By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: PBIS
Posts 1 - 6 of 6

Monday, November 27, 2017

PBIS capabilities in Behavior Manager

Research shows that the most effective approach to student behavior is carrots and sticks: a balance of positive supports with mild punishments.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an approach to student behavior that is getting a lot of attention. PBIS is a reaction to traditional student discipline which typically translated to punishment for misbehavior. And if the misbehavior is repeated, punishments will be increasingly severe. And the biggest problem with traditional discipline is that it isn't very effective. It's not effective either for schools or students in the ultimate goal of improving student achievement.

Here's an example of traditional discipline run amok. A student is tardy to class, so he's sent to the office for a punishment. We don't want students to be tardy to class because they miss instruction time and their late arrival is somewhat disruptive. But when the student is sent to the office because he's tardy, he's missed even more instruction time. If he's been tardy several times, he may now be given a severe punishment of suspension from school. With the suspension, he may miss three entire days of instruction. Now you have a student in serious risk of falling behind. Repeat this in several classes over several years and you have a student who is at serious risk of dropping out. Without even a high school diploma, his job prospects are poor. The student is not well served. The school is not well. And the community is not well served.

Does this actually happen? Yes. We see in our discipline data that it happens all the time.

PBIS is a positive approach to student behavior. It's goal is to avoid student misbehaviors, avoid missed instruction time and keep students in school through completion. Here's how it works.

Teach expectations. PBIS assumes that students must be taught what is expected of their behavior, practices these skills and get frequent feedback on whether they're doing it right.

Reward students for appropriate behavior. This is the "positive" part of PBIS. Teach appropriate behavior by rewarding it rather than just punishing unwanted behavior. You will find products on the market for which tracking positive points for appropriate behavior is all they do. Yes, that's "positive" but PBIS is much more. We have a component in Behavior Manager, One-Click Merits, for easily rewarding students for proper behaviors but we certainly don't consider it as a total PBIS solution.

You will also encounter teachers who will object to rewards for appropriate behavior. They object that they aren't going to give students rewards for things they should be doing anyhow. Two things about that. First, it may not be clear to the students what they should be doing. That's why they need to be taught. Second, you don't have to keep the rewards coming forever. It's not like a paycheck. The positive rewards are a teaching tool to reinforce the lesson of expected behaviors. As with any reinforcement plan, the rewards can be faded over time as the expected behaviors become routine for the student.

Reteach expectations. After you've taught expectations and provided positive feedback and then a student misbehaves, now do you punish him? Well, what would you do in math class when a student gets the wrong answer to a division problem? Punish him? Or do you reteach him, give him more practice and try again?

One way Behavior Manager helps to reteach expectations is through our Behavior Questionnaires and Character Builders. These are fairly lengthy questionnaires that encourage students to reflect upon their behavior and consider its effect on themselves, fellow students and parents. Behavior Questionnaires focus on specific behavior issues and Character Builders focus on positive character traits. Behavior Questionnaires and Character Builders are often used as interventions for misbehaviors but notice that they are not punishments. They are a form of reteaching expected behaviors.

Function of behavior. When a student misbehaves, why did she do it? Is she looking for attention from the teacher? Is she in a power struggle with the teacher? Does she seek attention from her peers? Is she hoping to escape having to do something that she's not prepared to do? Each of these is a different possible function that may be behind an act of student misbehavior. Different interventions should be applied to match the function.

In Behavior Manager we have Motivations which are a set of student motivations or functions of behavior that may be behind a student's actions. When the teacher selects a Motivation, interventions that are appropriate to that motivation are suggested to the teacher. Choosing an intervention that is appropriate to a student's motivation can help avoid escalations, power struggles and attempts to escape stressful situations.

Nonpunitive interventions. Some students will need more attention to thair behavior than the rest. Is this the time for punishment? Some interventions have been shown to be effective for troublesome students which do not involve punishment. One that has been extensively researched is Check In/Check Out (CICO). It involves rating a student's behavior in each period of the day, reviewing it at the end of the day and having the parents sign the day's rating card that night to be returned the next morning. In other words, CICO involves a lot of personal attention to a student regarding her behavior in each period of each day. These ratings are tracked over weeks looking for improvements in the ratings scores. Does goal setting and lots of personal daily attention help improve student behavior? Yes. And it is far more effective than a suspension.

That's why Behavior Manager provides extensive support for CICO tracking, goal setting and signature tracking. Behavior Manager also provides support for other nonpunitive interventions such as Restorative Justice, Mentoring, Social Skills Club and others.

Improve teaching skills. A teacher who has not mastered classroom management skills or who presents lessons in a boring or confusing way is likely to have trouble in the classroom. Often, new teachers are left to their own devices to develop classroom management skills. Often they are not successful. An inability to manage a classroom is one of the most commonly cited causes of leaving the teaching profession.

Behavior Manager addresses the critical need for improving classroom management skills in the aptly named module Practice Classroom Management Skills. It gives a teacher deliberate practice in a specific skill to apply each day. If an administrator notices a pattern of referrals suggesting classroom management skills in need of improvement, she can assign the Practice to the teacher and see that the teacher is checking into the module daily.

PBIS goes a long way beyond giving students recognition points. And Behavior Manager has it covered.

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Keywords: PBIS, one-click merits, behavior questionnaires, character builders, motivation, Check In/Check Out, restorative justice, mentoring, social skills club, Practice Classroom Management Skills


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How can behavior be improved?

The traditional view of school discipline is that punishment will serve as a deterrent. If a student is not deterred, step up the punishment. The extreme case is to expel an incorrigible student.

The traditional approach works for most students. But for the students who do not respond, there may be serious consequences. Missing school through suspensions and expulsions leads to poor academic performance and often to dropping out. It also leads to negative attitudes toward shool when the student does return. Further, for students who may not have learned the rules of behavior and socialization in their home life, teaching through catching mistakes and punishment is a brutish way to teach.

As a result, positive behavior supports (PBIS) continues to gain support as a better alternative. I treats school misbehavior as primarily a knowledge and skills issue. Teach behavior expectations, provide frequent feedback, emphasizing positive feedback and keep track of students' mastery of the knowledge and skills. When a student misbehaves, try to figure out why. Lack of knowledge? Desire for attention? Escape from a situation or responsibilty? Tailor the response to the motivation.

A few things are left out of the story.

With both the carrots approach (PBIS) and sticks approach (traditional discipline) the assumption is that the misbehavior should be corrected by the student. But take tardies. They may be caused by crowded hallways, malfunctioning lockers or classes being too far away from one another.

Another common trigger of student misbehavior is poor teaching skills. Boring, unengaging teachers are likely to see students invent new ways to engage their minds in the classroom. Teachers who lack "withitness" skills often miss opportunities to nip off task behavior in the bud, then things get out of hand.

A third issue is parent's attitudes. If parents are casual about school hours, for example, tardies may be common. Again, not exactly the fault of the student.

So, what's to be done?

First, recognize that conditions that are not under the student's control can contribute to infractions.

Second, gather data that gives you insight into what's going on. Are there teachers with abnormally high rates of office referrals? Why? Are there systemic problems like crowded hallways that cause problems? Fix them.

Third, set goals for improving student behavior with a strategy for how you'll make the improvement. Then watch the numbers. If the improvement isn't coming, figure out why and try something new.

Remember, student achievement is highly correlated to student behavior. It's worth the effort to make it better.

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Keywords: PBIS, carrots and sticks, continuous improvement


Monday, November 13, 2017

PBIS for teachers?

PBIS is being widely advocated to improve student behavior in schools. The basic outline is

  • Teach behavior expectations
  • Give frequent feedback on whether the expections are being met
  • Reteach the expectations if they aren't being met
  • Have more intensive interventions for the few students who don't respond to the above steps by exhibiting the expected behaviors

Why should PBIS be limited to students? Why not extend it to teachers, too? For that matter, why not extend it to any organization where behavior expectations exist?

Here are some objections.

But teachers are professionals. They shouldn't be micromanaged.

True, but they should be managed. Some (all?) teachers would benefit from feedback on how they're doing. It mustn't be overdone but it should be done.

New teachers especially benefit from guidance on teaching skills that they never got in their traing. The more common error is that teachers who would benefit from guidance typically get too little of it rather than expert teachers get too much.

But there's no time for all that monitoring and feedback. We've got work to do.

Guess what? That's exactly what you hear about PBIS for students. If the program is effective, time is saved in the long run by more smoothly running classrooms.

But teachers won't respond to rewards.

Oh yeah? Everyone likes to be recognized for their work. And not just during Teacher Appreciation Week. Recognition throughout the year will make a happier workplace and more enthusiatic teachers.

Make the recognition regular and frequent. And just like student recognition, keep track of who is recognized when. Find ways to spread the recognition around.

But what are the expectations?

If you don't know, you're not leading the team. You're just hoping thigs go right. And just as you involve students in defining class rules, it makes sense to involve teachers in setting the expectations for themselves and their colleagues.

But what are the rewards?

There's no reason that teacher recognition cannot be redeemed for teacher rewards in just the same way that student recognitions are. 

But is there that much to learn?

Professional feedback is about two things. One is about the learning and practice of critical skills. The other is about relationships. Relationships are important in any organization and they need constant attention.

The ideas an motivations behind PBIS aren't just for students. The whole school can benefit from them.

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Keywords: PBIS


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can you improve student behavior?

There is often a problem hidden behind a question like, "Can you improve student behavior?" The question seems to imply that it's the student who needs to be "fixed." That's not always the case.

I remember when I was in ninth grade my homeroom teacher was Mr. Posthuma, a first year teacher. The poor guy had absolutely no control in his classroom. I'm sure he must have been miserable throughout the day and must have been reluctant to return each morning. He must have been so disappointed to have spent years preparing to be a teacher, only to find this as his daily experience. Classroom management is often cited as the reason that teachers leave the profession.

But classroom management is a set of skills. Skills that can be learned. And once learned, the newly skilled teacher finds that his students' behavior has improved. So, were the students "fixed" or was it the teacher?

Our Behavior Manager product does a great job of helping make the processes of PBIS and traditional discipline work more easily and smoothly. But we felt there was something missing. Were we doing enough for poor Mr. Posthuma?

We recently added some new capabilities to Behavior Manager for Mr. Posthuma. First, when a teacher creates an office referral, the system now pulls up articles related to the student's behavior problem. If Mr. Posthuma is feeling exasperated or is just looking for some new ideas, he can browse through these articles that are specific to the immediate problem he's facing. It's sometimes called just-in-time training.

Another new capability in Behavior Manager is called Practice Classroom Management Skills. It's a gamelike system that teaches the skills of classroom management. But as any teacher knows, you don't master skills by reading about them. They must be practiced. And that's what Practice Classroom Management Skills does. It provides a way for deliberate practice in these skills with real students in real classrooms.

The system is gamelike in that it introduces skills in small steps and, as each is mastered, moves the teacher ahead in experience and levels. But the deliberate practice is not conducted in a simulation, it's conducted in the teacher's own classroom.

I'll bet Mr. Posthuma would have appreciated it.

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Keywords: PBIS, Behavior Manager, classroom mangement, Practice Classroom Management Skills, deliberate practice


Monday, November 6, 2017

Why do people hate their software? Why do people love their software?

We work with a lot of people who usually have strong opinions about the student information system (SIS) in their school district. The consensus: they hate them.

Why would that opinion be so widespread?

I've got a theory: they hate their SIS because it doesn't work as they expect it should. I think the root cause is that SISes are made mainly to satisfy the requirements for state reporting. They aren't made to make life easier for the user, unless that user would have been the one to do state reporting without an SIS! (Good luck!)

That's exactly the reason why we at Edclick have an opportunity which we serve with Behavior Manager. Dealing with issues of student behavior both through carrots (typified by PBIS techniques) and sticks (traditional consequences for misbehavior) involves a lot more steps than simply reporting student out-of-placement days to the state. And that's what customers like about Behavior Manager...it covers the entire process. It does what they expect it to do.

Is Behavior Manager perfect? Nope! And here's an example. Yesterday I got a call from a school where a teacher had used Behavior Manager to assign a student out-of-school suspension for nine days. And for out-of-placement consequences, Behavior Manager has a mechanism to collect the classroom assignments from the student's teachers that the student should work on during the suspension. Makes sense in the process of a suspension, and it's in Behavior Manager and people like it. So far so good.

But what the call was about was that the system had not emailed the assignments directly to the student and/or her parents. The collected assignments are available to faculty online but the student hadn't been informed. The software didn't work as expected and the teacher was unhappy. And you know what? The teacher was right. Despite the fact that assignments are usually collected for students with IN-school suspension where they are distributed to students by the faculty, sometimes they're collected for students assigned OUT-of-school suspension. Direct delivery to the student and/or parent makes more sense in that case.

They were right, we were wrong, so we fixed it last night. Class assignments can now be emailed to any suspended student with a simple click.

If software doesn't do what the user expects and if you care about making your customers happy, fix it. At least, that's what we do.

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Keywords: PBIS, Behavior Manager, discipline, carrots and sticks, process improvement


Monday, October 2, 2017

Behavior reinforcement: Is it personal?

Two strong principles of PBIS are to provide positive personal feedback for appropriate behavior and to collect data for databased decision-making. Sometimes these two principles are at odds. Recording data must be as unobtrusive as possible. We don't want to take the teacher's attention away from class or seem to diminish her engagement class.

One of the solutions for recording data is to do it all off-line. The teacher counts tick marks or behavior token tickets when the students aren't there. But that takes more time for the teacher. And the more time that's required for collecting data, the less likely it is that the data will be collected. If data collection can be integrated in with the teacher's activity during class, it's much more likely that the data be collected.

To minimize the time requirement for recording positive student behavior, we developed one-click merit points. This allows the teacher to give any of the students in her class a merit point for any of several expectations simply by clicking a box by the students name.

Behavior Manager includes a star chart that can be on display for the class throughout the class period. By viewing the live star chart, students can immediately see that they have been recognized for specific positive behaviors.

Consider an alternative. A teacher could hand a ticket to a student for positive feedback. By walking over to the student's desk and handing him a ticket, possibly along with a word or two of encouragement, the teacher has made a personal contact with that student. The personal contact enhances the positive feedback.

But with the ticket method, there is no record of the positive feedback. To make a record, the students might check in with a teacher at the end of class when the teacher could enter into a spreadsheet the number of tickets that each student received. But it's additional work taking additional time.

Can clicking on a button on a tablet be made personal? Sure. The teacher can do it through eye contact, a smile, a wink, a thumbs up or a positive remark. Or, like a paper ticket method, the teacher can walk over near the student, click the tablet, and pat the student on the back.

Making positive feedback personal is important. But collecting the data is too. Luckily, you can have it both ways.

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Keywords: PBIS, star chart, positive feedback, merit points, Behavior Manager

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