Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Being proactive to prevent problem behavior - Rules
This series of posts comes from a paper, Responsibility, Motivation and Engagement: How To Develop Learners Using Behavior Manager. It describes how Edclick’s Behavior Manager combines three essential capabilities.
- Proactive PBIS tools to prevent student misbehavior
- Reactive interventions and processes for misbehaviors to minimize loss of instruction time and keep students in school
- Data and tools for continuous improvement
We can prevent problem behavior by teaching appropriate behavior. We organize and structure the classroom and the school so that students know how to succeed. Appropriate behavior is typically broken down into expectations, rules and procedures. This approach is foundational to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which is widely advocated as the new direction in student behavior (see pbis.org).
Start by organizing and structuring the classroom so students know how to succeed.
While expectations are broad and general, rules are specific, observable behaviors that apply in specific places and activities. Expectations and rules tie together in a rule matrix.
The rule matrix ties together the expectations, shown as column headings, to rules that apply to specific places and activities, shown as row headings.
Keep hands and to yourself
Walk at all times
Be on time
Sit in your assigned seat with feet and chair on the floor
Have all materials ready
Put belongings away when you enter the room
Keep your workspace clean and organized
Use materials for their intended use
Keep hands and feet to yourself
Go directly to your destination
Clean up minor spills
Report major spills and slippery floors
Pick up items from table and floor
Place tray on kitchen window shelf
Use polite table manners
Use a talking voice
As with expectations, keep the number of rules that apply to a place or activity to a manageable 3 to 5. Teach them to the students and post them where appropriate. Review them prior to an activity until they become habitual. For example, if your class is about to walk through the hallway to another room, review the hallway rules. Your goal is to have the students succeed at obeying the rules, so a quick review can be helpful.
Your classroom will operate on many more than 5 rules, but for the sake of teaching, emphasize only a manageable number at any one time. After students have mastered a rule, remove it from the rule poster and replace it with another.
Positive consequences for adherence to rules
Probably the teacher’s most effective tool for teaching appropriate behavior is praise for students for following expectations. It might be specific praise, such as saying, “Thank you for raising your hand to speak, Judy.” Or it might be less specific like, “You have all done an excellent job of raising your hands during today’s discussion.” Praise can also be less explicit such as a wink, nod or thumbs up.
Recognition of desired behavior is especially important while students are learning the rules. It is far better to teach students to abide by the rules by first teaching the rules, then rewarding them for abiding by the rules than to teach rules only by catching infractions and applying penalties.
Consequences for infractions
Consequences for rule infractions are important but they need not be negative. For example, if Judy is calling out answers rather than raising her hand to be called on, the teacher may say, “Judy, in this class students raise their hand and wait to be recognized before speaking.” When Judy then stops calling out and raises her hand, the teacher calls on her. Judy has been reminded of the rule, has been reinforced by being called on after raising her hand, and has not received any sort of punishment. But if she persists in calling out, a different consequence is needed.
Most activities in life have rules and the rules have consequences. In sports, the game must be played within a set of clearly defined rules. Violating a rule results in a penalty. Playing without violating the rules gives you the chance to win without the setbacks of penalties. In most cases, the penalties in sports relate to the violation. For example, in football, pass interference imposes the penalty of treating the play as if the pass was caught. The penalty relates to the offense. In basketball, fouling another player gives her a free throw. The penalty relates to the offense.
At their best, school rules work the same way. If a rule is violated, the student must be held accountable. A penalty may be imposed. It is best if the penalty relates to the infraction. For example, if homework isn’t handed in as required, the penalty may be detention where the homework is expected to be completed.
In class as in sports, it’s best to proceed without infractions and avoid the penalties that come as a result. Also, in class as in sports, the rules must be consistently enforced. If they aren’t, it sends the message that the rules aren’t important. Note that “consistently enforced” does not necessarily mean that every infraction by every student gets assigned the same penalty. Rather, it means that the teacher takes note of infractions. He doesn’t let them slide. He may choose to give a reminder in one instance and a detention in another when different circumstances require different responses. He shouldn’t act as though his rules are not important. If they aren’t seen as important to the teacher, they won’t be seen as important to the students.
Finally, in class as in sports, infractions should not be seen by the teacher or the student as retribution or punishment for an infraction. There should be no anger involved. It isn’t personal. Penalties are simply consequences of the infractions. By keeping students accountable without anger, the teacher avoids engendering resentment in the student.
The 5 to 1 ratio
In order to create a supportive climate, students should experience at least 5 positive interactions to each negative interaction. Some say 5:1, some say 4:1; the point is, significantly more positive interactions than negative interactions. The 5:1 ratio applies to individual students as well as to the class as a whole. In other words, some students should not get all the praise while other students get all the criticism.
Positive interactions include
- Positive feedback that the student did something right (e.g., “Thanks for raising your hand…”) or
- Positive interactions that do not depend on behavior such as greeting, hand shake, high five, smile or wink.
Negative interactions include
- Behavior corrections or
- Intentionally ignoring the student.
PBIS emphasizes that decisions be based on data. The 5:1 ratio should be measured. But you’ve got a class to teach. How will you keep track of the positive and negative interactions with students throughout the day?
How to track one-click merits with Behavior Manager
Behavior Manager includes the ability to track positive feedback for individual students. Merits can be defined and awarded for a variety of purposes. If your school uses a different name for positive feedback points, Behavior Manager can use your name instead.
Key: Minimize any distraction from instruction.
The key to a tool like this is making it useful with the absolute minimum amount of effort or distraction. Every minute that you’re using a tool like this is a minute of attention that is taken from instruction time. So it should be as effortless as possible. We figured that the theoretical minimum effort would be one tap, so that’s how it’s designed to work.
You can set up a page for your class with a set of color-coded behaviors that you want to recognize. Each student is listed with a set of color-coded checkboxes corresponding to the behaviors. If you wish to recognize student Christopher Allred for Teamwork, tap his yellow checkbox. The Merit will be automatically entered into the database. As you do, give Christopher a nod, wink, pat on the shoulder or verbal feedback to let him know you’ve recognized his good work. That’s it. One tap and you’re done.
The small horizontal bar below each name represents the number of merits that the student has been awarded. Be aware of students who are receiving merits. Make sure you spread recognition around the class fairly. Keep in mind that students with the most challenging behavior may be the ones that need positive feedback the most.
While you’re not likely to record every smile, wink or positive remark, you can collect data on positive and negative interactions.
Merits appear in each student’s behavior history along with misbehaviors. You can compare the merits to misbehaviors to judge your ratio.
Students can also get visual feedback from the merit Star Board. The Star Board is a page that can be projected showing the list of students with color-coded stars by their names, each indicating the category of merit that has been awarded. If you choose, the students’ names can be replaced by “secret identities” pseudonyms. Behavior Manager can randomly assign secret identities to students in a class based on plants, animals, birds, cities or vocabulary words.
Converting merits to rewards
Awarding merits to students for meeting expectations or obeying the rules is a form of recognition. Recognition for doing the right thing increases the likelihood that the student will continue to do the right thing.
Some schools prefer to make the reinforcement stronger by enabling students to earn rewards from accumulated merit points. Elementary students may earn a small toy. Teachers often hand out candy or other treats. Students may be allowed special privileges such as being able to sit in the teacher’s chair or be first in line for lunch. In higher grades, merits may be traded for access to activities or access to a special area in the cafeteria.
Earning rewards and privileges in exchange for desired behavior is fundamental in society. It is the basis for getting paid for doing a job. It is significant that a reward of this kind is something that is earned, not simply a gift from the teacher.
There is some controversy in schools over whether desired behavior should be traded for items or privileges. Just as adults usually stop working when they stop being paid, the concern is that students may stop behaving properly if the rewards stop. Ideally, reinforcement for desired behavior in schools should be teaching student to prefer proper behavior for its own benefits, not simply as a transaction.
Wherever you come down on the controversy about trading merits for rewards, if it is going to be done, there needs to be some accounting. A benefit of using online merits is that the accounting is easy.
How to exchange merits for rewards in Behavior Manager
Behavior Manager includes the merit reward ledger for teachers and schools who choose to offer rewards. Staff can define rewards and the number of merits required to earn each one.
Key: Avoid any additional burden on teachers to manually keep accounts for rewards.
Select a student and a dropdown menu is shown with all possible rewards. The ones for which the student has enough merits in her account are enabled for selection. Click one. The corresponding merits are “spent” and recorded. The student is given the reward. Any remaining merits are maintained in the merit balance, available for future use.
How students use smartphones in Behavior Manager
Most students in middle school and high school, and many in elementary school, have smartphones. The Behavior Manager app delivers information to students immediately on their phones, eliminating the need for paper in many cases. For example, some rewards can be specified as passes for privileges. A student may choose to trade merit points for the privilege of lining up at the front of the lunch line for three days. The reward will show in the app as shown below. When the reward expires, it will no longer appear in the app. Similarly, if a student is caught being tardy in the hall, the teacher can enter a tardy on her phone and a tardy pass will appear immediately on the student’s phone, allowing him to go directly to class, missing no more instruction time.
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Responsible-Motivated-Engaged, Behavior Manager