Effective behaviour modification in the classroom begins with training teachers in best practices. Authentic practice of positively stating and explicitly teaching desired behaviours, calmly and consistently consequencing students using strong voice, and creating student behaviour plans or contracts, provides teachers with the foundational knowledge crucial to their execution of behaviour modification.
After initial training, one of the most effective ways to help teachers with behaviour modification in the classroom is the use of Real Time Coaching. Since behaviour modification relies on immediate and effective response to both positive and negative behaviours, coaching at the point of instruction increases teachers’ awareness of behaviours exhibited in the classroom and improves their practice in responding to behaviour. Real Time Coaching can be done as simply as holding up coloured index cards or paper in the back of the room to signal a teacher or involve more advanced methods like speaking to the teacher through wireless earpieces.
It is also important to provide teachers with the necessary tools to reinforce desired behaviours and redirect or consequence misbehaviours. These tools can range from a budget for tangible incentives or tokens of recognition to behaviour tracking and consequence systems, like Kickboard. Resources that both track data and act as a consequence system are vital to behaviour modification as they help address both student behaviourand assist teachers in analysing trends and making adjustments based on those trends.
While target behaviours and goals should vary from student to student, behaviour plan templates can remain consistent, making teachers more likely to implement them with fidelity. Every individualised behaviour plan should feature the following sections that can be modified for each student:
To further support the writing of behaviour plans, create a bank of target and replacement behaviours as well as behaviour modification strategies that can be used across the school, particularly for students receiving more generalised Tier 2 PBIS supports.
Behaviour modification techniques in early grades have a strong focus on preventative measures, such as explicitly teaching and modelling expectations, and positive reinforcement of desired behaviours. These techniques can include anything from positive narration, praise/recognition, and tangible rewards to creating and implementing a schoolwide character development curriculum.
Choosing developmentally appropriate consequences while still teaching the desired behaviour is crucial to students’ behaviour development. When misbehaviour occurs, effective responses are immediate and make the connection between the behaviour and the consequence clear to the student so that s/he knows how to adjust in order to grow.
When setting behaviour goals that are incentivised, consider a student’s age and ability to stay motivated long term before setting the goals’ time frame. For student in kindergarten and 1st grade, daily or sometimes half-day goals may be most appropriate, whereas older students could work toward weekly or bi-weekly goals.
Primary grade teachers often focus on explicit teaching and modelling of desired behaviours and then reinforce them through frequent praise and tangible incentives. In middle schools, however, research has shown that reacting to negative behaviours is prioritised and a balanced ratio of positive to negative reinforcement can be lost.
While practices and strategies like target behaviours, goal time frames, length and severity of consequences, and preferred reinforcers may change with a student’s age, the need for purposeful character development that teaches the what, why, and how of expectations and sets students up for success remains a crucial component of effective behaviour modification.
Just like their peers, students in special education respond positively when expectations are made clear and desired behaviours are reinforced. While some expectations may need to be modified for students with disabilities, with the proper supports, like structured breaks, individualised schedules, and differentiated work, they can meet and often exceed the same expectations as their classmates.
For a student with more severe behaviour and mental health needs, a functional behaviour assessment and accompanying behaviour intervention plan should be created by a trained staff member, like a social worker, and executed by all adults who interact with the student throughout the day. These plans detail which behaviours should be targeted and the strategies most effective in getting the student to exhibit those behaviours. When implemented with fidelity, these plans can be very successful in improving student behaviourand making the classroom safer for all.
Other strategies that produce positive results for students with disabilities include:
To increase parent engagement in behaviour intervention plans, involve them from the outset of the process. Interview parents about their students’ behaviour at home, what they do to consequence behaviour, and what preferred rewards the student receives at home. Ask for feedback from the student and parent about their experience in the classroom. It demonstrates that their perspective is welcomed and valued and provides an opportunity for a more effective behaviour plan.
As the plan is executed, maintain frequent, clear, and honest communication between school and home to update parents about a student’s progress and alert them to any adjustments being made to the plan. It is as important to call home for positive behaviours as negative behaviours, signaling investment in students’ success and growth rather than simply focusing on punishing them for misbehaviour.
“Kickboard has revolutionised the way we implement reward systems…the data we can get from this is invaluable…”Teacher
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