Module 5 – Defining expected behaviour

Having clearly defined school-wide expectations and rules is important as it creates a vision of a successful student and defines expected behaviours. Defining expected behaviours provides a framework to guide staff decisions about behaviour support and creates consistent language that can be implemented by staff.


It is important to clearly define school-wide expectations and rules because it:

  • Creates a vision of a successful student.
  • Leads adults to clarify what the expected behaviours are.
  • Allows teachers to proactively teach behaviours for success.
  • Communicates a positive message to students and adults about success.
  • Provides a framework to guide staff decisions about behaviour support.
  • Aligns staff through the use of consistent language.
  • Validates and supports individual teachers' procedures and requests.

Expectations and rules

The terms expectations and rules are often used interchangeably.

  • are the overarching values and desired behaviours that define what you want from students
  • serve as guidelines for behaviour for all students, staff and the community at schools and involved in school-endorsed events.
  • developed and reviewed by staff, students and community.

  • are the specific behaviours you want to see
  • link directly back to the school-wide expectations and clearly convey what is expected in specific settings
  • should be specific, observable and measurable
  • may vary depending on the setting (for example, different areas of the playground or library)
  • should be positively stated
  • need to tell students what to do rather than not what to do.

Clearly defined school-wide expectations

Clearly defined expectations provide a common language and vision for the whole school community. As they are a direct reflection of a school's values and mission, they should be defined and agreed upon by all staff and the school community.

School-wide expectations will be:

  • Consistent and few
    • Almost everything you want from students and adults in your school will fit into 3-5 expectations.
  • Positively stated
    • We want everyone to know what to do.
  • Predictable and comprehensive
    • All students and adults in all settings.

Behaviour examples

Behaviour examples are:

  • specific behaviours you want to see from students
  • linked directly to the school-wide expectations
  • clearly conveyed to the students
  • what is expected from everyone in each setting.

It is important that all staff, students and the school community are involved in the process of deciding expected behaviours to enhance buy-in.

Each behaviour example must be observable, measurable, positively stated, understandable and always applicable (known as the OMPUA guidelines).

I can see it.

  • Example – Raise your hand and wait to be called on.
  • Non-example – Be your best.

I can count it.

  • Example – Bring materials.
  • Non-example – Be ready to learn.

I tell students what to do.

  • Example – Hands and feet to yourself.
  • Non-example – No fighting.

The vocabulary is appropriate for the students I teach.

  • Example – Hands and feet to yourself.
  • Non-example – Maintain personal space.

I am able to consistently enforce expectations.

  • Example – Stay in the assigned area.
  • Non-example – Remain in your seat unless given permission to leave.

Building or reviewing expectations matrix

After deciding on the 3-5 expectations, it is time to build and review your expectations matrix.

Expectations matrices vary in design because they are tailored to meet the needs and values of their individual school communities.

These steps to build or review the expectations matrix can be used when starting or reviewing the expectations matrix. The matrix should be reviewed over time as school communities and needs change.

Step 1: Identifying problem and replacement behaviours

  • Revisit expectations:
    • What do you want for your students?
  • List problem behaviours:
    • What challenging behaviours are present?
  • Categorise into similar groups
  • Identify logical positive replacement behaviours:
    • What do you want students to do instead?
  • Using the OMPUA guidelines, develop and publish the expected positive behaviours.

Step 2: Develop or regenerate school-wide expectations matrix

Focus on all settings and one specific area at a time. All settings are the behaviours you want to see everywhere, so do not need to repeat them in each specific area. Behaviour examples or rules for each area are:

  • linked to the expectations
  • stated positively and succinctly
  • age appropriate, action-based language
  • linked to school culture
  • agreement by 80% staff.


Once the school-wide expectations and behaviour examples are developed they need to be posted around the school in prominent places.

  • High visibility will ensure that all members of the school community are aware of them.
  • Visibility serves as a prompt for teaching and learning
  • Posted expectations create a highly predictable environment that supports students to be successful.
Consider areas and spaces that could be used to enhance visibility:
  • officer/foyer
  • walkways
  • classrooms
  • library
  • canteen
  • electronic signs
  • newsletters
  • websites
  • electronic signs.
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