Focus on the positive to improve classroom behavior

MU research study finds setting clear expectations can reduce disruptive classroom behavior and boost student academic, social outcomes for middle schoolers.

Feb. 26, 2021


Brian Consiglio: When teachers encounter disruptive or noncompliant students in class, they typically respond by reminding the students of the types of behaviors they do not want to be seeing in the classroom. However, a new research study at the University of Missouri has found that offering students more positive encouragement not only reduces disruptive classroom behavior but can improve students’ academic and social outcomes as well.

MU professor Keith Herman implemented a classroom behavior management training into middle school classrooms in St. Louis county over the course of five years. He found the intervention, which included helping teachers to set clear expectations and give more positive encouragement to their students compared to negative reprimands, resulted in decreased disruptive classroom behavior and improved standardized test scores.

Herman: “By providing these more structured environments where students know what the expectations are, we see a reduction in problem behaviors by students, which allows more time for instruction because students are more likely to be on task, the teacher is able to spend more time teaching, and in turn that increase in time on task and learning results in improved academic performance.”

Consiglio: Herman added that encouraging students in the classroom can benefit them in other aspects of their life, as students who feel supported at school are more likely to develop a positive view of themselves.

Herman: “We are focused on providing nurturing environments for youth in all settings because we know that these types of environments lead to better life outcomes for kids as they become adults and the more kids encounter success and positive interactions in their daily lives, the more likely they are to be happy, healthy and contributing members of society.”

Consiglio: I’m Brian Consiglio, with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

Subscribe to

Show Me Mizzou

Stay up-to-date with the latest news by subscribing to the Show Me Mizzou newsletter.