The ultimate aim of education is to ensure that students learn as effectively as they can. In order to ensure the students’ learning is as effective as possible, it is essential to specify how we aim to achieve this.
There is a clear link between the various elements of any educational establishment; Behaviour needs to be managed effectively, so that students can access lessons uninterrupted, but also, lessons need to be stimulating, accessible, relevant, and well-crafted to encourage the students to engage, attend and behave.
If a lesson is not engaging, there is a higher likelihood that students will misbehave &/or elect not to attend. This is not an excuse & they need to be supported in both these areas, but clearly can have a huge impact. Within the SEMH sector, this is even more pronounced, with their SEMH needs and neurodiverse mindsets needing to be factored into planning. (Even though it looks like ‘behaviour’, it is more often communicating an underlying need we need to address).
We have adopted four key principles to High Quality Teaching:
Students need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, there needs to be clear, predictable and understood routines and systems that everyone follows, and there needs to be healthy boundaries. Communication is also an essential element of safety, with the use of positive language and clam use of body-language and understanding of non-verbal messages we give off. The adults need to be self-aware of the signals they give to students.
Following on from safety, students need to feel that they belong. Staff should know students by name, and have knowledge of each student’s passions and interests. These should be included in planning and delivery, so as to encourage involvement in lesson content.
Students need to be supported in self-regulation in class. This can also be linked to providing a ‘safe’ space; somewhere where there are no ‘wrong’ answers & inaccuracies are addressed positively, but also somewhere where students do not feel pressurised. Time should be allowed, once a question is posed, to enable thinking time, for example. Students should also know that they can make use of the ‘Time-out’ system to take themselves out of a space to calm down, rather than escalate in the lesson.
Once all this is in place, then learning can begin. But learning also needs to recognise the possible impact of Trauma; it should be well differentiated, with activities linked to students’ passions and goals. It should also have built in teaching of ‘executive functions’ – the ‘soft’ skills we frequently assume students know how to use, such as decision making & problem solving.