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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 16:11 GMT
Unruly classes 'tamed by praise'
Positive feedback is the key, say researchers
Unruly classes can be turned around by praising pupils rather than telling them off, research suggests.

Academics at Liverpool John Moores University say disciplining a child in front of the whole class is the worst thing a teacher can do.

They say positive feedback for pupils working well led to improved behaviour in classes taking part in a study.

Six primary and secondary schools in the north west of England were involved in the research.

Teachers were given a three-hour training session in which they were encouraged not to draw attention to pupils who were not working properly but instead to praise those who were working well.

They were told to give more positive feedback at the start of a lesson or activity.

The academics said that after the training, teachers cut the number of "tellings off" by two-thirds.

'Bad tactic'

Dr Jeremy Swinson and Professor Alex Harrop said that as a result the proportion of pupils concentrating and behaving well in class rose from 78% before the training to 94% afterwards.

Dr Swinson said that telling off an unruly child in front of the whole class was "an incredibly bad tactic".

He presented the findings at the British Psychological Society's Division of Educational and Child Psychology annual conference in Bournemouth.

"Many teachers were unaware of the skills needed to deal with unruly classes and over-relied on telling pupils off, which in the long run has very little effect on the pupils' behaviour," he said.

Teachers should be specific about praise.

"If you say well done to Julie for sitting quietly, you are repeating your direction to the class. It is that description that is heard by the rest of the class."

However, Dr Swinson insisted his approach was not soft on discipline - he said unruly behaviour should not go unchallenged and sanctions should be used in the most serious cases.

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