Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Responsibility, Motivation and Engagement: How To Develop Learners Using Behavior Manager
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
Student behavior priorities
The purpose of this document is to discuss ways in which issues of student behavior are changing. We will discuss specific ways in which Edclick’s Behavior Manager embodies the most effective techniques.
Shared goal: student achievement
The ultimate goal of all of the activity in school is student achievement. Student achievement is primarily measured by the mastery of knowledge and skills of the various courses they take. But underlying student achievement are the enablers of knowledge and skill building, collectively known as student behavior.
Student achievement is the result of responsibility, motivation and engagement
Do students take responsibility for their learning?
Are they motivated to learn?
Are they engaged with the learning process?
Issues of student behavior have been going through a transformation over the past decade or so. Research has been accumulating that indicates that there are more effective means of influencing student behavior than the way it had been done. Prior to the transformation, the prevailing attitude was that it was up to the student to come to school ready and eager to learn. If the student was an uncooperative or disinterested partner in the learning process, then a mild punishment would get his or her attention and get him or her back on track in the classroom. This was primarily a reactive model, reacting to misbehavior and assigning negative consequences.
That attitude has fundamentally shifted to a proactive model. Schools and teachers now make known ahead of time their expectations, rules and procedures. They explicitly teach expectations of proper behavior to students in an effort to avoid misbehavior. The attitude today is that if students are not taking responsibility for their learning, if they don’t seem to be motivated to learn or if they are disengaged in class, it is now the responsibility of the school and the teachers to make the necessary changes to instill in the students the enablers for learning.
Why did this shift occur? Is success even possible? And most important for our purposes, how can it be done in practice?
In response to an increase in school violence in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a trend in schools to be less tolerant of misbehavior and to impose a series of strict escalating consequences. But research results showed that stricter reactive discipline wasn’t working. Reactive consequences for misbehavior, typically punishments, were effective for stopping the misbehavior in the short term, but it often resulted in resentment. Punishment did not result in long term change to greater student responsibility, motivation or engagement. Too often, it didn’t lead to improved student achievement. Educators needed a better way.
If you’re not in class, you won’t pass
It’s essential for student achievement to spend the time in school actually in class, engaged in learning. Suspension from school is obviously a loss of instructional time for the student. But there are others, too. If a student is disruptive in class and is sent to the office, she has missed instruction time. If a tardy student is directed to go to a tardy table or the office to get a tardy pass to return to class, the student has missed more instruction time.
The most egregious example that we often see of a student missing instructional time for misbehavior is a student who is often sent to the office for being tardy. The punishments for tardiness may be increased as the tardy count increases, to a point when the student is eventually suspended for chronic tardiness. Punish a tardy student who misses instruction time with a suspension that misses a great deal more instruction time? A different consequence needs to be found that does not increase the loss of instructional time.
Ideally, we want to make maximum use of instruction time for each student. In general, that means minimizing the time spent dealing with behavior issues. Typically the most effective way to minimize time spent on behavior issues is to deal with them proactively.
Maintain an environment conducive for learning
The flip side of a student missing class for misbehavior comes when she is disruptive and becomes a distraction from learning for the rest of the class. Sometimes instruction time for one student must be sacrificed so that the rest of the class can get back to work.
We want to maintain a classroom environment conducive to learning. Rather than reacting to misbehavior, we want to avoid misbehavior and keep students engaged in their learning.
Spend as little time on behavior as necessary…and no less!
Students don’t go to school to learn how to behave in school. They go to do two other things:
1. Learn the curricular knowledge and skills and
2. Learn how to learn, which is to say, taking responsibility for their learning, developing their motivation to learn and developing the skills of focus, concentration, questioning and cooperation to keep them engaged with their learning.
Some teachers are resistant to devoting any time to teaching behavior. A math teacher prefers to teach math, not behavior. And they are right in that the curricular learning is essential to student achievement. But at the same time, the student’s success in learning her math may be impeded by undeveloped social skills or by disregard for the rules and procedures of the classroom which are designed to keep the focus where it should be: on learning. Some time spent on these “behavior” issues can pay big dividends in curricular learning.
All students will misbehave sometimes. If the teacher hasn’t prepared for this, more time is likely to be spent on reacting to misbehaviors than would typically be spent teaching and practicing desirable behaviors before problems arise.
In addition, students vary in the time and effort required to master behavior skills. While most students will pick up behavior skills with a little instruction and practice, others will need more attention and a small number will require extensive help. The school needs to anticipate these differences and provide additional support for those who need a little more help and intensive support for a few more.
The main goal is curricular learning. But enough time must be spent on behavior issues to make the curricular learning as efficient and effective as possible. In addition, keep in mind that much of a student’s most important learning, even curricular learning, will be done after your course is over. So the better a student can develop his skills for learning, the more successful his overall education will be.
Fix the student or fix the system?
The traditional view of student behavior was that misbehavior was an indication that the student needed to be “fixed.” The problem was hers. She was not properly fitting into the school.
The new view of student behavior is that students should be taught what constitutes appropriate behavior. Misbehavior, when it still occurs, is an indication that there may be a problem with the school or the teaching. It isn’t the student that needs to be fixed, but the school. Positive and proactive behavior strategies have been found to be more effective and efficient than reactive, punitive strategies. In addition, it is generally easier to prevent a problem than to deal with it after it has appeared.
It starts with making expectations clear and creating rules and procedures that make it easy for students to satisfy the expectations. If the school and its procedures are properly designed and communicated to the students, then the student behavior will be conducive to learning.
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Responsible-Motivated-Engaged, Behavior Manager