A study calls for teachers to ignore disruptive students to improve behaviour in classrooms

A recent study suggests that teachers should ignore low-level disruptive behaviour in the classroom in order to reduce it. The study, led by the University of Exeter Medical School, found that rewarding well-behaved pupils with praise instead of focusing on poorly-behaved students, can improve the behaviour and mental health of school children.

The study follows reports of schools adopting strict “zero tolerance” behaviour policies. Professor Tamsin Ford, said that if the teacher “just ignores it then there’s no fun carrying on and it will just stop”. The focus is then shifted towards celebrating the pupils who exhibit desirable behaviours such as quietly listening. Celebrating these good behaviours will then have a “ripple effect” and encourage the other students, even the poorly-behaved ones, to adopt them.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that at the end of the day, there is a balance to be struck – teachers cannot ignore low-level poor behaviour if it is disruptive to other pupils while at the same time, cannot stop their lessons every five seconds because of minor infractions.

Every teacher has his or her own methods of dealing with disruptive students. The question is really whether completely ignoring such students is the best way of managing them. Like Mr. Barton says, there is a fine balance that must be struck. This balance can only come with years of experience as an educator.

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