Monday, August 6, 2012

Let's Talk Strategies

The first thing that teachers need to understand about classroom management is that we set the classroom up in a way that promotes respect, safety and learning.   Organization, setting routines and procedures, discussing expectations and guidelines is a definite must when beginning a new class or year.  Strategies for classroom organization and management can be divided into three levels or tiers. 

Tier 1:  Refers to those strategies that apply at a whole school level.   All stakeholders need to be dedicated to the creation of this positive and proactive approach.  The Positive Behaviour Support Model states that the following framework needs to be applied to promote safe and respectful environment:

􀂉 Universal Expectations

􀂉 Office Referral Procedures

􀂉 School-Wide Acknowledgement System

􀂉 School-Wide Social Skills Instruction

􀂉 Active Supervision

􀂉 Enforcement of Expectations

􀂉 Data-Based Decision Making

􀂉 Safe & Welcoming Culture

Strategies that may be helpful at this stage include: 

1.       Lesson Pacing:  Rate of instructional delivery and time taken by students to complete a task – Colvin (2009) states that slow instruction and pacing tends to create more off task and disruptive behaviour and good pacing correlates with increased on task behaviour and less disruptive behaviour. 

2.      Prompting:  Hints, cues or gestures prior to engaging the student in the task.

3.      Behavioural Momentum:  Taken from the law of physics – an object in motion will stay in motion until a force is applied to change the state.  If the child is engaged and cooperative in one task, they will typically remain cooperative for the next task.

4.      Pictures and organizational tools:  Visual schedules, transition cues, expectations, classroom guidelines, checklists, self-awareness lists.... Pictures and visuals are meant to increase the student’s comprehension of the required task.  The more students’ can understand and comprehend the less likely they may engage in inappropriate behaviour.  Have the student create their own visuals to support their own behaviour. 

5.      Effective feedback:  Feedback that indicates to the student the required behavioural responses.  Focus on what the student did right and how that behaviour results in positive outcomes. 

6.      Increase participation and movement.  Use techniques like games to increase the opportunities for children to respond appropriately. 

Tier 2:   These strategies are applied when children do not respond effectively to Tier 1 strategies.  Depending on the child, the teacher can immediately apply Tier 2 strategies. 

1.        Create situations and opportunities to practice the appropriate behaviour.   It is important for the teacher to establish a relationship with the student and enters into a supportive role rather than an adversarial role.  This is helpful for students experiencing anxiety and fear related difficulties. 

2.       Context modification:  Change the context that is likely to trigger the problem behaviour.  Have the student complete a modified task with similar outcomes and then try to return to the original context as the student becomes more comfortable with the task. 

3.       Fading:  Allowing the student to complete the task after the interventions or strategies have been found to be successful.  Moving children from dependent to independent is our ultimate goal. 

4.       Minimize errors:  Students who feel incompetent in completing a task may experience anxiety around that task because of the errors they may make.  Present clear explicit directions to the student so they understand the requirements of the task.  Separate work completion from work correction. 

5.       Precorrection or Proactive Intervention:  Determine the triggers that set off the problem behaviour and define the expectations using strategies that could be as simple as cueing or redirection, prompting or effective feedback.  Prepare your transitions as these can be troublesome times for a student with difficult behaviour.

6.       Stimulus control:    There is typically a predictable response to a stimulus as observed over time.  If the stimulus is removed or manipulated this may result in a decrease in the inappropriate behaviour. 

Tier 3 strategies are systematically implemented after a FBA has been completed and a behaviour support plan has been developed.  Some strategies may include:  Social skills training, video modelling, cognitive strategies, anger management, conflict resolution, restorative strategies, Parental involvement, wrap around approaches involving outside agencies.

The goal for Positive Behaviour Support is to encourage growth, self-control, self-awareness, independence, belonging, problem solving and decision making skills.  However as this is being accomplished students will make mistakes and will exhibit non-compliance as they are learning new ways to respond.
Colvin (2009) suggest using the following strategies when confronted with non-compliance and difficult behaviour. 
1.        Continue with the flow of the lesson:  The teacher should continue with instruction unless the student becomes unsafe or becomes severely disruptive.  The stopping of instruction when the student exhibits a particular behaviour will only reinforce that behaviour and it will typically continue. 
2.       Delay Responding or Planned Ignoring:  Address the behaviour but not while it is occurring.   
3.       Redirection Prompts:
4.       Rule Reinstatement:
The first two strategies are referred to as Extinction strategies.  The intention is to reduce the consequence or reinforcer of the inappropriate behaviour.  This reaction by an authoritive individual withholds the consequence which should lead to extinguishing the inappropriate behaviour. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Assessing Non-Compliant Behavior

Non-compliant behaviour can be one of the most stressful issues that present to teachers today.  The constant disruption can interfere with the learning of not only the student with the difficulty but the peers around him/her.  Finding solutions is not an easy task and there is no magic bullet.  A systemic, documented approach is required when trying to determine the reasons a  student may be responding in the way they do.  If an assessment is not completed then the strategies have no basis and the intervention is likely to fail.  Some students may not be following directions because they do not have the appropriate skills to do so.  Other students may have the skills required to complete the task but avoid the task due to another explanation (they would rather do something else). 

Colvin (2009) has laid out a simple chart that defines specific groups of defiant students. 

“Not following directions”


Group 1
Lack of skills necessary to complete the task
Focusing on teaching skills or adapt tasks
Group 2
Not attending or attending to something else
Ensure attention is secured before direction is given
Group 3
Students want to avoid the task
Ensure student is able to complete the required task – address motivational factors

As this chart points out there can be many factors that contribute to difficult or non-compliant behaviour.  In order to identify the function or reasons the student is behaving in a particular way , a functional assessment should be completed.  The functional behavioural assessment (FBA) gathers information on all the factors that may be contributing to a student’s behaviour.  The identification of these factors aide the team in implementing a comprehensive intervention plan that can help increase appropriate behaviour while decreasing the inappropriate.  Difficulties can then be effectively managed and disruption to learning kept to a minimum. 

The factors that are contributing to a student’s behaviour needed to be tested and manipulated in order to make them valid.  A student with a bad attitude or naughty cannot be tested and is not specific enough to provide adequate information to design an intervention plan. 

The FBA consists of four different components:

1.        The setting event:  Include earlier events or continuing events that set the stage for problem behaviour.

2.       Immediate triggers (antecedent to behaviour):  These events could occur just prior to the problem behaviour or concurrent with the problem behaviour. 

3.       Problem behaviour:  Identification of the problem behaviour within the setting. ( Can be rated as low level to extreme).   Described in observable terms.

4.       Effects or consequences of problem behaviour:  Assuming the problem behaviour serves a function or purpose, this is where the team will ask the question “What does the student gain or avoid from exhibiting this type of behaviour”.  The student may also receive positive reinforcement from their behaviour – gain a desirable affect, object, response...This behaviour will be reinforced to continue (The student steals something so he/she obtains the object for free or a student is speaking out in class gains the attention of the teacher)  Therefore positive reinforcement can also reinforce inappropriate behaviour.  Negative reinforcement is defined as something that is aversive or undesirable and is removed from the student.  For example... A student does not like math equations so acts out to avoid the math questions.  The student is sent away from the class but avoids the math equations.  She has avoided an aversive task which actually reinforces the behaviour to continue as she does not want to embarrass herself in the future because she does not feel competent in completing the task.
The student enters into this cycle and will continue to exhibit the difficult behaviour until another element is implemented to discourage the difficult behaviour from continuing.
To obtain adequate and sufficient data to summarize the underlying factors that contribute to the student’s behaviour, a number of methods can be utilized:  Direct observations, FBA interviews with all stakeholders, teachers, parents, and the student if appropriate. A review of school records is also useful in formulating an intervention.

Understanding Non-Compliant Behavior

Teachers are continually being asked to do more, more, more within their classrooms.  The lack of resources, funds and people are making it difficult for teachers to do their jobs.  Non-compliance has also become highly prevalent within the classroom and teachers have cited this problem as one of the greatest stressors and concerns they encounter.  Colvin(2009) states that non-compliant behaviour has been the overall highest ranking reason for sending students to the office(Pg.7). 
To define non-compliant behaviour certain conditions must be met.
  1.   The student exhibits non-compliance if a person in authority gives a direction and it is not followed by the student.  The person in authority can mean anyone at the school including administrators, teachers, teacher assistants, substitute teacher and volunteers that come into the school.  As we all know some students are only non-compliant with certain people so school personnel must make sure they communicate to all students that they must follow directions and cooperate with any “authorized adult” (as long as the directions are reasonable in nature)  in the building regardless of position. 
  2. Following either implicit or explicit directions given by the “person in authority”.  The teacher must understand that typically students who are exhibiting difficult behaviour respond more effectively to explicit direction as these directions cannot be misinterpreted. 
  3. Directions must be given in a clear concise manner which may help the student understand the expectations.  The language needs to be age appropriate and specific which will also be helpful for the child to complete the required task.
  4. The child must be capable of accomplishing the task that has been asked of them.  The student must have the skills required of him/her to complete to task.  As well the student must believe they are competent in beginning a task that may cause them anxiety.
  5. The tone an instruction is delivered must also be taken into consideration.  The student may perceive the teacher as sarcastic, angry, or disrespectful. 
  6. Ensure that when giving direction student attention is secured.  Disengage the student from what they are currently doing, and present the direction. 
There can be variations of non-compliant behaviour:  Latency, Task completion time, Substandard response, competing reinforcers.  Understanding non-compliance and the student’s response to direction allows the teacher to implement the appropriate strategies and interventions.

Non-compliance can therefore be defined as not completing an instruction or direction in a satisfactory manner.  (Satisfactory manner being defined as a standard set for an acceptable response.)
The following may help to determine whether a response is satisfactory or not:

  1.  Set a standard based on performance of the majority of the class
  2. Ensure the student has the ability to make the response at the level of the rest of the class.
Colvin G. (2009).  Managing Non-Compliance and Defiance in the Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications.

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