Behavior Management Techniques for Teachers: Inclusive Classrooms

Behavioral Management in Inclusive ClassroomsManaging classroom behavior is difficult for all teachers, but those who teach inclusive classrooms face an even bigger challenge. They must balance the needs of special education students alongside nondisabled classmates, especially as educators put an increased focus on college and career readiness for all.

The rise of inclusive classrooms makes behavior management techniques imperative. Misbehavior in a classroom can range from constantly interrupting the teacher and disrupting the group, to persistent tardiness and not following procedures.

4 techniques to better manage behavior in the classroom

To help keep all students on track, teachers should master classroom management techniques that deal with behavioral issues. Use our table of contents to discover tips and examples of classroom behavior management strategies:

  1. Identify the cause of student misbehavior
  2. Embrace special needs students
  3. Set high expectations for inclusive classrooms
  4. Set goals for inclusive classrooms

Identify the cause of student misbehavior

The first step is to identify the cause of the behavior. Students who misbehave typically do so for one of the following reasons:

  • Boredom due to lack of interest in learning or grade level misplacement.
  • Disrespect for authority figures compounded by a disregard for teachers.
  • Cliques that are run by students who influence others to disrupt the class.
  • Physical, cognitive and biochemical disabilities and learning impairments.

Embrace special needs students

Students with learning impairments frequently become frustrated and angry. This can lead to emotional outbursts and time-consuming tantrums. Among special needs students, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the No. 1 diagnosis. Autism spectrum disorders include Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Emily Workman of the Education Commission of the States estimated in a 2011 special education paper that 1 in 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder marked by “significant social, communication, and developmental problems.”

Workman notes that autism spectrum disorders are the fastest-growing special education disabilities in the United States, with an estimated annual increase of 10 to 17 percent. Many states, including Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma, are requiring regular teachers to receive training and certification in special education.

Set high expectations for inclusive classrooms

The most important thing teachers can do to deter misbehavior is establish positive expectations. Students with disabilities, including disorders that impede learning, usually lack self-esteem. These students are accustomed to parents and other adults setting low expectations for them.

St. Thomas University - Online M.S. in Special Education

Therefore, establishing and reinforcing positive expectations for special needs students sets the bar higher for all students within inclusive classrooms.

Dr. Harry and Rosemary Wong state in their best-selling book, “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher”: “Humans have a success instinct. They want success, and they strive for their success potential. You can accomplish anything with students if you set high expectations for behavior and performance.”

Here are some techniques for current and prospective teachers to consider when teaching students with special needs alongside nondisabled students:

Demonstrate classroom leadership abilities

  • Know names: Names are important to children. Teachers who quickly learn their students’ names will endear themselves to their students.
  • Be approachable: Teachers who convey to all students that they’re eager and available to answer questions and assist with difficulties will help special needs students build confidence. A warm, friendly approach alleviates anxiety and decreases fear of failure.
  • Project fairness: Students can become emotionally detached, angry or depressed if they feel they’re being treated unfairly or others are given unearned privileges, perceived or otherwise. Treat all students equally, and those with special needs are less likely to misbehave.
  • Establish authority: The best way for teachers to establish authority is to earn respect. Students with teachers who project authority are less likely to misbehave than those who view their teacher as a friend who can be cajoled. Teachers who are on time, well-prepared, knowledgeable and attentive command respect.
  • Captivate audiences: Children are a captive audience for motivated teachers who are well-prepared each day. As the Wongs point out in “The First Days of School,” children want to learn. They crave knowledge, stability, consistency and organization. Many students come from broken homes and disruptive environments. School may be the only place where they can find structure.

Cultivate classroom organizational skills

  • Plan success: Teachers who plan all the predictable details of their classrooms — from the first day of school to the last — are more apt to succeed. Students are less likely to misbehave in a classroom that is well-organized. Schedules, including daily routines like roll call, bell work, lunch time and end-of-day dismissals, are vital for establishing consistency and achieving objectives.
  • Establish rules: Rules are necessary to keep students on track and hold them accountable. It’s important to establish rules during the first few weeks of the school year, display them on a wall and review them regularly. Encourage students to memorize the rules and to take turns reading them aloud. As the Wongs emphasize, rules are different from procedures, which entail the proper steps to accomplish a task, like gathering and returning art supplies.
  • Keep records: Successful teachers keep a journal of daily activities. This helps the teacher remember details if a student is having difficulties with a task or assignment. A journal also comes in handy if the teacher is challenged by a student or parent. For special education students, a journal is crucial because teachers must follow an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A daily journal documents behavior issues that can lead to corrective or remedial actions.
  • Build structure: It’s vital for teachers within inclusive classrooms to pace students by creating consistency. Special needs students become confused when teachers change routines. They function best when events take place within a structured environment.
  • Make transitions: Students with disabilities dislike confusion. They become anxious, fearful and upset when something happens sooner, or later, than they anticipate. Inclusive classroom teachers should plan each activity with smooth transitions from one event to another. Tell students in advance what is about to happen. By warning them about change, teachers are less likely to encounter behavior issues among special needs students.

Create a positive classroom atmosphere

  • Be trustworthy: Trust is the cornerstone of successful behavior management. The point of inclusive classrooms is to integrate students with disabilities that impede learning alongside nondisabled students. One way to establish trust is to organize the classroom seating chart and schedules so nondisabled students integrate with special needs students.
  • Adjust seating: Special needs students who feel secure with the person sitting next to them are less likely to misbehave. Therefore, when developing a classroom seating chart, inclusive classroom teachers should seat students with special needs next to students without disabilities. During the first few weeks of school, teachers should be flexible about adjusting seating assignments as needed.
  • Group students: Placing students with similar abilities in groups is often necessary for differentiated instruction based on learning levels. Unfortunately, ability grouping can be counterproductive for special education students because it makes them feel excluded. This leads to isolation or misbehavior.
  • Assign buddies: In classrooms where it’s necessary to group students according to their academic abilities, teachers should integrate special needs students whenever possible. One technique is to pair each special needs student with an academically advanced buddy, who can help with assignments, learning and fitting in.
  • Set goals: Tying goals together as a group helps special education students participate and avoid isolating, or misbehaving. Bringing students together is the primary objective of inclusive classrooms, so it’s important to establish group goals.

Resolve student behavior conflicts

  • Identify problems: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides explicit guidelines when dealing with disciplinary actions for special education students. Keeping a daily journal supports teachers when it’s time to explain a remedial decision or disciplinary action. Note the date and exact time a behavioral issue occurred, along with specific details about the behavior and any explanations about what may have caused it. Teachers should avoid writing subjective comments in their journals and stick with the facts.
  • Collaborate professionally: One of the best ways to address behavioral problems is to discuss them with fellow teachers, school counselors, nurses and special education professionals like advocates. Experienced teachers are excellent resources for dealing with behavior issues. Seasoned colleagues are vital when handling disciplinary actions in accordance with IEPs.
  • Enforce consequences: Federal law requires a manifestation determination hearing to pinpoint the cause of a behavior problem. If the behavior is a direct result of the student’s physical, cognitive or learning disability, it’s considered a manifestation determination. This is mandated by the IDEA, which is essentially a contract that establishes rights for students with disabilities as well as their parents or guardians.
  • Take action: If it becomes necessary to discipline a special education student, teachers should set up a meeting with appropriate personnel who have direct involvement in the student’s IEP, as well as the student’s parents or guardians. Bring notes to these meetings. Ask for and be receptive to feedback about the student.
  • Meet parents: Although time consuming, parent/teacher conferences are beneficial in establishing behavior expectations. To avoid ambiguity, teachers should discuss all details about behavior issues and disciplinary actions with parents or guardians when they meet. Any major changes to a special education student’s IEP require parental consent.

Set goals for inclusive classrooms

Effective teachers establish a call to action for the class every day. Like good presenters, they tell students upfront what they are going to learn. They teach them, and then they tell them what they’ve learned. This helps keep all students within inclusive classrooms task-oriented. Telling students what they’re going to learn and accomplishing it also establishes a bond between the teacher and students.

Special needs students are less likely to misbehave if they know what is expected of them. They feel a sense of personal achievement when they accomplish objectives alongside nondisabled classmates.

Special Education Center

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