Step 7 Selecting consequences
Proactive behavior management, the kind advocated in PBIS, will do a great deal to reduce misbehavior in your school. However, students will continue to misbehave. Unfortunately, many books on PBIS, in their enthusiasm for the very real benefits of the approach, give the impression that PBIS will completely solve your school's behavior problems. It won't.
We have discussed expectations, rules and procedures along with positive feedback and rewards for good behavior. That is the basic level of PBIS. PBIS is implemented as a three tier system. Tier 1, the Universal tier, is what we've just described: being proactive to prevent misbehavior by teaching expected behaviors. Most students will respond and behave as expected. Some reminders and reteaching will be required but not much for most students.
A small fraction of students, typically about 10%, will require more attention. The interventions for these are called Tier 2 interventions. They may include small group activities such as remedial course work or social skills instruction. An additional few students, about another 5%, will require functional behavior assessments and individual behavior plans. Theirs are Tier 3 interventions.
When consequences are assigned for misbehavior, it is best when they teach or reteach the expectations of the school. It is also best to minimize out-of-placement consequences. When students miss classroom instruction, they fall further behind and are more likely, not less, to misbehave again.
Consider consequences that are appropriate to the function of the student's behavior and that help the student behave better in the future such as Behavior Questionnaires, Check In/Check Out, social skills instruction and restorative discipline.
Lots of things can result in student misbehavior. A few are listed below. Proactive behavior management will help reduce misbehavior even when some of these motivations apply.
- Seek attention
- Seek escape
- Desire for power
- Look for revenge
- Lack self-confidence
- Are sick, hungry or tired
- Are in a classroom that is uncomfortable
- Have problems with the school work
- Have emotional issues
- Have problems at home
Misbehavior will appear in the school and you must be prepared to deal with it.
Is the goal to punish or to improve behavior?
The most commonly used consequences for misbehavior is an escalating set of actions that that have been imposed on the student, which he dislikes. Most schools use detention, loss of privileges, in-school suspension, out of school suspension and expulsion. Since the student dislikes the action, the assumption is that she will change her behavior to avoid it in the future. A psychologist might call it a behavior reductive intervention. Others might call it a punishment. The benefit of these common punishments is that they are a way to take immediate action on a misbehavior and get an immediate result.
There a several disadvantages to managing student behavior with punishments.
- Punishments tend not to be very effective in making long term changes in student behavior. It is far more effective for far more students to take the proactive approach, teach expectations, rules and procedures. However, the proactive approach will not eliminate all misbehaviors, so they need to be dealt with somehow.
- Escalation often works against your goals. Take tardies as an example. Schools using escalating punishments for repeated offenses often find themselves giving out-of-school suspension for repeated tardies. At that point, the school is no longer conveying that "we value instruction time and we want you in class." Perhaps the first punishment was about valuing instruction time, but by the time it has escalated to suspension, the issue has become defiance in the form of not responding to previous actions.
- Punishments are designed to be disliked but they may not be. For example, if a student is being tardy to class because he wants to avoid being in class, a suspension becomes a reward, not a punishment.
- Punishments typically do not address the problem behind the behavior. Why is this student repeatedly being tardy? The root cause may have something to do with crowded hallways or a preference for chatting with friends over getting to class on time. The root cause may be wanting to avoid a class in which the student is doing poorly. The root cause may be something else. The root cause is not that she hasn't yet had enough detentions.
- Punishments, being imposed on students by staff, are often resented. Resentment decreases the student's interest in abiding by school rules. The relationship may become adversarial which gets in the way of improving behavior and student achievement.
How to get away from punishments
Significant progress is made in getting away from punishments when we adopt a proactive approach to behavior management: expectations, rules and procedures. For the misbehaviors that still occur (and some will, although not as many), we can change the student's perception of the consequence and create better consequences.
Consequences should never be assigned in anger. If there is anger, revenge or vindication or an expression of the greater power that the school has versus the student, the student is likely to see that emotion and not consider the lesson behind the consequence.
Consequences should be assigned with empathy. Even if a consequence is going to be something that the student dislikes, the responsibility for the consequence should be given to the student. "I like you, Billy, but I can't let you get away with that. Do you know the consequence for what you did?" That way, the student has caused this detention, not a vindictive teacher. Also, by getting the student to state the expected consequence, he's showing (himself) that he knew the consequence was expected.
Consequences should be seen as a mechanism for learning, not suffering. We want the student to learn to solve her own problems. If Janet has been involved in outbursts with another girl, we can approach this as a problem to be solved rather than a misbehavior to be punished. After Janet has given her side of the story of the incident, the teacher can, rather than imposing a punishment, ask something like "What are you going to do?" or "How will you make amends?" or "What do you think I should do?" Asking questions like these does two things. It shifts the teacher's task from picking a punishment to solving a problem. It also shifts the responsibility for solving the problem on the student, not on the teacher.
Give the student some degree of control. If you've asked the student for ideas for solving his problem and he doesn't offer any, you can still give him some control. Give a list of a few consequences for him to choose one. Even that much control moves him closer to perceiving the problem-solving as his responsibility.
In addition to improving the student's attitude toward consequences, we can assign different consequences that are more effective.
Check In/Check Out
Check In/Check Out is an intervention that has received a lot of research attention. It has been found to be very effective in teaching students who have had difficulty following the expectations, rules and procedures. It consists of evaluating the student's behavior in each class throughout the day, reviewing it quickly at the end of the day (that's the check out), then reviewing it with the student's parents at night and returning a card signed by a parent to the school in the morning (that's the check in). We'll describe it in more detail in the context of Check In/Check Out in Behavior Manager below.
Check In/Check Out has proved to be effective for students from elementary through high school. It's generally offered as an intervention to students who have not responded to simpler interventions for disruptions, talking out, getting out of one's seat and disrespect. It benefits the student by focusing on behavior expectations in each period of the day and getting attention and encouragement from teachers throughout the day.
Check In/Check Out is often used for repeat offenders so it can be an effective replacement for suspension. It has several significant advantages over suspensions. Most important, the student continues to stay in class so instruction time is not lost. Second, she gets direct feedback throughout the day and day after day on her problem behavior, so it helps in actually solving behavior problems. Third, it is not a punishment and should not be presented as a punishment. It is an intervention to help make behavior changes so it is less likely to be resented by the student.
How does Check In/Check Out work in Behavior Manager?
Here's how Check In/Check Out (CICO) works. First, the paper version. The student checks in in the morning and gets a card like the one above. If he has one from yesterday that has been signed by a parent, he turns it in. Note that the schoolwide expectations are at the top of each column. Class periods are listed along the left side. Through the day, the teacher in each period will rate the student's behavior for each expectation. Recall that in the rule matrix, those expectations are broken down into specific rules.
In each class period there is a chance for a brief interaction between student and teacher with a chance for praise or reminders of rules. In some cases, teachers may choose to create expectations specific to this student.
At the end of the day, the student has a brief meeting with a counselor or some other designated staff member for a quick recap of the day. Scores are entered into a database. This is Check Out. He then takes the card home, has it signed by a parent and brings it back the next morning.
The recorded data is used to track progress. Students are given a goal such as an overall score of 75% or more of the maximum total score. As the data shows progress, the goal is increased.
In time, they may switch to having the student evaluate his own behavior and just check with the teacher on whether she agrees. Eventually, the behavior improves and the CICO process is stopped.
Behavior Manager improves on this paper process by making it electronic. We can deal with the paper cards and data entry at the end of the day, but it is simpler if it's all online.
The image on the right shows the scoring page. Teachers click scores (0, 1 or 2 for middle schoolers and high schoolers, smiley faces for elementary). They can also enter comments of two kinds: comments for students and parents and comments (with the light blue background) meant for internal use.
Scores are tallied and percentages calculated. A graph shows progress and compares scores to goals. Daily score sheets can be digitally signed through the parent portal. The blue internal comments are not presented on the portal for either students or parents.
Misbehavior is often related to lack of social skills. Conflict may arise between a student and peers or between a student and a teacher simply because the student is lacking necessary social skills.
And, if we are to be honest, problems in classrooms are often due to another social skills deficit, that of teachers. When a teacher loses his temper or engages in a power struggle with a student or reacts to a student's misbehavior with ridicule, he is causing additional problems that could be avoided with appropriate social skills.
But here we'll focus on student social skills. First, consider the proactive big three: expectations, rules and procedures. What are they if not instruction in social skills that apply to schools and classrooms. In that sense, we have already discussed social skills instruction for students. However, there may be a small percentage of students who could benefit from additional social skills instruction. And, just as expectations, rules and procedures proactively prevent misbehaviors, instruction in additional social skills can be beneficial to those students who need it. Here are some example topics.
- Accepting an apology
- Accepting compliments
- Appropriate touch
- Appropriate words
- Arguing respectfully
- Asking a favor
- Being a good listener
- Being considerate
- Being polite
- Being respectful
- Changes in adolescence
- Conflict resolution
- Conversational skills
- Dealing with bullying
- Declining an invitation
- Exchanging gifts
- Expressing empathy
- Expressing grief
- Expressing success
- Getting someone's attention
- Giving compliments
- Helping others
- Knowing strengths
- Maintaining friendships
- Making new friends
- Offering assistance
- Reacting to rumors
- Refusing requests
- Responding to prejudice
- Responding to teasing
- Showing appreciation
- Table manners
- Taking turns
- Teen violence
- Trigger points & buttons
- Visiting a sick friend
There are many other social skills to discuss, so it's important that when assigning social skills to students that the range of topics be specified. Social skills instruction is typically conducted in small groups. There may, however, be students who would need individualized instruction.
Behavior Questionnaires and Character Builders in Behavior Manager
Behavior Questionnaires and Character Builders have been created in Behavior Manager in order to teach students about the natural consequences of their actions through reflection. The Behavior Questionnaires are about specific behavior issues. They can be completed online and be stored with the student's behavior history or can be printed in PDF format. A list of Behavior Questionnaire issues is shown below.
- Bus Behavior
- Cell Phones or Other Electronic Devices
- Discipline Evaluation
- Driving Violations
- Gang-Related Activity
- Homework/Project Not Completed
- Inappropriate Language
- Misbehavior at an Extracurricular Event
- Missing Mandatory Tutorials
- Off-Task Behavior
- Play Fighting
- Responding to Adults Respectfully
- Restorative Justice
- Running in the Halls
- Signed Materials Not Returned
- Skipping Class
- Skipping School
- Theft (Minor)
The Behavior Questionnaires contain 35-40 questions about the offense and its implications. Not only are the Behavior Questionnaires useful for getting a student to think about her behavior, but the answers may reveal insights about the root causes of misbehaviors.
The Character Builders are about character issues. They are not specific to particular misbehaviors. However, they can be used as consequences for misbehaviors where relevant. They can also be used in a general class on character. The Character Builder subjects are shown below.
- Dignity and self-respect
Restorative discipline in Behavior Manager
Restorative discipline is a consequence for misbehavior that emphasizes belonging in the school community instead of punishment and exclusion. The main idea is to get the offender and victims together and make things right. Ideally, after restorative discipline, the victims feel that their needs have been addressed and the offender rejoins the community. Restorative discipline is an effective substitute for suspension or expulsion, takes the victims into account and does not incur the academic damage that comes with suspensions.
There are several techniques for restorative discipline. Different situations require different approaches. Outlines of several restorative discipline techniques included in Behavior Manager are shown below.
- Conference with students and parents
Conference with students, parents, teachers and administrators regarding misbehavior such as use of banned substances.
- The Circle
The purpose of the circle is to discover what happened, the impact on victim(s) and offender and what would make it right.
- Community service
As an alternative to punishment, a student can be assigned community service with the parent's permission. Community service may include hours worked at school or with a non-profit charity approved by the administration.
Community service is most effective as a positive intervention which is viewed as making a positive contribution to the community rather than a "forced labor" or public humiliation punishment. The positive contribution can be seen as making things right following a negative behavior incident.
- Offender/Victim conference for serious harms
How did participants feel about it?
What needs to be done to make things right?
How might the situation be prevented in the future?
- One-on-one restorative process
For incidents such as bullying
Initial private meeting with the person harmed.
Private meeting with the wrongdoer
Follow-up with both parties to assure agreements have been met
Are there environmental conditions that may have contributed to the incident?
- Victim/offender mediation
The purpose of mediation is to find how to make it right for both victim and offender. The mediator's role is not to arbitrate and decide the proper action. Rather, the mediator in Restorative Discipline only facilitates the discussion leading to an agreement on how to make it right.