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Resource Area

Positive behaviour and curriculum design

The impact of careers workThe role of curriculum design in creating effective environments for learning behaviour

"A school's curriculum consists of everything that promotes learners' intellectual, personal, social and physical development. As well as lessons and extracurricular activities, it includes approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, the quality of relationships within school, and the values embodied in the way the school operates." (from National Curriculum - Principles of Curriculum Design)
A strong relationship between behaviour and the curriculum has been identified by Ofsted (2005) as a key factor in effective classroom management. Their report 'Managing Challenging Behaviour' highlights the link between good behaviour and good teaching. Adapting the curriculum so that it is relevant to young people's needs and engages them in the process of learning is a key factor in promoting positive behaviour. An inappropriately planned or insufficiently differentiated curriculum may lead to difficult and disaffected behaviour from some young people and therefore dealing with a 'behaviour issue' in isolation is unlikely to achieve lasting results. Harnessing these links is the key to effective and positive behaviour management and to establishing the notion of behaviour for learning as an integral component of the school ethos.

Within a whole school approach to promoting positive behaviour it is likely that systems will be in place for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the curriculum in relation to promoting positive behaviour. This would include analysis of key factors such as how the curriculum promotes balance and breadth and how it is planned and delivered.

The Key Stage 3 National Strategy (Behaviour and Attendance Strand, DfES, 2005) underlines this, stating that in successful schools the behaviour and attendance policy and the teaching and learning policies are mutually supportive. The Primary National Strategy (DfES, 2004) further highlights the links between effective lessons and behaviour for learning and gives guidance for teachers to:

  • explore how lesson structures can promote behaviour for learning
  • consider a range of teaching approaches and learning styles
  • consider the importance of classroom routines
  • develop strategies and techniques for explicitly teaching specific behaviours needed for learning
  • consider the impact of the classroom environment on behaviour

Are there pedagogical differences between subject areas?

Each subject area of the curriculum can make a unique contribution to promoting positive behaviour by linking what is being taught (subject/lesson content) and how it is being taught (teaching approaches and styles) to lesson structures that engage the pupil at the same time in the process of the lesson and the process of learning. The TDA has promoted the development of Subject Resource Networks (SRNs), which provide teachers, trainees and ITT trainers with a range of resources to stimulate subject-related thinking on this topic.

Most people will recognise practitioners in many fields who are skilled in their interpersonal dealings with young people. Invariably they present a calm and unruffled demeanour, which gives a subtle message to young people that, in a positive sense, 'they are in control'.

These surface impressions, created by the practitioner, are underpinned by a set of specific skills that can be developed. These are sometimes referred to as 'soft skills', and comprise many attributes for successful engagement with young people.  It is worth noting that research suggests that young people, especially those who present behavioural challenges, tend to immediately recognise the existence of these attributes in practitioners. They include skills, attributes and characteristics such as:

  • Collaborative approaches to working and decision making
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Rapport Building and Networking
  • Respecting Others
  • Emotional well-being/Resilience
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Non-verbal approaches
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Management Skills
  • Knowledge of 'self'
  • Motivation

Each of these has a substantial literature attached to it, as well as numerous resources, training packages and other materials - some of which are highlighted elsewhere in this Resource Area. In sum, these approaches - widely utilised across many professions, form the basis for the formulation of effective working relationships between practitioner and young person. They are based on the practitioner's recognition of how their own personality characteristics, their beliefs and their own background and training impact on their interactions with young people. However, it is important to recognise that the young person will come to the learning encounter as an 'active agent' in the learning process: knowledge about the young person, therefore, is vital if the teacher is to engineer an appropriate 'fit' between curriculum, pedagogy and the needs of the pupil.  

Vitally these attributes and soft skills should be applied alongside considerations of other pedagogical and curriculum design issues considerations, namely:

  1. maturational factors (five year olds are different to fifteen year olds... sometimes, anyway),
  2. environmental factors - teachers may have differing strategies when operating in the playing field, the workshop, the laboratory, the drama studio, the conventional classroom,
  3. pedagogic factors - there may be more opportunities for the exercise of specific teaching approaches (e.g. collaborative groupwork, simulation, roleplay) in some subjects than others.
  4. ability/performance factors - those who experience greater difficulties in learning may opt for more practical/vocational subjects


This resource provides an overview and an initial insight into the ways in which pupil behaviour and their engagement with the curriculum are linked. It should be viewed as an introductory source, to be used in conjunction with other materials referred to in the text.


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