Behavior: The Pressing Classroom Issue

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by the IRIS CenterIRIS Center log

The IRIS Center is a national center that provides high-quality resources about students with disabilities for college and university faculty and professional development trainers. Visit IRIS’ website to find free, online, interactive training enhancements that translate research about the education of students with disabilities into practice.


As every teacher knows, the need to manage inappropriate student behavior cuts into valuable classroom teaching time, disrupts lessons, and takes precious resources. Most importantly, the management of inappropriate student behavior has negative effects on student achievement.

Behavior issues exact a professional toll on teachers, as well as the rest of the classroom community. The U.S. Department of Education, in a 2005 report, cited student behavior as a reason for 53% of teachers transferring to another school and 44% leaving the profession all together. In a separate survey by the non-partisan Public Agenda (2004), nearly 1/3 of teachers surveyed said that discipline and classroom management challenges had driven some of their colleagues out of the profession.

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What Teachers Can Do

One of the most effective ways for teachers to lessen the impact of inappropriate student behavior is to develop, initiate, and maintain a classroom comprehensive behavior management plan. To help meet this challenge, the IRIS Center has created a STAR Legacy Module: Classroom Management (Part 1): Learning the Components of a Comprehensive Behavior Management Plan.

The module is available for one and all to use, at:

All IRIS STAR Legacy Modules are challenge-based. They open with a video depiction of a challenge, problem, or scenario, and are designed to address this challenge and lead module users to a fuller understanding of the larger topic under consideration.

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Foundational Principles for Teachers

When general and special education teachers develop a comprehensive behavior management plan, they envision their classrooms not as a collection of discrete parts but, rather, as an organized, consistent, and integrated setting where teachers, school leaders, students, and parents are all active participants. To begin the process—and to make it more likely that their behavior management plan will be effective—teachers should keep in mind six key principles:

  1. Invest time at the front-end: The more time teachers spend developing prevention plans before school starts, the fewer behavior problems they will face during the school year.
  2. Teach with quality instruction: Teachers can avoid or minimize classroom disruptions by providing evidence-based supports and accommodations to students who are frustrated by challenging academic content.
  3. Focus on positive behaviors: Recognizing students who are doing the right thing can be a powerful strategy for teachers. Otherwise, students may seek attention in less-than-desirable ways.
  4. Provide supports: Providing additional supports and strategies for students with academic and behavioral challenges can also make a big difference in their behavior and in their achievement.
  5. Educate; don’t retaliate: Taking student’s actions and comments personally is not productive for anyone; use those opportunities to model appropriate responses and behaviors.
  6. Be persistent and confident: Consistent hard work leads to gradual yet significant changes.

From this starting point, teachers can begin to shape what will become a plan for managing behavior in their classrooms that is practical, consistent, and effective.

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Next Steps

IRIS encourages anyone interested in the particulars of classroom behavior management to access Classroom Management (Part 1): Learning the Components of a Comprehensive Behavior Management Plan. Teachers can use the module as a basis for creating their own effective plans. Among other things, the module provides guidance on:

  • the negative effects of disruptive behavior on student learning and on a teacher’s ability to effectively instruct;
  • how culturally influenced factors affect a student’s classroom behavior (and a teacher’s response to that behavior);
  • how to convey to parents and students the reasons why the management plan is necessary;
  • establishing rules and stating clearly to students what is expected in terms of classroom behavior;
  • effective responses to inappropriate student behavior; and
  • how to implement and support the classroom behavior plan.

Also on hand are revised and fully updated versions of the IRIS Center’s popular Interactive Behavior Games. Playing these, module users can test their knowledge of positive, negative, and inappropriate behaviors. It’s not always as easy as it looks.

In sum, using the IRIS module and accompanying materials can help teachers create an effective behavior management plan for their classrooms and craft a learning environment where all students are given the chance to learn and flourish.

Find the module at:

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About the IRIS Center

The IRIS Center for Training Enhancements offers many great teacher resources and training modules for educators in English and in Spanish. Visit at:

IRIS is a national center based at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and Claremont Graduate University; it’s supported through a federal grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP; project #H325F060003; Project Officer: Shedeh Hajghassemali).

Please pay them a visit–and bookmark their page for easy return trips in the future.

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to