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Top of Teachers' To-Do List: Focus on the Positives

WEDNESDAY, July 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Students gain when teachers focus on positive behavior.

So say British researchers who examined the impact of a program designed to train teachers to build strong social relationships with their students. They're encouraged to ignore minor bad behavior, and acknowledge good behavior.

The program resulted in improved student behavior, concentration and mental health, according to the study.

"Our findings suggest that this training potentially improves all children's mental health, but it's particularly exciting to see the larger benefit on the children who were initially struggling," said researcher Tamsin Ford, a professor at the University of Exeter Medical School.

"Let's remember that training one teacher potentially benefits every child that they subsequently teach. Our study offers evidence that we should explore this training further as a whole school approach," Ford added in a university news release.

To gauge the project's success, Ford's team evaluated questionnaires filled in by teachers, parents and children. The researchers also reviewed academic attainment and use of social services.

Teachers found the training useful, according to the researchers.

"I've found the training has made a real difference, and it's definitely improved my teaching practice," said Sam Scudder, who took part in the training.

"Praise is an essential aspect of the training and 'proximity praise' has been a really effective tool. By finding and describing the sort of behavior you desire, you can bring a change in those who are off-task while simultaneously ignoring them," Scudder explained.

He added there are some behaviors you really can't ignore, but the focus is on celebrating the kids who exhibit the behavior you want: those who are quietly listening, yet are often overlooked in classrooms. "It has a ripple effect, as more children copy that conduct," Scudder said.

The findings were published July 17 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on children and school.

SOURCE: University of Exeter, news release, July 17, 2018

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