Classroom Behavior Management: A Dozen Common Mistakesand What to Do Instead
Authors: Barbetta, Patricia, Norona, Kathleen Leong, Bicard,David
Source: Preventing School Failure; Spring2005, Vol. 49 Issue3, p11-19, 9p
One of our primary responsibilities as teachers is to helpour students learn. It is difficult for learning to take place in chaoticenvironments. Subsequently, we are challenged daily to create and maintain apositive, productive classroom atmosphere conducive to learning. On any givenday, this can be quite a challenge. In our attempts to face this challenge, wefind ourselves making common classroom behavior management mistakes. Thisarticle is designed to presents some of these common mistakes followed bysuggestions as to what we should do instead. The mistakes presented arecommitted frequently, at many grade levels and in all types of learningenvironments. Each suggestion is relatively easy to implement and useful forall types of learners.
We have based our suggestions on several assumptions andbeliefs. First and foremost, teachers have considerable influence over studentbehavior. This is particularly true if interventions begin early and aresupported at home. Next, most student misbehaviors are learned and occur for areason. It is our job to determine those reasons and teach appropriatebehaviors to replace those misbehaviors. We believe that prevention is the mosteffective form of behavior management. That is, the most efficient way toeliminate misbehaviors is to prevent their occurrence or escalation from thebeginning. Using a proactive approach also allows us to focus more on teachingappropriate behaviors rather than eliminating negative behaviors. Ourexperience tells us that management systems should be flexible enough to meetthe changing needs of our classrooms. Finally, students, parents, and otherprofessionals can be effective partners in behavior management.
When attempting to change misbehavior, we often describe itby only how it looks (e.g., calling out, hitting, getting out of seat).Defining misbehavior by how it looks only provides us with an incompletepicture of the behavior; it tells us little about why it occurred and doesn'thelp much in our behavior-change efforts. For example, a student who is offtask is a common classroom problem. If two of our students are off taskregularly, they may or may not be off task for the same reason. If they are offtask for different reasons, our approaches to change their behaviors may needto differ. Actually, a strategy that will eliminate the off-task behavior ofone student might worsen the off-task behavior of the other. Defining amisbehavior by how it looks tells us nothing about why it occurred and oftendoesn't help in our behavior-change efforts. Just because two behaviors lookthe same, doesn't mean they are the same.
Instead: Define Misbehavior By Its Function
To develop a better strategy to manage misbehaviors, we needto ask ourselves, "What was the function of this misbehavior?" Ormore simply, "What did the student gain from the misbehavior?" Thoughour students' misbehaviors appear to occur for no reason, they do serve apurpose, otherwise they would not occur. Although some behavior problems arethe result of organic issues (e.g., hyperactivity) most misbehaviors functionfor one of For example, the two off-task students mentioned previously--onestudent might be off task to get our attention, whereas the other might be offtask because his or her assignment was too difficult. (e.g., fewer problems tosolve, clearer directions) might eliminate the off-task behaviors. Clearly,these misbehaviors serve dissimilar functions and need to be solveddifferently.
Although we are tempted, it is not a good idea to ask ourstudents, "Why did you do that?" First, many times our students willnot know the reasons why they misbehaved. Second, we often will not like theiranswers. For example, if Victor is playing at his desk during our lesson and weask him why, he may very well say, "Because this lesson is soboring." We are not likely to be pleased with that response.
Instead: Assess the Behavior Directly to Determine itsFunction
The function of a behavior is the purpose it serves thestudent (i.e., what the student gets from it). As stated previously, mostmisbehaviors serve a getting or an avoiding function. To determine a behavior'sfunction, we need to study what is happening in the classroom before and afterit occurrs. This information-gathering procedure iscalled a functional assessment. An Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) chartcan be used as a functional assessment tool. An ABC chart has three columns onwhich we record the behavior and what happened before and after it. Thestandard way to make this chart is to separate a sheet of paper into threecolumns and label the first Antecedent, the second Behavior, and the thirdConsequence. When the misbehavior occurs, it is written down in the behaviorcolumn, then the observer records what happened immediately before (recorded inthe antecedent column) and after its occurrence (recorded in the consequencecolumn). To make data collection simpler, a modified ABC chart can be used thatcontains several predetermined categories of teacher or peer antecedentbehavior, student responses, and consequential events (See Figure 1).
A functional assessment gives us a more complete picture ofthe misbehavior by including the environmental antecedents and consequences inits description (Alberto & Troutman, 2003). Once we determine the functionof a misbehavior ("why" it occurs), we need to teach and reinforce anappropriate replacement behavior that serves the same function as themisbehavior. For instance, if a functional assessment reveals that Oliviateases her friends at recess because it is the only time that she gets theirattention, we need to teach Olivia appropriate methods to get peer attention,such as sharing or asking to be invited to join in a game. A functionalassessment might reveal that changes in our teaching methods are needed. Forinstance, if Ricardo tends to act out during math class, a change in how orwhat we are teaching may be in order. The problem might be that Ricardo ismissing some prerequisite math skills. By reviewing those prerequisite mathskills, we could reduce his frustrations and acting out, and maximize hislearning.
Many times, an ABC analysis is all that is needed todetermine a functional assessment. For complex behavior problems, a moredetailed, multifaceted functional assessment may be needed. At those times, weshould contact a behavior-management specialist, school psychologist, or othertrained professional for a more thorough assessment. Conducting a functionalassessment can be time consuming. However, research shows that behavior-changeprograms designed from this process tend to be more effective than those begunwithout the comprehensive information provided by this assessment (Kamps, 2002). For additional information on conducting afunctional assessment, we recommend visiting the Center for EffectiveCollaboration and Practice Web site at http://cecp.air.org/fba/.
When a management approach isn't working, our first tendencyis to try harder. The problem is that we most often try harder negatively. Wemake loud, disapproving statements, increase negative consequences, or removemore privileges. This does not do anything to teach appropriate behavior.Instead, our increased negativity results in impaired student-teacherrelationships and increases the likelihood of our students feeling defeated.
Instead: Try Another Way
When an approach is not working, instead of trying harder,we should try another way. Some examples include verbal redirecting, proximitycontrol, reinforcing incompatible behaviors, changing the academic tasks andproviding additional cues or prompts. These approaches are more effective,simpler to use, and create a more positive classroom climate than tryingharder. If two of our students, Danny and Sara, are talking in class, insteadof reprimanding them, we could walk in their direction (use proximity control),make eye contact, and provide a nonverbal cue to get on task. This approachallows Danny and Sara to save face with their peers and promotes teacherrespect.
Instead of increasing negative consequences, we shouldincrease the frequency of contingent praise for appropriate student behavior.Teacher praise is easy to deliver and is one of the most powerful toolsavailable to us. In fact, praise (or some type of reinforcement) should beincluded in all approaches to behavior change. For example, when Jamal is offtask, instead of reprimanding, we should find another student who is on-taskand praise that student. This will reinforce the on task student and has theadded benefit of notifying Jamal of his misbehavior, without singling him out.When using praise, we should remember that it is effective when it is providedimmediately (minimally before the next opportunity to perform the behavioragain), specifically (by identifying the behavior as we praise), andfrequently.
Our most challenging students, such as students with severeemotional and behavioral problems, often need the most reinforcement, yet theyoften receive the least. Descriptive research of classrooms for children withbehavior disorders shows low praise rates of only 1.2 to 4.5 times per hour(Gable, Hendrickson, Young, Shores, & Stowitschek,1983; Shores et al., 1993; Van Acker, Grant, & Henry, 1996; Wehby, Symons, & Shores, 1995). This trend needs to bechanged.
Finally, when we find ourselves making more stop than startrequests, we need to reverse our behavior. For example, instead of asking Samto stop talking, ask him to work on his assignment. When he complies, providepraise. For excellent resources on practical, positive classroom managementtechniques, see Rhode, Jenson, and Reavis (1992) andKerr and Nelson (2002) in the appendix.
Classroom rules play a vital role in effective classroommanagement. However, rules alone exert little influence over student behavior.Too often, rules are posted at the beginning of the year, briefly reviewedonce, and then attended to minimally. When this is the case, they have littleto no effect on student behavior.
Instead: Follow the Guidelines for Classroom Rules
There are several rules for rule setting that, whenfollowed, help create orderly, productive classrooms that teach appropriatesocial skills along with the academic curriculum. To be more effective, ourclassrooms should have four-to-six rules that could govern most classroomsituations. Too many rules can make it difficult for students to comply and forteachers to enforce. Along with other professionals (e.g., Gathercoal,1997; Paine, Radicchi, Rosellini,Deutchman, & Darch,1983), we see benefits to students actively participating in rule setting. Whenstudents play an active role, they begin to learn the rules, and they are moreinclined to have rule ownership. The rules become their rules, not our rules.To include students, conduct several short rule-setting meetings the first fewdays of school. For these meetings to be effective, we need to share with ourstudents the rule-making guidelines (e.g., the rules need to be statedpositively, they have to be observable and measurable, consequences need to berealistic). With guidelines in place, students often select rules similar tothe ones we would have selected. Without guidelines, students are inclined tomake too many rules, make rules that are too stringent, and make those that arenot specific enough.
Classroom rules should be simple, specific, clear, and measurable.The degree of rule simplicity depends on the age and ability levels of ourstudents. For younger students, we may want to include pictures in the ruleposters. Rules are specific when they are clear and unambiguous. For example,the rule "bring books, paper, and pencils to class" is much clearerthan the rule "be ready to learn." Clearly stated rules are easilyobserved and measured. The classroom rules should be posted.
Another characteristic of effective rules is that they arestated positively. Positively stated rules are "do" rules. Do rulesprovide information as to how to behave and set the occasion for teacherpraise. An example is "Raise your hand for permission to talk."Conversely, negatively stated rules or "don't" rules tell students whatnot to do and encourage us to attend to student rule breaking. An example of adon't rule is "Don't call out."
Some teachers develop subrulesthat correspond with each of the major classroom rules. For example, aclassroom rule might be, "Follow classroom expectations." One of thecorresponding subrules for line behavior could be"Keep your hands and feet to yourself." Once the subrulesare set, we need to teach or role play appropriate behavior by havingmini-lessons ( 3-5minutes) several times a day for the first few weeks ofschool. Some teachers continue to review subrulesprior to each activity or periodically, depending on their students' needs. Asimple, quick way to review is to have a student volunteer to read the posted subrules prior to each major activity.
We consistently need to carry out the consequences andnoncompliance of our classroom rules or they will mean very little. If ourstudents follow the rules for group work at the learning center, we shouldverbally praise them and provide additional reinforcement as needed (e.g.,stickers, extra free time). On the other hand, if the classroom consequence forfighting with a peer is the loss of recess, then we must make certain that wefollow through. We need to make clear the consequences for following and notfollowing the rules (Babyak, Luze,& Kamps, 2000).
We often need reminders to praise our students throughoutthe school day. One way is to place a sign in the back of the room that says,"Have you praised your students lately?" Each time we notice thesign, we should praise a student or the group for following one of theclassroom rules. Another way is to keep a running tally of our praise commentson an index card or on a card clipped to a string that hangs from our necks(similar to those used with many school identification cards).
To summarize, the guidelines for classroom rules include thefollowing: (a) develop 4-6 measurable, observable, positive classroom rules andinclude students in rule development; (b) teach the rules and subrules directly; (c) post the rules and review themfrequently; and, (d) be sure to carry out the consequences for rule complianceand noncompliance.
When students misbehave, it often seems as though it isexclusively a motivational issue. At times, this is true. On those occasions,we need to increase the reinforcement for appropriate behavior and eliminate itfor inappropriate behavior. However, several misbehaviors are due to a lack ofappropriate skills not a lack of motivation. We call these behaviors"can't dos."
Instead: Treat Some Behaviors as Can't Dos
Can't dos occur because of lack of skills not lack ofmotivation or reinforcement. We should deal with can't do misbehaviors the sameway that we deal with student's academic mistakes. When students make repeatederrors during our lessons, we make changes in how we teach (e.g., provide moreexamples, allow students to practice more), and provide more intensiveinstruction. Our improved lessons make us more proactive teachers, decreasingthe likelihood of chronic, academic errors being repeated. This preventativeapproach is referred to as precorrection (Colvin, Sugai, & Patching, 1993). In contrast, when studentschronically misbehave, we are more inclined to remain reactive, provide onlycorrection procedures (simply tell them that they are misbehaving), andincrease the intensity of our negative consequences. We would be more effectivein solving chronic misbehaviors if we moved into the precorrectivemode.
The following are seven major precorrectionsteps:
Step 1. Identify the context and the predictable behavior(where and when the misbehavior occurs);
Step 2. Specify expected behavior (what we want instead);
Step 3. Systematically modify the context (e.g., changes ininstruction, tasks, schedules, seating arrangements);
Step 4. Conduct behavior rehearsals (have students practicethe appropriate behavior);
Step 5. Provide strong reinforcement such as frequent andimmediate teacher praise;
Step 6. Prompt expected behaviors; and
Step 7. Monitor the plan (collect data on studentperformance).
Let's apply this step to a traditional classroom behavior problem--callingout during teacher-led instruction. The misbehavior occurs during guidedinstruction (Step 1). The behavior that we want instead is for our students toraise their hands and wait to be called on (Step 2). To accomplish this goal,we could verbally remind our students to raise their hands prior to eachquestion and no longer respond to our students' call outs. Also, we could modelhand-raising as we ask the question to prompt students to do the same (Steps 3and 6). Before our teacher-led lessons, we could have a short review of therules for appropriate hand-raising (Step 4). When our students raise theirhands appropriately, we should praise immediately and frequently and perhapsgive them bonus points on the classroom management system (Step 5). Finally, todetermine if our plan is effective, we should tally how often studentsappropriately raise their hands (Step 7).
Although initially more time consuming, precorrectionprocedures allow us to be more proactive than reactive and to reduce oreliminate behavior problems before they become well established. This, in turn,increases the amount of time that we have to reinforce appropriate behavior.
When planning our teaching day, planning for transitionsoften gets overlooked. Yet, a significant amount of class time is spenttransitioning from one subject to another or from one place to another. Withoutproper planning, transitioning can be one of the most frustrating times of theday for teachers. These times seem to invite behavior problems. Why? At timesstudents are not ready for the transition. Inconsistent expectations causetransition problems. Furthermore, because we are often transitioning with thestudents, our attention is diverted away from them, making transitions longerand inviting even more misbehavior.
Instead: Appropriately Plan for Transition Time
Successful transitioning requires just as much planning aseffective academic instruction, but the time is worth it. When transitions aredone quickly and quietly, it allows lessons to start on time and can set apositive tone for the lesson, whereas unplanned, poorly done transitions canwaste valuable time and cause negative student--teacher interactions.
Transition problems can be reduced significantly byfollowing a few practical procedures. First, it is best that our transitionexpectations are consistent, meaning the same rules apply for each type oftransition. Consistency begins by developing transition rules with our students(e.g., quietly put materials away, keep your hands and feet to yourself.)
Once we have developed our transition rules, we should teachthem to our students. We can do this by having brief lessons at the beginningof the school year followed by frequent reviews. It is a good idea to post thetransition rules, and have a student volunteer to read them beforetransitioning. We should consistently provide readiness signals or cues forpending transitions. We can do this by letting our students know that in 5minutes the next activity will begin and that it is time to finish the task athand. We need to follow that statement by praising students as we see themfinishing their tasks. It is important not to move to the next step of thetransitioning process until everyone has followed the previous steps. Forexample, if we ask our students to return to their seats and get out their mathbooks, everyone needs to have followed those directions before we begin ourmath lesson. For groups that have a difficult time switching gears, such asmany students with learning disabilities or behavior disorders, providing a30-second group silence at their seats prior to beginning the next activitypromotes calmness before moving on. This is particularly useful when students arereturning from a highly stimulating activity, such as physical education.
Many students respond positively to transition timing games.To do this, first set a time goal (e.g., everyone should be in line within 20seconds). Using a stopwatch, time their transition and then praise individualstudents or the group for meeting the goal. When transitions involve leavingthe classroom, prior to leaving, we should have our students take out thematerials for the lesson that is going to be conducted on their return. Thiswill facilitate getting started when they return to the classroom.
Our role as teachers during transitions should be to monitorstudents' performance and to praise appropriate behavior. To do this, we musthave our materials prepared ahead of time. When needed, we should use studentsor aides to gather materials or equipment, allowing us to better attend to ourstudents and provide praise.
Ignoring can be a valuable tool in reducing misbehaviors whenused with behavior-building strategies. However, it's difficult for many of usto determine which behaviors to ignore and which to give attention. We tend totake ignoring to extremes by ignoring almost all misbehaviors or none at all.Neither approach is effective.
Instead: Ignore Wisely
First, not all behaviors should be ignored. We should onlyignore the behaviors motivated for our attention. For example, if Larry isplaying his favorite computer game instead of doing math, ignoring him will notwork because his behavior is not motivated by our attention. His motivation isplaying on the computer. However, when behaviors are attention seeking we needto ignore continuously (every single time). As soon as we begin to ignore ourstudent's misbehavior, he or she will seek it elsewhere, most likely frompeers. It can be difficult for peers to ignore misbehaviors. Therefore,ignoring misbehavior should be a classroom rule that receives powerfulreinforcement. Also, we need to plan for the misbehavior to get worse (happenmore often and more intensely) before it improves. When this happens, we mustcontinue to ignore.
Ignoring must be used in combination with behavior-buildingstrategies, such as reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, teachingreplacement behaviors, and reinforcing peers. Ignoring teaches students whatnot to do, but does not teach them what they should do instead. For example, apreschool student, Monica, has a tendency to tug at our clothing or yell to getour attention. In this scenario, we should ignore these misbehaviors. Inaddition, we need to teach Monica appropriate ways to gain our attention (e.g.,raising her hand, saying "excuse me") and praise her each time sheuses these replacement behaviors. To add to the effectiveness, we could alsopraise peers who, in her presence, appropriately seek our attention.
There are occasions when ignoring is inappropriate. Theseinclude when there are concerns for observational learning of misbehaviors,when our students are engaging in extreme or dangerous behaviors, and, asstated earlier, when the misbehavior is not attention seeking.
Time out occurs when a teacher removes a student for aspecific time from a chance to receive reinforcement. There are severaltime-out strategies ranging from brief in-class ignoring to placing a studentin a secluded area. We are tempted to overuse time out because it results in areprieve from problematic students. At times, we misuse time out byinadvertently reinforcing misbehaviors while using the procedure.
Instead: Follow the Principles of Effective Time Out
Time out can be an effective tool but only when usedappropriately (Turner & Watson, 1999). First, we must remember that timeout is not a place. Instead it is a process whereby all opportunities to getreinforced are withdrawn. Consequently, for it to work, the time-in area (theactivity) must be more reinforcing than the time-out area. Ways to make thetime-in area more reinforcing include changing the activity, our instructionaltechniques, and increasing our praise. For example, Trevor constantly disruptsthe language arts lesson by throwing paper or talking to peers, resulting infrequent time outs in the hall. Time out would only be effective if the language-artslesson is more stimulating than what is going on in the hall, which often isnot the case. A better method would be to make the language-arts lesson highlystimulating by using cooperative learning, hands-on activities, and frequentstudent responding. If we still need to use time out with Trevor, we need tofind a less stimulating, designated time-out area, such as a partitioned cornerof the room.
For mildly disruptive misbehavior, time outs should be donein class. In-class time out involves the removal of all forms of reinforcementfor a brief period of time. One type of in-class time out is planned ignoring,which involves the brief removal of social reinforcers,such as attention or verbal interaction. This involves looking away from thestudent, refraining from any interaction, or remaining quiet. A second form ofin-class time out is the brief removal of the student from an activity by beingplaced on the outskirts (i.e., a few steps back) but still able to"look" into the more reinforcing time-in setting.
When misbehaviors are more severe, we may need to send ourstudents to out-of-class time out. The out-of-class time out area should be aquiet, nonintimidating, reinforcement-free room withno other purpose. It should not be a highly stimulating, reinforcing place likethe office area, other classrooms, or the hallway. If possible, we should usethe same place for each time out. Despite our frustrations, we shouldadminister time out with a calm, neutral tone of voice. We should also give ourstudents a brief explanation for the time out to help build an associationbetween the misbehavior and the time-out consequence. Time outs should last foronly brief, reasonable periods of time (from a few seconds for in-class toseveral minutes for out-of-class time outs) and should be monitoredoccasionally to make certain the student is not receiving reinforcement. Weshould collect data to assess the overall effectiveness of time out. Finally,time out should always be used with precorrective,behavior-building strategies and reinforcement.
Students are often given mixed signals as to what isexpected and what will happen if they do not meet these expectations.Inconsistent expectations cause student confusion and frustration. Inconsistentconsequences maintain misbehaviors and can even cause the behavior to occurmore frequently or intensely. In addition, we find ourselves constantlyreminding and threatening which, in turn, enhances our frustration.
Instead: Have Clear Expectations That Are Enforced andReinforced Consistently
Expectations are clear when they are identifiable andconsistent. Reviewing expectations and rehearsing rules help build routines andminimize the potential for problems. We can do this by asking our students toread the expectations prior to each activity. When we have temporaryexpectation changes (e.g., changes in rules due to a guest being present orspecial school event), we must inform our students.
Expectations are pointless if they are not backed up withreinforcement for compliance and reasonable negative consequences fornoncompliance. For rule compliance, positive consequences should be appliedcontinuously at first (every time the student is appropriate) and thenintermittently (every so often). For example, if "following teacher'sdirections" is the classroom rule, then we should provide some form ofpositive consequence, perhaps praising the students for following directionsquickly and appropriately. At first, praise should be delivered each time thestudent follows teacher directions. Once the teacher establishes the behavior(in this case, following teacher directions), we can move to an intermittentpraise schedule. On the other hand, negative consequences (punishmentprocedures) are most effective when applied continuously. For instance, if ourclassroom consequence for verbal aggression toward a peer is the loss of recessprivileges, then each time one of our students is verbally aggressive we shouldapply that negative consequence. Of course, to effectively deal with thisverbal aggression, we also need to implement additional precorrectivemethods, such as teaching appropriate expressions of anger, peer mediation,prompting and providing praise for socially, appropriate interactions.
Mistake #10: Viewing Ourselves as the Only ClassroomManager
Managing classroom behavior may be more challenging todaythan ever before. Many teachers face larger class sizes, more students who comefrom stressful, chaotic homes, and increased diversity in students' abilitiesand cultures (Grossman, 2004). Yet, many of us are determined to manageclassroom behavior ourselves. After all, collaborating with others takes timeand energy to build rapport and come to a consensus on behavior-changepriorities and strategies. It's tempting just to forge ahead. Although, goingat it alone may seem like a good idea in the short-run, in the long run, we aremore likely to burn out and lose our effectiveness.
Instead: Include Students, Parents, and Others in ManagementEfforts
Fortunately, there are many others who can assist in ourbehavior management efforts, including students, their peers, fellow teachers,administrators, parents, and other school personnel. One effective way toinclude students in their own behavior change programs is the use ofself-monitoring. With self-monitoring, a student helps regulate his or her ownbehavior by recording its occurrence on a self-monitoring form. To help ensureaccuracy of self-monitoring, we should occasionally collect the data ourselvesand compare our recordings with those of our student. If our student accuratelyself-monitored, we should reinforce his or her accuracy. In addition, we shouldhold brief, occasional student-teacher conferences to review the student'sprogress. For more information on self-monitoring, see Alberto and Troutman(2003) or Webber, Scheuerman, McCall, and Coleman(1993). Also, go to http://www.coe.missouri.edu/%26sim;vrcbd to learn about KidTools, a computer-based program used to help studentscreate and use a variety of self-monitoring materials. KidToolscontains easy-to-use templates used to create personalized self-monitoringforms, including point cards, countoons, selfmanagement cards, make-a-plan cards, and contracts. To use this program,students enter information about target behaviors into a template and print outthe card for immediate use in the classroom.
The power of the peer group can be used to produce positivechanges in student behavior. Peers can serve as academic tutors and can monitorand reinforce each other's behaviors. Also, group-process, conflict resolution,or peer mediation meetings can be used in which students provide each otherwith behavior management suggestions (e.g., "Ignore him when he calls younames"), praise each other for behaving appropriately, and help each otherresolve a current classroom behavior problem (Barbetta,1990; Smith & Daunic, 2002). To help facilitategroup cohesiveness, we can use group-oriented contingencies in which the classearns its level of privileges and reinforcers as agroup.
We should also include other adults in behavior management.Fellow teachers can provide support in several ways. One way is to scheduleregular meetings where we share behavior management solutions. Occasionally, wemay need some extra support from a colleague, particularly if we work withstudents with emotional disorders. During those days, we shouldn't hesitate toask a colleague to stop by during his or her planning period and provide uswith some additional support or a short break. If we find ourselves in ateaching situation with one or more volatile students, we should develop asupport plan with a teacher in a classroom nearby (Lindberg & Swick, 2002). This plan could include an agreement that ourcolleague will cover our room in the event we have to escort a disruptivestudent out of the room or contact the principal or school security. Anotherexample of how we can support each other is by playing an active role inschool-wide behavior management (Lindberg & Swick).As we move throughout the school grounds (e.g., hallway, cafeteria, auditorium,playground), we should be aware of all students' behaviors (not just our ownstudents) and prompt and provide praise or negative consequences asappropriate.
When including administrators in behavior management, wetend to make two mistakes that are at opposite ends of the support spectrum(Lindberg & Swick, 2002). We either send studentsto them too frequently or we wait too long to get them involved. It is best toresolve as many behavior problems in our class and only involve administratorsfor more serious situations, such as physical aggression.
Parents and teachers who work actively together make apowerful team. Most parents can provide useful information about their child(i.e., medications, allergies, issues at home). Some parents can assist in ourbehavior management efforts at home by providing their child additionalprompting and reinforcement. Although, there are many benefits to working withparents, some teachers are reluctant due to the challenges that often exist.The potential benefits, however, make it worthwhile in most situations, andthere are many ways to increase parent-teacher team effectiveness (See Jones& Jones, 2002 in appendix). As teachers, it is our responsibility to buildproductive and positive parent-teacher partnerships. We can do this bycontacting parents when their child does well, treating them with respectduring conferences, maintaining positive and on-going communication, andvalidating any concerns they may have.
School counselors, psychologists, and other professionalscan be invaluable resources. We should seek out their assistance when neededfor support, guidance, and additional strategies.
At times there is a direct link between our lessons andstudent misbehavior. Perhaps our lesson is too easy or difficult, ineffective,or nonstimulating, which can lead to studentmisbehavior (Center, Deitz, & Kaufman, 1982).
Instead: Use Academic Instruction as a Behavior ManagementTool
The first line of defense in managing student behavior iseffective instruction. Good teachers have always known this and researchsupports this notion (Evertson & Harris, 1992).Jones (1991) found that when teachers demystify learning, achievement andbehavior improve dramatically. Examples of how to demystify learning includestudents establishing his or her learning goals, students monitoring his or herown learning, involving students in developing classroom rules and procedures,and relating lessons to students' own lives and interests.
Effective teaching practices include (but are not limitedto) instruction that is fast paced, includes high rates of active studentresponding, involves modeling new behaviors, and provides guided practice andpositive and corrective feedback (Evertson &Harris 1992; Sugai & Tindal, 1993). Effectiveinstructional strategies include the use of response cards, guided notes, andpeer tutoring (Heward, 2003; Hewardet al., 1996; Miller, Barbetta, & Heron, 1994).Consistent use of these strategies, and others that share the characteristicsof effective instruction, helps create highly effective learning environments,which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of behavior problems.
Mistake #12: Taking Student Behavior Too Personally
When students misbehave, it often feels like a personalattack, and for good reason. Some of our students are very good at making it feelpersonal. When we take students' misbehavior personally, we tend to lose ourobjectivity, look for quick management fixes that rarely work, and getemotionally upset, which takes time and energy away from our teaching.
Instead: Take Student Misbehavior Professionally, NotPersonally
When we take misbehavior professionally, we view behaviormanagement as our responsibility. Professionals know the importance of having asound management system in place that deals with classwideissues and individual student problems. Professionals have realisticexpectations for improvement in behavior and know that there are no quick fixeswith lasting effects. Most importantly, confident professionals ask forassistance when it is needed.
Although handling misbehaviors may be more challenging thanteaching academics, there are many effective strategies we can use that willmake our classroom days more pleasant and less chaotic. When we are moreeffective, we're calmer and less likely to react personally to studentmisbehavior. Although some student misbehavior may appear to be targeted towardus, these behaviors may be an outcome of their own wants and needs, lack ofskills, or emotional difficulties and frustrations. The time and energy wastedbeing upset at our students' misbehavior is better spent celebrating ourstudents' success.
This article briefly reviewed common behavior managementmistakes that we make as teachers and provided numerous strategies as to whatto do instead. We believe these suggestions will be useful in the context ofdeveloping and implementing a comprehensive behavior management plan. By nomeans do these suggestions represent a complete list of effective strategies.For more thorough information on some of the recommended strategies, refer tothe reference list.