Behavior in the Classroom and Effects on Learning


How students behave in a classroom affects how much and how well they learn. Even one student acting out can interrupt all the students' learning. It's the teacher's job to manage the classroom in a manner that reinforces learning. Some educators use a system of rewards and punishments, while others skillfully form lesson plans that involve the students and help them learn effectively.


  • Children learn behavior by watching and imitating others. Many types of behavior detract from learning. These include talking out of turn, being out of the seat without permission, not paying attention and disrupting other students by making noise or touching them. The teacher needs to identify the problem, figure out how to change the behavior, find a way to encourage students to follow a pattern of desired behavior and use this pattern consistently so all the students are focused on the lesson being taught.


  • Some students respond to receiving rewards for good behavior, such as prizes, candy, extra computer time, extra recess or stickers on a chart. Students learn they will get something they want if they behave in a certain way, but they don't always learn that behaving in a certain way is its own reward. This can prevent students from consistently using the desired behavior that promotes learning.


  • Some students respond to punishment. They stop using unacceptable behavior if they know they'll face consequences for breaking the rules. Students who are verbally corrected, assigned extra work, miss recess or are sent to the principal's office as punishment often learn to lie or cheat to avoid punishment.


  • Acceptable classroom behavior should be reinforced by making consequences closer to those of real life. The world doesn't always punish or reward people who behave in a particular manner. Students need to learn that there are natural rewards and certain consequences that come from certain types of behavior. For example, if students take so much time returning to their seats after story time that art class has to be cancelled, the students learn that their own behavior is responsible for an undesirable consequence and will adjust their behavior in the future.


  • Schools have sets of rules, and many have school improvement teams that study behavior's effect on learning and adjust rules accordingly. It's helpful to gain support from parents, colleagues and community members to identify problem behavior, set a good example and teach students to practice proper behavior.


  • Photo Credit chldren teaching image by Julia Britvich from
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