Best Practice

Behaviour conversations: Your unconscious bias...

When holding crucial behaviour conversations with pupils, we need to be aware of our unconscious bias and the negative impact it may have on our responses – and the young people we teach. Fiona Aubrey-Smith and Marva Rollins explain how, why, and what you can do about it...


Think of a student in your class or school who has recently displayed challenging behaviour and imagine a conversation with that student asking them why that specific behaviour happened.

Perhaps they re-tell a sequence of events that built up into a frustrating climax. Perhaps they shrug and say they don’t know why they did what they did. Perhaps they feel threatened by your enquiry and become more aggressive. Perhaps they are inconsolable and unable to talk at all.

Yet this conversation is usually central to what happens next. Furthermore, what happens next is likely to be an escalation of either the behaviour itself, or (hopefully) some kind of restorative justice, or (sadly) consequences of the behaviour (sanctions, parental contact, withdrawal, even exclusion). Perhaps a mix of all three. So this conversation is pivotal for that child, and pivotal for you.

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