By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: mentoring
Posts 1 - 3 of 3

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


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mentoring: Getting to Issues

Mentoring in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters sense is different from mentoring a new researcher, engineer or software developer (where most of my mentoring experience has been).  Mentoring a software developer typically starts at the conceptual level, revolving around skills and knowledge related to the task of developing software. But it also provides a handy starting place for other conversations going beyond technology. Often mentoring conversations don't end with technical discussions. There are many more general issues that the developer may have in mind such as feelings of frustration with new technology, possibly issues of fitting into a new organization, dealing with a difficult boss or colleague and so on. These emotional issues are similar to the kinds of issues most prevalent in a less specific mentoring situation such as being a Big Brother to a kid in school.

While it's nice for the mentee to "have somebody there" it is much more useful to "have someone to talk to." And that means, of course, someone to talk to about emotional issues and feelings, not just about concepts like the proper syntax of a database query. How does the mentee get to that point?

Conversations where one opens up about feelings and vulnerabilities may not come easily. The mentee may be particularly reluctant to trust the mentor with inner thoughts if trust has been a mentee issue in the past. There tends to be tension and anxiety when revealing inner secrets but there are several techniques that can ease the tension.

Displacement activities can help relieve the tension in an anxious conversation. Displacement activities provide something else to attend to but which is not very demanding of attention. For example, if your goal is to have a conversation about feelings of fear or anxiety, shooting some baskets or playing a game of "horse" is a good displacement activity (if you both like basketball.) On the other hand, an intense game of basketball is unlikely to help much because it fully absorbs one's attention.  Other good displacement activities are going for a walk, having lunch together or playing a board game.

Particularly helpful displacement activities are those where the mentor helps the mentee with something. Say the mentee is a high school kid washing the car for a date. Help him or her wash the car. In the course of the car wash, the mentee might bring up questions or the mentor might ask some. Working together side by side, particularly on a task of value to the mentee, is a good way to relax and open up a conversation.

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Keywords: mentoring


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Online Mentoring

What does one do with all these buckets of wisdom (???) collected over a working lifetime? Mentoring can put it to use, and the way to do it today is primarily online.

I have mentored professionals in the past and continue to do so today. Decades ago, face to face meetings were the way to go. Either meet on an as-needed basis or on a more formal scheduled basis. Sometimes meetings were done in the office if convenient or perhaps at lunch meetings.

Today, you can be far more efficient and effective using online technology for mentoring. Email, video chat, phone calls and webinar-style connections allow mentors and mentees to connect when questions arise and address them immediately. In fact, I prefer online webinar-style meetings to face-to-face meetings when the topic of discussion is specific such as software development questions. Better than two people trying to crowd around the same keyboard, mouse and monitor, you can both be looking at a shared screen image, control of the mouse and keyboard can go from one to the other easily, and the discussion is concrete, not a bunch of abstractions and likely misunderstandings.

For more general discussions I like video chat links such as using Skype or ooVoo (my preference). The communication isn't quite as good as face to face meetings, but I find it better than a phone call yet just as spontaneous as a phone call. And if there's a need to quickly get more specific, you can switch over to a webinar connection.

K12 Mentoring

My experience with mentoring has been almost entirely limited to within a business environment. Why? Because that's where it could be done without considerable overhead of getting a mentee and myself at the same place to have a mentoring session. But online mentoring has changed all that. One of the things that the new technology enables is the ability for life-experienced and work-experienced people to work with students.

When the whole tribe sat around the campfire at night there was easy communication between the young and the old. Experience and novel challenges were easily passed in both directions. But today, kids rarely know exactly what their parents or other adults do at work all day or how they do it. And adults have only a vague understanding of what school life is really like. But that can change with online mentoring. The dinner table is probably still the best place to talk about life's challenges and solutions with your own kids, but to work with other kids, online mentoring is easy and convenient.

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Keywords: mentoring

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