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Behaviour management and pastoral skills training for Initial Teacher Trainees: Initial findings on trainees’ confidence and anxiety levels

Paul Gutherson and Liz Pickard

TAC, a part of CfBT

October 2005

Summary

This article outlines some initial findings of a project examining the behaviour management and pastoral skills elements of Initial Teacher Training Programmes. It highlights the potential relationships of trainees’ reasons for wanting to become a teacher, their prior experiences, and their values and characteristics with their preparedness and confidence to undertake behaviour management and pastoral practice. It identifies areas of interest that will be explored in the next phases of data collection and tentatively suggests areas where training providers may be able to offer additional support.

Introduction

This article outlines some of the initial findings of a project examining the behaviour management and pastoral skills elements of Initial Teacher Training Programmes(1). The one-year project aims to contribute to the strengthening of ITT provision in relation to the delivery of support and teaching in behaviour management and pastoral skills. Ultimately this will lead to the development of a handbook to support trainees, Newly Qualified Teachers, training providers and schools in relation to behaviour management and pastoral practice.

The data reported in this article is from the first phase of data collection and focuses on the factors thought to have an impact on trainees’ ability to manage behaviour and the relationship of trainees’ preparedness and confidence to undertake behaviour management and pastoral practice to their reasons for wanting to become a teacher, their prior experiences, and their values and characteristics.

Methodology

The project aims to develop fine grained case studies and the research is therefore structured to gather deep and detailed qualitative data. The case study approach utilises varied methods of data collection in order to probe the perceptions of trainees and ITT providers (a second phase of research, currently taking place involves NQTs, school based tutors and young people in schools). Some of the methods used have drawn on ethnographic narrative approaches and participatory methods, as well as more traditional semi structured interviews, in order to build detailed, valid case studies. The case study approach utilises detailed descriptions of processes, events and behaviour in specific social contexts and, through comparison of different case studies, suggests how and why certain sets of circumstances (variables) may result in certain outcomes. The data reported in this article was used to identify ‘interesting’ trainees to focus on for the case studies.

Sample

Letters outlining the project and inviting involvement in the project were sent to all ITT providers in England. A range of positive responses was received and five providers were selected to take part. A purposive sample of Initial Teacher Trainees from five ITT providers was drawn to ensure coverage of the variables in the table below.

Variable Category

Variable

Provider Type

SCITT
PGCE
DRB

Geographical

Urban
Rural

Trainee age and experience

Under 23 with experience
23 or over without experience
Under 23 no experience
23 or over with experience

By exploring the variables set out in the table, the research aims to both contribute to our understanding of the impact life experiences and teaching experiences have on trainee and NQT resilience, and, identify factors in ITT that build competence and confidence in behaviour management and pastoral practice.

Data Collection

Throughout the research a mixed method approach to data collection has been used. Methods used include:

  • Semi Structured Interviews
  • Descriptions of effective practice
  • Scenario testing
  • Scaling cards
  • Card sorting exercises
  • Data Analysis

    Analysis of the data has focused on the factors and experiences that impact on trainees’ competence and confidence to incorporate behaviour management and the pastoral role into teaching practice. The primary data has been analysed and cross referenced to key documents including Ofsted inspection reports for the ITT providers, provider information on course structure and content, QTS standards, and large scale survey reports including General Teaching Council Survey of Teachers (2004), TTA NQT survey (2005) and recent research such as Ofsted’s report Managing challenging behaviour (2005) and the supporting literature review (Visser 2003) and Revell’s The Professionals: better teachers, better schools (2005).

    Analysis of anxiety and preparedness ratings

    Trainees were asked to mark, on a rating scale of 0 to 10, how confident they were about their ability to manage behaviour prior to their first school placement and how prepared they felt. They were also asked how confident and how prepared they felt at the end of their course.

    The average increase in confidence to manage behaviour for all trainees was 3.75 points. For those with experience of working with young people, the average increase in confidence for behaviour management was 4 points; for those without it was 3 points. Those with no prior experience had a slightly lower average confidence level at the end of their course than those with experience, despite starting the course with the same average confidence levels. This suggests the following questions: Are trainees with experience, able to relate what is taught to their existing knowledge, reflect on it and internalise? Or could it be that those with no experience were not fully aware of what they were letting themselves in for? ITT providers may need to be aware of this and consider what they can do to increase confidence levels of those with little or no prior experience. At this time the trend seems to be to simply refuse them entry to the course.

    Trainees in school-based provision were more likely to report an above average increase in confidence to manage behaviour than those on PGCE provision. We could find no significant differences for reported confidence and preparedness levels to manage behaviour according to gender, subject specialism, or age. This suggests that, for our small sample of trainees, it is the way in which the course is delivered and variations in school based input that are the determining factors with regard to confidence and preparedness to manage behaviour (though of course we have not been able to control for ‘personality’).

    Trainees were also asked to mark their confidence and preparedness levels for pastoral practice using the same rating scale. The average increase in confidence levels for pastoral practice for all trainees was 2 points. For those with experience of working with young people, the average increase was also 2 points but for those with no experience the average increase was 4 points. It should be noted that these increases result in the same final average rating for confidence for all trainees. Two trainees, both in school-based provision reported a decrease in confidence for pastoral practice.

    The differences in ratings (and apparent lack of movement in confidence and preparedness levels) may be explained by the fact that trainees are over confident or unaware of the extent of pastoral practice at the start of the training and then suffer a loss of confidence as they become aware of what pastoral practice actually entails before once again increasing their confidence to initial levels.

    More trainees on PGCE courses reported an above average increase in confidence for pastoral practice than those in school-based provision. Somewhat counter intuitively school based provision does not appear to have as much impact on pastoral practice as might be expected. Perhaps trainees get little or no taught input with regard to pastoral practice from the schools and are getting no more experience of working with young people, parents, or external agencies than those on traditional PGCE courses during their teaching placements. It may be that schools do not give trainees much experience of this. Indeed in many schools pastoral practice is principally considered to be the tutor role and as trainees are often only ‘attached’ to tutor groups their experience may not actually be ‘hands on’.

    Trainees ratings of confidence and preparedness compared with their definitions and synonyms.

    We asked trainees to provide definitions of behaviour management, effective behaviour management, pastoral practice and effective pastoral practice and also to tell us if they could think of synonyms they use for behaviour management and for pastoral practice. We analysed these definitions and synonyms according to trainees reported anxiety and preparedness levels.

    According to Giallo and Little (2003:23):

    "Research using Emmer and Hickman’s (1991) scale revealed self-efficacy in behaviour management was a significant predictor for the preference of behaviour management strategies employed. Teachers high in self-efficacy were more likely to use positive teaching strategies, such as praise, modifying teaching approaches, and encouragement for effort. While teachers low in self-efficacy tended to employ reductive strategies, such as time out, warnings, and loss of privileges (Emmer & Hickman, 1991)."

    Emmer and Hickman’s Teacher Efficacy in Classroom Management and Discipline Scale is describes as a multidimensional scale measuring three types of beliefs thought to comprise self-efficacy in classroom management:

    1. Beliefs about their classroom management abilities;
    2. Beliefs pertaining to the degree to which teachers believe external influences have an impact on student behaviour;
    3. Beliefs about their personal ability to teach.

    To illustrate how these beliefs are related, teachers who sense that there is little they can do to change students’ behaviour, due to external factors, such as home environment and parenting (i.e. factors beyond their control), tend to have a lower sense of self-efficacy in behaviour management and personal teaching abilities.

    To test this idea we identified trainees with high confidence and preparedness levels and compared their definitions of effective behaviour management and definitions of what behaviour management is with trainees with low confidence and preparedness levels.

    Trainees with low confidence levels had a tendency to use words such as ‘control’, ‘routine’ and ‘discipline’. They also commented on creating ‘safe’, ‘stable’ or ‘secure’ environments.

    Trainees with high confidence levels were more positive; none used terms such as ‘control’ or ‘discipline’. There was greater recognition of negotiated rules, of establishing boundaries, of understanding individual needs, of behaviour management being about managing self as managing the behaviour of young people, and that consistency and fairness were important.

    We also compared the synonyms used by trainees. The trainees with low confidence levels used synonyms associated with reactive strategies such as ‘control’ and ‘discipline’. One trainee recognised that their course considers the wider issues around behaviour management but they were dismissive of this as part of behaviour management:

    "University refers to it as classroom management. But that is more about use of space and resources and lesson planning etc."

    The trainees with high confidence levels used the synonyms of ‘classroom management’ suggesting a broader understanding of the range of factors impacting on young peoples’ behaviour and possibly a sense that there are things in their control, in their own classroom, that they can do to affect young peoples’ behaviour.

    We also compared the factors that trainees with high confidence and preparedness levels said had an impact on their ability to manage behaviour with the factors identified by those with low confidence and preparedness levels. We were interested to know whether trainees with high confidence ratings, place a higher than average importance on the factors they can change, factors over which they believe they have an influence. Conversely we were interested to know whether the trainees with low confidence ratings focused on the factors that may be considered to be out of their control.

    It would appear that the latter assumption might have some validity. Most of the trainees with low confidence levels placed a higher than average importance on factors over which they have no control, such as school policies and the leadership style of the school senior management team. Trainees with high confidence levels mostly placed a lower than average, or average, importance on such factors.

    The first assumption, that trainees with high confidence ratings place a higher than average importance on the factors they can change, appears not to be true for this sample of trainees, except for the trainee with the highest confidence rating.

    Relationship of trainee confidence ratings to their reasons for wanting to become a teacher.

    As part of the semi structured interview with trainees we asked them why they wanted to become teachers. We wanted to know this because we wanted to understand trainees’ perceptions of what it means to be a teacher. Analysis of their reasons for wanting to teach, we reasoned, should give an indication of their competence and confidence to deliver pastoral practice and possibly to a lesser extent behaviour management. As Phil Revell (2005:7) has pointed out "…if people come into the job expecting to simply pass on their subject they may find the wider role of the teacher difficult to cope with. How does a degree in History help a teacher relate to a child who hits classmates because his father hits him?"

    Most of those interviewed gave more than one reason for wanting to become a teacher. Coding of the reasons for wanting to become a teacher resulted in eleven categories. These are listed below.

    To pass on subject knowledge/ love of subject

    To do something purposeful in life

    To work with young people

    To inspire young people

    Enjoy working with children and young people

    To make a difference

    Lifestyle – fit with family life etc

    Always wanted to be a teacher

    Personal challenge

    Excitement/ variety of teaching

    Career prospects/ financial reward

    The reasons for becoming a teacher are inevitably personal and we are not attempting to draw any significance from the numbers of trainees who gave specific reasons. Simply, we are aiming to relate their reasons to their self rated confidence and preparedness levels and the way in which they define pastoral practice and behaviour management. This may help ITT providers understand that different motivating factors for becoming a teacher may impact on the training required to help some trainees understand the full role of the teacher.

    For those who stated their primary reason for wanting to become a teacher as their own ‘love of subject’ or ‘to pass on subject knowledge’ their anxiety levels and feeling of preparedness to handle behaviour management and pastoral practice were below average (namely they were more anxious and felt less prepared). For those trainees who stated it as a reason, but not the primary reason, their confidence and preparedness ratings were closer to the average rating. Providers may need to be aware that if a trainee’s principal motivating factor to become a teacher is love of subject they may need more support to boost their confidence.

    For those who stated their primary or secondary reason for wanting to become a teacher as being ‘enjoyment of working with young people’ or ‘wanting to work with young people’ the confidence and preparedness levels of one were significantly above the average though this may have more to do with previous experience of working as a teaching assistant, and the ratings given by one other were also higher than the average. One trainee was slightly more anxious about pastoral practice and behaviour management than the average, however, their secondary reason was love of subject (see above).

    Those trainees who said they had ‘always wanted to be a teacher’ tended to be less anxious about behaviour management and pastoral practice and feel more prepared at the start of their first school placement than the average response.

    A number of trainees stated that the reason for becoming a teacher was ‘to make a difference’. There was no discernible pattern to the ratings given by these trainees. Similarly there was no discernible pattern for those who wanted to teach in order to ‘inspire young people’.

    For those trainees who saw a career in teaching as ‘a personal challenge’ most were more anxious and felt less prepared to manage behaviour and pastoral practice than the average.

    The two trainees who had the highest anxiety ratings and the lowest preparedness ratings at the beginning of their course gave different combinations of reasons for wanting to become a teacher but they were combinations which included those reasons which appear to be the main contributing factors to anxiety and feelings of lack of preparedness; namely they saw teaching as a personal challenge, principally being about passing on their own love of a subject or to pass on subject knowledge.

    This data may be useful for ITT providers in planning levels of support or to create individual training plans based around trainees’ reasons for wanting to become a teacher. There is also a bigger issue here. If those who become teachers primarily because of their love of subject or their desire to pass on subject knowledge are the trainees who are most anxious about behaviour management and pastoral practice, what does this mean for a model of ITT, and of inspection, that is based on a belief that "teachers should, first and foremost, be masters of the content they deliver." (Revell, 2005:22) Indeed, as Revell points out, even the TTA standards concentrate on subject content and delivery(2) and "Just one section of the TTA standards, S2.4, focuses on the wider holistic development of the child." (Revell, 2005:23)

    Those with low confidence and preparedness ratings may have fallen into the trap described below by

    "All too often teachers and the media perceive behaviour management to be solely concerned with establishing control over disruptive pupils. With this perception, it is not surprising that trainees continue to report that they feel inadequately prepared given that they cannot realistically anticipate and prepare for the entire range of pupil responses they will experience in the classroom." Powell and Tod (2004:2)

    However, as Tod suggests, a ‘toolkit’ bulging with alternative strategies may not be the answer. Tod suggests a solution based on giving trainees access to research about theoretical explanations for learning behaviours as a way of securing increased understanding of the behaviour of their pupils. This research study has found that trainee teachers, and indeed ITT providers, place little value on research and its impact on their ability to manage behaviour. What is perhaps needed is a shift in emphasis towards the ‘holistic’ view of the child or a culture change in teaching and teacher training that places a higher value on research and evidence based practice.

    Tod’s main thesis is that appropriate learning behaviour should be promoted through subject teaching, however, this too may need consideration. As pointed out earlier, those trainees who stated their primary reason for wanting to become a teacher as their own love of subject or to pass on subject knowledge, were more anxious and felt less prepared than the other trainees taking part in this research.

    Analysis of issues that impact on trainees ability to effectively manage behaviour

    Providers and trainees were asked to place in rank order, in a card sorting exercise, 12 issues that may impact on trainees’ ability to effectively manage behaviour. The 12 issues were drawn from the QTS standards, namely, they are things which, at the end of their course, trainees should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of. The 12 issues are:-

    Issue

    Access to related research

    Content of the curriculum

    Group dynamics

    Senior management and leadership style

    Teaching styles and strategies of other teachers

    The policies, culture and ethos of the school

    The young persons home situation & experiences

    Trainees ability to reflect on own practice

    Trainees personality

    Trainees preparation for lessons

    Trainees teaching and communication skills

    Trainees teaching and life experiences

    Analysis of the impact of previous experience on trainees perceptions of issues that impact on their ability to effectively manage behaviour

    Trainees with experience of working with young people:-

  • Rank their own teaching and life experiences as a factor impacting on their ability to manage behaviour higher than those with no experience.
  • Rank their own ability to reflect on their practice as a factor impacting on their ability to manage behaviour higher than those with no experience.
  • Rank the content of the curriculum as a factor impacting on their ability to manage behaviour higher than those with no experience.
  • The first of these points is not surprising but in interviews it was noticeable that there was very little that trainees said they learnt from their previous experience that was of help to them as teachers. This may be a consequence of working with young people in contexts where young people attended voluntarily, which is very different to compulsory attendance of school. Further data collection and the case studies will explore the things they did say they had learnt that were useful to teaching and consider how providers can help those with no experience develop these skills

    The other two points suggest that consideration of how providers who take on trainees with no experience of working with young people can work with these trainees to recognise the importance of curriculum content and to take reflective practice seriously.

    Provider perceptions of issues that impact on trainees ability to effectively manage behaviour

    Factors with significant variations in ranking:

    1. The policy, culture and ethos of the school was thought to have a greater impact by school based providers than traditional PGCE providers.
    2. The teaching styles and strategies of other teachers were thought to have a greater impact by school based providers than traditional PGCE providers.
    3. Curriculum content was thought to have a greater impact by school based providers than traditional PGCE providers.
    4. Trainees ability to reflect on their own practice was thought to have a greater impact by traditional PGCE providers than school based providers.

    The first three factors are very much in the control of schools – not ‘internal’ trainee factors. As a result we have modified the data collection to attempt to link these findings to notions of teacher efficacy in the next series of interviews. It is interesting to note that school based providers tend to rate as more important factors which are ‘external’ to the trainee but ‘internal’ to the school. It may be that PCGE providers are more ‘detached’ from school life.

    The ‘young persons home situation and life experiences’ was thought to have a much greater impact on trainee’s ability to manage behaviour by traditional PGCE providers than school based providers. Indeed school based providers rank home situation and life experiences of the young person as the issue having the least impact on trainees ability to manage behaviour, lower even than access to relevant research. As a factor this is ‘external’ to both school and trainee.

    PGCE providers rank reflection as having the highest impact. Does this reflect a university focus on learning when compared to the ‘teaching’ focused high ranked factors by school-based providers?

    One school-based provider added that the issue that has the greatest impact on trainees’ ability to manage behaviour is ‘effective behaviour management training’. This may appear to be stating the obvious, and may be why others did not mention it, however, the implication is that behaviour management training itself is something to be addressed in addition to the issues listed above. It is interesting that only one provider said this. Is it because behaviour management is overshadowed by subject led thinking? Or is it that training would not necessarily be their response to this issue. Is it more obvious to think of internal trainee/young person/school factors? It may also be a consequence of the assumption that behaviour management should somehow come naturally over time or be innate and is therefore not taught or is not possible to teach.

    It is worth noting the low rankings given to ‘access to related research’ throughout, by all providers and trainees. What about the drive towards evidence based practice? Indeed, the findings to date support the idea that 'teachers adopt strategies based on ideology, common sense or school based effectiveness but rarely on evaluated effectiveness' (Olsen and Cooper cited in Powell & Tod, 2004:15).

    One PGCE provider ranked trainee personality as the factor that has the biggest impact on trainees’ ability to manage behaviour. Indeed this provider’s top 5 factors impacting on a trainee’s ability to manage behaviour were all factors ‘personal’ to the trainee. Other providers had a mix of school based factors and personal factors in their top 5.

    Trainees perceptions of issues that impact on their ability to effectively manage behaviour compared to providers perceptions

    Factors with significant variations in importance, not taking in to account provider type, are:

    1. Trainees thought the policies, culture and ethos of the school had a greater impact than providers.
    2. Trainees thought the senior management and leadership style of the school had a greater impact than providers.
    3. Trainees thought the young persons home situation & experiences had a greater impact than providers.
    4. Trainees thought the teaching styles and strategies of other teachers had a lesser impact than providers.
    5. Trainees did not think that their own ability to reflect on their own practice had as much of an impact as providers did.

    The last bullet is interesting because the notes for the Career Entry Development Profile (CEDP) repeatedly state: "It is the processes of reflection and professional discussion that are important and these will be reflected in the notes you make." For some reflection is quite an academic concept for example evaluations of TAC national training of Connexions Personal Advisers suggested they did not fully appreciate the importance of the reflective process until it was explicitly taught as part of their training.

    Developing a greater understanding of any mismatch between providers perceptions and trainees perceptions may be important in countering levels of anxiety in trainees and increasing their sense of preparedness.

    Comparison of trainee perceptions by provider type

    Trainees in PGCE provision:-

    1. Ranked the impact of the policies, culture and ethos of the school higher than those in school based provision.
    2. Ranked the impact of their own ability to reflect on practice higher than those in school based provision.

    Trainees in school based provision:-

    1. Ranked the impact of the young persons home situation and life experiences higher than those in PGCE provision (despite this being ranked more highly by PGCE providers than by school based providers).
    2. Ranked the impact of their own teaching and life experiences higher than those in PGCE provision.

    This ranking may be dependent on trainees’ previous experiences and will be explored further through the case studies. Within one school based provider there was a wide differential between the rank given by trainees to the impact of the young persons home situation and life experiences – it was ranked as having both the most impact and the least impact. Is this a consequence of different school ethos or of different value sets held by trainees? It may be that trainees have the view that teaching is essentially young person centred and whilst many schools feel they are young person centred in reality many are curriculum centred (as a consequence of the central government targets they must meet and the inspection regime). Follow up interviews one term into their NQT year, will explore whether trainees’ values and ethos change under the pressures of teaching.

    Trainees perceptions of issues that impact on their ability to effectively manage behaviour compared to their providers perceptions

    PGCE providers and trainees

    ‘Content of the curriculum’ was given a low rank by PGCE providers and trainees despite traditional PGCE routes tending to concentrate heavily on subject teaching. In addition the Behaviour4Learning and KS3 Strategy Behaviour Strand approaches heavily promote the relevance of curriculum content in preventing behaviour problems.

    Also, it is important to note that the PGCE trainees place a greater emphasis than their providers on school based factors such as the policies culture and ethos of the school and senior management and leadership style.

    School based providers and trainees

    There is greater agreement between school based trainees and school based providers on the relative impact of the factors. Only two factors had significant differences in rankings. School Based Providers rank the young persons home situation & experiences as having the lowest impact whereas trainees rank this as third equal.

    School Based Providers think the teaching styles and strategies of other teachers have a greater impact than trainees. It may be that trainees do not always get as much exposure to a variety of other teachers as might be expected or perhaps this is less explicit to them, namely, they get the opportunity to observe different teaching styles and strategies but they are not explicitly taught how to implement them.

    Next steps

    The analysis of the data collected thus far has raised a number of questions, set out in this article, which will be explored through the case studies. Some of the questions that will be explored are; Do the perceptions of SCITTs and DRBs(3) better reflect the realities of working in a school than the perceptions of a traditional PGCE provider? What impact does this have upon behaviour management and pastoral practice training? Do the issues affecting their ability to manage behaviour ranked as important by trainees, appear as significant elements of ITT courses?

    The continuing data collection and analysis is being used to build and test a set of case-study examples from the perspectives of trainees, other stakeholders and young people. The case studies explore how individual circumstances can impact on trainees’ confidence and competence to implement behaviour management strategies and pastoral practice in the classroom. Through analysis of trainees’ life experiences and their experiences whilst on teacher training programmes, the case studies will point to ways in which training providers can enhance support to trainees and how schools or LEAs can enhance support to NQTs.

    Notes

    1. The research is funded by the Trustees of CfBT and has a steering group that includes representatives of the funder, TTA, IPRN and training providers.  The views expressed in this article are solely the views of the research team and do not necessarily reflect the views of CfBT or other members of the steering group

    2. Our narrow reading of the standards was questioned by the steering group – it would however appear that we are not the only ones to read them this way and if experienced education consultants and journalists do not see the standards as being permeated with a wider holistic concern then trainees are also unlikely to pick up on the subtleties

    3. For the purposes of analysis responses from DRB and SCITT providers have been merged as ‘School Based Provision’.

    References

    Giallo and Little (2003) Classroom Behaviour Problems: The Relationship between Preparedness, Classroom Experiences, and Self-efficacy in Graduate and Student Teachers. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology. Vol 3, 2003, pp 21-34

    NFER (2004) General Teaching Council Survey of Teachers

    Ofsted (2005) Managing challenging behaviour

    Revell (2005) The Professionals: better teachers, better schools. Trentham Books

    Powell and Tod (2004) A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts. EPPI Centre Review

    TTA (2005) Results of the newly qualified teacher survey 2005

    Visser J (2003) A study of children and young people who present challenging behaviour

    CfBT is an international not-for-profit education resource management organisation. We work across a wide variety of learning and skills settings in the UK and around the world, managing projects and developing products and services to client specifications. Our work is concerned with efficiently run schools, effective teaching, raising standards as well as reform and implementation of education policy at government level. CfBT is a registered charity, and surpluses made on operational activities are placed in trust to fund educational research and development work. Each year the CfBT Trustees commit over £1 million in this way. We believe that education is an instrument for economic and social progress.

       

    TAC are a multi-disciplinary team of professionals, with backgrounds in teaching, careers, youth work, further education, the voluntary and community sector, work with young people who offend and academic research.

    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 28 November 2005