Scenario 15 â** Responding to a pupil who

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Resources to support Charlie Taylor’s Improving Teacher Training for Behaviour
Behaviour Scenarios
Scenario 15: Responding to a pupil who refuses
to follow an instruction
This Scenario has been developed for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) to enable trainees to
demonstrate knowledge, skills and understanding of behaviour management
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Behaviour2Learn has developed 17 Scenarios focusing on the 8 areas highlighted in the
Teaching Agency's document Improving teacher training for behaviour. These are:
Personal Style
School Systems
Classroom Management
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Theoretical Knowledge
Improving teacher training for behaviour has been developed by Charlie Taylor, the
Government’s expert adviser on behaviour, to complement the new Teachers’
Standards that all teachers have to demonstrate from September 2012.
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Scenario 15
Responding to a pupil who refuses to follow an instruction
You tell a pupil who is disturbing the work of others to move
from the back of the class to the front.
The pupil refuses to move.
How do you respond?
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Key Learning Outcomes
• Increased knowledge of how to take appropriate and effective
action when you are confronted with more extreme behaviour.
• Increased knowledge of how to apply rewards and sanctions to
improve behaviour.
• Practice in planning and teaching lessons that take account of
individual children’s special needs, so that they are less likely to
• Increased ability in planning how to avoid confrontations.
• Further understanding of the importance of techniques such as
“take-up time” (giving time to respond to a requests) and
avoiding challenge that could escalate the situation.
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What do you do?
Consider these responses and choose the best one(s):
1. Stand close to the pupil and repeat the instruction clearly until the pupil
moves, not tolerating any arguments.
2. Go over to the pupil and say very quietly, “If you choose not to move you
will have chosen to have a detention. I need you to move now please.”
Then walk away.
3. If the pupil will not move, ignore him/her and continue with the lesson.
Then try again later.
4. Send immediately for a senior member of staff.
5. Use a known method in your school behaviour policy e.g. if restorative
approaches are used you could hand the pupil a Restorative Sheet.
6. Warn the pupil that if he/she does not move you will move him/her
physically and that you have the right to do it.
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What might be the best choice?
2. Go over to the pupil and say very quietly, “If you choose not to move
you will have chosen to have a detention. I need you to move now
please.” Then walk away.
You should treat the situation in a low-key way, without making a scene
and disrupting learning. Focus on the primary behaviour (the behaviour
that caused you to ask the pupils to move), ignore any insignificant
secondary behaviour (e.g. the pupil slamming a book on the desk before
moving) and give take-up time by moving away and continuing with the
You should always follow up the incident with the pupil after the lesson.
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What might be the best choice? continued
If the school uses restorative approaches, you could:
5. Put a Restorative Sheet on the desk and ask the pupil to fill it in. The
sheet will ask the pupil to explain:
What happened?
What part did you play?
Who has been affected?
What do you need to do to put the situation right?
If the school regularly uses restorative approaches, Restorative Sheets are
useful for defusing the conflict, giving the pupil take-up time and forming a
framework for subsequent discussion with the pupil.
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How might you prevent a recurrence?
Redirect behaviour. Say e.g. “Susan, we are all reading the paragraph at the top of the
page before we discuss it.”
Always follow up the confrontation by seeing the pupil after the class when the
situation is calmer and by reaching agreement that the behaviour was unacceptable
and how it will be avoided in future. Quietly remind the pupil at the start of the next
Anticipate the problem and at an early stage use the language of (limited) choice
before a problem becomes acute e.g. ”If you choose to continue, you will have chosen
to continue disturbing other people and you will have to move, is that clear?”
Be aware that pupils often regard a request to move as a personal affront and public
humiliation and you should be sensitive to this and give take up time.
When you first discuss rules with the class, make it clear that you will make decisions
about where people sit in order to help learning.
Ensure that there is a behaviour target for the lesson that you can refer to if there is
disruption. This helps to depersonalise the situation and stop it from escalating.
Frequently recognise and praise positive learning behaviour from the individual and
the class as a whole.
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Underlying Principles
• Conflict will arise, but agreeing ground rules with pupils at the outset can
help to minimise it.
• Conflict with a pupil requires a calm, assertive, depersonalised response
from the teacher.
• The response should aim to help the pupil make the right choice and,
when he/she does, that should be recognised and praised, wherever and
whenever appropriate.
• To avoid prolonging or escalating a minor incident, it is important to keep
a focus on the primary behaviour and not to be diverted into responding
to secondary behaviour.
• To avoid escalation in public, the response to challenging behaviour
should be low-key, give limited choice with consequences, and allow the
pupil take-up time.
• If a pupil continues to be defiant, you should ask for any help needed.
This is not a personal affront, you are part of a staff team.
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Rights and Responsibilities
• Pupils have a right to learn without disruption and you have a
responsibility to ensure that they can do so.
• You have the right to determine seating plans. You may decide to
give pupils a free choice, but you have the responsibility to ensure
that this does not disadvantage any pupils e.g. that none are
• In extremis you do have the legal right to move a pupil physically if
he or she is disrupting the learning of others but this should be
used with great caution and never in anger.
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Activities to try
1. You obviously cannot deliberately set up a situation where a pupil
is refusing to do as you ask but, if it happens, try low-key
intervention/quiet techniques – notice their effect and discuss
alternatives with a colleague.
2. Try, with a friend, role-playing a situation where a pupil refuses to
do what a teacher asks. Discuss the feelings that each of you
experience. What insights can you gain to inform your practice?
3. Keep a note of what helps, and what does not help, to avoid or
reduce conflict in lessons you observe. (“What went well” / “Even
better if…”). Record and try successful strategies.
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Conflict will inevitably arise from time to time and, while continuing to be
assertive, there are ways you can avoid escalation to a point where a pupil
refuses to do what you ask him/her to do.
This scenario is one example - seating arrangements in class are an important
matter for you, because of the effect they have on learning behaviour, and for
pupils, because of the effect they have on their relationships with others.
Enforcing seating arrangements is therefore a potential source of conflict.
To develop your skill in dealing with conflict, it is worth practising the
techniques of depersonalising and redirecting the behaviour, using the
language of choice, allowing take-up time and focusing on the primary
behaviour (the behaviour that caused you to intervene).
If all else fails, and a pupil continues to disrupt a lesson and to defy you, then
you should call for support. In extreme and very rare circumstances gentle
physical restraint may be needed to avoid harm or to maintain order and this
should, wherever possible, be applied with the support of a colleague.
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