What Is Classroom Behavior?


Teachers place a great deal of emphasis on modifying or managing classroom behavior. However, they rarely define distinctly what classroom behavior actually is, instead leaving others to discern a definition from a description of the behavior modification plans. Additionally, teachers do not always explicitly state the rationale and goals behind their behavior modification plans, which makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of those plans. A definition of classroom behavior thus is necessary.


  • Business Dictionary defines behavior as the response of an individual or group to a stimulus. The stimulus may be an action, person or something in the environment. The response typically is an action. Classroom behavior thus is stimulus-driven responses that occur specifically within the classroom or how students are acting in the classroom in response to what is going on or present around them.


  • Classroom behavior falls into two categories--positive or negative. Examples of positive behavior include following directions, completing assignments and remaining attentive while the teacher speaks. Examples of negative behavior include being physically aggressive or threatening others, talking out of turn and playing spiteful pranks.

Academic Achievement

  • Teachers usually associate poor classroom behavior with poor academic achievement. For this reason, classroom management in classrooms usually revolves around behavior modification. However, a team researchers led by Joshua Breslau of the University of California, Davis, conducted a study published in the Pediatrics journal in 2009 that showed that inattentiveness is the only "bad" behavior that statistically has shown an impact on academic achievement. Teachers thus place a strong emphasis in their management plans on limiting student behaviors that may prove distracting to other students.

Management Guidelines

  • The way that a teacher manages a classroom directly influences the classroom behavior present in that classroom. School boards and government agencies such as the Department of Education thus take great pains to assess whether classroom behavior reflects effective management. The ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children in Reston, Virginia, presents general guidelines for managing classroom behavior effectively. These include (but are not limited to) identifying the factors reinforcing behavior; keeping data to evaluate modification progress; looking at, using and combining multiple techniques for modification; and focusing on new, positive behaviors. Nancy Mather, who holds a doctorate in learning disabilities, and Sam Goldstein, licensed psychologist and editor-in-chief of Journal of Attention Disorders, similarly break effective management into four steps that include defining the behavior, coming up with a way to modify the behavior, figuring out how to reinforce the new behavior and applying the reinforcer, LD Online reports.


  • In recent years, many schools have decreased the amount of recess students have, but Dr. Romina Barros, professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, led a research study that concluded that recess improves classroom behavior. In response to this study, Dave Munger, who operates the Cognitive Daily website and holds a master of science education degree, points out that even though students with more recess ranked higher on behavioral ratings, the relationship between recess and behavior isn't necessarily causal. Munger contends that schools with some poorer performing classrooms may remove recess to aid achievement, meaning that the academic and behavioral problems are a determinant of, not a response to, recess amounts.


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