The “Theory of Bumps”

The “Theory of Bumps” (Bennett & Smilanich, 1994) is a framework which guides teachers’ responses to student misbehaviour along a continuum of severity.

The Key Principles of the “Theory of Bumps”

  • An effective teacher expects and plans for student misbehaviour as a natural part of the learning process. They aim to prevent or reduce the severity of student misbehaviour, minimising its’ impact on the learning process.
  • Student misbehaviour is purposeful, falling into one or several categories – attention seeking, power seeking, revenge, assumed failure (the “I can’t” syndrome
  • Student misbehaviour is designed to provoke particular teacher responses, which often escalate/reinforce the negative behaviours
  • Teachers have no influence over the emotional baggage their students bring to school. The only thing they CAN control is their response to students’ misbehaviour


Trust Me, This Works

I can personally attest to the practical effectiveness of the “Theory of Bumps”, as it underpins and influences my proactive classroom management approach, as articulated in previous postings.


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