Your Career• 3 Min read

10th December 2019

Managing Challenging Behaviour In The Classroom: The Most Effective Approaches

It is important to manage challenging behaviour in your classroom – or to get out ahead of it with preventative methods where possible – as disruptions can severely damage pupil learning for the whole class, and leads to frustration and stress for you if they take hold.

However, some teachers can find themselves at a loss when faced with challenging pupils, so we’ve compiled a few tips and resources to help you on your way to getting on top of any challenging behaviour in your classroom.

What is challenging behaviour?

There are two broad kinds of classroom disruption, low-level disruption and high-level disruption.

Low-level disruption is characterised as unauthorised talking, moving around the classroom, calling out instead of raising their hand, and other behaviour that can disrupt the entire classroom if left unchecked.

High-level disruption, however, is characterised by behaviour that undermines you as a teacher and the entire learning process, such as challenges to your authority, outright refusal to obey rules, answering back, and/or verbal abuse of you or another pupil. This behaviour is immediately disruptive in this first instance and needs to be dealt with straight away.

How can I manage challenging behaviour in the classroom?


Reflection is a useful tool for teachers in all situations, and behaviour and disruption management is no exception. In reflection, you might find that your current approach to behaviour management can be adapted or improved to be more effective.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you have a set plan to tackle challenging behaviour before it occurs?
  2. Are you reactive or proactive when it comes to disruption?
  3. Do you ignore disruption and attempt to just continue on with your lesson?
  4. Do you shout, scream, or otherwise display anger?
  5. Do you threaten consequences and actions but fail to follow through?

Once you know what your approach to challenging behaviour is, you’re already in a better position to improve it by highlighting where you think the gaps are and using your skills as a teacher to fill them.


The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has set out some helpful key ideas about managing challenging behaviour, which they have called the ‘CASPER’ approach.

  • Calm – Always appear calm even when you don’t feel calm. Take a deep breath and create thinking time before reacting.
  • Assertive – Maintain eye contact and state your needs clearly  using ‘I’ statements such as “I need you to…”
  • Status Preservation – Pupils in a school are operating within a peer group, so when you correct their behaviour you should be aware of this and use private reprimands
  • Empathy – Be empathetic towards your pupils and avoid challenge questions such as “what do you think you are doing?”
  • Respect – Respect your pupils even if they are disrespectful to you in order to model the behaviour you expect from them

Tips on how to deal with challenging behaviour in the classroom

  • Make sure lessons are engaging
  • Cater for different learning styles, abilities, and concentration capabilities
  • Ensure inappropriate behaviour is dealt with consistently
  • Use an appropriate voice volume for the situation, and never shout in anger
  • Give praise and positive encouragement to individual pupils whenever possible

Whole-school approach

Pupil behaviour isn’t just the responsibility of the individual teacher. Your school will have a behaviour policy in place that sets out the expectations for pupils, and all teachers and faculty should be consistent in its implementation.

If you feel that there are inconsistencies in applying the behaviour policy which is undermining your ability to control your classes, you should bring it up with your mentor or senior colleagues.

What next?

Remember that no matter how difficult you find a disruptive situation, you are not alone. Every teacher struggles from time to time with classroom disruptions, and the senior leaders at your school are there to help you in every way they can. If you still find that you are finding it hard to cope even with the support of your school, you can call the Education Support Partnership at any time on 0800 0562 561 to receive specialist support and counselling.

Our Partnership & Development team run CPD sessions on a variety of topics including behaviour management, throughout the year. Our CPD sessions are designed for teachers to learn from education experts and former senior leadership on best practices, and also a great opportunity to network with other teachers.

If you’re looking for a new position in education to continue your work in making a real difference to the attainment of pupils, register with us and our team of consultants will be able to find you a role in the UK that matches your ambitions.

Book a CCS Consultation

With Engage, you choose how you work. From full-time permanent roles, to day-to-day supply work, we’ll work hard to make sure you have satisfying and secure work when you need it, with access to our comprehensive support and training programme.

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