When teachers provide clear and consistent expectations for behavior in the classroom and take actions to promote positive, pro-social behaviors, students report a stronger sense of connectedness to school and their peers.1, 2
Students felt more connected to their peers and school when they reported that:
- students are given clear instructions about how to do their work in classes.
- teachers make a point of sticking to the rules in classes.
- when students are acting up in class, the teacher will address it.
- students understand consequences for breaking a rule.2
These skills can help promote clear and consistent expectations and effectively manage behavior in the classroom.
Clearly communicate to students what they are expected to do to complete their work and why. This includes providing clear (ideally written and oral/recorded) procedures for completing class assignments, turning in homework, and working in groups.3
For virtual learning settings, keep consistent routines, schedules, and methods for participating in remote learning. Consider developing a virtual learning matrix that clearly communicates what is expected of students as they engage in the virtual classroom.4
Use a strengths’ focus to support the development of positive behaviors. For example, create positive classroom roles for students, such as leading an activity that aligns with their strengths and interests.1
Help students who display disruptive behavior develop alternative behaviors.1 For example, post key classroom rules, agreements, and procedures in visible locations as a reminder of class expectations, and emphasize that behaviors are choices that students have control over.3 Be mindful of how implicit biases may lead to stereotyping and unfair disciplinary practices, particularly for racial and ethnic minority students who experience disproportionately negative disciplinary actions.5
In virtual settings, consider using virtual tools that provide students with immediate behavioral feedback and reinforcement. Some schools may have software programs that instantly provide students with feedback on their behavior, and allow students to view that feedback through a smartphone app. Alternatively, behavioral feedback can be tracked in a simple spreadsheet or document and constructive feedback can be delivered to students who are not meeting expectations via a one-on-one virtual check in.6
Be consistent and predictable when enforcing class rules to eliminate the perception of favoritism and emphasize fairness. Make sure all students receive the same consequences (consistency) every time (predictability) and positively reinforce prosocial behaviors often for all students.3
Set clear, logical consequences for breaking class rules and agreements early on. Be mindful of the difference between logical consequences (which are directly linked to students’ behavior and focus on corrective guidance and modelling to promote learning and behavior change) and punishment (which focus on short-term compliance).7 Make sure students always have access to the rules and consequences (e.g., every student gets a copy, posted in the physical classroom or on an online platform), and consider reviewing the rules and consequences periodically, as needed.3
In virtual classrooms, ensure that students know the positive and negative consequences of their virtual actions. Also, make sure that class rules and consequences are equitable, regardless of students’ home environment and resources. For example, some students may have unreliable internet service or may not have needed materials or devices for virtual learning, which could make active engagement in lessons difficult.6
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Getting Consistent with Consequences.
- Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Creating a PBIS Behavior Teaching Matrix for Remote Instruction.
- Learning for Justice. Reframing Classroom Management: A Toolkit for Teachers.
- Houghton Mifflin. 10 Virtual Classroom Management Strategies.
- Responsive Classroom. Punishment vs. Logical Consequences.
- Gest SD, Madill RA, Zadzora KM, Miller AM, Rodkin PC. Teacher management of elementary classroom social dynamics: Associations with changes in student adjustment. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. 2014;22(2):107-118.
- Acosta J, Chinman M, Ebener P, Malone PS, Phillips A, Wilks A. Understanding the relationship between perceived school climate and bullying: A mediator analysis. Journal of school violence. 2019;18(2):200-215.
- Taylor JC. Seven classroom structures that support student relationships. Published 2016.
- Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak through PBIS. Published 2020. Accessed September, 2020.
- Skiba RJ, Arredondo MI, Williams NT. More than a metaphor: The contribution of exclusionary discipline to a school-to-prison pipeline. Equity & Excellence in Education. 2014;47(4):546-564.
- SchoolMint. PBIS in a virtual environment. Published 2020. Accessed September, 2020.
- Responsive Classroom. Punishment vs. logical consequences. Published 2011. Accessed September, 2020.