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Student engagement – Why your instructions should be measurable

Exercise better class control with Robin Launder’s bite-sized tips on making those everyday classroom instructions more accurate...

  • Student engagement – Why your instructions should be measurable

Consider the following three instructions:

  • Settle down!
  • Pay attention!
  • Quieter, please!

They seem reasonable enough, don’t they? Teachers use them all the time. You may have used them yourself. I know I have.

The thing is, though, they’re a bit vague. They don’t precisely state what you want your students to do – which in turn may mean that your students are unclear as to what you want them to do.

And even if they are clear, that vagueness gives them wriggle room: “But I had settled down, Sir…” “But I was paying attention, Miss. I can pay attention and doodle at the same time…” “But we were quieter. We were whispering to each other…

To remedy this, make sure your instructions are measurable behaviours. Like this:

  • ‘Pens down!’
  • ‘Eyes on me!’
  • ‘No talking!’

Now there’s no confusion. The pens are either down or they’re not. The students are looking at you or they’re not. They’re talking or they’re not.

There’s no middle ground, no wriggle room, no vagueness – but what there is, as a result, is increased compliance.


Robin Launder is a behaviour management consultant and speaker; find more tips in his weekly Better Behaviour online course – see behaviourbuddy.co.uk for more details

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