Support Planner:  Broken Windows


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Behaviour Management
Support Cycle
Broken Windows
Summary T1 2006
Emerging themes
Problems or solutions?

See also...




A better future means  fewer 'broken windows'

'BROKEN WINDOWS' represents a strategy that can be used to stabilise the social dimensions of the school's systems. It is not a matter of 'zero-tolerance' in the school context, except in extreme cases. 


Rather Broken Windows reduces disruptive factors and achieves greater overall consistency (less variation) in everyone's expectations and responses.


The version of 'Broken Windows' outlined below involves all members of the School community in substantial improvement for all. The approach is educational rather than coercive (cf 'zero-tolerance') and works well.

Broken windows - underlying principles...

  • The care and attention* we give demonstrates the value we place on matters and things
  • Most of us (attempt to) respond to the value we perceive that others place on matters and things

[*Note: with young children we may need to point out 'the obvious' so that they notice our care & attention]

Key concepts

  • Prevention - better than cure
    • design and manage your systems well
    • make it easier for people to do well and to manage themselves well
  • Maintenance - make prompt responses
  • Values Education  
    • demonstrate (modelling) that we care
    • explaining why we care
  • Explicit Expectations  - provide language, structure & predictability
  • Expectations & Respect - have high expectations,
    • most can do it
    • we cannot know what a person can't do
    • having high expectations is a sign of respect
  • Consistency - involve all in similar and consistent ways
  • Not a simple remedy for all ills - remember the Law of TANOBWAY: 'There ain't no one best way'


As developed by Riverside Primary School from an AEU article by Viktor Zappner based on the original 'Broken Windows' paper.

  1. Make expectations explicit (involve others in deriving & clarifying the expectations if necessary)
  2. Make expectations achievable
  3. Show that we care - 'walk the talk'
  4. Explain why we care - leadership, values education, develop emotional intelligence
  5. Achieve agreement across and throughout the School and its community
  6. Arrange prevention: identify frequently broken 'windows' & develop preventative strategies
  7. Fix the 'window' promptly when it gets broken and involve 'the perpetrator' if possible
  8. Monitor and celebrate improvements
  9. Use alternate responses if the 'window' gets broken repeatedly by the same people

Students contributions to Broken Windows

  1. Making the expectations explicit & achievable helps to ensure that students & their families & friends
    •  understand (and accept) the expectations
    •  have the necessary capabilities to make the appropriate responses
  2. Showing why we care helps ensure that students
    •  consider the benefits of the expectations
    •  appreciate and respect the rights of others
  3. Prevention helps ensure that students
    •  monitor their own behaviour intelligently
    •  benefit from the helpful actions of others
    •  are encouraged to manage themselves well
    •  achieve personal change that might be necessary
  4. Involving students in fixing 'windows they have broken' helps to ensure that students
    •  share responsibility with those around them
    •  accept the consequences of their actions
    •  exercise initiative to rectify and improve situations
    •  learn from their mistakes
    •  have an opportunity to make restitution & achieve 'redemption'
  5. Celebrating improvement helps ensure that students
    •  know their efforts are known and appreciated
    •  achieve a greater sense of belonging
    •  have a firm basis for pride in their achievements
  6. Students who repeatedly create 'broken windows' have the chance to learn that are part of a larger world which has a considerable capacity to respond to their actions.

Management using  'Broken Windows'

1. Select windows: What 'windows get broken' around here?
            eg,    late arrival at school,
                    not wearing uniform,
                    lack of care for property,
                    lack of care with work done, ...                    
2. Check for available data - does reality match perceptions?

3. Establish school priorities for attention: prevention & response?
4. Teams or working groups: 
            · Choose a 'window' or two

            · Work through the strategies in order for each 'window' (see above strategy)
            · Present to whole group
5. Whole group consider and decide: 
             · Implications?
             · Implementation?

Nb.  Each draft 'Broken Window' can give rise to an action plan to ensure its implementation. In a school context, something can be deemed to be implemented when it becomes part of the school culture, that is, when it is generally expected and happens as a matter of course without intervention.

Is it really new?

Chances are the above represents the best of what you already do. Perhaps this framework will enable everyone to be a little more consistent and collaborate a little more easily.


An experiment by Philip Zimbardo, the results of which were further developed by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling

Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford psychologist, reported in 1969 on some experiments testing the broken-window theory. He arranged to have an automobile without license plates parked with its hood up on a street in the Bronx and a comparable automobile on a street in Palo Alto, California. The car in the Bronx was attacked by “vandals” within ten minutes of its “abandonment.” The first to arrive were a family -- father, mother, and young son -- who removed the radiator and battery. Within twenty-four hours, virtually everything of value had been removed. Then random destruction began -- windows were smashed, parts torn off, the upholstery ripped. Children began to use the car as a playground. Most of the adult “vandals” were well-dressed, apparently clean-cut whites. The car in Palo Alto sat untouched for more than a week. Then Zimbardo smashed part of it with a sledgehammer. Soon, passersby were joining in. Within a few hours, the car had been turned upside down and utterly destroyed. Again, the “vandals” appeared to be primarily respectable whites.




© Ivan Webb Pty Ltd 2001 onwards