Study finds supervision in hallways is effective for preventing tardiness

iStock_000002424978XSmallToo many high school students are tardy for class. If you are the principal of a school implementing positive behavior support (PBS) strategies, to reduce the number of tardy students would you . . .

a) Give students detention
b) Send tardy students to a time management class
c) Post teachers in hallways to supervise students walking to their next classes
d) Lock students out of class if they are more than 5 minutes late

The correct answer is c–post teachers in hallways to supervise students walking to their next classes, according to a recent study in the Education and Treatment of Children (although an argument could be made for the time management class).

The study in Education and Treatment of Children reports that a small rural high school reduced the number of tardy students getting discipline referrals when researchers organized teachers to carry out active supervision of students in hallways between classes.

“Results from the current study provide preliminary evidence to suggest that active supervision may be an effective antecedent intervention to reduce high school student tardiness to class following hallway transitions,” the researchers report.

Among the important principles of PBS is that educators should try to prevent problem behaviors with “antecedent interventions.” These interventions include making changes in the environment such as rearranging desks or making other modifications. Such interventions do not only take place in the classroom, but also in non-classroom settings such as hallways and the cafeteria.

“The objective of pre-correction is to cue the student to engage in a more appropriate behavior before the problem behavior ever occurs,” the study reports. “This cue can be in the form of a verbal prompt or even a nonverbal gesture or model of the appropriate behavior.” In this study, all 36 teachers in the high school participated in active supervision in the hallways between classes.

In the first semester of the school year, 38% of all discipline referrals were for tardiness. Teachers were trained in active supervision during a 30-minute training conducted at an after-school faculty meeting. The training included a PowerPoint presentation on the rationale for the intervention, the steps of active supervision and the procedures of intervention. The experimenters gave verbal examples as well as non-verbal examples of each component of active supervision.

Previous research has described active supervision as having three basic steps:

  1. Scanning, defined as examining the area for rule followers and violators;
  2. moving, defined as consistently traveling the location, especially in areas where problems are more likely to occur (e.g., groups of students);
  3. and interacting, defined as initiating brief pro-social interactions with students.

Six components of active supervision

In this specific intervention for tardiness in the hallways of the school, 6 components of active supervision were defined:

  • teachers arriving at their posts on time;
  • remaining in post area;
  • moving toward groups of students in post area escorting students
  • throughout transition area;
  • scanning transition area by moving head side to side; and
  • interacting with students using non-verbal gestures (e.g. smiling, prompting).

Active supervision was conducted during the transitions following 3rd and 5th periods. The transition following 4th period served as the control. These were the periods that had the highest numbers of tardy students. Study observers checked on consistency with which teachers implemented active supervision.

The researchers found that, among the 5 elements of active supervision, being at one’s post, escorting students and interacting with students seem to be the most salient features of the intervention. The school policy, which remained in place during the intervention, was that a student got an office discipline referral and a morning or afternoon detention with 3 tardies.

If a second discipline referral was received (6 tardies), the student could receive a full day of in-school suspension. The researchers note that tardiness seemed to increase after the 4th period, which was the control period in the active supervision intervention. The authors speculate that the students may have taken advantage of the lack of active supervision for social interactions which led to increases in tardiness. Another possibility, they write, is that the consequences for tardy behavior may not have been sufficient.

“Active Supervision: An Intervention to Reduce High School Tardiness,” by Dristin Johnson-Gros et al., Education and Treatment of Children, Volume 31, Number 1, Fall 2008, pp. 39-53.

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