In my work as a consultant, I wish I had thought of using a behaviour chart like this with educators. What better way for them to see and feel the impact that this approach can have on student engagement and motivation. Imagine if at your next staff meeting your administrator called you out in front of all of your colleagues and made you move your clip for scrolling through email on your cell phone, digging through your purse, or talking to the educator seated next to you. And imagine how much more upset you'd be if your transgressions were actually work related - checking email for a field trip confirmation, looking for a pen to write notes during the meeting, talking to your colleague about the meeting content!
Behaviour charts do not help educators to determine the underlying causes of behaviour. Instead of dealing with the problem, we are only reacting to the symptom. If we don't address the cause, the 'problem behaviour' is most likely going to continue to happen. So the child who is rummaging through their desk when the teacher is teaching a lesson - maybe they are looking for a pencil because it helps them to remember instructions if they write them down, maybe they need a fidget toy in their hands to help them listen - we'll never know if we don't ask.
And while behaviour charts may shame students into compliance, they do not help students to develop skills they need to be successful in school and life, like self-regulation. Often, instead of focusing on the behaviour, the use of behaviour charts focuses on the child. The child who is frequently moving their stick into yellow or red is seen by their classmates and, often in their own mind, as 'the bad kid.'
See Aviva Dunsiger's great blog post on this idea: When and How Do Perceptions Matter?
For the child who is seldom asked to move their clip, having to do so can impact their learning for the rest of the day.
So what can educators do instead of using behaviour charts?
- when thinking about student behaviour, ask 'why and why now?' All behaviour is communication, so what is the student telling us with this behaviour?
- reframe behaviour: Is this stress behaviour or misbehaviour?
- keep conversations about behaviours private, when possible
- build community in the classroom rather than compliance. A great resource for this is Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community by Alfie Kohn or the articles listed below
- help students to develop skills of self-regulation in age appropriate ways. What does calm feel like? How does being calm help them learn? What helps them to feel calm? What are classroom appropriate ways that they can use to manage their energy states, emotions, behaviour and attention in ways that are socially acceptable in the school and classroom context?
- read and reflect on our own practice.
Here are some articles that discuss why to remove behaviour charts as well some alternatives to use instead. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments or to send them to me in a DM.
Tear Down Your Behaviour Chart by L. Jung and D. Smith, Educational Leadership, September 2018
Death to the Behaviour Chart! 3 Reasons to Resist the Lure of Punishments and Rewards - Education Week Teacher
5 Reasons I'm Against Behaviour Charts (What I Do Instead) from WeAreTeachers.com
When Behaviour Charts Don't Work, Throw Them Out from Edutopia
Step Away From The Stickers - a previous blog post I wrote for the MEHRIT Centre