How to do a classroom behaviour observation

Updated April 17, 2017

Teaching isn't just a matter of passing on information. Keeping order in the classroom and controlling behaviour pose a major challenge to teachers, as a disciplined, organised classroom is essential to learning. To help with behavioural management, a school may ask an education or health professional, such as a child psychologist, to attend a class, observe a student and write a report identifying problem behaviours. Carrying out a classroom behaviour observation requires thoughtful preparation.

Interview staff and parents before the observation, if necessary and possible, to get an overview of the problem behaviour. Find out about specific behavioural disorders going on in the classroom and other relevant information.

Write a checklist of negative behaviours to observe, using the information learnt during interviews as a guide. Identify concrete actions, such as kicking, shouting and ignoring instructions. Avoid less specific, subjective descriptions, such as "getting angry."

Add positive behaviours to the checklist, such as answering a question when asked and following an instruction.

Put your checklist into a form that you can fill in as you observe. A typical behaviour observation form has columns for intervals of time, such as every 30 seconds or minute, and rows for behaviours, or vice versa. Leave space to note information such as what caused the behaviour and what consequences the behaviour had on the classroom.

Arrive on time, or preferably earlier than scheduled, to begin your observation. This minimises the disruption that a late arrival could cause and allows you to observe behaviour as the student enters the classroom and prepares for class. You can familiarise yourself with the surroundings and identify any physical factors, such as furniture layout, that play a role in classroom behaviour.

Choose a spot where you can see both teacher and the students without becoming a distraction to them.

Observe for the set period, taking regular notes on the form you have made. Using abbreviations and symbols can help with speed, and you can add more detail later. Don't react, intervene or draw attention to yourself; simply watch and record.

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About the Author

Dave Koenig has written professionally since 2005. His writing interests include the arts, film, religion and language. Koenig holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical-theological studies from Manchester University and a Postgraduate Certificate of Education in religious studies from Lancaster University.