Disruptive behavior in the classroom: Teachers and admins are split

There’s been an alarming increase in disruptive classroom behavior among young students in the last three years. But when it comes to the scope of the problem and how they are responding to it, administrators and educators don’t see eye to eye.

That’s the finding from a survey conducted of nearly 2,000 elementary school and district administrators, teachers, and support specialists that revealed several negative trends surrounding student behavior. The survey and an accompanying report were produced by EAB Global, a Washington-based research firm that works with K-12 districts to research challenges and identify best practices in education.

While the majority of educators in the survey report a spike in student misbehavior in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms, the teachers attributed it to modern-day changes in parenting and overexposure to electronic devices. Administrators were more likely to link it to trauma in the family and untreated mental health conditions.

Teachers and administrators also disagreed on how many students exhibit disruptive behavior in the classroom. For instance, teachers and support specialists reported 61 percent of their students were disruptive. Meanwhile, administrators connected the surge to a much smaller number of students (14 percent) with significant behavioral issues and repeat offenders.

About half of the teachers surveyed experienced growing behavioral disruptions — tantrums and defiant behavior being the most common — several times a week. These negative behaviors have a significant impact for schools, with teachers estimating a loss of two-and-a-half hours of instruction time each week. In an academic year, that amounts to almost three weeks of lost instructional time.

Photo credit: Lisa Baird / Pixabay

Educators differ on best practices

While proven strategies exist for addressing disruptive behaviors, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a lack of training and consistency undermines the effectiveness of the approach. In the survey, all participating school administrators reported their districts use PBIS, but only about 57 percent of teachers reported using the practice often. Practically every district reported using at least one dedicated social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. Yet, only about a quarter of teachers reported using it in their classes.

Almost every district administrator indicated that behavioral protocols existed while only half of school administrators believed that to be the case. The survey showed that almost half of the teachers felt they lack guidelines, training, and support to manage disruptive behavior in the classroom.

To help manage disruptive student behavior, the EAB provided 15 best practices. Divided into four categories, they include early-intervention efforts, expanding playtime and behavior guidelines, embedding SEL, and developing more effective support for higher-needs students.

Visit the EAB’s site for the full report.

Photo credit: Aleksandr Skrypko / Reshot

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