Links between classroom behaviour self-regulation, concepts of self, positive intent, and AtLs

There are as many ways to approach ‘classroom management’ as there are teachers. Fostering a good working relationship with your students is one of the most effective ways for them to learn from you, with you and with each other. Robert Marzano, in ‘Classroom Management that Works’, analysed 100 studies on classroom management and found that the quality of the teacher-student relationship was the most important factor in all aspects of classroom management. In 2009, John Hattie ranked strong teacher-student relationships with an average effect size of 0.4.
My view of classroom management corresponds with Karen Peel’s study below. Rather than saying “How well did I manage the students’ behaviour in the classroom?”, the focus should be on understanding  why students make proactive decisions about their behaviour and learning in the absence of external constraints. Creating strong relationships, designing clear and organised lessons which draw on common sense and effective teaching approaches like HITS and Rosenshine’s Principles and designing for students’ self-efficacy all help creating an effective classroom for learning.

What follows is a collection of readings and resources that I pulled together as we investigate  new behavioural frameworks at my school.

Summary: Teaching for Self-Regulated Learning: Why Aim for Behavioural Compliance when we can Inspire Learning?

Karen Peel’s study (University of Queensland, 2017) explored teachers’ pedagogical practices for effective learning in the middle years of schooling. This was a very small study of only eight teachers in Year 5 to 9, conducted over two years. However, the paper contains useful information about self-regulation for students and the “Philosophy for enacting a proactive approach to classroom behaviour management” is an interesting pedagogical model. There are four key themes in this pedagogical model:

  • connect the learning
  • facilitate the learning
  • diversify the learning
  • socialise the learning

  • The model represents a self-regulatory approach to classroom behaviour management that is intended to inspire young adolescent students towards being resourceful learners.
  • Bandura (1993, 136) argued that ideally, “A major goal of formal education should be to equip students with the intellectual tools, self-beliefs, and self-regulatory capabilities to educate themselves throughout their lifetime.”
  • Overwhelmingly, the literature proposed fostering self-regulated learning capabilities as a foundation for students’ academic achievement and highlighted the crucial roles teachers play in empowering students as resourceful learners. Therefore, providing opportunities for students to self-regulate their learning has important implications for students and teachers in all phases of education.
  • As opposed to a teacher reflecting on “How well did I manage the students’ behaviour in the classroom?” the emphasis [should be on a] greater understanding as to what encourages students to make proactive decisions about their behaviour and learning in the absence of external constraints.
  • Overall, a broad consensus among researchers was that the capability to self-regulate learning has become an important educational goal effective learning requires teachers to play prevalent roles in creating environments that potentiate students’ self-regulated learning
  • How teachers define and identify the aim of classroom behaviour management influences the approaches that they take to discourage inappropriate behaviours and to encourage behaviours for learning. Definitions of behaviour management and classroom management are varied, with some having a disputable focus on action being taken by teachers “to establish order, engage students, or elicit their cooperation”. A definition that inextricably links classroom management with behaviour management refers to the teachers’ actions to manage an environment that empowers and enables learners. As such, teachers create and sustain productive and supportive learning environments that function by sharing the control of the classroom and the responsibility for the learning and behaviour with their students.
  • Ultimately, no one has control over the students’ behaviour and learning success more than the students.
  • Developing an effective community of learners involves the teachers and the students managing their classroom proactively and sharing the construction of knowledge
  • Hattie (2009) confirmed that reducing disruptive behaviours in the classroom has a positive effect on learning: “a disruptive classroom climate can hinder the learning process and lower the achievement of the entire class, regardless of the conduct of any particular student. ”Students who are quietly disengaged, do just as poorly, on average as disruptive students” Therefore, students’ behavioural compliance and their engagement in learning are recognised as influencing behavioural and academic outcomes.
  • [Authors] “consistently call for an approach to classroom management that fosters the development of self-regulation and emotional competence.” [They suggest that] developing students’ self-regulatory capabilities to “provide the pathway for fostering lifelong learning skills that operate within a broader societal purpose for education.”

Source: Peel, Karen. “Teaching for Self-Regulated Learning: Why Aim for Behavioural Compliance when we can Inspire Learning?” The International Journal of Pedagogy and Curriculum 25, no. 1 (2018): 15-36. doi:10.18848/2327-7963/CGP/v25i01/15-36. See full article and highlights here: (log in may be required)

Self-regulated learning in the classroom

This report is a  part of the Realising the Potential of Australia’s High Capacity Students Linkage Project, by the University of Melbourne:

Students’ level on the Self Regulated Learning (SRL) progression was reduced as their grade increased, with Grade 8 students performing significantly lower than Grade 7 students, and Grade 7 students performing significantly lower that Grades 5 and 6 students (who were equivalent in their use of SRL practices).

This indicates a need for increased focus on and teaching of SRL in secondary schools. There are many possible reasons that could account for secondary students reporting less quality SRL behaviours, some of which include schooling structure, curriculum or teaching differences between primary and secondary schools.

Self-regulation can be strengthened and taught like literacy

Self-regulation can be strengthened and taught like literacy, with focused attention, support, and practice opportunities provided across contexts. Skills that are not developed early on can be acquired later, with multiple opportunities for intervention. (From: Seven Key Principles of Self-Regulation and Self Regulation in Context)

Harding., S., Nibali., N., English., N., Griffin., P., Graham., L., Alom, BM., and Zhang., Z. (2018). Self-regulated learning in the classroom: Realising the potential for Australia’s high capacity students. Assessment Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

Concept of Self: Hattie’s Rope Theory

Hattie believes that how learners see themselves, and what they perceive as most important in terms of their learning and their desired outcomes, would have a significant effect on their motivation to learn and subsequent behaviour in class. He argues that research on the subject is divided into understanding the structure of self- concept (how we see ourselves) and the processes of self-concept (how we use what we find out about ourselves). He uses the metaphor of the rope to bring the strands together. In the rope model, Hattie argues that there is no single strand underlying an individual’s self-concept but many overlapping concepts of self. He categorises these as:

  • Self-efficacy: this is the confidence, or strength of belief, that learners have in them- selves that they can achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Self-handicapping: this occurs when learners allow self-imposed obstacles to get in the way of their achieving.
  • Self-motivation: these can be intrinsic or extrinsic factors that drive the learner towards achieving the desired outcomes.
  • Self-goals: these could include mastery goals (something they can achieve through increased effort); performance goals (demonstrating expertise); or social goals (inter- acting and relating to their peers).
  • Self-dependence: this occurs when learners become dependent on directions from their teacher and lack the capacity to regulate or evaluate their own performance.
  • Self-discounting and distortion: this is when learners disregard positive and negative feedback from their teachers as not being worthwhile.
  • Self-perfectionism: this is when learners set standards for themselves that may be too demanding and see it as failure when these aren’t met.

Hattie suggests that the strength in the rope lies not in any single strand but in the combi-nation of many overlapping strands. He claims that, when any of the strands become weak, the learner will start to experience such a sense of helplessness that they feel they can’t cope with the learning. The result is that they disengage with learning activities and turn to challenging behaviour as a protection measure against being looked on by their peers as the class failure.


Text taken from: Bates, Bob. Learning Theories Simplified: …And how to Apply them to Teaching Sage Publications, 2019. P. 152

For more, see Hattie’s original paper here: Hattie, J. “Models of Self-Concept that are neither Top-Down Or Bottom-Up : The Rope Model of Self-Concept.”2004.

Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom

Willingham’s response to the question of why students don’t like school, or more broadly why learners don’t enjoy learning, is that teachers often overload learners with the irrelevant and unimportant and fail to direct learners’ attention to what really matters.

As a cognitive scientist, Willingham argued that insight into how the mind works, and how memory functions, was the foundation for effective teaching. This insight would then provide the basis for engaging with learners and generating a genuine desire in them to want to learn. His ideas can be summarised as:

  • The mind has the capacity for working and long-term memory: working memory has a limited capacity which can be easily overloaded. Long-term memory is a bank of almost unlimited capacity which draws its data from the working memory.
  • Memory is the residue of thought: encouraging learners to think about a subject in a way they find interesting will enhance their capacity to remember the subject.
  • Critical thinking requires background knowledge: analysis of a subject requires sufficient background knowledge of issues related to the subject to enable comparisons to be made.
  • Abstract concepts can be understood by comparing with concrete examples and analogies: abstract ideas can be rationalised in the context of things already known and understood by the learner.
  • Learning is impossible without practice: practice reinforces basic skills and protects against forgetting.
  • Novices can’t learn like experts: novices absorb and comprehend learning; experts create it.
  • Hard work improves intelligence: good teachers acknowledge effort not just results. Willingham advocates that learners’ enjoyment of learning can be increased through the use of questions, case studies, stories, analogies and practice.

Text taken from: Bates, Bob. Learning Theories Simplified: …And how to Apply them to Teaching Sage Publications, 2019. P. 154

Assume Positive Intent and Positive Reframing

  • The principle of positive intention is that at some level all behaviour is (or at one time was) “positively intended”.
  • Assuming positive intent means consciously choosing to assume that others are operating to the best of their ability.
  • Take on a mindset that looks for the learning in all situations.
  • Rather than being suspicious of other people’s motives, we need to assume that they are doing their best and are trying to help us grow.
  • The assumptions we make impact on whether we trust them or not.
  • We judge ourselves according to our intentions, but we judge other people’s behaviour and assume their intention. (Source)

Examples of positive reframing:

  • Some children are just mean >> Some children need social skills.
  • They sure know how to push my buttons >> They don’t know what to do to get their needs met appropriately.
  • He’s being hurtful for no reason. >> He has a hard time managing his frustration.
  • He keeps others from learning. >> He learns best by discussing new concepts with others.
  • She is disrupting the whole class. >> She gets bored after completing her work so fast. (Source will follow, can quite find it anymore, I think it’s from

MYP Approaches to Learning

All teachers in MYP schools are responsible for integrating and explicitly teaching ATL skills. Over time, students should develop clear and sophisticated understandings of how they learn best and how they can evaluate the effectiveness of their learning.

This kind of self-regulated (independent and autonomous) learning helps students:

  • reflect purposefully on their learning (metacognition)
  • understand the diversity of human learning needs
  • evaluate and provide evidence of their learning
  • meet MYP subject group aims and objectives
  • share responsibility for creating productive, cooperative and safe learning environments
  • develop the confidence to try new strategies and explore new concepts and contexts for learning
  • prepare for further study and responsible participation in local and global communities

IBO. “MYP: From Principles into Practice.” (2014) P. 20.

Approaches to learning that are relevant to classroom behaviour:

Collaboration skills: How can students collaborate?

Affective skills: How can students manage their own state of mind?

  • Mindfulness
    • Practise focus and concentration
    • Practise strategies to develop mental focus
    • Practise strategies to overcome distractions
    • Practise being aware of body–mind connections
  • Perseverance
    • Demonstrate persistence and perseverance
    • Practise delaying gratification
  • Emotional management
    • Practise strategies to overcome impulsiveness and anger
    • Practise strategies to prevent and eliminate bullying
    • Practise strategies to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Self-motivation
    • Practise analysing and attributing causes for failure
    • Practise managing self-talk
    • Practise positive thinking
  • Resilience
    • Practise “bouncing back” after adversity, mistakes and failures
    • Practise “failing well”
    • Practise dealing with disappointment and unmet expectations
    • Practise dealing with change

IBO. “MYP: From Principles into Practice.” (2014) P. 99.

Relevant Approaches to Learning in the PYP

Categories Sub-skills
Communication skills •                     Exchanging-information skills (listening, interpreting, speaking)

•                     Literacy skills (reading, writing and using language to gather and communicate information)

•                     ICT skills (using technology to gather, investigate and communicate information)

Social skills •                     Developing positive interpersonal relationships and collaboration skills (using self-control, managing setbacks, supporting peers)

•                     Developing social-emotional intelligence

Self-management skills •                     Organization skills (managing time and tasks effectively)

•                     States of mind (mindfulness, perseverance, emotional management, self- motivation, resilience)

 Primary Years Programme: Learning and teaching. P29, International Baccalaureate, Updated December 2018

Links to authors and more reading