2.2 Creating a framework for positive behaviour

On this page

  1. Importance of a creating a framework
    1.1 Creating a framework for positive behaviour
    1.2 No framework
    1.3 Starting with a framework for positive behaviour
  2. Aspects of a framework
    2.1 The effect of a framework
    2.2 A framework asks students to refrain from disruptive behaviour
    2.3 Students stick to the framework
    2.4 Pitfalls of a framework
    2.5 framework and authority
  3. Framework lays foundation
    3.1 Teacher takes initiative for framework
    3.2 School takes initiative for framework
  4. Scope of a framework
    4.1 School-wide
    4.2 In class, but also outside the classroom
    4.3 School trip
  5. Setting up a framework
    5.1 Framework for students and teacher
    5.2 Framework for pupils only
    5.3 Framework in primary and secondary education
  6. Framework and school rules
  7. Framework in historical perspective
    7.1 Maxime and hypothetical imperative
  8. Acting ethically
  9. Summary framework

A framework gives teachers and students a guideline for behaviour. It describes an ideal to be pursued. There is always some tension between ideal and practice. If the framework is a shared ideal set out clearly and concisely, everyone is more likely to adhere to it and mutual trust is established.

I hang the framework (Friendly + Fair) visible to everyone on the wall and discuss it with my students. I hold myself to the framework and ask my students to hold themselves to the framework. By combining friendliness with fairness I avoid teaching too friendly or too non-committal (Laissez faire) as well as teaching too strict (Authoritarian/not friendly).

He [Hume] also saw a diversity of virtues, and he rejected attempts by some of his contemporaries to reduce all of morality to a single virtue such as kindness, or to do away with virtues and replace them with a few moral laws.” Haidt (2012), Jonathan

Children recognize that rules that prevent hurting others are moral rules. Turiel defines those rules as related to “justice, rights, and welfare that prescribe how people are supposed to treat each other.” Haidt (2012)

Current approach:

This is the framework I use:

Future approach:

This is how my future framework looks like:

Introduction video


  • Bonhoeffercollege – Netherlands:
    Trust, Freedom and Responsibility
  • Pieter Nieuwland College – Netherlands:
    Nice, Dignified and Qualified
  • Friendly and Fair Teaching:
    Friendly and Fair


‘Creating a framework for positive behaviour’ is one of the three modules of the perspective ‘Establishing fairness’ of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT).

Figure 27: Establishing fairness (overview)

With this module, you give yourself and your students a guideline for behaviour and with that you create a positive learning environment. You can come up with a framework yourself or you can use a school-wide framework. A framework is the guideline for you and for your students. A well-chosen framework contributes to an undisturbed lesson, establishes mutual trust and makes collaboration possible. A school-wide framework has the advantage that everyone (within your classes and within the school) is accountable for this framework.
You hang an image with the framework on the wall and discuss it with your students. The framework then gives an indication to both yourself and your students which behaviour does and does not comply with the framework. If your own behaviour does not meet the framework, you adjust it. If the behaviour of your students does not comply with the framework, you reinforce positive behaviour.

1. Importance

1.1 Creating a framework for positive behaviour

A clear framework contributes to a positive way of unfolding and limits a negative way of unfolding. The framework indicates to everyone what behaviour is and is not desired. A framework is fair if it applies to everyone, including you. By adhering to the framework, you set a good example for your students.

1.2 No Framework

If no framework is agreed upon, it is possible for students to approach each other in an unfriendly and unfair manner. If this happens and you do not intervene, students will exclude each other. When students treat each other unkindly, they break contact. Students shun a fellow student who has previously treated them unkindly.

If students approach each other in an unfriendly manner, you will have to manage the resulting unrest and estrangement to ensure that a powerful learning environment remains. You then decide on the spot with every incident how and what behaviour you correct. You then make decisions that are arbitrary in the eyes of students. Conflict then lurks.

1.3 Starting with a framework

Always welcome a group in a friendly way. If a group is onruly on arrival, you wait patiently until they have quietened down. In the meantime make a note in your Tip book of any particular behavioural issue.  You can also put general announcements on the board. E.g. Please pay attention at the beginning of class. By acting this way, you remain friendly and fair from the beginning.

If you have the attention of the group, take time to get to know your students. Discuss the FFT framework you will be working with. You explain that with a framework everybody can concentrate and collaborate. You discuss the framework for both approaches:

  1. Teacher-centred education

    Look, I put a FFT poster on the wall: Friendly and Fair. I am going to stick to but if I don’t succeed you may correct me. Conversely, if you are not friendly or fair, I will correct you. I use Tips that I write down in my Tip Book. The first two are free, the third is going to cost you time!
    With that last comment, you show the ‘Future behaviour letter’.

  2. Student-centred education

    You now have the opportunity to work independently. The framework on the wall indicates how you are supposed to work. Please use your freedom in a responsable way. While you are working independently I can give you up to four Tips – which I immediately note down on this list. At the moment the 4th Tip is given, we stop working independently. Then it is apparently too unsettled to concentrate on our work.

In both cases, you count the Tips in a way that is visible to the students using the abacus.

2. Aspects of a framework

I define morality by what it does, rather than specifying which actions count as moral.” Haidt (2012)

2.1 The effect of a framework

A good framework makes clear to everyone what is permissible and implicitly makes clear what is not. It is your responsibility to explain the framework, to demonstrate it in your behaviour (Setting the standard of behaviour) and to monitor it (Reinforcing positive behaviour). By observing students’ behaviour and seeing how their behaviour relates to the framework, you know when to give compliments or when to reinforce positive behaviour.

A good framework brings about something that everyone immediately sees the benefit of. Therefore, most students adhere to it and everyone understands why you reinforce positive behaviour of a student who disrupts the lesson.

Those who deviate from the framework are primarily responsible for this themselves. With deviant behaviour, not intervening is not an option; an unguarded framework serves no purpose. A framework goes hand in hand with monitoring it.

2.2 A framework asks students to refrain from disruptive behaviour

In our experience, most students comply with the framework. A small number of students engage in power struggles.

Figure 10: Most students adopt your behaviour

In the book “Nietsche and Kant read the newspaper” Wijnbergen discusses the ever-present power struggle named by Nietzsche. The trick is not to participate in this power struggle. Wijnbergen (2011)

In his book, Wijnbergen talks about “three rights to hurt others”. After setting the framework ‘Friendly and Fair’, the implicit message of the framework is, “Please avoid these forms of behaviour”. In this listing, three forms of behaviour are specified. You want students to refrain from:

  1. Offending others
    At school, I have the opportunity to shape my own life if I adhere to two simple directions: friendly and fair. In order to shape my own life undisturbed, I refrain from offending others.
  2. Acting without interference from others
    At school I learn to collaborate. This requires from me a willingness to adapt to the wishes of others.
    Clarification: There are students who, on often good grounds, think education is nonsense and do not accept a teacher reinforcing positive behaviour. It is important to understand that a school is intended precisely for the purpose of consider one another. By doing so a dismissive attitude of certain students is negotiable.
  3. Going against the existing framework.
    My school has established a framework that makes everyone count. It allows us to work together, develop our talents and discover our individuality. To make this possible, I abide by the framework set forth.

N.B. This enumeration is intended solely for you as a way of monitoring the framework. You do not discuss this with your students. FFT advises not to associate yourself with negative behaviour.

If you notice a student insulting others despite the framework, acting without interference from others or going against the existing framework, it is enough to give a Tip. “Please pay attention. By giving a positively worded Tip, you adhere to the framework (Friendly and fair). If the lesson is disturbed, if a student does not adhere to the framework, you reinforce positive behaviour. By doing so you guard the framework.

You reinforce this effect if you ask your students to help you guard the framework and to call each other to account for behaviour that does not fit the framework. When students allow themselves to be called to account among themselves, they act with interference from others, which is exactly what you want. This ties in with the educational goal of Socialization.

2.3 Students adhere to the framework

Students stick to the framework:

  • when they see that you efficiently reinforce positive behaviour.
  • if you remain calm while reinforcing positive behaviour and let go of anger.
  • because they don’t want to waste time writing a ‘Future behaviour letter’: They don’t feel like writing substantively about their disruptive behaviour and making suggestions for improving their behaviour and then discussing this with you as well.
  • because they know that they really have to write the letter and turn it in to you or a senior member of staff.
  • because students who get an assignment exaggerate its size to classmates, other students avoid getting an assignment by sticking to the framework.
  • because they see that predictable steps precede the ‘Future behaviour letter’ and because that there is no arbitrariness in handing out the assignment. This predictability creates calm and clarity.
  • because they see that you hand out the ‘Future behaviour letter’ without rancor, with empathy and only rarely.
  • because they notice that students who get an assignment have no chance to continue disrupting the lesson.
  • because they notice that the behaviour of of a fellow student who wrote a ‘Future behaviour letter’ improves, allowing everyone to better concentrate.

2.4 Pitfalls

  1. The first pitfall is a lot of oppressive rules. What FFT advises against is that you (or the school) install in advance exactly the opposite situation of freedom. Do not make a list of squishy, controlling, concrete rules which short-circuit behaviour. This typ of list has no pedagogical value (in this bare form). If it is necessary to adjust behaviour, you will then have to say: “this is how the rules are here”. This way you create distance.
  2. The second pitfall is to lay only one principle at the basis of a framework:
    He (David Hume) also saw a diversity of virtues, and he rejected attempts by some of his contemporaries to reduce morality to a single virtue such as ‘Kindness,’ or to do away with all virtues and replace them with a few moral laws.” Haidt (2012), Jonathan
    Exactly this one-sided choice for ‘friendly’, or the one-sided choice for ‘fair’, are the pitfalls that emerge in the cartoon of Friendly and Fair Teaching. Teacher Koen limits himself in this cartoon to only being (too) friendly. The other teacher in this cartoon, Inge, limits herself to only being (too) clear. Too clear can be fair in your eyes. For the students it feels like too strict.
  3. Taking one’s own framework as leading.
    The danger of having too personal a framework is that you quickly disapprove of others who have a different framework than you. This is evident in the following quote:
    Turiel, on the other hand, defined morality as “justice, rights and welfare.” But any attempt to define morality by identifying a few things as the truly moral things and dismissing the rest as “social convention” is doomed to be parochial. It is a moral community saying, “These are our central values, and we define morality as something about our central values; to hell with the rest of you.
    When you have one clear principle, you can begin to judge different cultures. Some cultures get a higher score than others, meaning they are morally superior.
    That binding is usually accompanied by some blindness – once a person, book or principle is canonized, its adherents cannot question it or think clearly about it.” (Haidt (2012)

2.5 Framework and authority

When students see the usefulness of a framework, they demand that you guard the framework on the condition that you abide by it. If you place yourself outside the framework, you render the framework implausible and your students will challenge your right to reinforce positive behaviour

Students who perceive the school as restricting freedom will challenge your authority despite your good intentions. FFT recommends step by step reinforcing positive behaviour. Especially in busy classes, reinforcing positive behaviour in the manner of FFT can cause protest. One explanation is that in busy classes, students are used to being able to treat teachers as marionettes. By setting a framework, by showing behaviour to match it and monitoring the behaviour of students, you no longer allow yourself to be treated as a marionette. Of course students of a busy class will look for the weaknesses of the new approach. FFT advises to be patient and persistent. In the long run, you acquire authority with FFT’s approach. With FFT you do not enforce authority.

3. Framework lays foundation

A framework provides guidelines. It describes an ideal to which everyone can always refer, and can test and adjust their own behaviour. It is appreciated showing desired behaviour and it is appreciated if you reinforce positive behaviour. It gives you the justification and foundation for reinforcing positive behaviour.

3.1 Teacher takes initiative for framework

If you find that the school does not have a clear framework (but does have a a lot of rules), draw up a framework yourself. With your framework you express the direction you want to take as a teacher. Before you use your framework in your lessons, discuss it with your students. If it works well in your practice, chances are that other teachers will adopt it.

3.2 School takes initiative for a framework

Usually a school has a framework. The school leadership formulates a framework with the team and gives directions on how to monitor it. The framework then defines for the whole school the way of dealing with each other. At the beginning of the year, all teachers present this framework to students and discuss it with them. Senior members of staff support teachers if necessary.

4. Scope of a framework

What is the scope of a framework? Does it apply in the classroom, across the school, and on school trips?

4.1 In the classroom, but also outside it

A framework applies in all situations in which you find yourself with students. If you agree on a framework with your students, it applies between you wherever you are responsible for the students. That is, of course, during your lessons and in your classroom, but also when meeting in the auditorium and hallways, during contact at projects and performances and excursions, visits to school gardens and museums or during school trips. A well-chosen school-wide framework is better for everyone. With a school-wide framework all colleagues do their part and can hold each other accountable. Together they strengthen the effect of the framework.

4.2 School-wide

A school-wide framework is the benchmark and touchstone for all teachers and their students. It also applies for the staff and the educational support staff.

4.3 School trips

Even if the framework is not established school-wide, you can uphold your own framework (your ‘moral contract’ with your students) outside your own lesson and classroom:

  1. By doing so, you prevent students to ignore the framework outside your lesson and classroom and misbehaving with justification. This can happen e.g. at school trips.
  2. You avoid creating a perception among your students that the framework has only a relative, limited value and reality, which also reduces its efficacy within your lesson and classroom.
  3. Even outside your own lesson and classroom, the framework should actually help you reinforce positive behaviour, otherwise there is something lacking in its formulation.
  4. And finally, because of its “self-evident acceptability,” the framework should also aid in regulating students who are not in your class. Even if a student hears the framework for the first time, the framework should immediately set the standard of behaviour.

In short, it is critical that you agree with your students that the framework applies wherever you are together under school responsibility.

5. Setting up a framework

The wording of the framework should be broad enough to cover all types of behaviour in all situations. At the same time, however, it should be worded so succinctly that it is always easy to remember and refer to. The language must (therefore) also fit well with the target audience. That package of requirements is not easily compatible. Therefore, it is worthwhile to think carefully about the wording of a framework.

When drawing up a framework, you look for clues that give direction for behaviour and you look for a guideline against which behaviour can be tested. You are looking for directions with a general trust. The more clearly and concisely worded, the more quickly you explain the framework. That brevity increases the likelihood that your students will adhere to the framework.

5.1 Framework for students and teacher

When creating a framework, consider its general validity. It should apply to your students as well as to you.

5.2 Framework for students only

In his book ‘Lessons in Order’, Teitler discusses the use of a framework (Teitler 2017). He writes the following about it:

In doing so, keep in mind a framework against which you can always test student behaviour: This is how I want work to be done: Optimal and Undisturbed. This is how I want us to treat each other and the material: Safe, Friendly and Responsible.”

His use of the term framework differs from FFT’s use of it in a few important ways. First, he names it as something that stays in the teacher’s mind. Second, the way he advises teachers to reinforce positive behaviour lacks the self-regulatory effect of the framework that always hangs visibly on the wall.

Moral contract

He also appoints his framework as something against which the teacher can test student behaviour. That in itself is fine.  His framework does not include the teacher’s behaviour. The strength of the framework made explicit is precisely that it works as a moral contract between all those involved: between students, between students and teacher (from the students’ point of view) and between teacher and students (from the teacher’s point of view). With that reciprocity, that “honesty,” you build relations.

5.3 Framework in primary and secondary education

Primary Education

In PE, it is valuable to translate your – or the existing school-wide framework – into concrete behaviour with the students. If the students have made these positively formulated class rules themselves, they are more likely to behave accordingly and are easier to hold accountable. Over the course of the school year, you can add elements to this list as needed in consultation with the group.

Secondary Education

In a school-wide framework, it is advisable to give your personal and subject-specific translation of this. At the beginning of the school year, discuss with your students what attitude you require of them in your subject and why it is important to them. If a new type of disruption arises during the year that you would like to see disappear, discuss that type of disruption with the group. You conclude this conversation with a positively worded Tip that will remain in place from that point on.

6. Framework and school rules

Many schools have a list of school rules hanging on the wall. A school rule can appear scholarly and therefore provoke violation of the rule. If the framework is short and concise and generally applicable, it is sufficient to just display this concise wording on posters in the school.

7. Framework in historical perspective

It is important that everyone benefits from the framework. Another name for framework is imperative or moral imperative. The philosopher Kant calls directions for behaviour of general application a categorical imperative. An imperative is categorical if it is unconditionally valid for everyone under all possible circumstances.

[Kant] notes that a good theory of parenting is a wonderful ideal, and that it is not at all bad when we are not immediately able to realize that ideal. One should not immediately regard the idea behind it as a chimera, or as a beautiful but unrealizable dream, precisely when all sorts of obstacles (within oneself or from without) arise in its implementation. And then he says: ‘An idea is nothing but an understanding of a perfection not yet found in reality, for example a republic ruled perfectly according to rules of justice! But is it therefore impossible?’ In any case, the point is to get your idea clear, and then, if possible, remove the obstacles.” Visser (2017)

Kant calls a framework of general scope that calls on everyone to behave well: A moral imperative.

7.1 Maxime and hypothetical imperative

Immanuel Kant also coined these two terms related to this topic:

  1. Personal maxim: An instruction for behaviour cannot be called a framework if it only meant for yourself.
  2. Hypothetical imperative: An instruction for behaviour that does not always apply or only applies under certain conditions cannot be called a framework.

8. Acting Ethically

When you see your students making wise choices in their lives and taking responsibility in society, it is satisfying. What role do you play in your students’ actions? How do you encourage students to act ethically?

A first step is to create a framework. In their school years, the framework determines how students behave in your classes and in school. You then hope that they will continue to behave in the manner of the framework after they leave school.
By the way you teach, you set an example for your students. Not only your example is decisive: “Only if you yourself think something is good, you will do it” Wijnbergen (2011), Rob. “You” in this statement can refer to both the student and the teacher.
With different approaches to teaching, students gain ownership over their own actions. This determines their identity: Why I act is who I am (Kant).

9. Summary

A framework gives direction to both your own and your students’ behaviour. You show behaviour that fits the framework and thus set a good example. If you behave in a way that suits the framework, you will automatically see this reflected in the behaviour of your students. Subsequently, you benefit from the fact that students adopt your behaviour. Moreover, your role as role model gives you the right to address and, if necessary, reinforce positive behaviour. Experience shows that students effortlessly conform to a common framework, as long as that framework offers advantages to everyone, as long as senior staff members show this framework in their own behaviour.