pupils are more likely to follow instructions and engage with learning activities when they know that this behaviour will be rewarded. Pupils’ behaviour patterns are often motivated by a need for attention. Giving more attention to positive behaviour patterns may encourage disruptive pupils to change their habits.

Develop social and emotional skills

A learning environment which promotes positive behaviour mirrors the real world. It encourages pupils to treat themselves, their peers, and authority figures (teachers) with respect. Considering why certain behaviours are more acceptable than others encourages the development of social and emotional intelligence, contributing to pupils’ wider development.

Understand expectations and limits

It may seem counterintuitive to us as adults, but pupils, even our more challenging ones, actually like rules and structures! Having a positive behaviour strategy in place means that pupils ‘know where they are’ in terms of boundaries. We must not underestimate the upset caused to pupils, even seemingly belligerent ones, of being ‘wrongfully’ called out on their behaviour. Having a clear policy in place avoids this situation, as pupils clearly understand the sanctions and rewards that will be imposed as a result of their actions. This is important training for pupils as they prepare to navigate the adult world, with its accepted set of customs, conventions and laws.

Stay motivated

Imagine a whole day where people constantly took issue with your behaviour. How would you feel at the end of the day? Upset? Angry? Wronged? Useless? Demoralised? Demotivated?

Promoting positive behaviour, rather than imposing sanctions on negative behaviour, is a more motivating way of encouraging pupils to behave. There do need to be sanctions in place for behaviour extremes, but singling pupils out for praise when they’re doing something good rather than catching them out for misbehaving, will motivate them to continue patterns of positive behaviour.

Click here to view our follow-up blog on practical techniques for promoting positive behaviour.

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