Responsive Behaviour Supports: Creating Explicit Behaviour Expectations

Creating explicit behaviour expectations is the fourth of the 10 Key Components to Responsive Behaviour Support.

Behaviour expectations work to ensure that all staff and students consistently understand the importance of commonly established expectations and are committed to respecting these across the entire student community. They serve as guidelines for behaviour and apply to all children and adults across all settings in the school.

Typically, behaviour expectations are created to be in alignment with the organization’s values. For example, one of the partners we work with considers the value of respect to be a significant reflection of their school community. To articulate the value of respect, we narrow the concept to how we would see it represented in the school. As a result, this partner arrived at four areas where they would see respect being demonstrated in the school “Respect for Self”, “Respect for Others”, “Respect for Learning” and “Respect for Your Environment”.

The value of respect is then taught through school expectations and essentially addresses how students and staff behave in a variety of locations throughout the school community (ie. classroom, hallways, bus, playground, etc.). In order to maximize consistent expectations for students, it is recommended that teachers ensure that they teach, rehearse and reinforce expectations, consistently, at the beginning and throughout the school year.

To be considered most effective, the most important element of creating a Behaviour Matrix is using a collaborative approach. Expectations that are a school-wide creation ensure that everyone is “on the same page” in terms of their approach and that student and staff understanding is consistent across the school. This consistency allows students safety, security and predictability.

In a previous post, I shared a process for creating a behaviour matrix that staff can use. Please see the refined and edited process below and reach out (barb.pears(at) if you have any questions or need further resources.

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”.

2. Once the values are clearly selected, the staff begins the process of completing expectations (sometimes called rules) on a blank behaviour matrix template. Behaviour expectations should be positively stated, clear, concise, and easy for students and staff to remember.

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 of the staff approve the draft, leaders consider how the Behaviour Matrix will be designed, printed, and distributed to classrooms and other areas of the school, as well as shared with parents and the community. Here is a sample matrix from Oski Pasikoniwew Kamik School in Wabasca, AB.

4. In order to help students to understand the Behaviour Matrix, the adults then need to teach, rehearse and reinforce each element within the matrix. Teachers can either create or access already created lessons to ensure they are equipped with the tools to help students understand the behaviour expectations.

5. Finally, after completing the matrix we want to ensure that it is more than just a laminated poster collecting dust on the wall. We want to be sure to review and refer to it often and reinforce student behaviour to motivate and acknowledge students for following the expectations.

The Behaviour Matrix can be a powerful tool for classroom management that, when understood clearly, used positively and practised consistently, supports a school-wide environment of safety where all learners feel valued, respected, and supported.

Author: Barb Pears