Classroom game reduces children’s off task behaviours by 58%

Study carried out in Leitrim, North Dublin, Laois and Westmeath

Classroom game reduces children’s off task behaviours by 58%

Teacher Linda Walshe from St. Pauls National School in Athlone plays the PAX Good Behaviour Game which has been found to significantly improve children’s learning in the classroom.

A classroom behaviour game – tested in Irish Primary Schools – has reported a 58% reduction in children’s off task behaviours.

The results are from a study of an internationally proven teaching approach called the PAX Good Behaviour Game (GBG), which was applied and evaluated in 11 Irish Primary School classes in the Northside of Dublin and Counties Westmeath, Laois and Leitrim, including nearly 200 children.

The PAX GBG is a simple game that helps children to engage with learning, to manage their behaviour and to regulate their emotions so that they can benefit fully from school.

The findings follow a pilot study of the programme in Ireland in 2015 – and found that the positive impacts are even greater, and more wider ranging, than found previously. Importantly, the programme received universal and particularly strong endorsement from teachers and Principals.

The 2015 study found a 43% reduction in off task behaviours in the classroom (behaviours not focused on learning). However, the new study accessed a wider range of Primary school children (junior infants – 4th class compared to 1st and 2nd classes in the pilot study) and classrooms were this time accessed twice pre and post introduction of the programme, to see how stable the changes were.

Independent observations found an average of 58% decrease in off task behaviour in the more comprehensive study.

The idea behind the PAX GBG is that by learning to regulate their emotions, to get on with others, to express their feelings, to have healthy self-esteem, to be independent and solve problems themselves; children can achieve better academic outcomes, better mental health and can succeed throughout their lives both at work and in relationships.

How it Works

To deliver the programme, teachers are trained in the approach over two days and provided with materials. They then apply it within the ongoing classroom work, with support from a mentor who briefly visits the classrooms four times to support the teacher.

It is based upon promoting desirable behaviours using proven strategies which are practised as fun activities. Children are divided into teams, which are rewarded for delivering positive behaviours that support classroom activity. The games are played doing normal class work and can last from a couple of minutes to 45 minutes. They are played at least three times a day and are increased in duration over time.

The PAX GBG has been developed internationally using 30 years of research and evidence on supporting children’s behaviour and learning. Internationally, it has been shown to gain an extra hour of quality teaching and learning classroom time each day that is otherwise lost to minor disruptions and distractions.

Impact on Pupils and Teachers

In the research, by Dr. Margaret O’Donnell of St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra and Mary Hegarty Senior Researcher Public Health HSE, reported that the impact of PAX for pupils was “extra learning in the classroom and also learning of a higher quality. Relationships improved, both between pupils and between teacher and child. In turn, pupils became more respectful to others, more skilled at resolving conflict, and were experiencing more feelings of happiness both in themselves and in the classroom environment.”

The outcome of the PAX GBG as feedback by teachers was also extremely positive helping to reduce stress levels and re-aligning relationships with all pupils. T

Overall the report concluded: “The recommendations from all parties advocate a continuation and extension of the PAX GBG in support of ensuring quality teaching, learning, engagement and empowerment for all pupils, teachers and principals.”




Kind regards

Ronan Cavanagh 

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