Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Effective transition programs require the childcare center, preschool, parents and school to work in partnership to create the most positive experience for the child when they are moving to a new grade or school. Here are some concept to keep in mind when creating transition programs:

1. The focus should be on creating positive relationships with all stakeholders. Encourage meetings with future teachers, parents and current teachers to develop a plan of transition.

2. Facilitate the child's development as a capable learner who is involved in the process of transition. Take the child to the new environment (not just once) so the child can become familiar with the changes that are occurring.

3. Develop long term transition plans with the intended schools in the neighborhood.

4. Involve a range of stakeholders in the process.

5. The transition should be well planned and evaluated taking into account any special circumstances or strategies the child may need in order to be successful.

6. Be flexible and responsive. Share information regarding the child's learning styles and strategies so the learning can continue not start from scratch.

7. Base your program on mutual trust and respect allowing for reciprocal communication between all parties.

8. Make sure to take into context the needs of the family, child, and the uniqueness of the community.

Supporting the relationships through the transition period is required and sometimes teachers require release time to meet with new parents and children. Develop a contact list for the parents so they can easily access the individuals or agencies that may be of help to them. Direct your meetings so they are focused and efficient. Questionnaires can be developed for parents to fill out for future teachers.

ASK the CHILDREN what they think is important in their school environment and discuss how they feel about moving to a different environment. Let them take pictures of things they enjoyed and cherished which will allow them an opportunity to create a positive feeling rather than dreading or becoming anxious about their new school or teacher.

Saturday, September 27, 2008



The label "inflexible-explosive" child is not a diagnostic term recognized in DSM-IV, the official diagnostic guide for psychiatric disorders. Instead, it is used by Dr. Greene to capture the key features of children who are extremely difficult for parents to manage. According to Dr. Greene, the key features of such children are the following:1. A very limited capacity for flexibility and adaptability and a tendency to become "incoherent" in the midst of severe frustration.These children are much less flexible and adaptable than their peers, become easily overwhelmed by frustration, and are often unable to behave in a logical and rational manner when frustrated. During periods of incoherence, they are not responsive to efforts to reason with them, which may actually make things worse. Dr. Greene refers to these episodes as "meltdowns" and argues that the child has little or no control over his/her behavior during these episodes.2. An extremely low frustration tolerance threshold.These children often become overwhelmingly frustrated by what seem like relatively trivial events. Because their capacity to tolerate frustration develop more slowly than their peers, they often experiences the world as a frustrating place filled with people who do not understand what they are experiencing.3. The tendency to think in a concrete, rigid, black- and-white manner. These children fail to develop the flexibility in their thinking at the same rate as peers, and tend to regard many situations in an either-or, all-or-none, manner. This greatly impairs their ability to negotiate and compromise. 4. The persistence of inflexibility and poor response to frustration despite a high level of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Even very salient and important consequences do not necessarily diminish the child's frequent, intense, and lengthy "meltdowns". As a result, typical approaches of rewarding a child for desired behavior and punishing negative behavior do not diminish the child's tendency to "fall apart". According to Dr. Greene, traditional behavioral therapy approaches for such children often don't work at all and can make things worse.In addition to these key features, Dr. Greene notes that a child's meltdowns often have an "out-of-the-blue" quality, occurring in response to an apparently trivial frustration even when the child has been in a good mood. As a result, parents never know what to expect and things can seem to fall apart at any moment.

** WHAT CAUSES A CHILD TO BE THIS WAY? **According to Dr. Greene, most children who become extremely inflexible and explosive do so because of biologically-based vulnerabilities and not because of "poor parenting". The list of biological vulnerabilities that may predispose children to develop these characteristics include the following:- Difficult Temperament - By nature, some infants come in to the world being more finicky, emotionally reactive, and more difficult to soothe than others. These "innate" aspects of personality are what psychologists refer to as temperament. (Note: It is important to recognize that even very difficult temperaments can be modified over time and this in no way "dooms" a child to a life of ongoing difficulty and struggle.)- ADHD and Executive Function Deficits -Many children with difficult temperaments are eventually diagnosed with ADHD. As discussed in prior issues of Attention Research Update, current theorizing about the core deficits associated with ADHD focus on problems in a crucial set of thinking skills referred to as "executive functions".Although there is not universal agreement on the specific skills that constitute executive functions, most lists would include such things as: organization and planning skills, establishing goals and being able to use these goals to guide one's behavior, working memory, being able to keep emotions from overpowering one's ability to think rationally, and being able to shift efficiently from one cognitive activity to the next.Deficiencies in these skills are believed to help explain not only the core symptoms of ADHD (i.e. inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity), but also the poor frustration tolerance, inflexibility, and explosive outbursts that are seen in the "inflexible-explosive" children described by Dr. Greene.For example, if a child has difficulty shifting readily from one activity to the next because of an inherent cognitive inflexibility, this child may feel overwhelmingly frustrated when parents say it is time to stop playing and come in for dinner. The child may not intend to be disobedient, but may have trouble complying with parents' demands because of trouble shifting flexibly and efficiently from one mind-set to another. In fact, Dr. Greene argues that most "explosive children" want to behave better and feel badly about their outbursts. He believes they are motivated to change their behavior but lack the skills to do it.- Language processing problems -Language skills set the stage for many critical forms of thinking including problem solving, goal setting, and regulating/managing emotions. Thus, it is not surprising that children with poorly developed language abilities, as is often true in children with ADHD, would have greater difficulty managing frustration.- Mood difficulties -Some children are born predisposed to perpetually sunny and cheerful moods. Others, unfortunately, tend to experience sustained periods of irritability and crankiness for reasons that are rooted largely in biology. This is not just true for children who experience full-blown mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, but can apply to "sub-clinical" mood difficulties as well.Imagine for a moment how you tend to handle things when feeling cranky and irritable. If you're like most people, you probably become frustrated more easily and lose your temper more readily. For children who are prone to these negative mood states, more chronic difficulties with frustration and temper are thus likely to be evident.

** WHAT CAN PARENTS DO? **How can a parent help their "explosive" child become less explosive, develop greater self-control, and thereby create a better quality of life for everyone in the family?According to Dr. Greene, the first step is to develop a clear understanding of the reasons for the child's explosiveness. To the extent that parents - and others - regard a child's explosiveness as reflecting deliberate and willful attempts to "get what they want", the overwhelming tendency will be to respond in punitive ways. Dr. Greene argues convincingly, however, that punishments will not work for a child who lacks the skills to handle frustration more adaptively. That is because when these children are frustrated they are not able to use the anticipation of punishment to alter their behavior. When one's mindset changes from "my child is acting like a spoiled brat" to "my child needs help in learning to deal with frustration in a more flexible and adaptive manner", it becomes easier to move from a punishment-oriented approach to a skills-building approach. At the heart of this effort is what Dr. Greene refers to as the "Basket Approach".

** THE "BASKET" APPROACH **Because "meltdowns" can be so difficult for everyone in the family to endure, the primary objective in working with "explosive children" is to first reduce the frequency of such episodes. Reducing the number of meltdowns from several per day to one per day, and eventually to just a handful per week, can make an enormous difference in the quality of family life and to children developing a sense of being able to control their behavior. Initially, this is accomplished largely by reducing the demands to tolerate frustration that are made on the child by sorting the types of behaviors the create problems into 3 baskets according to how critical it is to change the behaviors or to curtail them when they occur.- Basket A -Some behaviors are so problematic that they must remain off-limits even if enforcing the rule against them will result in a meltdown. Initially, Dr. Greene suggests that the only behaviors to be placed in Basket A are those that are clear safety issues (e.g. wearing a seat belt in the car; not engaging in dangerous or harmful behaviors such as hitting others). This is where parents must continue to stand firm and insist on compliance. Dr. Greene's specific criteria for what goes in Basket A are as follows:1. The behavior must be so important that it is worth enduring a meltdown to enforce:2. The child must be capable of behaving in the way that is expected.For example, Dr. Greene would argue that there is no point insisting that completing assigned homework be placed in Basket A when the child lacks the skills and frustration tolerance to do this consistently.By reducing the number of behaviors for which compliance is non-negotiable to those that are really and truly essential and that the child is capable of performing, the number of exchanges that are likely to set off explosive episodes can be drastically reduced.- Basket B -Basket B - the most important basket according to Dr. Greene - contains behaviors that really are high priorities but are ones that you are not willing to endure a meltdown over. These can include such items as completing schoolwork, talking to parents with respect, complying with reasonable expectations, etc.It is around Basket B behaviors that Dr. Greene believes that critical compromise and negotiation skills can be taught to your child. For example, suppose your child is watching TV and you know it is time to stop and get started on homework. You tell your child to turn off the TV and get started, and he refuses. The temptation here would be to insist on immediate compliance and to threaten punishment (e.g. no TV for the rest of the week) if your child does not comply. But, in Dr. Greene's framework, this is not a safety issue, and thus should not be placed in Basket A. He would ask what is likely to happen if you make such a response? One likely consequence is that your child's frustration will increase, he or she will lose control, and a full-fledged meltdown will ensue. Is this worth it? If standing firm and tolerating this meltdown made it more likely that your child would comply the next time you made such a demand, the answer would be yes. If, however, standing firm and triggering the meltdown does not increase the likelihood of compliance in the future, or reduce the probability of future meltdowns, Dr. Greene would suggest it was definitely not worth it.What to do instead? Dr. Greene argues that these Basket B behaviors provide wonderful opportunities to try and engage your child in a compromise and negotiation process. In the scenario above, the parent could say something like, "I know that it is important to you to keep watching TV. I would like for you to be able to do this, but I also know that you have homework that needs to get done. Let's try to come up with a compromise where you'll get some of what you want, and I'll get some of what I want." The goal here is not only to get the child to give in and do what you want, but to begin teaching your child the compromise and negotiation skills that will contribute to his or her becoming more flexible over time. Dr. Greene points out how this process can be extremely difficult for inflexible-explosive children, and that it is not unusual for them to become increasingly agitated when trying to negotiate a solution.As a parent, if you observe this starting to occur, and sense your child is getting closer to a meltdown, the goal becomes trying to diffuse the tension so that a meltdown does not take place. This can mean offering compromise solutions for the child in an effort to help things calm down. When this does not work, Dr. Greene suggests just letting things go so that the meltdown is avoided. In the example above, should the efforts to negotiate fail and lead the child to the verge of a meltdown the parent might say, "Well, I can see you are getting really upset about this. I appreciate that you tried to work out a compromise with me but we have not been able to come up with a good one yet. So, why don't you just watch a bit more TV for now and we can try again in a little while to work out a good compromise." This can be very difficult to do and many parents along with mental health professionals would be concerned that such actions would result in teaching the child that he or she can get what she wants by refusing to give in and becoming upset. This is what a traditional behavioral therapist would argue. From Dr. Greene's perspective, however, insisting that the child turn off the TV when a compromise was not reached would accomplish little more than triggering a meltdown that would also prevent homework from getting started on and be much more upsetting for everyone. Because of this, he advocates doing your best to help your child develop some much needed negotiation skills, but dropping things when it is clear that an explosion is imminent. Later, when the child has settled back down, you can resume your efforts to negotiate. Developing skills to compromise and tolerate frustration does not happen right away. Dr. Greene points out that progress in these areas can be painstakingly slow, but that over time, the approach he recommends can lead to substantial gains for explosive children.- Basket C -Basket C contains those behaviors that are simply not worth enduring a meltdown over, even though they may have previously seemed like a high priority. By placing a number of previously important behaviors in Basket C, the opportunity for conflict producing meltdowns between parents and their child is greatly diminished.What kinds of things belong in Basket C? This depends on the specifics of each situation but may include such things as what a child will and will not eat, what clothes they wear, how they keep their room, etc. Dr. Greene suggests that the question to ask in determining whether a particular behavior falls into Basket C is "Is this so important that it is really worth risking a meltdown over?" If not, and you've already identified a number of behaviors that seem more important and worth negotiating over (i.e. those in Basket B), then into Basket C it goes.- How does this compare to traditional parenting approaches? - Dr. Greene's approach to dealing with explosive children runs counter to what many parents and professionals believe, i.e, that if a child is not punished, for behaving inappropriately they will never develop the necessary self-control nor be deterred from continuing to misbehave. Thus, Dr. Greene's thesis here is a controversial one and is at odds with traditional behavior therapy approaches that have substantial research support. Dr. Greene suggests, however, that for children whose explosiveness stems from a basic and biologically based inability to manage frustration, Dr. Greene suggests that behavioral interventions may not be effective can actually make things worse by increasing, rather than decreasing, the frequency with which a child loses control.- Isn't this just giving in to a misbehaving child? -Not necessarily. Dr. Greene points out that there is an important difference between giving in and deciding what behaviors are important enough to stand firm on. It remains the responsibility and prerogative of parents to be clear about what is non-negotiable, when compromise is a reasonable way to go, and what things to let slide for the time being. As the child becomes better able to tolerate frustration and learn much-needed compromise and negotiation skills, more and more behaviors can be moved from Basket C into Basket B, thus providing your child with increasing opportunities to practice learning to compromise.-

DOES THIS APPROACH WORK? RESULTS FROM A RECENT STUDY -Dr. Greene's approach will resonate with some people and be sharply criticized by others. However, the hallmark of a scientist is a willingness and desire to test one's theories through empirical research and I was thus quite pleased to recently come across a study published several years ago by Dr. Greene in which he tested the approach described above against more traditional behavioral parent training therapy with a sample of oppositional defiant children who also had symptoms of a mood disorder (Greene et al. [2004]. Effectiveness of collaborative problem solving in affectively dysregulated children with oppositional-defiant disorder: Initial findings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2004, 72, 1157-1164).Participants in this study were parents of 50 children with ODD - for a description of diagnostic criteria for ODD see www.helpforadd.com/oddcd.htm - who also had at least sub threshold features of either childhood bipolar disorder or major depression. In addition, about two-thirds of the children were diagnosed with ADHD and many were being treated with medication.The parents of these children were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 interventions designed to help them bring their child's behavior under better control: the collaborative problem solving model developed by Dr. Greene or a more traditional behavioral parent training program developed by Dr. Russell Barkley, one of the world's leading authorities on ADHD.Dr. Barkley's parent training program is a highly structured behavior management program that lasted for 10-weeks. The focus is on teaching parents more effective discipline and behavior management strategies and sessions were attended primarily by parents, although children participated occasionally as well.Families assigned to the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) treatment were educated about the biological factors contributing to their child's aggressive outbursts, the "baskets" framework described above, and about the use of collaborative problem solving as a means for resolving disagreements and defusing potentially conflictual situations so as to reduce the likelihood of aggressive outbursts. As with Barkley's parent training program, sessions were attended primarily by parents. The number of sessions attended by parents ranged from 7-16 and the average length of treatment was 11 weeks. - RESULTS -At the conclusion of treatment, parents in both groups reported a significant decline in their child's level of oppositional behavior. At 4-months post-treatment, however, the gains reported by families who received traditional parent training were beginning to erode while those who received Greene's Collaborative Problem Solving therapy reported that gains were fully sustained. Specifically, 80% of children in the CPS condition were reported to be either very much improved or much improved by their parents compared to only 44% in the traditional parent training program.Parents in the CPS condition also reported that they were experiencing significantly less stress, that their children were more adaptable, and that hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were reduced. They also felt more effective at setting limits for their children and that communication with their child had improved. Significant improvements on these dimensions were not evident.-

SUMMARY and IMPLICATIONS -The approach developed by Dr. Greene for developing self-control in children prone to emotional outbursts and melt-downs represents an important shift from traditional behavioral treatment methods. It is based on the premise that when this behavior has a strong biological underpinning, as he feels is true for many children, the use of punishments and rewards are not likely to be effective. Instead, he advocates that parents work to remove sources of frustration from their child's life, become clear about what behaviors they truly need to take a stand on, and focus helping their child develop the ability to negotiate, compromise, and manage their affect. Because melt-downs can be so painful for everyone to endure, parents are taught to avoid making demands on their child that would be likely to trigger a melt-down unless it is absolutely necessary.This will be regarded by many as a controversial approach, but results from a preliminary test suggest that these ideas may have real value for children and families. Because this is only an initial study, however, it is clear that more work needs to be done, and I am hopeful that a larger trial that tests the value of Dr. Greene's treatment suggestions will be published shortly.For those of you who would like to learn more about these interesting ideas, Dr. Greene maintains a web site at www.explosivechild.com where his published books and videos/DVDs are available. There is also a web site at www.cpsinstitute.org where you can find additional excellent information on Dr. Greene's collaborative problem solving approach.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


These are suggestions from Dr. Serena Weider for activities to help a child read and respond to social signals more naturally.

1. Charades based games like: Charades for Kids, Step On It or Kids on Stage.

2. Pretending: Eating, dancing

3. Pantomime Games: Games without words or gestures without words

4. Scavenger Hunts: Use clues that are both verbal and non-verbal: Pointing or using clues as a collaborative method for a team of players.

5. Hide and seek: Where two children work together to find another.

6. Doing real tasks together: Washing the car: What needs to happen first then second...

7. Build from the foundation of the individual child: Not top down. Encourage back and forth interaction that is enticing, warm and pleasurable.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

MOTIVATION - Continued

The elements of the model for developing expertise feature five key areas, Metacognition, Knowledge, Motivation, Learning, Thinking (Sternberg, 2005). Each area is fully interactive with influence in either direction. For example, knowledge leads to thinking and further thinking facilitates further knowledge (Sternberg, 2005). At the center of this model is motivation. Without motivaiton all the other key elements would remain static (Sternberg, 2005). Motivation is the driving force for metacognition which triggers learning and thinking which then cycles back to metacognition for review. This cycle demonstrates that the learner who is motivated to seek higher levels of knowledge through increased learning, thinking and metacognition has the ability to go from novice to competent to expert and increase self-efficacy in the particular areas of interest to the learner.
Urdan and Turner (2005) examined the implications for best practice in relation to competence motivation in the classrooms. The authors have included in their definition of competence motivation the concept of mastery. The intention of education is competence and mastery of skills and abilities (Urdan & Turner, 2005). However, some schools are still missing the fact that they are not actually developing competence in certain skill areas but instead focused on only motivating by using token economies and other tangible reward systems to behave well, be punctual or finish assignments (Urdan & Turner, 2005).
Urdan and Turner (2005) investigated key theories in competence motivation that have predominately been researched with an educative framework and application within the classroom. They have reviewed empiracal data for the following theories as they related to K-12 setting; acheivement goals, interest and intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, expectancy-value theory, self-determinination theory and attribution theory. The authors found both important theoretical implications for the classroom as well as some cautionary advice on applying motivation principles in the classroom due to a lack of research specifically completed within the classroom in the area of competence motivation.

The first theory examined by Urdan and Turner (2005) was the theory of Achievement Goals. The premise of this particular theory states that people will engage or not engage in activities depending on the individual’s purpose for doing so. The individual’s purpose for achievement is referred to as the individual’s goals or goal orientations. Achievement goals are of three types, mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance (Urdan and Turner, 2005).

Mastery goals represent a need to become competent by acquiring skills and through the understanding of new knowledge (Urdan & Turner, 2005). Mastery goals are considered goals that encourage positive feelings, motivation, and learning (Urdan & Turner, 2005). Researchers have stated that classrooms should incorporate more mastery goal structures within the classroom, to advance students effort, persistence, and use of sophisticated cognitive strategies (Urdan & Turner, 2005). Studies have found that teachers who incorporate more mastery goal orientated structures within their classrooms have more students that adopt personal mastery goal orientations, which promote achievement, self-efficacy, and positive affect in school (Urdan & Turner, 2005).

Performance goals are concerned with appearing able or unable to complete particular tasks. Urdan and Turner (2005) state that it is important to recognize that classroom goal structures which come out of a student’s adoption of personal achievement goals in the classroom do not distinguish between the approach and avoidance elements. Performance goal practices within the classroom typically make it obvious who the smarter student is, who is doing well and the comparing of one student to another. Studies have indicated that the more emphasis on performance goals within the classroom the more detrimental to motivational and behavioural variables (Urdan & Turner, 2005). Further research would be required to investigate whether defeated and discouraged youth develop more performance avoidance goals than mastery or performance-approach goals, which may affect competence in the academic setting and lead to a greater risk of leaving school.

Interest and intrinsic motivation are two concepts that play a significant role in competence motivation. People engage in certain activities because they have an individual interest in that particular activity. They also engage in situational activities that require a shorter attention span. Intrinsic motivation occurs without anyone exerting pressure to complete a task or activity. People intrinsically motivated engage in activities because they love the activity and wish to participate. Urdan and Turner (2005) state that intrinsic motivation comes from a variety of sources “the need for competence, interest in the material or activity, or perceptions of autonomy” (pg. 301). Urdan and Turner (2005) suggest that teachers focus on creating an environment that catches and holds pupil’s situational interests as individual interests are vast and varied, through the adaptation of the learning environment.

Self-efficacy is the perception of the skills and abilities of an individual to perform tasks in specific situations (Urdan & Turner, 2005). Students who perceive that they can accomplish a task or activity tend to exert more effort to complete the task and succeed at the activity. Self-efficacy beliefs can be a powerful predictor of achievement within an academic setting and as defined by Bandura (cited by Urdan & Turner 2005) created by “experience, vicarious experience through modelling success and failure, verbal persuasion from a respected source, physical cues” (pg. 302). Defeated and discouraged students need to experience success in activities that they believe they are not competent in, to increase their self-efficacy.


School systems have tried to inject billions of dollars into alternative programming to increase academic achievement for defeated and discouraged students (Sagor and Cox, 2004). Sagor and Cox (2004) have stated that little success can be attributed to specific programming and pilot programs designed to help remediate those students experiencing school failure. Why is it so difficult to engage defeated and discouraged learners?

Educators refer to Psychology to investigate those theories that apply to student motivation and behaviour to address students who may be at risk of leaving school early. Many motivational theories can be examined that may be applicable to defeated and discouraged students however one motivational theory that has gained recognition in the past has been developed by Dweck and Elliot (2005) and is referred to as “Acheivement Motivation with Competence as the core” (Dweck and Elliot, 2005: 3).

Dweck and Elliot (2005) explain that the weakness of achievement literature has been the ability of the researchers to define the word “achievement”. The authors state that there is no conceptually constructed meaning of achievement and that the achievement literature lacks cohesion, and clear sets of parameters for researchers to build on (Dweck & Elliot, 2005). Without clear guidelines, developing a clear theoretical framework is near impossible especially when achievement theory has incredible potential to explain more than motivation for school, work and sport (Dweck & Elliot, 2005). Implementing this broader framework for achievement motivation researchers can begin to understand other issues in this domain (flow, creativity, cognitive strategies, self-regulated learning, coping and disengagement, and social comparison).

In order to address this weakness, Dweck and Elliot (2005) have proposed competence as the “conceptual core” of achievement literature (Dweck and Elliot, 2005: 5). The definition of “competence” as defined by Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary is “a condition or quality of effectiveness, ability, sufficiency, or success”. By defining competence, researchers can then begin to understand such questions as, how is competence measured or evaluated. How are individuals motivated with regard to competence? How does competence effect defeated and discouraged students in determining their motivational levels for remaining and achieving in school?

Levels of competence can be measured with “concrete actions” (a toddler putting a peg in a hole) to specific outcomes (grades on a test) to identifiable patterns of skill and ability (playing baseball) to overarching characteristics (intelligence) to the “omnibus compilations” (life) (Dweck and Elliot, 2005: 6). This ability to measure competence than leads researchers to direct specific tasks and develop standards for those tasks, measure change over time or use normative comparisons (Dweck & Elliot, 2005).

Dweck and Elliot, (2005) have also noted that competence is an “inherent psychological need” of human beings (pg.6). Competence or incompetence is the driving force to accomplish specific tasks in our lives (Dweck & Elliot, 2005). Actions that are as simple as tying our shoes requires us to believe that we are either competent or incompetent at this activity which will effect whether we complete the task or not. This is also true for situations in our life that are social or publically based like preparing a speech to give to co-workers. Teachers can apply this theory to understand the underlying psychological processes in relation to competence that are occurring for defeated and discouraged students when examining their behaviour and desired learning outcomes.

Competence motivation can effect emotion and well-being in either a positive or a negative fashion through trying to attain competence and avoid incompetence (Dweck & Elliot, 2005). The emotions exhibited after a person feels they have competently completed a task could be one of joy and excitement. The opposite can also be true. Those who feel they have been incompetent at a task may feel discouraged, or anxious (Dweck & Elliot, 2005). Dweck and Elliot (2005) also states that people’s approach to a task may bring positive feelings, however the positive feeling like relief may have come out of avoiding incompetence by not completing the task. If the person has these prolonged feelings it may lead to the individual avoiding events at all cost in order to feel a sense of relief for not having to complete the task.

Researchers have found that avoidance of tasks in comparison to approach orientated motivation leads to decreased over all well being of the individual (Dweck & Elliot, 2005). The pursuit of avoidance goals do not provide individuals with the richness of experience that is required for them to grow and prosper. Defeated and discouraged students would be continually seeking experiences where they would feel competent but these situations may in fact be those situations that are negative for their long term well being. (Stealing, lying). School work and relationships with teachers would most likely have been negative throughout their school experience and the level of competence in this area would be very low thus leading to avoidance motivation which could effect whether they remain in school or not.

The question that remains is “How do teachers develop competence in defeated and discouraged learners?” Sternberg (2005) defines the development of competence as “the ongoing process of the acquisition and consolidation of a set of skills needed for performance in one or more life domains...” (pg. 15). Competence measured on a continuum includes those people just learning new skills at one end and the expert who has a deeper level of understanding and is efficient at applying the knowledge they possess at the other. This is relevant for teachers to understand that all of their students are on the continuum, which means teachers must evaluate where their students lay on that continuum. This is definitely not to say that defeated and discouraged students are at the beginning of the continuum on all skills, some skills they will be at the “expert” end. The teacher’s responsibility is to find the skills that the student is competent at and those tasks that students avoid due to fear of incompetency and develop interventions that focus on creating an increased level of competence in those skills that will help the student become successful.

Sternberg, (2005) has developed an acquisition model of competence explaining how abilities develop into competencies and competencies into expertise. Sternberg (2005) notes that individuals are in continuing stages of development and will differ in the time it takes to attain competence of a particular skill or ability. The capability for individuals to become competent is not necessarily some fixed prior level of capacity (IQ measure) but occurs through “purposeful engagement, involving direct instruction, active participation, role modelling, and reward” (Sternberg, 2005: 17).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The student’s perception of the school's climate and culture is essential for leaders to analyse as it effects the engagement of students. Smyth and Hattam (2002) explored the perceptions of early school leavers in reference to how they perceived administrative power within the schools they resided. The study identified three different themes that emerged as students voiced their opinions; the aggressive, passive or active school culture (Smyth & Hattam, 2002). The aggressive school culture emphasised a “culture of fear”, which brought many school leavers into conflict with the authoritarian style of leadership (Smyth and Hattam, 2002: 383). Students defined the passive school culture as “nice on the outside” but had no idea how to engage the youth of today. The curriculum was boring and was not relevant to youth and their interests (Smyth & Hattam, 2002). The active school culture created environments that worked with their students. Students approached school personnel to discuss issues, curriculum was flexible and pertained to current youth issues, and those students who were experiencing difficulty needed more engaging through effective curriculum (Smyth & Hattam, 2002).

This research is not about identifying school cultures as victimizing students because students also play a role in establishing their own outcomes socially, academically and in the sustainability of a functional community. The insight of early school leavers can prompt new methods to address the needs of all students within the school community. Smyth and Hattam (2002) conclude schools still predominately try to control students and their movements with the emphasis on social order. The difficulty lies when students then create their own “subscripts” to engage in this particular type of culture which may not lead to the most positive educational outcomes (Smyth and Hattam, 2002: 392).

Administrative leadership and the identification of school culture are vital to scrutinize but teacher leadership has serious repercussion if the teacher is lacking in these particular skills. Printy and Marks (2006) has identified that schools that have high quality teaching the teachers interact with their colleagues, teaching team, grade level team, and administrative staff on a regular basis. The teachers develop a vision and a purpose and together as a team develop clarity for what the intended future goals of the school and outcomes for all students (Printy & Marks, 2006). Teachers are responsible for learning and providing opportunities to tackle difficult problems together. Shared leadership encourages all participants within the school environment to be innovative and creative in developing strategies to engage children within their classrooms.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Goal setting requires the student to be specific in an action or end (Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2005). Teaching youth at risk to set goals is beneficial to the outcome of their willingness to stay involved in education. If youth have no goal in mind it is easy to become distracted and confused as to the direction they would like to take. Goals become a guide that facilitates the student to extend himself/herself to greater achievements if they are motivated to do so.

Other key self-regulatory processes are “task strategies” that encourage the student to analyse and identify specific methods for learning or performing a particular task. “Imagery” is a process where students create or recall vivid mental images to assist learning. “Self-monitoring” involves observing and tracking one’s own performance and “self-evaluation” requires the student to make self-judgements. “Environmental structuring” which involves structuring environments for the best learning outcomes, and “adaptive help seeking” involves choosing models, teachers and books to assist learning, (Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2005). Athletes use this method to practice the most difficult situations that they may find themselves in during a match or game. Teaching youth at risk, these specific strategies can help them accomplish tasks in all areas of their lives not just in academic situations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The first step in addressing social compencies for students at risk is to identify their current positive social competencies versus their social incompetencies. Knapczyk & Rodes (1996) state that it is important to ask the question, “What must these students learn to improve their behaviour?” This focuses the student and the teacher on improving the skills the student requires to be successful in achieving their social and academic goals. The requirement then is to define the traits that competent students utilize in order to be successful and lay the foundation for teaching the student the skills they may be lacking (Knapczyk & Rodes, 1996). Initial assessments and observations are required to determine the areas that the intervention needs to target. A well-planned approach and discussions regarding the expectations of the student in a particular environment or setting is essential to developing an appropriate intervention for the individual student (Knapczyk & Rodes, 1996).

There are guidelines that are helpful in developing or listing a student’s expectations in particular settings or environments. Knapczyk & Rodes (1996) have found the following guidelines to be beneficial when initiating a program that is focused on developing social competence.

1. Describe the student’s expectations in positive terms. What should students do - Not what they should not do.
2. Describe expectations in terms of observable behaviour. Be specific when describing behaviour – Puts up his hand to answer the question.
3. When possible list expectations in chronological order. What is the general sequence of the activity or intended expectation? Define using a starting point and an end point. Example: He entered the classroom quietly. Returned to his desk quickly.
4. Delete items that are not true expectations. Is the expectation truly required for social competence?
5. Be sure the list reflects the full array of expectations for the situation. How the student participates in a verbal discussion as well as the ability to follow classroom rules.

By employing these guidelines, a curriculum can be developed for the student that matches their particular needs and skills. Evaluation can then take place to determine the quality or effectiveness of the intervention according to specific criterion and an assessment completed following the teaching period (Knapczyk & Rodes, 1996).

Monday, January 21, 2008


The importance of organization, delivery and time for students to learn specific material is crucial to increasing student engagement in school.

Williams-Bost and Riccomini (2006) have presented 10 principles for implementation of effective instruction to increase engagement for students with disabilities.

1. Active Engagement
The definition of active engagement is the amount of time students are actively engaged in relevant instructional tasks. The amount of time students actively engage can be increased using effective design and delivery of lessons, selection of interesting materials that are culturally relevant and appropriate to the students’ instructional levels, offering a variety of opportunities for student responses and reinforcing class participation.

2. Provide the Experience of Success
Teachers must provide students the opportunity to experience academic success early and regularly. Matching students’ level and task assignments is crucial to providing successful outcomes. Low academic achievement is a major factor in students dropping out of school.

3. Content Coverage and Opportunity to Learn
Deliver the content in the curriculum or classroom so students have the time to learn the content. Addressing absenteeism as a factor for youth at risk by assuring the content is engaging for students. The delivery of instruction is important to consider if students are disengaged.

4. Grouping for Instruction
Teachers who supervise learning activities directly help student engage and achieve their best. Grouping can help teachers engage students in continued learning. Groups consist of whole class, one to one, peer partners with each having its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. The most important thing to consider is the student’s academic success through increased support or grouping leading to a more likely result the student may stay in school.

5. Scaffolded Instruction
Encouraging students to become self-regulated and independent learners with scaffolded instruction allows students to become successful in school. Scaffolding is a systematic, sequenced series of prompted cues and material and teachers support to help the student utilize their strengths to overcome their weaknesses.

6. Addressing Forms of Knowledge
Teachers who balance the following critical forms of knowledge associated with strategic learning and address the students need to see relevance in the learning are more likely to encourage engagement with at risk youth. The critical forms of knowledge according to Ellis et al (1994) as cited by Bost-Williams & Riccomini (2006) are:

a. Declarative knowledge: basic facts and vocabulary
b. Procedural knowledge: steps used to solve problems
c. Conditional knowledge: when and where to use certain strategies

7. Organizing and Activating Knowledge
Carefully combining previous knowledge with new information is vital to student success. Build simple tasks into more complex tasks to develop foundational skills and knowledge to progress to tasks that are more difficult.

8. Teaching Strategically
Teach students “how to learn” versus “what content to learn”. Strategies include how a person thinks and acts when completing a task or assignment.

9. Making Instruction Explicit
Explicit instruction is teacher-directed instruction that is highly organized, task orientated and presented in a clear, direct manner to promote student understanding.

10. Teaching Sameness
Design instruction so students can recognize patterns and organize information in similar ways. Teaching sameness helps students make relevant connections, link and utilize information in a more effective and efficient way.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Using O-LADS to Structure a Classroom Discipline Plan

Hello everyone: Hope you all had a wonderful break and are rested up for another year. I thought I would write about a framework for structuring your classroom discipline that may be beneficial at the beginning of the year.

The program developed by Jerry Olsen (1989) is called O-LADS which refers to the following areas:

O - Ownership: Ownership should give your students a sense of security through control or possession of an object or idea. For example, classroom rules can be developed by all in the group, students are responsible to explain the rules to new students or visitors to the classroom, children may be given the opportunity to work on long term projects of their own choosing, contracts or mediational essays can be used to give children ownership of the problem, children are given a role to play in meetings with parents.

L- Limits: Appropriate boundaries must be set using rules, standards, and defining of areas in which the children work. Children are more secure when they know the boundaries within their control. Examples, Rules and consequences are clearly shown to the students prior to incidences occurring, predictability, consequences may be developed on a heiracrchy (teacher does not need to say "if you misbehave you are kicked out", children will be aware of where they stand on the heirarchy of consequences, refer back to the rule rather than lecturing students on the limits they have broken, visual or non-verbal cues should also be used to help those students who may struggle with auditory processing.

A - Acceptance: Children need to feel accepted for who they are without being blamed, dis-respected or rejected because of their differences. Children know when people do not accept them including the teachers and staff at the school. Techniques that may help with acceptance - using problem solving techniques to help children "own" their problems without blame, teachers can try to use humour, fun, maintain standards so children feel accepted by someone they respect, treat students as capable individuals, teach negotiation skills so children feel they can handle difficult situations with other people.

D - Direction: Giving children a sense of growth and helping them acquire new skills, knowledge and generation of their own ideas. Setting clear goals and standards that enhance feelings of competence, success, curiousity and completion of tasks. Students can experience success and recognition by: using clear goals as targets, using a curriculum that progresses, encouragement from teachers, using good instructional materials, developing morale or group spirit. Other examples, have children write a journey of their lives so far and where they would like to go, imagery through stories and film, compile lists of acquired skills (reading rate, math accuracy), students can define dreams, hopes and aspirations for when they grow up, have students predict how much quality work they can produce over the week, month, year, use timelines to show how the child is progressing with academics and behaviour (visual indicator).

S - Systems: "a set of connected parts forming a complex whole" Relationships are interactive and work two ways. Teacher affect students and students affect teachers. Blame can infect the "whole system" and can split the system so it does not perform efficiently. Teachers should work with parents and parents should work with teachers to make sure they are teaching the child to work cooperatively with all those people around them. Working as a team is paramount. Try to "externalize" the problem, people fight the problem, not each other. See things from others point of view.

The program encompasses all five areas when establishing your discipline plan at school, home and in the community for managing potential difficult situations.

Hope everyone has a great year. I look forward to discussing strategies and ideas as the year unfolds.

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One of the biggest issues that I hear about from teachers and caregivers is the behaviour of the children or youth in their school, program ...