The Three Rs of Behaviour


If teachers are to free themselves from the distractions of unwanted and disruptive behaviour then they need first to establish the conditions for learning.

We summarise the fundamental psychological and social conditions for learning in the classroom with the Three Rs of Behaviour –


Roles between teacher and learner need to be clearly understood, appreciated and respected.Students respect the role of the teacher in the classroom as someone who is here to teach and manage the learning process. The teacher respects the role of the learner, and does not assume that the task of learning is always easy or motivating.

Routines must be established that clearly identify the commonly occurring procedures within the learning environment. There are well understood ways of doing things in the lesson – routines for entrances, giving attention, working individually or in groups, accessing resources, and so on. These are known and readily followed by students.

Relationships between learner and teacher are positive in nature, promoting trust and confidence in each other. The teacher feels comfortable with this class and the students trust that their teacher has their best interests at heart.

The Three Rs of Behaviour CHECKLIST

The statements below describe some of those interpersonal behaviours necessary to create the conditions for learning.  They describe the “3 Rs of Behaviour”. To get an idea of how well these are established with your classes, use this checklist for each of them.  Rate each statement then add up your total and read the notes that follow.

  • score 5 : this is true always, all of the time, with all students
  • score 4 : this is nearly always the case, for almost all students with only 1 or 2 exceptions
  • score 3 : this is true most of the time, with most students
  • score 2 : this applies about half the time in a lesson, or with about half the students
  • score 1 : this is mostly not the case, most students don’t do this
Teacher maintains an adult relationship during interactions with students
1)     maintains calm and composure 1 2 3 4 5
2)     communicates respectfully with students 1 2 3 4 5
3)     does not slip into ‘nagging parent’ mode 1 2 3 4 5
4)     does not regress to ‘angry child’ mode 1 2 3 4 5
Teacher acts in an appropriately assertive manner
5)     is the strong leader in the classroom 1 2 3 4 5
6)     communicates positively with students 1 2 3 4 5
7)     does not act in a hostile manner (threatening, punitive) 1 2 3 4 5
8)     does not act passively (ignoring or tolerating misbehaviour) 1 2 3 4 5
Students acknowledge the professional authority of teacher
9)     students respect the role of adult as the teacher 1 2 3 4 5
10)   students observe teacher’s behavioural expectations 1 2 3 4 5
Teacher has established the routine activity changes needed for different lessons
11)   identified frequently occurring activity changes in lessons 1 2 3 4 5
12)   composed a clear activity direction for the behaviour required with each activity change 1 2 3 4 5
13)   taught these to the class in the form of ‘learning behaviours’ or ‘skills’ 1 2 3 4 5
14)   coaches these skills through the use of feedback during lessons 1 2 3 4 5
15)   students know the routines for within-lesson transitions 1 2 3 4 5
16)   students readily follow teacher’s directions about activity changes 1 2 3 4 5
Positive relationships exist between teacher and students
17)   teacher feels comfortable, relaxed when working with these students 1 2 3 4 5
18)   teacher displays high levels of positive affect in this class (more smiles, praise, encouraging words) 1 2 3 4 5
19)   students display trust in teacher’s judgement (e.g. prepared to tackle tasks set by teacher perceived to be difficult or tedious) 1 2 3 4 5
20)   students will discuss appropriate problems or worries with teacher (academic or social) 1 2 3 4 5


Using the Three Rs of Behaviour Checklist

Secondary teachers: Consider the classes you teach.  Check your responses to the checklist for each of your classes. With how many have you established clear roles, ready routines and positive relationships?  How many are still in need of this?


Primary teachers: Establishing the 3 Rs is a more developmental process with younger children. With how  many of the in your class have you established clear roles, ready routines and positive relationships?  With how many are you yet to achieve this?


 How did you score?
 above 85  The 3 Rs appear to be well established. With this class or with these students you are often now able to employ ‘relationship-listening’ strategies to help resolve issues or otherwise empower your well-motivated students.
 70 – 85  The 3 Rs will probably be established with a majority of students.  Some will respond to less direct, ‘confront-contract’ techniques.  Others will still need a clearer more direct ‘rules-consequences’ approach.
 55 – 70  The 3 Rs are not sufficiently secure yet with all your students.  Avoid getting into nagging or shouting mode with these students and work on establishing your rules and routines by assertively giving directions, providing supportive feedback and taking consistent corrective actions.  Remember to keep using the three teaching steps in all your lessons until you have routines well in place.
 Below 55  Make sure that you are taking a sufficiently assertive attitude about your role, that you have an effective behaviour plan in place, and that you are using the three teaching steps method in all your lessons.  If you have been trying all of this for most of the year then you will probably need additional ‘collegiate’ support with these classes or students in order to establish your role with them.

Establishing the 3 Rs of Behaviour – the psychological and social  conditions for learning – is the goal of our Assertive Discipline approach.