The great risk a teacher takes when attempting to stop a student’s problem behavior in class is that the adult-child interaction will only make the situation worse and escalate the conflict.
In schools implementing Schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (SWPBIS), teachers need strategies that can quickly address common non-compliant behavior in the classroom in a non-confrontational and unemotional manner.
In a recent issue of Exceptional Children, researchers report on a 5-step behavior intervention that is a modern twist on sending a child out of the classroom when the child is non-compliant. The intervention was found to have a significant effect on reducing problem behaviors and to be associated with a trend of more on-task behavior, although it was statistically non-significant, the researchers write. The benefits of the intervention were smaller in schools serving higher proportions of low socioeconomic students.
“The conceptual framework for the behavior intervention is based on coercion theory,” the researchers write. “Within coercion theory, the immediate effects of adults’ attempts to stop the problem behaviors of children not only make the situation worse (in terms of persistence and escalation) but also play a key role in establishing ongoing coercive adult-child interactions.”
The intervention can be used as a Tier 1 and Tier 2 strategy in a 3-tier SWPBIS system, the researchers write. It is more effective and appropriate to use with students who have less severe behavior problems than with those students who will need Tier 3 interventions, they add.
The behavior intervention included 5 components:
Precision request from the teacher – Teacher uses a short statement to encourage the child to be on task and does not use threats, ultimatums, warnings or repeated requests.
Assign the behavior intervention – If student does not comply, teacher sends the student to a colleague’s classroom for a short reflective period. The interaction is non-confrontational, limited, unemotional and matter-of-fact.
Reflective period in another classroom – The teacher uses a pass to signal or prompt the students to move independently to the designated classroom. The teacher in the other classroom directs the student to a desk. The desk is in an area that is free from distractions and limits the student’s ability to interact with others.
Behavior debriefing process – Once the colleague-teacher observes that the student has gained self-control, he/she conducts a debriefing process. The student is asked to give an objective verbal description of the behavior that led to the behavior intervention. This is done to help the teacher determine if the student has sufficiently regained control and is ready to return to his or her classroom.
If the student is judged to be ready, the teacher gives the student a Behavior Debriefing Form to complete. The form has 3 questions: What was your behavior, What do you need to do differently when you go back to class and Can you do it (the replacement behavior)? After reviewing the form, the teacher directs the student to return to his or her regular classroom with the completed form in hand.
If the student continues to be unresponsive and defiant and is not ready to return to the classroom , the teacher simply says, “I’ll be back to you.” The teacher does not cajole the student and avoids being drawn into a discussion.
Reentry into the classroom – The student’s teacher welcomes the student back into the classroom. Before taking a seat, the student stands by the door and waits for the teacher to acknowledge and appraise the Behavior Debriefing Form. If the debriefing forms is inaccurate, the student is directed back to the designated teacher’s classroom to repeat the reflective period.
All students in 13 participating schools were screened for behavioral risk status in the fall of 2007-2008 school year with the exception of students receiving special education services (special ed students were included in the study). The screening was done with a modified version of the systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD).
The screening identified 129 students at the 13 schools exhibiting externalizing behaviors per the parameters set by the researchers. Of the 129 students, 97 had parental consent to participate in the study. The 13 schools were randomly assigned to treatment schools or control schools.
Principals, teachers, and staff at each school received ongoing training throughout the study by project staff. They attended 2 3-hour training sessions before program implementation in March 2008. Following training, 2 behavior coaches supported implementation at the 7 treatment schools. Coaches offered weekly, optional after-school meetings in the staff lounge. They also visited classrooms at convenient times for the teacher and the class and completed a fidelity checklist to provide feedback on strengths and weaknesses of implementation. Lastly, they held whole-staff meetings to provide booster training to all staff.
Outcome measures used to assess the effect of the intervention include the Classroom Atmosphere Rating Scale and Direct observations of student behavior with the Stage Observation System . Special observers also conducted 4 15-minute observation samplings of each student in 8 waves of student observations. Results of the 4 observations were averaged. No students were observed more than once per day and multiple students were not observed during the same sampling. Observers gave teachers a week’s notice that their student(s) would be observed during a given observation period.
“Behavior Intervention for Students With Externalizing Behavior Problems: Primary-Level Standard Protocol,” by Gregory Benner et al., Exceptional Children, 2012, Volume 78, Number 2, pp. 181-198.