A winning formula for student engagement

A winning formula for student engagement

In 2023, a major report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the “disciplinary climate” in Australian schools is among the “least favourable” in the developed world, exacerbating the nations’ teacher shortages.

The report also found that 37% of Australian lower-secondary school principals reported weekly incidents of intimidation or bullying among students, and that teachers feel unprepared to manage student behaviour issues when they arise.

To address this, a Senate inquiry into classroom disruption in Australian schools recently called for fundamental changes to how teachers approach classroom management, even going so far as to recommend a specialised ‘Behaviour Curriculum’.

While these changes are likely to take some time to materialise, there are pockets of excellence across Australia’s school sector that offer principals struggling with this issue crucial insights into how they can bring their classrooms under control and foster a stronger culture of student engagement and harmony.

One of them is Granville Boys High School, where staff place a strong focus on building rapport with students through understanding their interests and motivations. They then use this insight to effectively reward positive behaviour.

Below, The Educator speaks to the school’s principal, Noel Dixon to find out more.

TE: The 2023 OECD report placed Australian classrooms low in global rankings for disorderliness, highlighting a significant challenge of disruptive student behaviour. Given this issue, what strategies do you recommend for teachers to effectively address disruptive behaviour, and how can forums such as the Student Behaviour & Classroom Management Conference contribute to supporting Australian schools in managing this concern?

Granville Boys High School follow a formula. Get to know your students, build relationships with them. Find out what they want as reward. Reward good behaviour. Often negative student behaviour is a result of disengagement from school and a disconnection from learning. It’s important to ensure that schools provide a range of activities so that every student has the opportunity to find a passion. At Granville Boys High School, we have our own barbershop, and employ a professional barber to teach our students the cool fades, we have 3 full robotics labs, a fully functioning Coffee shop, as well as a Pipe band. We want our students excited about learning.

We also have a short morning assembly every day, to reinforce student expectations for the day. Explicit professional Learning for all new staff on effective classroom management techniques, is so important. Senior Executive lead sessions to make sure all teachers have the skills needed to effectively manage their staff, everything from how a class enters a classroom to dealing with disruptive behaviour. We run scenarios with new teachers and explain what we would do in such situations. We support teachers and give them the skills to control their classes. We involve parents if disruptive behaviour continues, and work with them to find a solution.

TE: How do you believe the role of school leaders has evolved in addressing disruptive student behaviour?

There are certainly more distractions for students. The basis of what we do has not changed, raise expectations, develop relations set rules and follow up, always follow up.

Sometimes students misbehave in a class because they are not understanding the work. Perhaps it’s their literacy or numeracy level, or there’s some other underlying issues so it’s also important for teachers to differentiate the learning in the classroom so that every student in the class can connect with the learning no matter what their ability. When that happens, students can engage in learning and what normally happens is their behaviour improves. So does their self-esteem and their results.

TE: How do you believe educators can adapt their approach to classroom management in a rapidly changing educational landscape, considering various external factors and challenges that may arise?

We use a formula at Granville Boys High School. Build relationships with students, set expectations, encourage and reward good behaviour. Repeat. In a rapidly changing educational landscape, it is important to have programs at schools that promote social skills. Peer mediation is a good one. It empowers students by giving them the opportunity to resolve conflict, negative behaviour or bullying by simply talking it out. Students walk out of a mediation not only resolving their conflict, but they’ve also developed positive communication skills and empathy. The program contributes to a pro social and harmonious school culture.

The Hatchery’s Student Behaviour & Classroom Management conference – which will take place in Sydney & Online on the 19th of March 2024 – will unpack current issues and present school leaders with practical approaches to help teachers confidently lead classrooms and implement evidence-based classroom practices. This conference will explore school-wide behavioural frameworks and intervention strategies, underpinned by behavioural science referencing successful school case studies. Understand resources available now and upcoming for classroom management and easy-to-implement solutions developed by local and international experts.

To learn more about the event, download the brochure by clicking here.