Behaviour Expectations - Are You on the Same Page?

As educators, we are continuously reflecting on how to set high academic expectations for students and we spend a considerable amount of time thinking about how to support students in achieving their best. We need to consider if setting consistent behaviour expectations is part of the answer to student success.

One of the ways to maximize consistent expectations for students is through building, teaching and maintaining a School Behaviour Matrix. The creation of a matrix essentially addresses how students and teachers treat each other in the classroom, hallways, bus, playground and more.

The work that I am currently involved with our partners includes working with leaders and teaching teams to create School-Wide Behaviour Matrixes that can be implemented in their classrooms and across the school. Staff have shared that it is important that everyone is on the “same page” and that expectations should be the same from classroom to classroom thereby creating a safe place for teaching and learning.

Tips for Building a Behaviour Matrix

1. Staff choose behaviour expectations that reflect the values of the school community. They are typically 3-5 positively stated expectations that are easily remembered and that can be applied across all areas of the school setting (classrooms, hallway, bus, bathroom, gym, library, playground, etc.) For example, a K-9 school I work with chose “Respect for Self, Respect for Others, Respect for Learning and Respect for the Environment” while an elementary school chose “Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible”. Behaviour expectations should be positively stated, clear, concise, and easy for students and staff to remember.

2. Once the behaviour expectations are clearly chosen, the staff begins the process of completing a blank Behaviour Matrix that reflects their environment. This is often done in grade level teams and distributed back to the leaders to collate all responses in a draft form. The draft form is then redistributed to staff for a second look to ensure information and wording are correct. I’ve provided you with a template for this work.

3. After all staff approve the draft, leaders consider how the Behaviour Matrix will be designed, printed, and distributed to classrooms and other areas of the school, and shared with parents and the community. Here is a sample matrix from Kisipatnahk School in MESC.

4. In order to help students to understand the Behaviour Matrix, the adults then need to teach, demonstrate and practise each element within the Matrix. Teachers either create or access already created lessons to ensure the students understand the behaviour expectations, then they show them what the expectations look like in action in each of the areas, and then demonstrate what it looks like when a student is meeting the expectation.

5. Finally, it is important that we not only recognize and celebrate students with incentives, but that we also review and reinforce the expectations throughout the year. We do not want the Behaviour Matrix to become just a pretty poster all the wall. We want it to be utilized consistently so as to create a positive culture throughout the entire school.

The Behaviour Matrix can be a powerful tool that, when understood clearly, used positively and practised consistently, supports an environment of safety where students feel valued, respected, and supported. Ultimately, your staff team will all be on the same page when it comes to providing a consistent response which benefits the whole school community.


Author: Barb Pears