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How to manage behaviour in FE and HE settings – PP14

The topic of the week is Behaviour for FE and HE Lecturers.


lecture-hallHigher Education and Further Education lecturers now work in all sorts of different situations – ‘the lecture’ isn’t the only way in which students are now taught. There are small group tutorial, workshops and a variety of other situations.

In the large sessions, students are asked to focus on one speak for a long time. However, just because you are an adult, paying for your course, doesn’t mean there should be no boundaries. It’s easy to assume adult learners know how to behave and will do so perfectly and are highly motivated to be there – this isn’t always the case.

However, adults, like all learners, need to know what the expectations are. These need to be communicated right at the start of the programme of lectures.

What are your three expectations which you need to communicate to the students? Post them on the door and send them out to students in advance then refer to them during the lecture.

If students are not turning up on time:

1. Make sure you are there on time

2. Do a great ‘meet and greet’ in which you remind students of the boundaries – make the students feel important and valued at the first opportunity

Make sure there is a system for logging attendance so where there are students who haven’t attended for a couple of weeks, you can send them a note to remind them that you feel it’s important that they are there. Just a little nudge might be all it takes to bring them back into the group.

Also, if a student turns up late for a lecture, they should not expect to be able to sit where they like or disturb other students. Arrange for the front couple of rows to be reserved for latecomers. This can be an effective consequence for late attendance. The 99% of students who do turn up on time have the righ to receive high quality, undisturbed teaching.

You cannot expect behaviour to change with adult learners unless you follow up. In a lecture if a student decides to disrupt others, what happens to them? The low-level disruptive behaviour needs to be tackled directly:

1. At an appropriate moment, go over to the disruptive student, drop down to their level, remind them of the expectations and make it clear they will be asked to leave if it happens again.

2. Use a card with the same words on it which can be placed on the desk in front of the student. This becomes a ritual and other students recognise when it is happening. This can have a positive effect on their behaviour as well. Keep this as provate as possible, however.

3. If you need to talk to the whole room about behaviour, make the focus thanking those who are doing exactly what you want. Those who are engaged in disruption or off-task behaviour quickly get the message that you are serious.

4. If possible, laminate the expectations and attach them to the desks

5. Make sure you have a mechanism for students who want to leave early – name in a box, sign the register

However dynamic your delivery, your students are only going to be able to concentrate for 10 minutes before they start to drift. So after 10 minutes you could:

– Use a video clip

– Ask a student to lead part of the session

– Have a more active activity

This allows the concentration to be re-set. To begin with, if you normally speak for an hour, could you cut that down to half an hour? Then cut it down by half again?

Paul mentions that when met with the complaint that there is simply too much curriculum to deliver, he asks the lecturer to imagine what they would do if they had twice as much curriculum to deliver. This would force a different approach, perhaps enabling students to have more input into the learning process.

Try to understand what the learner experience is like. Be open to the ‘learner voice’. As a result, make a few small shifts to try and accommodate how students would like to receive the teaching.

Students have changed and are often coming from years of dynamic, active teaching in school and so teaching in FE and HE has to change as well. Learners are used to collaborating with others all over the world and using the resources of the internet – they are interdependent and independent.

Simple approaches in a large lecture room can be a positive way to start:

– partner work using the ‘think pair share’ methodology

– asking students to come to the front of the room to present or otherwise take part in the session changes the dynamic completely and the rest of the students love it – everyone relaxes and becomes a bit more engaged

– asking groups of students to prepare and present the first 5 minutes of the next session – this might even help all students arrive on time – to see their peers take part

– try swapping elements of your usual structure around – if students know you usually start with a 15 minute recap, you may be encouraging them to turn up late

– make sure you start on time every time

– leave a cliff hanger at the end of the session – or leave a question unanswered earlier on which you then answer right at the end – this can hook the learners in to what is in essence a theatrical piece

Make sure you thank the 99% of students who engaged appropriately with the session as they leave.

These small risks, taken to break up the lecture can build into something exciting.

Best practice of the week

Paul’s best practice of the week is the lecturer who uses an old fish tank in the room into which she has put old mobile phones. When the students see this, they are desperate to know what’s going on. She tells them that’s where she put the mobile phones of previous students who used them during her sessions. The learners realise this is a joke but it still works as a brilliant, creative reminder of the fair rule!


New free iPad App! Be the first to download and use this amazing new app! Students love using the Pivotal Progess Sliders app on iPads to track their progress during lessons. You can also save progress and return to it in the next lesson.

Brand new 5 Minute Assessment for Learning Plan released in collaboration with TeacherToolkit


  • Magnificent Cultures of Teaching and Behaviour – deconstructing excellent practice – 12th March 2014 featuring Paul Dix and Phil Beadle and including an education debate at the end of the day
  • Early notification – Improving discipline, raising attendance and boosting achievement – a conference by Teachology – 7th February, 2014, London, UK

What would you like to hear covered in forthcoming episodes? Let us know by emailing or by leaving a comment below this post.

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