Teacher talk: The role of teacher language in increasing engagement and managing the behaviour of students with behavioural problems
Common Ground Publishing
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Education / Fogarty Learning Centre
The findings reported in this study arose from a broader study of the management and instructional strategies used by mainstream teachers of primary-aged students with behavioural problems. The ten students (in ten different classrooms) involved in the study had been diagnosed with conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder and had a range of additional difficulties such as language problems and learning difficulties. All were experiencing significant disruption in their learning, as were their peers. This paper reports specifically on the language used by those teachers who were more successful in both maximising student engagement (as measured by time on task) and reducing behaviour problems. The use of positive rather than negative “teacher talk”, the use of direct and explicit language, giving “take-up time”, using initiating rather than terminating commands, using signaling words and issuing instructions in serial order are some of the points highlighted. The study revealed that many students with a potentially damaging diagnosis respond very positively to appropriate “teacher talk”.