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Students’ misbehavior usually has a disruptive impact on learning and teaching activities in the classroom. It can take various forms, for example, talking to others without permission or even bullying. Yet, in each case, educators have to find ways of resolving these problems.
This paper is aimed at discussing the causes of this misbehavior and the strategies that teachers should adopt in order to prevent and minimize these problems. In particular, it is necessary to show that such conduct can be explained by both internal and external factors that cannot be always controlled by a student. For example, this misbehavior can be attributed to poor instructional design or failure to involve students in classroom activities.
Thus, it should not be regarded only as a student’s fault. Secondly, this paper will demonstrate that coercion and punishment which excludes a student from the class is not the best strategy for addressing this issue. Instead, teachers should focus on instructional design and interpersonal skills that can help them find a better approach to learners.
Various causes of misbehavior
Very often the origins of misbehavior are very difficult to trace back because it can be explained by a variety of factors such as family problems, school environment, peer pressure, or psychological problems of a student (Moles, 1990, p. 259). Researchers point out that there are several internal motivators for the misbehavior; one of them is the need for attention (Sagor & Cox, 2004, p. 176). These students want teachers to look more attentively at their needs and goals.
These students want to feel that they are valued by the teacher. Another factor that contributes to misbehavior is the desire to assert ones authority over others (Joseph, 2001, p. 125). Some students believe that the necessity to follow rules limits their freedom and ability to act independently. Such students often tend to bully others if they feel that their freedom is restricted by teachers or school administrators. Additionally, one should speak about assumed inadequacy (Joseph, 2001, p. 125; Belson, 1996, p. 79).
Some learners can assume that they do not belong to the class or that they cannot meet certain performance standards. Some teachers can often accuse children of being deviant or lazy. In some cases, such an accusation can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, a student can come to the belief that his/her actions cannot change a teacher’s opinion about him or her. This is why teachers should avoid using such labels as “deviant” or “lazy” when talking to a child.
The discussion of these internal factors can also be linked to the Choice Theory developed by William Glasser (1988). In the opinion of this scholar, a student’s behavior is driven by the need for belonging, willingness to acquire power or freedom, and the desire to have fun (Glasser, 1988, p. 7).
Provided that these needs are not satisfied, a student is more likely to violate the rules that are set by the teachers. This theory can have profound implications for those people who design instruction models. Their task is to create such an environment in which a student can meet various psychological needs.
Apart from that, scholars argue that there are some causes of misbehavior that can be attributed to school environment. In particular, they point to such factors as lack of meaningful interaction with teachers, unequal power relations, or inability to fulfill ones talents or skills (Sagor & Cox, 2004, p. 177). Therefore, educators should take into account that sometimes they can cause the misbehavior in the classroom.
For instance, a student can act defiantly in those cases when teacher adopts a very authoritative attitude toward learners. Additionally, one can refer to the study carried out by Salee Supaporn (2000). This scholar shows that misbehavior can be linked to the activities in which students are engaged (Supaporn, 2000, p. 124). In particular, a student, who perceives a learning activity as interesting, is less likely to misbehave in the classroom.
Overall, boredom is one of the main factors that contribute to misbehavior in the classroom (Tauber, 2007, p. 134). Moreover, many students can misbehave when a teacher does not accommodate the lesson to their learning style (Haggart, 2004, p. 32).
For instance, auditory learners, who need to discuss ideas or topics with a teacher, may talk out of turn when a teacher does not encourage them to show their understanding of the material (Haggart, 2004, p. 32). This is why misbehavior should not be always explained by lack of self-control or discipline.
There is another aspect of this problem, namely the way in which educators perceive misbehavior and its causes. For instance, some of them think that its causes are fully controllable by a student (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006, p. 203). For instance, some teachers believe that poor performance or misbehavior during lessons can be attributed to chronic laziness or unwillingness to learn (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006, p. 203).
Usually these people believe that punishment is the best response to such a behavior. They do not consider the possibility that such conduct could have been caused by lack of social skills or attention-deficit disorder (Rubie-Davies, 2011, p. 225). More importantly, they do not change their strategies in any way when dealing with such a child. As a result, such students continue to underperform.
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The statistical survey conducted by Pamela Kulinna (2007) indicates that teachers usually attribute misbehavior to such factors as peer pressure of family problems (p. 21). As a rule, they do not say that their strategies or instructional models are flawed. Overall, this study suggests that to cope with misbehavior educators should take a critical view at their teaching methods.
Thus, this discussion indicates that there could be numerous causes of student’ misbehavior. In some cases, it can be explained by internal motivators such as the need for attention or the willingness to gain power and authority. Yet, very often it can be attributed to school or classroom environment. This is the main issue that teachers should not disregard.
Ways of preventing and responding to misbehavior
At present, there is no universal method of managing misbehavior in the classroom. Yet, researchers do describe ways in which a teacher can avert or minimize this problem. One of them is the use of instruction methods encourage a student to participate in learning activities (Landrum, 2011, p. 33; Casas, 2009, p. 85). In particular, the teacher should encourage students to demonstrate their understanding of the material (Landrum, 2011, p. 33).
Moreover, it is always necessary to provide feedback to learners and explain where they could have made mistakes. This approach enables students to take a more active part in their studies; they will not be only passive recipients of information.
Moreover, in this way, learning activities can be made more interesting because students will be able to interact with the teacher, instead of just following his/her commands. The learners will also see that a teacher genuinely cares about their successes and there will be fewer reasons for them to violate the rules that this person set. Thus, improved instructional methodology is one of the ways to reduce misbehavior in classrooms.
Additionally, a teacher should take into account that any class is made up of students who may have different learning styles. These people can acquire or develop new skills in different ways. As it has been said before, boredom can be a cause of misbehavior. Some students can feel in this way because they are not allowed to learn in a way that is most suitable for them (Walters & Frei, 2007, p. 7; Rayner & Cools, 2012, p. 166).
For instance, some students are kinesthetic learners; this means that they have to carry out physical activities in order to better understand new material. Their misbehavior is usually expressed through body movements or gestures that may seem strange to others (Haggart, 2004, p. 32). Teachers should pay more attention to the needs of such learners. For instance, those people, who teach algebra, usually let these students use pan scales. In this way, they can help them better understand the notion of equation (Kelly, 2000, p. 77).
This example demonstrates that the likelihood of misbehavior can be reduced provided that a teacher uses proper instructional methods and appreciates the differences in learning styles.
Apart from that, educators should try to show the practical use of the knowledge or skills that they want to teach students. Provided that this task is achieved, they will find it easier to keep the attention of these learners (Wadhwa, 2004, p. 121). Therefore, improved instructional models and flexible teaching methods are instrumental in preventing misbehavior.
Another issue that should be discussed is the use of punishment as a response to the misbehavior of students. One of the main arguments is that such punitive measures are aimed at excluding the child from the classroom, rather than helping him or her. In many cases, teachers may place a misbehaving child at the very back of them room (Noguera, 2003, p. 342). In turn, fighting or bullying can lead to suspension or expulsion from the school (Noguera, 2003, p. 342).
The main problem is that such strategies do not actually encourage a student to change his/her behavior. The main logic of this approach is that this punishment will deter other students from misbehaving. It is based on the assumption that a student will behave appropriately in order to avoid negative consequences. Yet, it can also lead to such problems as alienation from other pupils, negative attitude toward school or learning, or anti-social behavior.
It does not emphasize positive experiences associated with learning. This is the main drawback of this method. Furthermore, teachers, who continuously rely on punishment, run the risk of losing their authority. The thing is that the power of a teacher can come from various sources. It may rely on coercion or the ability to render punishment. Yet, as it has been argued by William Glasser (1990) such teachers cannot ensure that students are willing to comply with the rules (p. 5).
More importantly, students will regard them only as some authority figures who do not want to offer students sympathy or respect. Overall, the power of the teacher should rely more on his/her expertise and interpersonal skills, rather than coercion. Therefore, coercion and punishment are not the best methods of preventing or responding to student’s misbehavior.
Currently, researchers believe that in many cases, a teacher can respond to misbehavior without relying on punishment that excludes a student (Tate, 2006, p. 15). For instance, a teacher can ask a student to write an essay on the causes of his/her misbehavior and the reasons why such conduct is not appropriate.
Secondly, a teacher should keep in mind that misbehavior can be caused by anxiety or domestic abuse. In some cases, it may be necessary to ask a student after the lesson whether there is anything that disturbs him/her. Furthermore, humor can be much more effective than shouting in the classroom (Tate, 2006, p. 15). Moreover, researchers argue that a sudden pause or silence can be a very good method of attracting a student’s attention to the fact that he/she does not behave properly.
Such a method can be applied to students talk to one another at the time when a teacher explains a new topic. Additionally, teachers should take time to explain what kinds of behavior are inappropriate in the classroom. For some students, such an explanation can be more effective than punishment. This is how teachers can respond to misbehavior in the classroom without using coercive power.
Overall, this discussion indicates that the misbehavior in the classroom cannot always be blamed only on students. Very often, this conduct can be attributed to poor methods of instruction or failure to involve students into learning. The task of educators is to create an environment in which students feel themselves a part of the class. They must see themselves as active participants of educational process. Finally, teachers should remember there are ways of influencing the behavior of students without the use of coercive power.
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