The study examined the behaviour of 217 pupils in 22 infant classes at 11 Limerick schools, some of whose staff had undertaken a teacher classroom management (TCM) programme. It found that conduct and behavioural problems among pupils of staff in the training group were reduced, compared to those whose teachers had not done the training.
They also showed a significant decrease in emotional symptoms.
The research team led by Dr Sinéad McGilloway of National University of Ireland Maynooth found that the programme was most beneficial for children who are most at risk, with significant improvements in overall behavioural difficulties, peer problems, general distress and social impairment.
Dr McGilloway said Irish classrooms have seen a steady increase in behavioural issues in recent years.
“Without adequate intervention at the earliest possible stage, these can lead to academic failure, early school leaving and a cycle of antisocial behaviour that can continue through to adolescence and adulthood,” she said.
Dr McGilloway said the average training cost of around €100 per child was exceptional monetary value to the education system.
It has supported hundreds of teachers to deal with social, emotional and behavioural problems in the classroom.
The programme is part of the Incredible Years Parent, Teacher and Child training series used in a number of countries for over 30 years and managed in Ireland by Archways.
Archways commissioned the study with financial support from Atlantic Philanthropies and the Government’s Dormant Accounts Fund.
It found that teachers who took part in the training used significantly fewer negative class management strategies, such as warnings, threats or shouting, and were more inclined to use positive classroom management techniques such as praise and incentives. “The teachers in this study reported that TCM training had led to an improvement in classroom atmosphere, a reduction in disruptive behaviour in the classroom and they felt empowered to better manage their classes at a critical point in the education system,” Dr McGilloway said.
NUI Maynooth president Dr Tom Collins said the earliest years of a child’s education are critical in shaping their future academic and life achievements, and problems identified at an early stage were resolved much easier.
“Primary school is where many children get to first have their academic abilities identified and nurtured.
“For other children, school may be the only structure in their lives, and if they appear to be disruptive and unruly, the correct interventions can make a huge difference to their lives,” he said.