Essentials: Rethinking Behaviour Charts - How Effective Are They Really?

Essentials: Rethinking Behaviour Charts - How Effective Are They Really?

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Today we ask what your thoughts are on behaviour charts. Do you think that they're effective in recognising and nurturing good behaviour? Or do you question their impact on students with behavioural special needs?

Join us as we explore potential pitfalls and learn how to use behaviour charts effectively for more positive student outcomes.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

SEMH enthusiasts, what are your thoughts on behaviour charts? Do you think that they're effective in recognizing a nurturing good behaviour? Or do you feel that they cast an unintended shadow publicly shaming kids with behavioural needs? Let's dig into the truth in this week's essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets. 

Welcome to the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton. And we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course, students when classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural special needs, whole school strategy, and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the School Behaviour Secrets podcast. 

Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to another pint sized essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets, where we share with you some key strategies from an earlier episode that you can use to have an immediate impact on the students that you work with. Just before we go any further, I'd like to remind you that if you enjoy listening today and you're enjoying this podcast, please do remember to subscribe, so you never miss another episode. Today I'm going to share part of a conversation I had with my co host Emma Shackleton, where we considered the pros and cons of behaviour charts as a tool to manage whole class behaviour. We look at whether charts are a great way of providing recognition for good behaviour, or if they just in fact, publicly shame kids with behaviour needs. We're going to join the discussion midway through original episode number 44. 

Okay, here's another case against and this is a big one, public shaming, I want you to imagine as an adult, you're at work, would you want to be publicly shamed by your boss in the middle of the staff room? Would you let your head teacher or your line manager, you know, to suddenly stand up in front of everyone and say to you, Emma, Simon, whatever your name is, your reports were late, I want you to walk across the room and take a little picture of your face or name and move it from the you know, the privileged happy side of the board to the sad side of the board, we would feel crushing embarrassment as adults. And that's where the survey comes in. At the start of the program. It's all about things that people have done that made them feel embarrassed. But actually, as adults in the classroom, we need to think about, does public shaming help our kids learn from their behaviour? Or do they just become more entrenched and batten down the hatches and stop engaging in reward charts because they feel that they're not for them, that they're excluded from them. And that everyone is looking at them interactive systems, you know, things like Class Dojo, even alert everyone else, that someone's being shamed in class with sound effects and animations. It's almost like getting a big one, you know, like on a game show when you get a question wrong. And we really need to be thinking about is using public shaming, effective at changing the behaviour of children. And I think the experience for the last 20 3040 years is it isn't,

Emma Shackleton  3:15  

I would agree, actually. And we do always talk about giving praise in public and criticizing in private. So I think we have moved a long way in our education systems. So maybe it's actually more about how the charts are used, perhaps we should give positive reinforcement, but remove the negative elements and use private feedback when we're dealing with the negative so we can have the chart for moving up and for recognizing the good stuff. But actually, we don't move children down. And instead we use relationships and conversations to deal with negative behaviour. What about that?

Simon Currigan  3:52  

I completely agree that's the way to tackle negative behaviour, but then you still have the problem of that big class display chart. And you have the same names and faces stuck at the bottom of a board. So imagine I saw one once in a classroom that was like a racetrack where children moved around squares on a racetrack. Poor old Darren will be still be on the starting line while the other kids are lapping him over and over every day. So it's still very public and obvious, which kids are acing it and which kids are struggling to meet the behaviour expectations in class.

Emma Shackleton  4:23  

But teachers do have the option of course of using individual charts to support individual children. And these can be really motivating and effective when they're used in the same way, but it's done more privately. So rather than that public display, it can be helpful to have an individual race track for a particular child with a really clear target and really clear, taught behaviours so the children know what they need to do to move along that track. And then we're setting the children up to be successful. That can be really helpful, but I get what you're saying. It's not then on public You where everyone can see who's crushing it and who's really struggling. 

Simon Currigan  5:04  

I want to talk about now, the issue around behaviour tracks in particularly, these are behaviour charts where if you do something wrong, you get moved down the chart. And then if you do something positive, you get moved back up the chart, and this sends the message moving up and down, sends the message, right, that a good action cancels out a bad one. And that's just not how the world works. If you do some harm, you have to repair the harm. But it kind of says the message. Imagine the situation where if I went out now, and I assaulted someone in the street, you know, did something awful and robbed their money. But then when I went to court, the judge said, you know, you've done this terrible thing, do you own up to it, yes, or you're assaulted this person, it was a bad thing. But if I then said, you know, I've donated 1000 pounds to charity, the judge doesn't go, Well, you know, those two actions cancel each other out, everything's fine. You know, there are consequences for bad actions. And we have to repair the harm. But it's not like a tit for tat thing, you see this in class, you'll see some kids, you know, engage in some really difficult, disruptive, challenging behaviour for 50 minutes, they get moved down the chart, but then they feel like, well, if I do a couple of good things, at the end, in the last five minutes, you get moved back up, and everything's reset, everything's good. And that's just not how life works. It gives a false representation of the day.

Emma Shackleton  6:17  

Okay, but one way that is useful to use a behaviour track type system is to help those children who sometimes feel like when they've made a mistake, then the rest of the days are right off. So maybe children with quite fixed thinking traits, perhaps children with autism, sometimes they might get told off, or they do something wrong at quarter past nine, and the rest of the day feels like a write off because they don't recognize that actually, they can put things right, and they can move on, and they can earn rewards in the rest of the day. So sometimes a chart type system, particularly an individual chart, broken down into chunks can be a really great way of helping children to understand, okay, that behaviour happened, or that lesson was a bit of a disaster, but you've always got the chance to turn it round, we can put it right, we can start afresh. And using charts that are actually chunked into sections. Maybe lesson by lesson, for example, is a great way of giving multiple opportunities for a fresh start throughout the day. And that can help those children who feel like the days written off when they've made their first mistake. So what we're saying is, yes, there was a mistake, yes, something happened or something went wrong. Let's think about how we can put it right, let's start afresh, let's move forward with the rest of the day, we're giving children the power to turn their day around, they don't just need to be a victim of their mistakes.

Simon Currigan  7:47  

I think for negative behaviour, what we really have to ask here is, is the child in control of their behaviour? Look, that's the million dollar question, isn't it? Are they making behaviour choices? In which case rewards and consequences are the way forward? Go for it? But if there's something more if there's something underlying if the behaviour to some extent is out of their control, is it fair to approach their behaviour in this way, if they're experiencing high stress or high anxiety, they're being pushed towards fight or flight? They've stopped using that logical part of their brain? They're firing on emotion and automatic behaviours? Is it fair to approach that kind of behaviour in the same way as someone who is making you know, cold calculated decisions about behaviour or maybe pushing social boundaries to see what's acceptable in class? So you know, take someone who's swearing with Tourette's or inattentiveness in a child with ADHD, if that's how they're physically wired, we need to address the behaviour with support strategies. We shouldn't be punishing kids for behaviours that are physically beyond their control. And even kids with underlying conditions bring a mix. I do appreciate that. So we have to be using our professional judgment to think about is the behaviour we're seeing in class driven by an underlying need? Or is the child making choices at the moment and react appropriately. 

And if you'd like to know more about this topic, all you need to do is click the link at the bottom of the episode description to head back to the original podcast episode. That's episode number 44. If you found today's episode helpful, do please take a moment to rate and review us. It takes just 30 seconds and when you do, it prompts the algorithm to recommend School Behaviour Secrets to other listeners, and that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. Thanks for listening and I look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)