The myth of high expectations in behaviour management

28th May 2012  |  by Greg

The myth of high expectations in behaviour management

I started my secondary teaching career just under four short years ago and I decided to celebrate by falling for the biggest myth in behaviour management. It’s something that is seen as a strength and we are constantly reminded of its importance, but it can be a dangerous quality. The myth is that good behaviour management is based on high expectations.

It’s not about high expectations – it’s about appropriately high expectations

Unreasonable and inappropriate expectations do far more harm than good when it comes to behaviour management, as I found to my cost in the first few months at secondary. I hope I’m not being too immodest to say that the behaviour of my last class in primary was pretty good and we got on really well. I wanted this for all my new classes at secondary, which is fine – in theory. What’s not fine is that I wanted it straight away. When we set our expectations too high, we set ourselves and our students up for failure. This is what I did.

It’s fine to have high  expectations  but we have to get the speed of improvement right

The mistake I made was to demand perfection instantly; I forgot that you have to work on it, especially if you only see a class two or three times a week. It’s the gap between our efforts and the expected result that causes us to stop doing the thing that will soon start to improve things. (This is the same thing that happens when we give up on a diet or exercise regime. When we don’t see instant results, we go back to the old way. The effort to outcome ratio is all wrong.)

Always test your reasonableness

1. Have reasonable expectations
2. Use reasonable consequences
3. Deliver your reasonable consequences reasonably

The first point is first for a reason. Getting the reasonableness of expectations right is the first and most essential step. We all understand the importance of appropriate and reasonable targets for our students, but we can be pretty unreasonable with ourselves.

Small (Win-Win) victories

A couple of posts ago I talked about some classroom routines. I think it’s reasonable to take these one at a time, rather than all at once. Start with the important ones. (If I’m supporting a teacher, I always start with the beginning of the lesson or “First Five Minutes”, because good lessons hardly ever start badly.) Just like a student who has small and appropriate targets, focusing your efforts will lead to increased confidence and a real feeling that you’re getting somewhere. Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t have high expectations in behaviour management, of course I’m not. High expectations are fine, just a long as they’re reasonable too.

Close Panel

We told you not to touch but you
couldn't help yourself, could you?

Telling children what you want is much more effective than telling them what you don't want. Now it's time to get in touch.

Would it help if we told you not to?

Contact us today

Sign up for weekly behaviour advice!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Close Panel