Tip #2: Pupil playing to the crowd? Try removing the audience.

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What does it look/sound like?

‘Look around, what is everyone else doing?’

‘Is your choice fair on everyone else?’

‘Class, are you happy that _____ is doing _____? What should he/she be doing?’

Why you should use it

There’s a reason why I was called the class clown – it’s because I was always looking for an audience. Whenever I shouted something inappropriate out, I would look around and see who was enjoying my outburst. If there were smirks, that was a green light to continue. If the class was stony-faced, that was a note-to-self to cease and desist. Removing the audience is a very effective way of reinforcing class values, but it must be used sparingly and in a non-confrontational way. The idea isn’t to shame the child but to draw attention to what the group will and won’t accept, not to turn the class against the misdemeaning child.

To follow or conform?

Social learning has long been known to be a key determinant of people’s behaviour choices. In the well-documented Bobo doll experiment by Albert Bandura et al (1951), children imitated the actions of adult models who performed aggressive acts towards a doll (the famous Bobo doll experiment). It was most pronounced too in same-sex interactions – i.e. boys were more likely to copy men and girls were more likely to copy women. In another equally important study, Solomon Asch (1951) found that people seek to conform with the group they’re in, even if it means agreeing with statements and solutions to problems which are clearly incorrect.

Both studies look at children look at the negatives behind imitation and conformity, but these findings can be used as a way of influencing a positive class climate. If a child is not meeting behaviour expectations, the expectations of the group can be brought to the attention of the individual. By asking the class if they’re happy with the behaviour and asking them to suggest alternatives, the expectations aren’t easily avoided. Also, asking the child how their choices affect others helps them to internalise the group expectations.

Less is more

The aim is definitely not to shame or turn the group against the child, so it’s important to do it sensitively. Use a low, calm voice and acknowledge after when they’ve made the right choice with something along the lines of ‘I’m proud that you’ve chosen to _____’ either to the child, or to the group. If the child embarrasses easily, do it personally although some children that like to be praised in front of the class.

It’s a technique I use with great success, but less is definitely more and the key to getting it right is putting yourself in the pupil’s shoes. I wish that my teachers used it when I was a kid: I know it would’ve been more powerful than being verbally battered day in day out.

References

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. Journal of abnormal and social psychology, 63(3), 575-582.

Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgments. Groups, leadership, and men. S, 222-236.

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