Managing Pupil Behavior- A Framework For Staff Problem Solving: Ideas For Initial Session

A Framework for Staff Problem Solving: Ideas for an Initial Session


To offer teaching staff involved with a specified group of pupils, i.e. class or year group, an opportunity to :

1. Collectively consider, agree and start to plan behaviour management strategies

2. Employ a problem solving model which is solution focused

3. Think in a different way about the behaviour which pupils present


All staff involved will receive a brief questionnaire prior to the session, and are asked to answer 3 questions spontaneously and briefly:

  • What is your priority concern?
  • What strategy/approach have you found most helpful?
  • Can you briefly describe one idea for addressing X group’s difficulties?

An example summary of responses from one group of staff  (15 teachers) is as follows:

The problem/s (as seen by staff) were

 Pupils capacity to:

  • Work independently
  • To approach written assignments sensibly
  • To treat each other with respect
  • To cope with frustration, anger, anxiety
  • To remain seated
  • To be organised and equipped for lessons
  • To concentrate
  • To understand
  • To listen

Individual pupils: Ju , Le, Jo, C, La

Teachers ability to:

  • Maintain classroom control
  • Delivery of the curriculum (explanation of work)


  • In-class support from teacher colleagues
  • Lessons which entail pupils being ‘on task’ as soon as possible
  • Firm classroom rules and routines
  • Basic task instructions
  • Individual pupils on report
  • Differentiated curriculum tasks
  • Reduction of movement around the classroom
  • Organisation which entails all equipment and materials being ready on pupils’ tables
  • Withdrawal work for individual pupils
  • Oral and group work


  • Splitting up difficult pupil groups
  • Individualised and differentiated learning tasks
  • Praise, positive teacher commentary
  • Regular in-class support
  • Use of drama/role-play
  • Opportunities for teacher colleagues to both observe and be observed
  • Group work for both curriculum and social development purposes


This begins with a presentation of a collation of the responses received from questionnaires. The important message here is that staff already possess a huge amount of information and many ideas with regards to the problem/s. This exercise is designed to empower and facilitate a realistic and practical optimism within the staff group. Having done this, it is then possible to establish first order principles and core ideas re the task being engaged in, for example:


Some core ideas

  • if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem
  • Not everything can be tackled at once
  • Teaching and learning are continuous problem solving enterprises
  • The problem/s is/are somebodys' solution/s
  •  The problem/solution holder is the expert in the problem/solution

The next part of the session looks at and addresses the question:


1. Concerns - collectively agree the priority

Nominal group technique.

Returning to the summary of staff responses to the question ‘what is your priority concern?’; staff are asked to pick three items from the list and rank each item in order of importance.

The item which they consider to be most important gets three points, the next receives two points; the third and most important receives one point.

The presenter collects staff points and records them on a flip chart or overhead and adds them up. This allows for a collectively prioritised concern or concerns (no more than three) to be identified for subsequent work in the session.

2. Personal Construct Psychology

It is suggested that at this point the presenter has some theoretical input; background reading by the presenter is strongly advised in preparation for this part of the session.

  • Alternative Constructivism. George Kelly, social psychology (1955) Social construct theory social and systematic theory of human behaviour
  • This theory has implications for action, change and growth through experience.
  • We see each and every person as a personality theory in action.
  • Each individual has an attitude to others; this is informed by his theory of persons, understanding and stance in relation to change.
  • Humans as inherently socially referenced - constant interaction with others, some supportive and enabling, others a state of antagonism.
  • It is the extremes perhaps on both sides who offer many opportunities for growth of understanding and personal development

Ravenette, A.T. (1997) Selected Papers. Personal Construct Psychology and the Practice of an Educational Psychologist London: Personal Construct Association Publications.

Staff are then asked to consider:

What solution does this problem allow ?*

(Tom Ravenette questions)

Staff are asked to look at their collectively agreed priority concern/s and to ask the question as above*. This will probably be fairly challenging as it requires them to de-centre from their position as a teacher, and to look at the problem from the pupils’ perspective. The presenter may well need to model/demonstrate at first.

3. Mind-map (brainstorm) of ideas - include the improbable, unfeasible, innovative, impossible.

This is the final part of the session. Working in pairs, staff complete the sheet (see below **). These are then collected, and the presenter concludes by re-visiting main themes of the session. This will include an explanation that a summary of the session, and the ideas generated by staff, will be compiled and returned to senior management for follow-up. It may also be useful to inform staff that a subsequent session can be arranged on request.


A theory about X group

How can this theory be tested? 

What will be apparent if the theory is correct ?