Conference Learning and Key Takeaways In order to share what we do at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore, to build a community of practice, to create a knowledge-sharing culture with like-minded educators and professionals as well as to keep abreast with current perspectives and good practices, I’ve had the opportunity to attend and present at various conferences. One of them includes the AUSPELD conference held in Perth this year, 4th-6th of April 2019. All the keynote sessions and workshops that I’ve attended were all very insightful and enriching. The 3-day conference was nothing short of intellectually stimulating, with many noteworthy exchanges of pedagogies, research and practice, information and ideas. One session that truly changed my perspectives and got me thinking about behaviour as a curriculum was the keynote presentation by Tom Bennett. His topic, ‘Creating a culture where all flourish’ was enough to get me excited because as an educator, I strongly feel that inclusivity should be at the core of any education system regardless of the learning needs (be it academic or behaviour), profiles and abilities of the students and that all schools should strive toward creating a culture that can benefit and unleash the potential of each and every student.
In his presentation, Tom Bennett highlighted the following key points:
1. Good behaviour is crucial to EVERY aim of education. Unfortunately, not all schools/institutions are aware of the need to teach behaviour as a curriculum just like how academic subjects are taught to students as part of the mandatory curriculum requirements. As a result, most common school/classroom strategies tend to be reactive and behaviour instruction and intervention is usually unstructured, sporadic, inexpert and often, de-emphasised during training. Very few schools adopt a deliberate proactive approach which may suggest why according to the Teacher’s Voice Omnibus 2013 (UK), 12% of teachers did not feel well-equipped to manage student misbehaviour and 50% of teachers felt that appropriate training was not available in their schools to handle negative behaviour. On the other hand, schools that are effective in managing behaviour tend to adopt both the reactive and proactive approach. In other words, good and acceptable behaviour must be taught because the aim of teaching behaviour as a curriculum is to change habits and not just behaviour. Behaviour should be seen as a skill set that needs to be deliberately imparted to students so that it can be habituated into patterns of good behaviours.
2. Behaviour is a culture and for good behaviours to be encouraged, teachers and leaders MUST be the conscious architects of the culture of the schools. One of the ways to create and curate a culture that fosters positive behaviour is to establish routines. Routines are seen as building blocks of culture. Good and positive behaviour must be identified, communicated and taught explicitly and more importantly, provide the platform and opportunities for students to practise appropriate and acceptable behaviour until it becomes a routine for them. Once a routine is set in place, it becomes a habit and eventually a character that shapes a person’s behaviour.
3. Constant behaviour feedback is pertinent because it seeks to ensure that positive behaviour is enforced while negative behaviour is deterred. More importantly, students must expect consequences to be meted out whenever any undesirable or unacceptable behaviour is displayed. In other words, the system has to be trustworthy for students to believe in and be accepting of in helping them manage their behaviour.
In conclusion, the whole notion of teaching behaviour as a curriculum needs to be subscribed and emphasised greatly in all schools, to all educators. In other words, greater movement and awareness is pertinent. After attending Tom Bennett’s presentation, I felt very encouraged because the organisation that I work at (Dyslexia Association of Singapore, DAS) does emphasise on the importance of classroom management and therefore, the need to train and empower the Educational Therapists supporting learners with learning differences the skills and strategies to manage and handle behavioural challenges observed in class. Ideally, educators should allocate some time within the lesson to establish routines that not only deter misbehaviour but also encourage positive ones as the goal really is to work towards shaping the students’ characters and personalities.
More about Serena Tan Abdullah, Lead Educational Therapist, Curriculum Developer