Training teachers to focus their attention on positive conduct and to avoid jumping to correct minor disruption improves child behaviour, concentration and mental health, finds a study funded by the NIHR.

Celebrating positives improves classroom behaviour and mental health

Date: 23 July 2018

Training teachers to focus their attention on positive conduct and to avoid jumping to correct minor disruption improves child behaviour, concentration and mental health, finds a study funded by the NIHR.

A study led by the University of Exeter Medical School, published in Psychological Medicine, analysed the success of a training programme called the Incredible Years® Teacher Classroom Management Programme in primary schools. Its core principles include building strong social relationship between teachers and children, and ignoring low-level bad behaviour that often disrupts classrooms. Instead, teachers are encouraged to focus on relationship building, age appropriate motivation, proactive management of unwanted behaviour and acknowledging good behaviour.

The Supporting Teachers and Children in Schools (STARS) study was funded by the NIHR’s Public Health Research Programme (PHR) and the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula, and aimed to promote social and emotional wellbeing, against a backdrop of Government figures that show 10% of children have a mental health condition.  The commonest and most persistent mental health condition is severe behaviour problems, and children with “conduct disorder” are at risk of all adult mental health conditions as well as poor educational and social outcomes.

Professor Tamsin Ford, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “Our findings suggest that this training potentially improves all children’s mental health but it’s particularly exciting to see the larger benefit on the children who were initially struggling. These effects might be larger were this training offered to all teachers and teaching assistants. Let’s remember that training one teacher potentially benefits every child that they subsequently teach. Our study offers evidence that we should explore this training further as a whole school approach.”

The project’s outcomes were measured via a combination of questionnaires filled in by teachers and parents and children to fill in themselves. Researchers also considered academic attainment, and use of NHS and social services.  Independent observers sat in on lessons in a quarter of schools who took part, without knowing whether the teachers had undertaken the training.

As well as the improvements in mental health, behaviour and concentration, teachers liked the training and thought it useful. Observations suggest that it changed their behaviour and improved child compliance in the classroom.

Teacher Sam Scudder, at Withycombe Raleigh Primary School in Exmouth, East Devon, undertook the training as part of the trial. He said: “I’ve found the training has made a real difference and it’s definitely improved my teaching practice. Praise is an essential aspect of the training and 'proximity praise' has been a really effective tool.”

A paper on the study is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

More information on the study is available on the NIHR Journals Library.

  • Summary:
    Training teachers to focus their attention on positive conduct and to avoid jumping to correct minor disruption improves child behaviour, concentration and mental health, finds a study funded by the NIHR.
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  • Areas of the site this news is applicable to:
    • Funding
    • Research
  • LCRN:
    South West Peninsula
  • Year of publication:
    2018
  • Specialty:
    • Public Health
    • Children
    • Mental Health
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