Module 6 – Teaching expected behaviour

We can’t expect that all students come to school knowing the expected behaviours. It is crucial that expected behaviour is taught as rigorously as we teach academics through explicit instruction, practice, feedback and reteaching to increase the likelihood that students will follow the expectations.


All students need to develop and learn social, emotional and behavioural competence to support their academic achievement. We must teach behaviour as relentlessly as we teach academics. We need to remember that:

  • Students are not born with bad behaviours.
  • Students do not learn more socially acceptable ways of behaving when only given aversive consequences.
  • Students’ lack of knowledge and skill demonstrates a deficit and need for teaching and learning to enhance self-regulation and self-determination.
  • To retain new behaviours, students must be given specific, positive feedback and opportunities to practice in a variety of settings where the behaviour should be used.

Educative approach

Taking an educative approach towards behaviour focuses on teaching socially appropriate behaviour as rigorously as we teach academics.

We respond to and explicitly teach behavioural and social/emotional errors the same way as academic errors.

  • Errors are accidental.
  • Errors are inevitable.
  • Errors signal the need for teaching.
  • Students with learning difficulties need adjustments.

  • Errors are accidental.
  • Errors are inevitable.
  • Errors signal the need for teaching.
  • Students with behaviour difficulties need adjustments.

Common language

It is important to teach social skills as it encourages use of a common language among staff.

Staff using common language with students:

  • helps take advantage of the spontaneous opportunities to reinforce skills you’ve already taught
  • provides informal teaching opportunities
  • ensures consistency for all students.

Lessons considerations

To support all staff and guide them to teach social skills, lessons will be needed for specific:

  • behaviours/rules on your school’s matrix
  • non-classroom procedures (arrival, canteen, playground rules, transitions)
  • classroom rules
  • classroom procedures.

When designing a teaching system for your school, consider the needs of the learners and use the appropriate lesson format to provide structure for those teaching lessons.

Examples of practice activities:

  • role playing
  • playing games that include use of the skill
  • watching videos of examples and non-examples
  • tying the social lesson with academic content.

Teaching schedule

To ensure teaching social skills and procedures is more than a one-time event, each school determines its own ongoing teaching schedule.

A teaching schedule helps keep all staff aware of when lessons are taught. The schedule needs to be flexible enough to allow for lessons to be taught when problem behaviours occur.

When developing a teaching schedule, consider including school-wide and classroom expectations, rules and procedures in:

  • beginning of the year focused lessons
  • weekly lessons
  • new student orientation, using student ambassadors as orientation models for newly enrolled students.

Systems for teaching expectations

Systems should include:

  • The Expectations Matrix
  • lesson plans and a scope and sequence which is informed by data
  • scheduled lessons
  • skill practise, taught in natural setting, reinforced with free and frequent
  • ongoing monitoring.

Teaching process

The process for teaching expectations takes into consideration lesson purpose, content, setting, format and monitoring.

  • Identify expectation/rule
  • Identify steps to complete rule

  • Relevant to learning needs
  • Learning adjustments and supports
  • Include at least 3 different teaching strategies

  • Teach in a natural setting

  • Tell, show, practise and encourage

  • Pre-correct
  • Re-teach as needed
Lessons should be:
  • developed based on the expectations in the school’s matrix, with problem area lessons being developed first
  • reflective of the data that schools are collecting and design lessons to teach/reteach the students’ matrix expectations
  • include opportunities for students to practice the skill in the setting. For example, if you are teaching about lining up at the canteen, take the students to the canteen to practise. Reinforce skill by rewarding students a free and frequent and positive verbal feedback.

The first items of every lesson plan should include:

  • the expectation from your school’s matrix to help staff see how the lesson ties to the common language
  • a specific behaviour or behaviours and/or procedure that is a clear description of the skill to be taught
  • context to identify the location or locations where the behaviour is expected.

Lesson plans are similar to those is used for teaching academics, and the following needs to be determined:

  • When lessons will be taught during the day or week?
  • What will be taught?
  • How will lessons be embedded into the curriculum?
  • Can older students lead lesson delivery to younger students’?

Skill generation

Generalisation strategies help students maintain skills being taught and encourage use of the skills. Strategies include:

  • pre-corrections or reminders
  • active supervision
  • feedback on performance
  • practice in classroom and natural environment.

A pre-correction is a reminder that describes what is expected is before the event. It is:

  • Preventative
    • Occurs prior to the behaviour response takes place.
  • Understandable
    • The student must understand the prompt.
  • Observable
    • It must be obvious to the student that the prompt is present.
  • Specific and explicit
    • Describe the expected behaviour (ensuring it is linked to the appropriate expectation).
  • Make the problem irrelevant with anticipation and reminders.

Active supervision includes moving, scanning and interacting. Effective teachers scan continuously for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. They also continuously move about, interacting with the students.

Active supervision is an opportunity to:

  • observe student performance for both academic and social behaviours
  • provide relevant feedback (praise)
  • provide correction (proactive)
  • encourage efforts (reward)
  • build positive adult-student relationships.

While it is important to teach behavioral expectations and rules in the classroom, it is important to teach in the setting where that behaviour is expected. Giving students opportunities to learn and practice skills in the natural setting and with other adults will assist generalisation of the skill.

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