Special ed teachers cite effective behavior management strategies

Elementary Pupils Counting With Teacher In ClassroomSending a student to the principal’s office for bad behavior, giving detention, having a class meeting to discuss problem behaviors or rewarding students with a point system for good behavior are some of the least effective behavior management strategies, according to the results of a survey of special educators recently reported in Preventing School Failure.

The most effective behavior management strategies cited by special educators include:

  • establishing classroom rules and routines
  • accommodating individual instructional needs by individualizing tasks and instruction
  • praising or encouraging appropriate student behavior
  • using verbal cues and prompts
  • modeling appropriate behavior
  • communicating regularly with students through conversations, notes or journals

The least effective behavior management strategies, according to special education teachers, are:

  • Sending a student to the principal’s office for bad behavior
  • giving detention
  • having a class meeting to discuss problem behaviors or rewarding students with a point system for good behavior

“Researchers and policy makers have developed elaborate interventions for managing student behavior,” write the authors. “However, they may have failed to consult direct service providers–special education and general education teachers–about their actual use of these interventions.”

“The information provided by special education teachers in our study suggests that some interventions commonly taught in teacher preparation programs are viewed by teachers as too complex to implement and, in some instances, ineffective. When the costs of employing intensive interventions outweigh their benefits, teachers are unlikely to use those approaches.”

In this study, 211 Kansas special education teachers completed surveys (surveys were mailed to 400 teachers) on the use, effectiveness and intensity of 24 communication and 33 behavior management strategies. An equal number of teachers were sent surveys from the following four largest classifications: emotional and behavior disorders (EBD), learning disabilities (LD), mental retardation (MR) and interrelated (IR).

Participants indicated they were more likely to use communication than behavior strategies. Of the eight most-used strategies, six are in the communication category.

“High-use behavior management strategies were using gestures or signal alerts and proximity control and contacting parents to discuss student behavior,” the authors write.

Of the 12 least-used approaches, 10 are behavior management strategies and two are communication strategies. The most frequently used strategies also tended to be the strategies the teachers found most effective.

Least effective strategies

“The least effective communication strategies were permitting problem behavior to occur with the idea that the student will soon return to appropriate behavior, organizing and administering a group-contingent reward system, and threatening students with loss of privileges,” the authors write.

“One clear finding is that all of the most used management strategies are intended to prevent or interfere with problem behavior at an early stage,” write the authors. “The least used approaches, however, address problems after they occur (e.g., conducting class meetings to discuss problem behavior, threatening students with loss of privileges, assigning detention or school suspension, call parents to come and take a student home).

“Revisiting Cost-Benefit Relationships of Behavior Management Strategies: What Special Educators Say About Usefulness, Intensity, and Effectiveness,” by Marilyn Kaff, Robert Zabel and Morgan Milham, Preventing School Failure, 2007, Volume 51, Number 2, pp. 35-45.

3 Responses to “Special ed teachers cite effective behavior management strategies”

  1. yolinda

    You can use all the special cliches known to mankind and if you aren’t addressing the underlying medical issues connected to behavioral issues in special need’s students, you will miss the entire etiology of why they are acting out. The problem is we still have thousands of doctors in this country who know nothing about autism, epilepsy and other special needs. There are experts in this area in medicine. The experts who claim to be experts know very little and do very little. Big big problem.

    • Carol slack

      Excellent information ! One thing that’s makes a lot of sense , missing from your arguments ! Showing empathy ! Love and kindness! After over 15 years! They need to feel the love and care! Most don’t get this! Big Problem!!!!!!❤️


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