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Ministry of Education.

Promoting positive behaviour and learning: Classroom, whole school, and centre

Common practice – ways of thinking

Great teachers, great teaching, a multifaceted approach, and a well-coordinated whole-school approach make a vital difference.

Children and young people will positively thrive when they know someone cares and believes in their success. They will respond positively when they know what is expected of them, when there are consistent responses to behaviours, when they feel safe and cared for, and when their parents, family, and whānau are involved in their school.

The school, classroom, and community must set strong foundations for positive behaviour and learning to thrive. The foundations have a powerful influence on school life and the well-being of students.

For example, involve the whole school community (students, teachers, parents, and whānau and health professionals) in designing and delivering change. Doing so is more effective than establishing one programmes based in and delivered through the school curriculum.

Plenty of positive contact with individuals or groups of children and young people has a ripple effect.

It can significantly reduce challenging behaviour for up to 90% of children and young people.

Common practice – ways of working

Having a plan is essential for ways of working. Include a continuum of support.

Establish whole-school systems and initiatives so that expectations, responsibilities, and responses are consistently reinforced with children and young people.

Be certain your systems provide support for all children and young people in:

  • all settings across the whole school
  • targeted groups who need more intensive behavioural supports
  • the small high-needs cohort who require intensive and individualised interventions.

Enquire, observe, and co-create

Talk to staff, children, or young people. How do they feel? What are they noticing?

Observe the behaviours and note:

  • where and when they occur
  • how long they go on
  • the intensity and frequency
  • the contributing events (most likely, something outside the immediate environment).

Based on the discussions and conversations, Co-create plans and initiatives with your staff, students, and local school community.

Focus on team based problem-solving and data-based decision-making.

Use data to inform decisions

Be data-driven and study evidence. You might be surprised by what you find.

Gather behavioural data to inform your decisions, your priorities, and your solutions.

Measure the effectiveness of your interventions. Track data for trends and patterns over time. Make adjustments based on the data.

Share the data with students and the school community.

How things are done

Practice for how staff interact with children

Choose the smallest changes that will have the biggest impact.

Identify replacement behaviours, and frame these in positive, observable terms.

Create an approach for teaching replacement behaviours.

Identify reinforcers for positive behaviour and responses if the unwanted behaviour continues.

Systems for how things are done

Create systems – not just implement programmes – that support staff, family, whānau, children, and young people.

If you are a school leader, show effective leadership, develop caring and positive relationships, and put in place effective change management.

Provide staff with adequate training and professional development.

Determine how you will ensure long-term sustainability and consistency across the school.

Establish a review system. Identify ways to measure classroom, whole-school, or centre changes. Monitor these changes over time.

Acknowledge the adaptability of children and young people and the innovations and commitments of the staff. Together, celebrate successes.

Make a big deal of it. Regularly tell parents, families, whānau, and communities of the achievements of children and young people.

Tips & tools

Information sheets
 A page on this site that has downloadable PDFs of the content covered sections:

  • individual child
  • classroom, whole-school, and centre.

You can download information about a range of topics, such as injecting student voice, preventing challenging behaviours, classroom management strategies, and more.

Resources for teaching

Support material
A page on this site has links to support material such as readings, programmes, and resources. 

Stories and examples

Early childhood

Early childhood teachers talk about their experiences using rewards, encouragement and praise.

Swings and Roundabouts article (PDF, 520 KB)

Early childhood teachers talk about their experiences of the Incredible Years – Teacher programme.

Watch video clip 1 or video clip 2 (external website)


Primary school teachers talk about their experiences of the Incredible Years – Teacher programme.

Watch video clip 3 (external website)


Papatoetoe Intermediate talks about how their behaviour data challenged their assumptions. Download the PDF below.

Papatoetoe Intermediate article (PDF, 192 KB)

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