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Problems of pupils’ behavior control at school

Laima Abromaitienė and Vilma Jurevičiūtė

Kaunas University of Technology
Institute of Educational Studies

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University College Dublin, 7-10 September 2005


In order to theoretically and empirically to substantiate the problems of the control of pupils’ behaviour at school, the analysis of scientific literature was carried out. Behaviouristic, humanistic as well as social learning theories are to be considered as the basis of methodological research. Katiliūtė-Bodystun (1997), Rost (2002) analysed the coherences of behaviourism with control of pupils’ behaviour; Butkienė and Kepalaitė (1996), Ušeckienė (2003) – the influence of humanistic ideas upon education process. Žukauskienė (2002) analysed the expressions of social learning theories in pedagogical process. The analysis of these works disclosed that no universal theory, to which one could refer in the process of the control of pupils’ behaviour, existed; however elements of each mentioned theories can be applied in the process of behaviour control: these are positive incentives, which are emphasised by behaviourists; creation of favourable educational conditions for personality self-realisation at schools, which are pointed out in the works of humanists, as well as positive model of social behaviour, distinguished in the social learning theory.

Socio-educational context, in which problems of pupils’ behaviour manifest, are disclosed in the works by Sakalauskas (2001), George et al. (2000), Shaffer (2000), Munn (1999). The following authors analyse the reasons of problematic behaviour at school and their different aspects: Jonynienė and Dromantienė (2002) deal with the influence of social inequality upon the interaction of teachers and pupils; Ruškus et al. (2002) analyses the influence of teacher’s communication style upon pedagogical interaction; Gottfredson (2001) points out the importance of the quality of school administration and management for processes of behaviour control; Juodaitytė and Taroza (2001) analyse the influence of inappropriate communication of adults with children as well as their preconceived opinions towards pupils upon delinquent behaviour; Žukauskienė (2002), Pikūnas and Palujanskienė (2000) deal with aggression as the problem that most frequently occurs at school.

Different strategies of behaviour control, which are applied in a modern school, are analysed in the works by Casella (2003), Lakis (2002), Rost (2002), White et al. (2001), George et al. (2000), Myers (2000), Sack (1999).

The research object is the control of pupils’ behaviour at school.

The aim of the paper is to disclose theoretical and practical aspects of the control of pupils’ behaviour at school.


  • To reveal problems of pupils’ behaviour and their socio-educational context.

  • To analyse the practice of behaviour control at a modern school.

  • To substantiate criteria and indicators of research methodology.

  • Referring to research results, to compare the opinion of teachers and pupils towards behaviour control.

  • 1. Theoretical background

    1.1. Behaviour problems at school and their socio-educational context

    Different social factors influence modern world societies: weakening of a traditional family, spread of violence, continual social changes (e.g., migration, social differentiation), increasing AIDS morbidity as well as spread of different dependences among young people, etc. in the countries that experienced transition period change of values as well as economical tension complement these factors. The mentioned external factors manifest in school environment too; they cause various socio-educational problems. Derangements of pupils’ behaviour and aggression are the most crucial problems. Pupils, facing behaviour problems, make from 5 to 15 percent of the population of USA schools; pupils, distinguishing in continuous and especially serious problematic behaviour, make 3-5 percent (Sack, 1999). 7 percent of pupils in the USA avoid attending school, as they fear to suffer violence (Rupšienė, 2000). The results of the research performed in Scotland show that verbal aggression make 66 percent of aggression cases at school, physical aggression, directed towards other pupils, - 50 percent (Munn, 1999). Social tension at school, originating due to great number of immigrants and cultural inconsistencies, becomes a serious problem for teachers as well as entire school community. This is one of the reasons due to which teacher’s work loses popularity (Gallup research, available at  viewed on August 20, 2005).

    The processes of administration and management of an educational institution itself influences problematic behaviour of pupils (Gottfredson, 2001): schools, which are managed well, have clear, correct and continuously pursued rules, entire school community strive for common goals. Also common social organisation of an institution is important, it distinguishes in that:

  • within it, it is agreed to values of all organisation (particularly the ones related to institution’s mission, expectations for learning and behaviour),

  • here positive interaction among the members of school community prevails,

  • here collegial relationship among adults prevails,

  • teachers’ roles are extended (a teacher does not limit himself/herself in teaching only one subject, they strive for stimulating positive social skills of pupils too).

  • Rupšienė (2000), Gage and Berliner (1994) pointed out the importance of school’s social climate. According to them, at schools, which have common social organisation, normative climate, contradictory to delinquent behaviour, is created; belief in fairness of rules and attachment to school and learning is strengthened. In such a case, pupils’ interaction with adults, who take care of pupils and develop their self-control, strengthens.

    In order to keep discipline, the cooperation and action coordination of the administration and pupils is not less important (Mayer, 1999): the administration, wishing that personnel would sustain them, must know what steps a teacher had taken before he/she sent an undisciplined pupil to the headmaster/headmistress. On the other hand, teachers, wishing to feel support of the administration, have to know what sanctions the administration will take when a pupil is sent to the director’s office.

    The size of a school influences school’s microclimate (Gottfredson, 2001; Rupšienė, 2000): the bigger a school, the more pupils who do not want to learn, "colder" relationship of teachers and pupils, more negative emotions related to learning, more complex work organisation. That is why work conditions at secondary schools are more complicated than at elementary schools. At secondary schools teachers are grouped by specialisations, consequently they more frequently perceive themselves as subject specialists and are less subject to feel responsibility for other processes, which are not related to the subject they are teaching, namely the behaviour of their pupils at school. This reduces feeling of sociality and weakens parity interaction between a teacher and a pupil.

    Other factors, conditioning behaviour problems at school and mentioned in the works by different authors, are pupils’ relation with their school (Gage and Berliner, 1994), group culture in an organisation (Gottfredson, 2001), various aspects of the interaction of teachers and pupils: communication style (Ruškus et al., 2002; Rejan, Kolominskij, 1999), social inequality (Jonynienė and Dromantienė, 2002), mistakes of teachers behaviour encourage pupils to behave one or another way (Jonynienė and Dromantienė, 2002; Rupšienė, 2000; Juodaitytė and Taroza , 2001).

    1.2 Behaviour control at a modern school

    The problem of behaviour control at school is important all round the world. Referring to the performed analysis of the literature (Casella, 2003; Lakis , 2002; Rost., 2002; White et al., 2001; George et al., 2000; Myers, 2000; Sack, 1999; Gage and Berliner, 1994), the methods applied at schools are possible to be grouped into strategies of short- and long-term influence. Short-term methods mean prevention or neutralisation of undesired behaviour or disregard of inappropriate behaviour (White et al., 2001; Sack, 1999; Gage and Berliner, 1994) and penalties – when it is sought to weaken pupil’s undesired behaviour by undesired results (Myers, 2000, p. 273), e.g., deprivation of privileges, removal or renovation of faulty objects, disapproval, remarks, reproofs, cautions, abolition of powers, deposition from a group, isolation, etc. (Žukauskienė, 2002; Kučinskas and Kučinskienė, 2000).

    The system of pedagogical behaviour modification is oriented to lasting impact (Rost, 2002), it is based on behaviouristic statement that bad behaviour is learnt; it is, however, possible to learn how to behave anew, changing behaviour results and situation of behaviour. Long-term strategies, such as unified program of behaviour control is considered to be especially effective (White et al., 2001), when all personnel of a school chooses constant and uniform attitudes to stimulation of appropriate behaviour and correction of inappropriate behaviour. The Oregon Model or ,,effective behaviour support"(Sack, 1999) functions similarly – when applying this model, it is sought to insulate from undesired behaviour before it occurs, as well as it is attempted to model desired behaviour and to induce it. Main elements of the model are as follows: development of pupils’ social skills; reformation of teaching process by using first two days of a school year to acquaint new pupils with discipline code and model of desired behaviour model; flexible use of material and human resources; unified observance of school rules, which are beforehand discussed in school community.

    In the USA a lot of attention is paid to the programs and models, which induce pupils themselves to participate in the process of school behaviour control. The opinion that most pupils want secure learning environment is referred; thus such pupils could be ideal candidates, who could be involved into the process of discipline management (Involve Students in Discipline Decision-Making, 2000). At some schools of the USA consultative program of contemporaries is implemented (George et al., 2000), instructed teams of assistants, which consist of the pupils of the same age group, function (George et al., 2000). These teams help conflicting groups or couples to find appropriate decisions and to solve their conflicts peacefully. In addition to the mentioned programs there is the state program of contemporaries help. Pupils from upper forms, who are instructed how to help children of different age groups from kindergarten till the 12th form, take part in it.

    The court of contemporaries is practised at some schools (Involve Students in Discipline Decision-Making, 2000). It considers such violations as fighting, intoxication, thefts and non-attendance of school. The court most frequently takes the decisions related to helping the community or making restitution. Pupils are apt to choose the court of pupils but not the traditional process of school discipline management. Adults are mentors in this process.

    Another similar practice, when pupils work as adults’ partners, is boards of pupils (Involve Students in Discipline Decision-Making, 2000), which consist of eight pupils, deliberating irregularities. The pupil who misbehaved has the right to bring round any adult from the school community, who would perform functions of an intercessor. In this case discipline committee performs the role of an unbiased intermediary. In the USA even 90 percent of intermediaries regulate conflicts (Lakis et al., 1996).

    The practice when adults perform the role of consultants and work individually is widespread (George et al., 2000). All professional employees of a school, even the headmaster/headmistress, can be consultants. A consultant has from 1 to 12 clients, with whom they meet every week, till they attend this school. Once a week consultations take place with their parents, as well as their teachers.

    One of the extreme ways of behaviour control applied at schools of Western Europe and the USA is the use of observation cameras (Casella, 2003), trying to guarantee security of pupils and teachers. However technical means cannot substitute close relationship among members of school community: mutual assistance, reliance on each other.

    The analysis of behaviour control practice enables the statement that the prevention of undesired behaviour at school must be long-term and well organised, the most effective condition of preventive program or model implementation –involvement of entire school community into unified activity, having identified the factors, which diminish manifestation of problematic behaviour, and having applied them for creation of strategies of behaviour control.

    1.3. Basic characteristics of behaviour control: criteria and indicators

    The most important characteristics of behaviour control at school, which made the methodological basis of the research, were highlighted in the theoretical analysis: a) common social organisation of a school; b) management of behaviour control at school.

    Referring to scientific literature (Jonyniene and Dromantiene, 2002; Gottfredson, 2001; Mayer, 1999; Rejan and Kolominskij, 1999; Gage and Berliner, 1994), for pupils’ behaviour common social organisation of the school is important, it consists of: 1) interaction of community members, 2) culture of pupils’ groups prevailing at the organisation, 3) the degree of pupils’ identification with the school, 4) the expression of socio-educational problems at the school as well as 5) preventive activity at the school. Thus namely these criteria were chosen for the research. In order to substantiate them, 11 indicators were formulated (see Table 1).

    Table 1

    Criteria and indicators of the characteristic of common social organisation in pupils’ behaviour control at school

    1. Common social organisation of a school



    1.1 Interaction of school community members

    1.1.1 Peculiarities of communication between teachers and pupils

    1.1.2 Openness of school administration-teachers-pupils

    1.1.3 Peculiarities of pupils’ intercommunion

    1.2 Prevailing culture of pupils’ groups in an organisation

    1.2.1 Observance of undesired behaviour between school pupils

    1.2.2 School status in the community

    1.3 Degree of pupils’ identification with their school

    1.3.1 Pupils’ participation in school activity

    1.4 Expression of socio-educational problems at school

    1.4.1 Problems of learning

    1.4.2 Conflicts of pupils with teachers

    1.4.3 Problems of security in school territory

    1.5 Preventive activity at school

    1.5.1 Implementation of preventive programs

    1.5.2 System of teachers’ training, development

    B. Criteria and indicators of the characteristic of pupils’ behaviour control management at school

    In order to substantiate the characteristic of behaviour control management at school the model of "effective behaviour support" (Sack, 1999) and the model of unified discipline (White et al., 2001) mentioned in Chapter 1.2 were applied. The criteria of personnel activity distribution due to behaviour control at school and regulation of behaviour control were chosen. Six indicators formulated by White et al. (2001), Sack (1999) and Gottfredson (2001) are referred to (see Table 2).

    Table 2

    Criteria and indicators of the characteristic of pupils’ behaviour control management at school

    2. Management of behaviour control at school 2.1 Distribution of personnel activity due to behaviour control at school

    2.1.1 Role of managers in the process of pupils’ behaviour control

    2.1.2 Role of subject teachers in the process of behaviour control

    2.2 Regulation of behaviour control at school

    2.2.1 Clearness of behaviour control system and its observance at school

    2.2.2 Teacher’s authority in solving the problems of teenagers problems

    2.2.3 Clearness of behaviour control system and its observance in a class

    2.2.4 Evaluation of pupils’ behaviour

    The analysis of the 1.1, 2.1 and 2.2 criteria are presented in the paper.

    2. The study

    2.1 The purpose of the research – is to compare the opinions of teachers and pupils about the problems of pupils’ behaviour control and their solution at school.

    2.2 Sample. The population of the research – is made of teachers and pupils of 7th-9th forms from Lithuanian secondary schools. The criteria for the sample selection were as follows:

  • Pupils, who attend 7th-9th forms, are at the age from 13 to 15. This interval of the age includes two periods of adolescence: early and intermediate, that is why most problems of behaviour manifest at this age phase.

  • Schools teachers who work with teenagers.

  • Teenagers and teachers of the educational institution, where the unified system of behaviour control is applied (further gymnasium "Y").

  • The sample of the research – non-purposeful, it consisted of 240 respondents from four schools in Lithuania: 140 teenagers and 100 teachers. The gymnasium „Y" was chosen by means of purposeful sampling. In this educational institution the system of behaviour control is functioning, consequently its comparison to other schools should represent advantages of such system.

    2.3 Methods. Applying the method of the analysis of scientific literature, 28 references were studied. The research refers to quantitative paradigm, thus the method of questioning was chosen. Two questionnaires for teenagers and teachers were designed. The questions were formulated according to the indicators presented in Tables 1 and 2. The questionnaire for teachers consists of 25 open and closed questions, which are divided into two blocks that make five groups of questions. The first block of questions is meant to disclose what common social organisation of school is, the second – reveal teachers’ opinion to behaviour control management at school. The questionnaire for teenagers consists of 19 questions divided into two blocks, which make five groups of questions. The questionnaire consists of 11 closed, 3 – open and 6 mixed questions. The questions are divided into two blocks analogous to the questionnaire for teachers in order to disclose the opinion to main characteristics of the research.

    2.4 Data analysis. The data obtained during the research were processed applying SPSS - 10 (Statistical Package for Social Sciences) as well as Microsoft Excel software. Statistical significance p of mean difference is indicated when presenting the results of the comparison of teachers’ and pupils’ opinions. The following levels of statistical conclusions’ significance were used: p>0,05- statistically insignificant, p<0,05- significant (p*), p<0,01- very significant (p**), p<0,001- extra-significant (p***).

    3. Results.

    The answers of the respondents to the statement about the relationship of pupils and teachers reveal the interaction of school community members (see Fig. 1):

    Fig. 1. The opinion of teachers and pupils about the interaction of teachers and pupils.

    Having analysed the obtained data, it became clear that the difference between the opinions of teachers and pupils is statistically significant (x2- 38,254; p=0, 0001). The answers of the respondents show that most teachers (65 percent) value their relationship with pupils very positively; but almost 27 percent of the pupils agree that relationship of teachers and pupils is democratic. It is evident that greater part of pupils doubts or disagrees that democratic relationship of teachers and pupils prevails at their school.

    By the statement ,,pupils of our school are involved into the process of behaviour control (they create rules of behaviour, openly express what behaviour of teachers is undesirable for them" it was sought to find out how many pupils involved themselves into their school’s life (see Fig. 2).

    Fig. 2. The opinion of teachers and pupils about pupils’ involvement into the process of behaviour control

    The data analysis shows that statistically significant difference between the groups of teachers and pupils manifests (x2- 46,916; p=0, 0001). This means that pupils’ involvement into the process of behaviour control is not sufficient, consequently the rules created by adults can be rejected, and pupils might not feel any responsibility for their behaviour.

    Evaluating the pupils who behave badly (see Fig. 3), it was observed that more than 30 percent of the pupils both from the ,,Y" gymnasium, and other schools pointed out that the pupils who behaved badly were leaders, meanwhile teachers, who think so, form a less part (correspondingly, 15.5 and 7.9 percent). The advantage of unified behaviour control manifests in the answer chosen by the teachers of the ,,Y" gymnasium, that appropriate sanction is applied to the pupils who behave badly at their gymnasium, even 70.8 percent of teachers chose this answer variant; however 50 percent of the teachers from other schools indicated this answer variant. Pupils’ answers differ in that in the "Y’ gymnasium greater attention is paid to the pupils who behave badly.

    Fig. 3. The opinion of the ,,Y" gymnasium respondents and other schools’ respondents to the pupils who behave badly

    Analysing the problems of teenagers’ behaviour (see Fig. 4), the significant difference between how teachers and pupils from the "Y" gymnasium evaluate the behaviour of their school pupils and how teachers and pupils from other schools evaluate the same phenomenon was observed. The research data showed that even 75 percent of the teachers from the ,,Y" school stated that the pupils of their school were more disciplined than at most other schools, almost 40 percent of the pupils from the "Y" school expressed such opinion. It is likely that the unified system of behaviour control, which functions at the school, influences such positive evaluation of the pupils from the "Y" gymnasium. Among the answers of other schools’ teachers and pupils the statement that our school pupils are the same as at most schools prevails (correspondingly, 50 percent and 52.8 percent).

    Fig. 4. The opinion of the ,,Y" gymnasium respondents and other schools’ respondents about pupils’ behaviour

    The analysis of respondents’ answers to the question about the most frequent behaviour problems shows that the lack of pupils’ activity, independence causes most problems, even 68 percent of teachers indicate this; 57 percent of teachers indicate indifference to the work during a lesson, 52 percent of teachers – non-attendance of school, 29 percent of teachers - inobservance. According to the pupils, too great making noise during lessons (73.6 percent), contradiction, antagonism against teachers (40.4 percent), as well as indifference to the work during a lesson (68 percent) causes most problems.

    Table 3

    The opinion of teachers and pupils about the control of teenagers’ behaviour at school

    Do you agree with statements


    Kind of no

    Kind of yes


















    At our school teachers together with directors beforehand discuss how they will react to the undesired behaviour of pupils









    At our school most subject teachers do not feel any responsibility for inappropriate behaviour of pupils not during their lesson









    Unified system of pupils’ behaviour control is created at our school









    At our school the rules of pupils’ behaviour are clear and they are strictly observed
    (x2- 15,708; p=0, 001)









    Most teachers of our school try not to pay attention to undesired behaviour of teenagers
    (x2- 7,749; p=0, 052)









    At our school at the beginning of school year all pupils are acquainted with school rulebook
    (x2- 100,184; p=0, 0001)









    Most teachers of our school have created their class rulebook









    Most teachers of our school acquaint pupils with the rules of class work procedure at the beginning of school year
    (x2- 78,790; p=0, 0001)









    The comparative analysis of teachers’ and pupils’ opinions as well as behaviour control management (see Table 3) showed that

  • Teachers discuss beforehand with school directors how they will react to undesired behaviour of pupils.

  • At our school most subject teachers do not feel any responsibility for inappropriate behaviour of pupils not during their lesson. Under such a situation conditions for the dissemination of undesired behaviour are created, as a part of teachers do not react to inappropriate behaviour.

  • School and class rulebook exists, but the rules are not stressed enough, consequently pupils do not consider them to be the norm and they violate them.

  • Behaviour rules are not clear enough both for pupils, and teachers; and different reaction to inappropriate behaviour of their pupils create conditions for further expression of undesired behaviour.

  • Most teachers react to inappropriate behaviour of teenagers and notice it, so it can be a positive step towards the creation of unified behaviour control.

  • 4. Discussion

    Referring to the research results, it is possible to state that the quality of teachers’ and pupils’ relationship, equal involvement of teachers and pupils into processes of behaviour control, reaction of school community to manifestations of inappropriate behaviour influences the process of behaviour control at school. Having performed the comparative analysis of the research results, it became evident that opinions of pupils and teachers to the management of pupils’ behaviour control differ significantly, as at schools no unified regulation of behaviour control and the system of rules is not created and this prevents successful organisation of educational process. Having performed the comparative analysis of the opinions of teachers and pupils from the gymnasium "Y", where the system of behaviour control functions, and the opinions of the respondents of the same groups from other schools, favourable evaluation of gymnasium pupils as well as intolerance of inappropriate behaviour became evident. It is possible to state that implementation of behaviour control system makes positive influence upon pupils’ consciousness as well as it develops their self-control. Comparing to theoretical analysis, the research disclosed the following main aspects of behaviour control:

  • Social organisation of school, social climate in school community, interaction of pupils and teachers influences the process of behaviour control, as it is pointed out in the works by Gage and Berliner (1994), Mayer (1999), Rupšienė (2000), Gottfredson (2001).

  • Effective strategy of behaviour control is creation and maintenance of unified behaviour control, when all school community takes part. Sacks (1999), George et al. (2000), White et al (2001) highlight this in their works.

  • 5. Conclusions

    The results of performed local research showed that:

  • Problems of behaviour control exist at schools as no unified and clear system is created.

  • Non-constructive interaction of pupils and teachers manifests at schools. Almost 3/4 of pupils doubt or do not agree in democracy of teachers’ and pupils’ relationship.

  • Though positive interaction of teachers and administrative personnel prevails at schools, but unified means for behaviour control are not identified, and this impedes organisation of pupils’ educational process.

  • Involvement of pupils into the process of behaviour control is insufficient, consequently the rules created by adults can be rejected, and pupils can feel no responsibility for their behaviour.

  • The performed comparative analysis of the opinions of the respondents of the gymnasium and other schools showed that gymnasium teachers and pupils evaluate pupils attending their gymnasium more favourably than the respondents of other educational institutions; more attention is paid to behaviour problems, accordingly they react to manifestation of undesired behaviour.

  • 6. References

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    2. Gage N. L., Berliner D. C. (1994). Pedagogical psychology. Vilnius: Alma litera

    3. Jonynienė V. Ž., Dromantienė L. (2002). Preconditions of asocial behaviour of children at school // Social work. Research studies. 2 (2). P. 24 – 37. - In Lithuanian

    4. Juodaitytė A., Taroza L. (2001). Social-educational dimensions of children delinquency expression // Pedagogy. Research studies. 50. P. 115 - 125. - In Lithuanian

    5. Katiliūtė – Boydstun D. (1997). Behaviourism and humanistic psychology: two conceptions of human nature in individualistic society // Psychology. Research studies. 16. – P. 5 – 33. - In Lithuanian

    6. Kučinskas V., Kučinskienė R. (2000). Social work in educational system. Klaipėda: Klaipėda university press. - In Lithuanian

    7. Lakis J., Ignatavičius S., Poklad T., Stancelis V., Tamošiūnas T (1996). // Teachers and pupils: between friendship and antagonism. P. 33 - 37. Vilnius: Utena publishing house. – In Lithuanian

    8. Lakis J. (2002). Conflict management in public sector: legal and organisational problems // Jurisprudence. 33 (25). P. 15 – 29. – In Lithuanian

    9. Myers D. G. (2000). Psychology. - Kaunas: Polygraphy and informatics. - In.Lithuanian

    10. Pikūnas J., Palujanskienė A. (2000).Personality development: way to self-discovery. – Kaunas: Center of World Lithuanian culture, science and education. – In Lithuanian

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    13. Ruškus J., Šapelytė O., Merkienė R. (2002). Pupils’ opinion to social psychological climate in a class // Pedagogy. Research studies. 58. P. 8- 16. – In Lithuanian

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    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 22 December 2005