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Behavior Interventions Continued

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Least Intensive Interventions (Continued)
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Encouraging Student Academic Motivation

One of the greatest frustrations mentioned by many teachers is that their students are often not motivated to learn. Teachers quickly come to recognize the warning signs of poor motivation in their classroom: students put little effort into homework and classwork assignments, slump in their seats and fail to participate in class discussion, or even become confrontational toward the teacher when asked about an overdue assignment. One common method for building motivation is to tie student academic performance and classroom participation to specific rewards or privileges. Critics of reward systems note, however, that they can be expensive and cumbersome to administer and may lead the student to engage in academics only when there is an outside payoff. While there is no magic formula for motivating students, the creative teacher can sometimes encourage student investment in learning in ways that do not require use of formal reward systems.

When planning any academic activity, teachers can follow the useful exercise of (1) imagining that they themselves are going to be the students and (2) brainstorming about ways that an instructor might motivate them to learn. The lesson here is simple: Students are not so different from us. If we become inattentive when listening to an instructor speak from a lectern for 90 minutes straight, our students probably will too!

Here are some alternative ideas for promoting student motivation:

    1. Build in rewarding opportunities for social interaction. A student may find an otherwise tedious or frustrating task to be more motivating if it provides an opportunity for social interaction. An adult tutor, for instance, can provide support and encouragement that can kindle motivation for a student. Cross-age peer tutoring, cooperative learning groups and informal study groups are other examples of social situations that students may find to be both motivating and good settings for reviewing academic skills. One caution, though: social interactions can be so entertaining in their own right that they interfere with learning! Instructors can minimize social distractions in academic situations by making their expectations for student work very clear from the outset and by monitoring social groupings to ensure that academics always remain the main focus.
    2. Provide audiences for student work. One social context that can be extremely motivating is to have an audience that will eventually evaluate one’s creative work. Instructors can encourage students to submit their work to publications, for example, to post it on web sites, or to present it to live audiences (e.g., a poetry reading).
    3. Reduce the effort needed to complete an academic assignment. Research indicates that the amount of effort needed to undertake an activity (effort threshold) will play an important role in how motivated a person is to attempt the activity in the first place. If a task is made more difficult, it is likely that people will be more likely to put off trying the task. If a task is made easier, people will more willingly attempt it. Teachers and parents can use this well-documented (and common-sense) fact to increase a student’s willingness to engage in academics. Here are some examples that show how reducing the effort connected with a learning activity can lead to greater student participation:
        • A difficult and complex task (e.g., researching and writing a term paper) can broken down into easier-to-accomplish sub-steps for the student to complete as separate assignments.
        • A peer helper may assist a student who is chronically disorganized to set up and clean up their work area each day, making the task less time-consuming.
        • If a child typically does not read for entertainment and will not go to the library for a book, a parent can leave interesting books around in the home for the child to read.
    4. Connect academic requirements to real-world situations. The media are full of true stories that demonstrate the application of knowledge from various academic areas to real-world problems. When students see that content covered in their coursework can help to explain how actual, high profile problems were created or solved, they can sense the real power of academic knowledge and its potential to affect human lives. Here is one recent real-world example that a teacher might use to illustrate potential dangers in attempting to coordinate translation of measurements across competing systems: The radio signal of a NASA interplanetary probe sent to orbit Mars vanished suddenly on September 23, 1999, just as it was nearing the red planet. An investigation revealed the source of the problem. It appears that engineers planning the mission had failed to translate calculations of rocket thrust from the English measurement system (pounds of thrust) to a metric measurement system (1 Newton = 4.45 English pounds of thrust). During the final leg of the probe’s journey through space, mission managers assumed wrongly that rocket thrust calculations were in metric, rather than English, units and maneuvered the rocket accordingly. As a result, the probe went off course, probably entering the Martian atmosphere and being destroyed.
    5. Offer students meaningful choices wherever possible. One intriguing element that teachers can explore to increase student motivation is that of choice. It appears to be a general principal that, when students are offered some degree of autonomy and choice in selecting or carrying out an activity, they are more motivated to take part in that activity. Of course, the teacher must decide to what degree they can build choice into academic activities. As examples of how choice can be applied in the classroom, teachers may permit students to:
        • select the order in which they will complete several in-class or homework assignments.
        • bring a book of their own choosing to a session with a reading tutor.
        • be given several short, timed breaks during a work period and allowed to choose when to take them.
    6. Make learning fun! Teachers have always used game-like formats to liven up academic material and engage student interest. A teacher may decide, for example, to have a class review for an upcoming test by playing a game that follows the format of the TV game show, Jeopardy! -- the teacher presents test review items and requires competing teams to try to phrase questions for which review items are logical answers. Humor and fast-paced instruction are also methods for making learning more lively and interesting.

Hints for Using Encouraging Student Academic Motivation:
The ideas presented here to boost student motivation all stem from a single assumption: that people are most likely to learn when they are fully engaged and interested in the learning task.

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Finding the Spark:
More Tips for Building Student Motivation

Teachers can feel overwhelmed when faced with students who are unmotivated to learn. The task becomes less daunting, though, when teachers realize that they can boost student motivation in five important ways: by (1) making positive changes to the learning environment, (2) fostering a sense of community in the classroom, (3) enhancing the interest of classroom activities, (4) responding to individual learning challenges, and (5) building in additional outcomes/pay-offs for learning. Here are some ideas:

Learning Environment:
The setting in which we work can encourage us to give our best effort or discourage us from even trying to perform. Ideas to motivate by influencing factors in the student’s environment:

    1. Reduce distractions in the classroom.
    2. Create a consistent room arrangement, with predictable materials and routines.
    3. Let students choose their seat location and study partners.
    4. Enlist students to come up with rules and guidelines for effective classroom learning.
    5. Create a memory-friendly classroom. Post assignments and due dates, written steps for multi-step tasks, etc.
    6. Use a mix of verbal and environmental cues to keep students focused and on-task.
    7. Hold class in different locations occasionally (within-building field trip). For example, think about swapping classrooms with another teacher on a given day.
    8. Ask for student advice on how to make the classroom a more inviting and useful learning environment.

Classroom Community:
We define ourselves in relation to others through social relationships. These connections are a central motivator for most people.

Ideas to motivate by fostering a sense of a learning community:

    1. Be as inviting a person as possible by actively listening to students and acknowledging their contributions.
    2. Greet students at the classroom door. Check in briefly with students at the start and end of a work period.
    3. Ask students to complete a learning-preferences questionnaire.
    4. Assign study buddies who help each other to get organized, start work projects, encourage one another, and provide peer feedback.
    5. Train students to be peer editors or evaluators of others’ assignments.
    6. Hold weekly 5-minute micro-meetings with the group or class. Check in with the group about topics or issues important to them. Record important points brought up and get back to students if necessary.
    7. Keep dialog journals. Have students write daily or weekly comments in a journal to be kept in class. Respond to student comments with short comments of your own.
    8. Circulate through the classroom. Be interactive and visible to kids. Use words of praise and encouragement.

Academic Activities:
Motivated students are engaged in interesting activities that guarantee a high success rate and relate to real-world issues.

Ideas to motivate through selection and development of learning activities:

    1. Use humor.
    2. Keep miscellaneous work supplies on hand (e.g., paper, pencils, etc.) for students to borrow.
    3. Set a timer (e.g., for 60 seconds) and challenge students to finish routine tasks or transition between activities before timer runs out.
    4. Set up academic culminating event field trips. On these field trips, have students use skills learned in class (e.g., drafting questions in social studies to be used in an interview with a member of city government).
    5. Invite interesting guest speakers into the classroom to speak on academic topics. Prepare index cards with review questions and answers based on material covered in class. Have guest speaker quiz teams; award points to teams based on their mastery of material.
    6. Offer students meaningful choice in setting up their assignments (e.g., selection of work materials, type of activity).
    7. Select fun, imaginative activities for reviewing academic material. In order to get students to assemble material for a research paper, for example, you might send them to the library on a fact-finding scavenger hunt.
    8. Encourage active student participation.
    9. Use motivating real-world examples for review, quiz, or test items.
    10. Keep instructions and assignments short. Have students repeat instructions back.
    11. Celebrate student achievement.
    12. Celebrate mistakes as opportunities for learning.
    13. Prior to assignments, have students set their own short-term work or learning goals. Periodically, have students rate their own progress toward their self-selected goals.
    14. Structure work period so that more difficult activities are in the middle, with easier tasks at the start and end.
    15. Liven potentially dull student review activities by conducting them as class-wide or small-group drills. Use a game format to maintain interest.
    16. Use novel, interesting materials for instruction.
    17. Allow students to set their own pace for completing work.
    18. Select activities that make a community contribution. Students may, for instance, work on writing skills by publishing a monthly newsletter for the 7th grade.

Learning Challenges:
Every learner presents a unique profile of strengths and weaknesses. We unlock motivation when we acknowledge and address unique learning profiles.

Ideas to motivate by accommodating challenges to learning:

    1. Avoid stigmatizing as low performers those students who require remedial academic support.
    2. Lead students through the first part of an assignment as a group before having them complete it independently.
    3. If an assignment requires use of new or difficult terms or concepts, first pre-teach or preview this material.
    4. Make the classroom a safe setting in which in which students can identify and work on their own skill deficits.
    5. Give students credit and recognition for effort on assignments as well as for mastery of content.
    6. Be honest in telling students how challenging a topic or activity is likely to be to master. Never downplay the difficulty of an assignment!
    7. Use a think-aloud approach when introducing a skill or strategy.
    8. Select academic activities that guarantee a high degree of student success.
    9. Allow students to take a brief break when tired or frustrated.
    10. Help students to get organized and started on an activity.
    11. Have students keep a schedule of work assignments and due dates.
    12. Encourage students to use memory aids such as notes and lists.
    13. Assist students in breaking large, multi-step tasks into smaller subtasks. Have students write those subtasks down as a personal to-do list.
    14. Teach students to use a notebook organizer.
    15. Give reminders of upcoming transitions between activities.
    16. Help students to highlight key information to be remembered.
    17. Provide frequent review of key concepts.
    18. Periodically remind students of timeline of upcoming assignments.

Outcomes/Pay-Offs for Learning:
Learning is a motivating activity when the learner can count on short- or long-term payoffs for mastering the material being taught.

Ideas to motivate by arranging or emphasizing payoffs to the student for successful learning:

    1. Reward student effort along with quality of completed work. (One way to do this is to use frequent encouragement for good effort along with praise for finished work.)
    2. Build in short-term rewards (e.g., increased free time, pencils, positive note home) for student effort, work completion.
    3. Create high-visibility location for displaying student work (e.g., bulletin board, web site). Encourage students to select their own best work to be posted.
    4. Have students monitor their own progress in accuracy/work completion. For example, have students create graphs charting homework assignments turned in. Tie student-monitored performance to reward programs.

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Bullying: What It Is & What Schools Can Do About It

Q: What is school bullying?
A: School bullying can be described as a situation in which one or more students (the ‘bullies’) single out a child (the ‘victim’) and engage in behaviors intended to harm that child. A bully will frequently target the same victim repeatedly over time. A child who bullies can dominate the victim because the bully possesses more power than the victim. Compared to his or her victim, for example, the bully may be physically stronger or more intelligent, have a larger circle of friends, or possess a higher social standing. Bullying can inflict physical harm, emotional distress, and/or social embarrassment or humiliation.

Q: What conditions allow bullying to take place?
A: There are three essential components to any bullying situation. To start with, there must be a bully: an individual who voluntarily seeks out and attempts to victimize others. Another participant necessary for bullying to take place is a potential victim: a student who is substantially weaker than the bully in one or more significant ways. Bullying cannot happen, of course, unless there is also a location in which it can occur. School locations where bullying is common are often those with limited adult supervision, such as hallways, bathrooms, and playgrounds.  While not essential, student bystanders are a fourth important element that often impacts bullying: if witnesses are present when bullying occurs, these bystanders can play a pivotal role by choosing either to encourage the bully or to protect the victim.

Q: How big of a problem is bullying in schools?
A: It is difficult to know precisely how widespread bullying is in any given school. Bullying tends to be a hidden activity, and both bullies and victims are usually reluctant to disclose to adults that it is taking place. The incidence of bullying also can vary greatly from school to school. Research suggests, though, that 7 percent or more of students may be bullies and perhaps 10-20 percent may be chronic victims of bullying.

Q: What are the different types of bullying?
A: Bullying can be direct or indirect. When bullying takes a direct form, the bully confronts the victim face-to-face. Examples of direct bullying would include situations in which the victim is verbally harassed or threatened, physically attacked (e.g., punched, kicked, pushed down), or socially embarrassed (e.g., taunted, refused a seat on the school bus).  In the case of indirect bullying, the bully attacks the victim’s social standing or reputation-usually when the victim is not around. A student is engaging in indirect bullying if he or she spreads malicious gossip or writes insulting graffiti about a classmate, or organizes a peer group to ostracize that classmate. Victims are at a particular disadvantage in indirect bullying because they may never discover the identity of the person or group responsible for the bullying.

Q: Are there differences in bullying between boys and girls or at different age levels?
A: Some evidence suggests that a general shift from direct to indirect bullying takes place as children advance from elementary to middle and high school. At any grade level, boys are more likely than girls to report that they are victims of physical bullying. Schools may also tend to overlook the possibility that girls take part in bullying, both because of gender stereotypes (i.e., that girls are less aggressive than boys) and because girls may prefer to bully using indirect means such as hurtful gossip that are difficult for adults to observe.

Q: Why do some children bully? What is the payoff for them?
A: There are several reasons that a particular student may be motivated to bully. For instance, the bully may enjoy watching a weaker child suffer, like the increased social status that comes from bullying, or covet the money or personal property that he or she can steal or extort from a victim. Children who bully are likely to feel little empathy for their victims and may even feel justified in inflicting hurt because they believe that their victims deserve it.  A common myth about bullies is that they bully others to cover up their own sense of inadequacy or poor self-esteem. It appears that bullies actually possess levels of self-esteem that are about as positive as those of their non-bully peers.

Q: What are the characteristics of a child who is victimized by bullies?
A: There is no single descriptive profile to help schools to identify those students who are at risk for being targeted by bullies. One important indicator, though, is the presence or absence of friends in a child’s life. Children who are socially isolated are easier targets for bullies because they lack a friendship network to back them up and support them against a bully’s attacks. A second factor that can predispose a child to be victimized is age. Older children often bully younger children.  There are also two subgroups of bully victims that seem to present a clearer profile: passive victims and provocative victims. Passive victims may be physically weaker than most classmates, avoid violence and physical horseplay, and be somewhat more anxious than their peers. Lacking friends, these children are an easy target for bullying. Provocative victims may be both anxious and aggressive. They may also have poor social skills and thus tend to irritate or alienate their classmates. Bullies often take pleasure in provoking these provocative victims into an outburst through taunts or teasing, then sit back and watch as the teacher reprimands or punishes the victim for disrupting the class.

Q: What impact does bullying have on its victims?
A: Victims of bullying may experience problems with academics, because they are too preoccupied with the task of avoiding the bully to concentrate the teacher’s lecture or school assignment. They may engage in specific strategies to dodge the bully (e.g., feigning illness and being sent to the nurse to avoid gym class) and may even develop an apparent phobia about attending school.  Bullying can also leave a lasting imprint on its victims. Victims of bullying are often socially marginalized to start with, having few if any friends. Unfortunately, as these children are bullied over time, they may experience increased rejection by their peers who blame the victims for the suffering that they endure at the hands of the bully. In time, these victims too may come to believe that they themselves are responsible for the bullying. Individuals who were chronically bullied as children may show symptoms of depression and poor self-esteem as adults.
Q: What role do bystanders play in helping or preventing bullying?
A: The term bystander suggests that those children who stand on the sidelines and witness incidents of bullying are neutral observers. In most instances, though, bystanders are much more likely to provide encouragement and support to the bully than they are to actively intercede to help the victim (Snell, et al., 2002). Furthermore, in situations in which a group of students is bullying a child, bystanders may actively join in by taunting, teasing, or ostracizing the victim.  Teachers are often surprised when they see a group of otherwise-friendly children egging on a bully or engaging in bullying behaviors themselves. One explanation for why bystanders may cross the line to help bullies is that, as part of a group, bystanders may feel less accountable for their individual actions (Olweus, 1993). Another possibility is that bystanders feel justified in bullying the victim because they have come to believe that he or she deserves such treatment.

Q: Schools are supposed to be well-supervised settings. How could widespread bullying happen there?
A: Because bullying is a covert activity, adults seldom see it occurring. There are other reasons why bullying can go unchallenged in school as well:

    1. School staff may misinterpret aggressive bullying as harmless physical horseplay and therefore fail to intervene.
    2. When questioned by adults, victims often deny that bullying is taking place. (Victims may lie about the bullying because the bully is present during the questioning or because they do not believe that the adults in the school will be able to intercede effectively to make the bullying stop.)
    3. There may be too few supervising adults in those unstructured settings where bullying is most likely to occur (e.g., gym class, lunch room, playground). Or those supervising adults may not be trained to intervene early and assertively whenever they see questionable behavior between children.

Q: What can schools do to stop bullying?
A: All segments of the school community must work together to address the problem of bullying. This means that teachers, administrators, parents, and students need to cooperate as they assess the scope of the bullying problem in their school and come up with ways to respond to it effectively. While every school will adopt an approach to bully prevention that meets its unique needs, all schools would benefit from the following guidelines (Batsche & Knoff, 1994):

    1. Conduct a thorough building-wide assessment to uncover the extent that bullying is a problem in your school. Use multiple methods to collect information. Consider administering staff surveys and anonymous student surveys, facilitating student and parent focus groups on the topic of bullying, analyzing the pattern of student disciplinary referrals to see if bullying patterns emerge, have adults observe and record bullying behaviors in less-supervised settings such as the cafeteria and on the playground, etc. Pool this information to identify significant patterns of bullying (for example, where and when bullying happens to occur most frequently; which students appear to engage in bullying behavior and which are victimized by bullies, etc.)
    2. Reach consensus as a staff about how your school defines bullying and when educators should intervene to prevent bullying from occurring. Rates of school bullying drop significantly when all staff members are able to identify the signs of bullying and agree to intervene consistently whenever they observe unsafe, disrespectful, or hurtful behaviors.
    3. Compile a menu of appropriate consequences that educators can impose on students who bully. This menu should include lesser consequences that might be given for minor acts of bullying (e.g., mild teasing) and more stringent consequences for more serious or chronic bullying (e.g., inflicting physical harm, harassing a victim for weeks). Train staff to use the consequences menu to ensure fairness and consistency when they intervene with bullies.
    4. Establish a policy for contacting the parent(s) of a student who has engaged in bullying. At the parent conference, school staff should attempt to enlist the parent to work with them to stop the student’s bullying. If the parent denies that a problem exists or refuses to cooperate to end the child’s bullying behavior, the parent should be told clearly that the school will monitor the child’s behavior closely and will take appropriate disciplinary steps if future bullying incidents occur.
    5. Monitor the school’s bully-prevention efforts on an ongoing basis to see if they have in fact reduced the amount of bullying among students and improved the emotional climate of the building. The school can use the same monitoring methods to track progress in bully-prevention as were first used to assess the initial seriousness of the bullying problem (e.g., focus groups, surveys, direct observation, tracking of disciplinary referrals). Share these results periodically in the form of a progress report with school staff, parents, and students to build motivation throughout the school community for your building’s bully-prevention initiative.

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Bullies: Turning Around Negative Behaviors

Bullying in school is usually a hidden problem. The teaching staff typically is unaware of how widespread bullying is in their building and may not even recognize the seriousness of bullying incidents that do come to their attention. Teachers who are serious about reducing bullying behaviors must (1) assess the extent of the bullying problem in their classrooms, (2) ensure that the class understands what bullying is and why it is wrong, (3) confront any student engaged in bullying in a firm but fair manner, and (4) provide appropriate and consistent consequences for bullying.

Assess the Extent of the Bullying Problem.
By pooling information collected through direct observation, conversations with other staff, and student surveys, teachers can get a good idea of the amount and severity of bullying in their classroom. To more accurately assess bullying among students, a teacher can do the following:

  1. Drop by unexpectedly to observe your class in a less-structured situation (e.g., at lunch, on the playground). Watch for patterns of bullying by individuals or groups of students. Signs of direct bullying could include pushing, hitting, or kicking. Also be on the lookout for prolonged teasing, name-calling, and other forms of verbal harassment. If you should overhear students gossiping about a classmate or see evidence that an individual has been excluded from a group, these may well be signs of indirect bullying. Note the names of children who appear to be instigators of bullying, as well as those who seem to be victims.
  2. A single teacher alone is not likely to see enough student behavior to be able to accurately pick out bullies and victims in his or her own classroom. Ask other school staff that interact with your students (e.g., gym teacher) whom they have may have observed bullying or being victimized within your class or other classes in the same grade. Note the students whose names keep coming up as suspected bullies or victims. Monitor children thought to be bullies especially closely to ensure that they do not have opportunities to victimize other children.
  3. Create a simple survey on the topic of school bullying. Have your students complete this survey anonymously. Questions to ask on the questionnaire might include "Where does bullying happen in this school?" and "How many times have you been bullied this year?" If your school administrator approves, you may also ask students to give the names of specific children whom they believe are bullies.
  4. NOTE: When administering this survey to students, you should also share with them the names of trusted adults in the building with whom they can talk in confidence if they are currently victims of bullying.

Ensure That the Class Understands the Definition of Bullying.
Children may not always know when their behavior crosses the line and becomes bullying. Two important goals in asserting control over bullying are to create shared expectations for appropriate conduct and to build a common understanding of what behaviors should be defined as bullying. To accomplish these objectives, a teacher can:

  1. Hold a class meeting in which students come up with rules for appropriate behaviors. Rules should be limited in number (no more than 3-4) and be framed in positive terms (that is, stating what students should do instead of what they should avoid doing). Here are several sample rules:
      • Treat others with courtesy and respect.
      • Make everyone feel welcome and included.
      • Help others who are being bullied or picked on.
  2. Create a shared definition for bullying with the class by having them identify behaviors that are bullying behaviors. List these behaviors on the board. If students focus only on examples of direct bullying, remind them not to overlook indirect bullying (e.g., gossip, excluding others from a group). Tell the class that when you see examples of bullying occurring, you plan to intervene to keep the classroom a safe and friendly place to learn.

Confront Students Engaged in Bullying in a Firm But Fair Manner.
When a teacher communicates to the class that bullying will not be tolerated and then intervenes quickly and consistently whenever he or she observes bullying taking place, that instructor sends a clear message to students that bullying will not be tolerated.

Bullies are often quite skilled at explaining away situations in which adults have caught them bullying. When confronted, they may say, for example, "I was just kidding around" or "Nothing happened," even when the evidence clearly suggests otherwise. You can avoid disputes with students by adopting the ‘I-centered’ rule for evaluating misbehavior.

  1. Tell your class that it offends or bothers you when you witness certain kinds of hurtful student behaviors (e.g., teasing, name-calling). Emphasize that when you see such behavior occurring, you will intervene, regardless of whether the offending student meant to be hurtful.
  2. If you witness suspected bullying, immediately approach the child responsible, describe the negative behavior that you witnessed, explain why that behavior is a violation of classroom expectations, and impose a consequence (e.g., warning, apology to victim, brief timeout, loss of privilege). Keep the conversation focused on facts of the bully’s observed behavior and do not let the bully pull the victim into the discussion.
  3. If the bully’s behaviors continue despite your surveillance and intervention, impose more severe consequences (e.g. temporary loss of playground privileges).

Additional Tips to Keep in Mind When Confronting Students Who Bully:

  • When you confront a student for bullying, do so in private whenever possible. A private discussion will remove the likelihood that the confronted student will play to the audience of classmates and become defiant or non-compliant. If you must call a student on his or her bullying behavior in public, do so briefly and in a business-like manner. Then arrange to have a private discussion with the student at a later time to discuss the bullying incident in greater detail.
  • Find an adult in the school with whom the student who bullies has a close relationship. Enlist that adult to sit down with the bully to have a heart-to-heart talk. The adult should be willing to discuss with the student the problems created by his or her bullying behavior, to express disappointment with the student’s conduct and to encourage the student to stop his or her bullying. This conference is not intended to be punitive. However, the student should feel at the end of the talk that, while he or she is valued, the student’s bullying behavior hurts and disappoints those who care about the student.
  • Provide appropriate and consistent consequences for bullying. Schools should remember that the relationship between a bully and his or her victim is coercive in nature, and that the bully always wields power unfairly over that victim. Strategies for addressing student conflict such as peer mediation, therefore, tend to be ineffective in bullying situations, as the bully can always use his or her power advantage to intimidate the victim. The most sensible disciplinary approach that teachers can use with bullies is to make sure that they are watched carefully and that adults follow up with firm consequences for each bullying incident. When providing consequences for bullying, the teacher should consider these strategies:
    1. Assemble a list of appropriate behavioral consequences for bullying.  Include lesser consequences for isolated instances of bullying and greater consequences for chronic or more serious bullying. Share those consequences with your class. (In fact, you may want to enlist students to help generate items on the list!) Whenever a student is observed bullying a classmate, intervene and apply a consequence from the list. For example, a student who bullies during lunch might be required to spend several days seated away from his or her friends at a supervised lunch table.  If a group or class participates in a bullying incident (e.g., children at a lunch table socially ostracizing a new student), hold the entire group accountable and impose a disciplinary consequence on each group member.
    2. If one of your students takes advantage of unsupervised trips from the room (e.g., bathroom break) to seek out and bully other children, restrict that student’s movements by requiring that they be supervised by an adult at all times when out of the classroom. When you are satisfied that the student’s behaviors have improved enough to trust him or her once again to travel out of the room without adult supervision, let the student know that he or she is on probation and that you will reinstate these school travel restrictions if you hear future reports of bullying.
    3. When you observe a student engaging in a clear pattern of bullying, arrange a conference with that child’s parents and share with them the information that suggests that the child is bullying other students. Enlist their help to stop the child’s bullying. (You will probably want the child to attend that conference so that he or she will understand clearly that the school is monitoring his or her bullying behavior and will impose negative consequences if it continues.)
    4. Develop a reward chart for the student who bullies. Tell the student that you will put a sticker on the student’s chart for each day that you do not receive reports from other teachers or from students and do not directly observed bullying or unkind behavior. Let the student know that if he or she manages to collect a certain number of stickers within a certain number of days (e.g., 4 stickers across a 5-day period) for good behaviors, they can redeem them for a prize or privilege.

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Victims: Preventing Students From Becoming Bully-Targets

Children who are chronically bullied are often deeply unhappy in school, suffer from low self-esteem, and often find themselves socially rejected by their classmates as a result of the bullying. Teachers are likely to see another hidden cost of bullying: as students are victimized, their grades frequently suffer.

The best way for any school to assist children victimized by bullies is to adopt a whole-school approach to bully prevention. Even if working alone, however, teachers can take immediate action to make life easier for children in their classroom who are being bullied.

Take Steps to Ensure the Victim’s Safety.
Victims are often physically weaker or otherwise less powerful than the bully. They may blame themselves for the bullying and believe that adults cannot help them to deal with the bully. When adults intervene to help a victim, they should above all make arrangements to keep the victim safe from future bullying attacks. Consider these ideas as a means for better understanding how seriously victims are affected by bullying in your school or classroom and for helping these victims to stay safe in school.

  • Some victims may be reluctant to come forward. Have children complete an anonymous questionnaire that asks them if they are bullied, whether they have witnessed bullying, and where and when bullying that they have experienced or observed took place. Act on students’ feedback by taking steps such as increasing adult supervision in locations where bullying takes place to make them safe for all students.
  • Select or create a safe-room that is always staffed with adults (e.g., a well-supervised study-hall, drop-in counseling center, Resource Room). During times of the day when the student is most likely to be targeted for bullying (e.g., lunch period), assign the student to the safe-room.
  • Examine the victim’s daily schedule. For any activities where there is likely to be little adult supervision, either make arrangements to increase that supervision or adjust the child’s schedule to eliminate these under-supervised blind spots.

Help the Victim to Develop Positive Connections With Others.
When choosing a victim, bullies typically target children who have few or no friends. If a child has at least one significant friend in school, he or she is less likely to be bullied and is usually better able to cope with the effects of bullying when it occurs. The teacher’s goal, then, is to strengthen the social standing of the victim with classmates and other students and adults in the school. As people in the school community develop more positive connections with the victimized student, they may be willing to intervene to prevent the victim from being bullied. Here are ideas that may promote positive connections between the victim and other students or adults:

  • Train socially inept children in basic social skills, such as how to invite a classmate to play a game or to seek permission from a group of children to join in a play activity.
  • Pair students off randomly for fun, interactive learning or leisure activities. These accidental pairings give children a chance to get to know each other and can trigger friendships. Consider changing the seating chart periodically to foster new relationships.
  • If a child receives pull-out special education services, try to avoid scheduling these services during class free time. Otherwise, the child loses valuable opportunities to interact with peers and establish or strengthen social relationships.
  • Enlist one or more adults in the school to spend time with the child as mentors. (Once these adults begin to spend time with the child, they will then be likely to actively intervene if they see the student being bullied!) Give these adults ideas for how they can structure sessions with the student (i.e., playing board games, having lunch together, etc.) Suggest to the student that he or she occasionally invite a friend to these activities.
  • Train staff, older student volunteers, or adult volunteers to be play-helpers. Train them to organize and supervise high-interest children’s game and activities for indoors and outdoors. (When possible, select games and activities that are easy to learn, can accommodate varying numbers of players, and allow children to join in mid-activity.) Place these play-helpers on the playground, in classrooms, in a corner of the lunchroom, or other areas where students have unstructured free time. The play-helpers may also be encouraged to pay special attention to those children with few friends are likely to be socially excluded, making sure that these children are recruited to participate in organized play with adult support as needed.

Teach Assertiveness Skills.
After a victim has been repeatedly bullied, he or she may find it very difficult to stand up to the bully. One explanation for the bully’s power over the victim is that the bully has learned the victimized student’s vulnerabilities. If the victim then starts to resist being bullied, the bully is emboldened to persistently attack the victim (e.g., through teasing, social ostracism, or physical harm) until the victim is again overwhelmed and defeated. At the point where it has become chronic, bullying can be so ingrained that only decisive adult intervention can free the victim from this abusive relationship.

When a bully first approaches and attempts to dominate a potential victim, however, the targeted student still has maneuvering room and may successfully fend off the bully by using basic assertiveness skills. The bully’s goal when targeting a student is to exploit the victim’s perceived weakness(es) in order to gain dominance over him or her. If the potential victim maintains his or her composure, stands firm, and continues to behave appropriately even when provoked, the bully will find that the supposed victim is not so weak as he or she first thought.

A few simple assertiveness rules that you can teach to students are to:

    1. Respond to taunts, insults, or teasing with a bland response ("Oh." "That’s your opinion." "Maybe.") Don’t let bullies see that they have upset you.
    2. Get away from the situation if you start to get very angry.
    3. Say "No" firmly and loudly if you don’t want to do something that someone tells you to do. Stand straight up and look that person in the eye when you say it.
    4. Refuse to let others talk you into doing something that you will be sorry for – even if they dare you!
    5. Report incidents of bullying to adults.

Be sure that you students do not confuse assertiveness with physical or verbal aggression.
While the weaker victim will likely regret aggressively attacking the bully, he or she may well be successful by simply standing firm against the bully. And even if the potential victim is not entirely successful when using assertiveness skills during a particular episode, that student might still manage to stop the bullying from becoming chronic by showing the bully that he or she is not an easy mark.

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Locations: Transforming Schools from Bully-Havens to Safe Havens

Bullies are opportunistic, preying upon students whom they perceive as weak. Bullying cannot take place, though, unless the bully has a setting or location in which he or she is able to exploit and hurt the victim. The far corner of a classroom, a deserted hallway, the bathroom: these are all locations in which bullying may happen. Places where bullying is common are frequently deserted or poorly supervised.

The good news, though, is that when adults are present to supervise a particular setting, intervene quickly when they witness bullying behavior, and provide fair and appropriate consequences to the bully for his or her misbehavior, the rate of bullying in that setting will plummet. A teacher can work with other school staff to put locations off-limits to bullies by first identifying where bullying most often occurs in the school and then providing increased levels of trained adult supervision in those settings.

Uncover Bullying Hot Spots in the School and Community.
Crime analysts note that a small handful of locations in the community often serve as magnets for crime, with multiple criminal incidents reported to police (Schmerler et al., 1998). In schools, too, just a few locations tend to be the site of many incidents of bullying. Often, these locations are poorly supervised. When schools identify locations where bullying typically happens, they can take steps to make these places less attractive to bullies. Ideas that teachers can use to discover bullying locations in and around a school are to:

  1. Go on a school walking tour with your class. Ask students to identify safe and unsafe areas of the school, the times of day these areas are most safe or least safe, and the reasons that they are safe or unsafe. Record student comments. Or hand out maps of the school’s interior and ask students to color in red those places that are least safe and in blue those places that are the most safe. (Also, consider asking other teachers to perform similar activities with their classes and compare your results with theirs to see if shared or dissimilar patterns are found.) Share these results with other members of your teaching team and your principal.
  2. Give students street maps of the neighborhood surrounding your school. (To make them easier for students to interpret, clearly mark well-known landmarks such as stores or fast-food restaurants on the maps.) Ask the class to identify any locations in the neighborhood where bullying or other unsafe behavior tends to happen and to mark these locations on the map. Also, ask class members to identify places in the neighborhood that tend to be safer and to mark those on the map as well. When the students share the results of the activity with you, record their comments regarding both the unsafe and safe locations. Share these results with other members of your teaching team and your principal.
  3. NOTE: You may also want to share the information that you collect on unsafe neighborhood locations with your School Resource Officer or a representative from your local police department. Invite him or her to visit your classroom to give your students tips on how to stay safe when transiting to or from school.

Put Strategies in Place to Make Locations Less Attractive to Bullies.
After you have identified locations in and around your school where bullying tends to occur, you can take simple but effective steps to make these locations less friendly to bullies. Among strategies to consider are to:

  1. Perhaps the most effective way to decrease bullying is to increase the level of adult surveillance in hallways, stairwells, and other settings where bullying is frequently reported and during the time(s) when it is most likely to happen. You may also choose to enlist older, trusted students to monitor identified locations. Adult and student monitors should receive training about what bullying behaviors to look for and how to intervene effectively with bullies.
  2. Help hallway, lunchroom, and playground monitors to learn the names of students (e.g., by inviting them into classrooms at the start of the school year to be introduced to students). Adults can intervene much more effectively in bullying situations when they know the names of the children involved and their assigned classrooms.
  3. Separate older and younger students when they are in less-supervised settings (e.g., playground) to prevent older children from victimizing younger ones.
  4. Train non-instructional staff (e.g., lunchroom aides) to intervene promptly when they see bullying, or suspected bullying, occurring in their areas. Work with these staff to design a list of specific intervention strategies that are likely to be effective (e.g., set up a time-out table in the cafeteria; after one warning, a student who bullies is sent to that table for a 5-minute timeout).
  5. Increase the natural surveillance of areas of the school (e.g., hallways) that are unsupervised for long periods of time by moving some whole-class or small-group activities to these locations. For example, students can complete a learning activity on the metric system by measuring the length of a hallway in meters. As public traffic moves more frequently (and unpredictably) through a previously deserted area, bullies will find fewer opportunities to pick on potential victims.
  6. Change your classroom layout or rearrange seating to eliminate any blind spots where bullies can victimize students outside of your view. Circulate frequently throughout the classroom so that you can monitor student conversations and behavior.
  7. Have classrooms adopt stretches of public space in your school (e.g., hallways) by agreeing to help keep that space clean and to put up posters that provide positive anti-bully messages (e.g., welcoming visitors, reminding students of appropriate behaviors, giving pointers on how to respond assertively to a bully). When a classroom asserts ownership over a public space, this action conveys the impression that the space is cared for and watched over, serving as a kind of extension to the classroom itself. As the public space ceases to be anonymous and impersonal, bullies no longer have the assurance that they can operate in that location unseen and unnoticed.

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Jackpot! Ideas for Classroom Rewards

Read through this list for reward ideas that will motivate your students.

Academic Activities

  1. Go to the library to select a book
  2. Help a classmate with an academic assignment
  3. Help the teacher to present a lesson (e.g., by completing sample math problem on blackboard, reading a section of text aloud, assisting cooperative learning groups on an activity)
  4. Invite an adult "reading buddy" of student’s choice to classroom to read with student
  5. Listen to books-on-tape
  6. Play academic computer games
  7. Read a book of his/her choice
  8. Read a story aloud to younger children
  9. Read aloud to the class
  10. Select a class learning activity from a list of choices
  11. Select a friend as a "study buddy" on an in-class work assignment
  12. Select friends to sit with to complete a cooperative learning activity
  13. Spend time (with appropriate supervision) on the Internet at academic sites

Helping Roles

    1. Adopt a younger student and earn (through good behavior) daily visits to check in with that student as an older mentor
    2. Be appointed timekeeper for an activity: announce a 5-minute warning near end of activity and announce when activity is over
    3. Be given responsibility for assigning other students in the class to helping roles, chores, or tasks
    4. Complete chores or helpful activities around the classroom
    5. Deliver school-wide announcements
    6. Help the custodian
    7. Help the library media specialist
    8. Help a specials teacher (e.g., art, music, gym)
    9. Take a note to the main office
    10. Work at the school store


    1. Be awarded a trophy, medal, or other honor for good behavior/caring attitude
    2. Be praised on school-wide announcements for good behavior or caring attitude
    3. Be praised privately by the teacher or other adult
    4. Design--or post work on--a class or hall bulletin board
    5. Get a silent "thumbs up" or other sign from teacher indicating praise and approval
    6. Have the teacher call the student’s parent/guardian to give positive feedback about the student
    7. Have the teacher write a positive note to the student’s parent/guardian
    8. Post drawings or other artwork in a public place
    9. Post writings in a public place
    10. Receive a "good job" note from the teacher


    1. Allow student to call parent(s)
    2. Be allowed to sit, stand, or lie down anywhere in the classroom (short of distracting other children) during story time or independent seat work
    3. Be dismissed from school 2 minutes early
    4. Be given a raffle ticket that the student writes name on and throws into a fishbowl for prize drawings
    5. Be permitted to sit in a reserved section of the lunchroom
    6. Be sent to recess 2 minutes earlier than the rest of the class
    7. Draw a prize from the class prize box
    8. Earn behavior points or tokens to be redeemed for prizes or privileges
    9. Have first choice in selecting work materials (e.g., scissors, crayons, paper) and/or seating assignments
    10. Have lunch in the classroom with the teacher
    11. IOU redeemable for credit on one wrong item on a future in-class quiz or homework assignment
    12. Receive a coupon to be redeemed at a later time for a preferred activity
    13. Receive a sticker
    14. Receive candy, gum, or other edible treats
    15. Receive pass to "Get out of one homework assignment of your choice"
    16. Select a class fun activity from a list of choices
    17. Select the pizza toppings for a class pizza party
    18. Sit near the teacher
    19. Take the lead position in line
    20. Tell a joke or riddle to the class


    1. Be selected by the teacher to accompany another student to a fun activity
    2. Get extra gym time with another class
    3. Get extra recess time with another class
    4. Listen to music
    5. Play a game with a friend
    6. Play non-academic computer games
    7. Select fun activity from "Activity Shelf" (stocked with play materials, games)
    8. Spend time (with appropriate supervision) on the Internet at recreational sites
    9. Watch part or all of a video (preselected by the teacher and cleared with the student’s parent)
    10. Work on a jigsaw or other puzzle
    11. Write or draw on blackboard/whiteboard/easel paper

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The Aggressive Child:  Attention or Detention?

Behavior Description:
This child will often antagonize others, involves him/herself in fighting or instigating fights or arguments. This type can often be seen as a bully and tends to have just a few friends. He/she likes to solve problems by winning fights and arguments. Aggressive children often threaten others. Other students often fear the aggressor as he/she will be both verbally and physically aggressive.

The aggressor will rarely have self-confidence and gains it through aggressive behavior. Aggressors are attention seekers and they enjoy the attention they gain from being aggressive. Power brings attention and the aggressor has learned this. Due to the child’s weaker self-image and the fact that he or she doesn’t fit in, they try aggressive behavior and soon become leaders, even though they usually know that they are behaving inappropriately.


  1. Never ignore inappropriate aggressions and do not get drawn into a power struggle with the aggressor.
  2. Be firm but gentle in your approach. Remember, the aggressor can handle the tough side of you but he/she will succumb to gentleness and it’s really what he wants - the right kind of attention.
  3. Deal one to one with the aggressor and devise a plan for him/her to take control of their own behavior. See behavior contracts.
  4. Successful teachers know that when they establish a one to one relationship with he aggressor, success soon follows. Remember, the aggressor can usually tell if you genuinely like him/her.  Be genuine, this child merely needs attention.
  5. Provide opportunities for this child to act appropriately and get some badly needed attention, give him/her responsibilities and provide praise.
  6. Catch the aggressor behaving well and provide immediate, positive feedback. In time, you will see that the aggressive behaviors will start to diminish.
  7. Provide him/her with activities that bring forth leadership in a positive way, always let him/her know that you care, trust and respect him. Remind him/her that it’s the inappropriate behaviors that you don’t like.
  8. Provide as many methods as you can for this child to take ownership for his/her inappropriate behavior. Probe him/her with how should that situation have been handled and how will it be handled next time.

Never forget that ALL children need to know you care about them and that they can contribute in a positive way. It took the child a long time to become a master of aggressive behavior, be consistent, patient and understand that change will take time.

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Behavior Management:  Intervention Strategies
By: Jane Bluestein, Ph.D.

Different types of student behavior require different interventions. We can compound problems by applying the incorrect strategies to any student behavior—positive or negative. The information below can help reinforce positive behavior (without using conditional approval, or reinforcing dependence or people-pleasing behaviors), can help motivate desirable behaviors (without nagging or threatening), and can help intervene negative behavior effectively and non-punitively.

Productive Student Behavior
Description:  Cooperative, positive or desirable student behavior that a student is currently exhibiting or has already demonstrated.

Intervention  Strategy: Positive Reinforcement, Recognition

Goal:  Maintaining existing behavior, improving likelihood of behavior recurring independently.

Process:  Connect the student’s positive choice to positive outcomes.

  1. Step 1: Describe the positive behavior: “You put the science materials away.”
  2. Step 2: Connect the behavior to the positive outcome to the student: “Now you can go on to the next activity.”
  3. Note: Outcome (step 2) must be need-fulfilling for the student.

Connection to Boundary: Relates to boundary expressed before behavior occurred. For example, if you promised dismissal after students line up quietly, once they do as you’ve asked, you allow the positive consequence promised in the boundary to occur. Experiencing the privilege or positive outcome as a result of their cooperation strengthens (reinforces) the students’ cooperative behavior. (If no boundary was used – or necessary – to elicit the cooperation, you can still reinforce the behavior by connecting it to a positive outcome. This action communicates conditions in implicit or unexpressed boundaries and helps your kids make the connection between the choices they’ve made and the positive outcomes of those choices.)

Caution: Avoid praise that connects the student’s worth to his or her choice or those that reinforce people-pleasing: “I like the way . . .,” “I really like you when . . .,” “You’re so good when . . .” or “You make me happy when . . .” Focus on the student’s behavior and how the cooperative choice benefits the student, not you!

Non-Productive Student Behavior
Description: Neutral or non-disruptive student behavior that is nevertheless off task (that is, student is not doing what you’ve asked or assigned, but is not preventing teaching or learning from occurring elsewhere).

Intervention Strategy: Motivating with meaningful positive outcomes; offering choices to accommodate students’ needs for power and autonomy (within limits that protect their need for safety and security).

Goal: Eliciting cooperative, constructive behavior from student.

Process: Connecting low-probability behavior (what you want) to high-probability behavior (what the student wants).

Examples: “If your work is done by noon, you can help out in the kindergarten.” “As soon as you clear your desks and we can watch the video.” “You may work together as long as you don’t disturb anyone.”

Note: To be effective, motivator (outcome) must be meaningful and need fulfilling to the child.

Connection to Boundary: The motivating statement is the boundary, connecting what the students want to what you want and expressing the conditions, terms or limits under which they can have or do what they want.

Counter-Productive Student Behavior
Description: Negative or disruptive student behavior that is interfering, in some way, with the teaching or learning process.

Intervention Strategy: Removing or withholding privileges or positive consequences; holding students accountable for their behavior.

Goal: Stopping the negative behavior and encouraging more cooperative choices; building responsibility, accountability and self-management.

Process (dealing with misbehavior due to uncooperative choices, lack of self-control): Interrupting disruptive or destructive behavior. Withdrawing positive consequences until students change their behavior (or until another time when the students have another chance to behave more cooperatively), or until students correct, repair, restore or replace materials or areas damaged or disarranged. Insisting or requiring that the students change their behavior in order to gain (or regain) access to meaningful outcomes or privileges. Accepting the students even though you do not accept their behavior. Leaving the door open for the student to stop and replace negative behaviors: “You can have the book back as soon as you both agree on how you’ll share it.”

Note: Many misbehaviors can be avoided by getting students attention before giving clear directions or instructions ahead of time, by making sure adequate materials and resources are available, practicing transitions and building independent work habits, making sure that assignments challenge students and yet allow for achievement and success for everyone, and by physical proximity and eye contact. Further, minimizing reactions whenever possible, validating students’ feelings or reality, and maintaining a sense of humor can avert many problems.

Note: If a misbehavior or potential misbehavior is due to lack or misunderstanding of directions, interrupt the behavior: “Stop” or “Freeze.” Give additional information or directions, or suggest more acceptable options, especially if the desired behavior hasn’t been requested, clarified or practiced beforehand: “Stop. We don’t pour paint in the trash can. Pour the paint in the sink and run the water until you can’t see the paint anymore.”

Connection to Boundary: Boundaries offer conditional access to positive outcomes (privileges, meaningful activities, for example). As long as students behave in ways that respect the conditions of the boundary, they retain the privilege the boundary promises. As soon as those conditions are violated, the privilege is removed. Keep in mind that removal of positive consequence depends on availability of positive consequence, which is why a reward-oriented, win-win environment makes this process possible and effective.

Caution: Follow-through requires constructive action. Once previously-announced limits have been violated, withdraw privileges immediately. Avoid warnings and reminders after the fact. Do not ask for excuses (“why”); instead, simply restate the boundary (or ask what the student plans to do to correct the situation). Avoid punishing or taking responsibility for the student’s problem.

Excerpted and adapted from 21st Century Discipline, revised edition, by Jane Bluestein, Ph.D. © 1999, McGraw-Hill Children’s Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI.

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Rationale For Developing Positive Behavioral Interventions

Traditionally, teachers have dealt with student behavior that interferes with classroom instruction by using various kinds of negative consequences (e.g., verbal reprimands, time-out, and suspension). The goal, of course, has been to reduce, if not eliminate the immediate problem. However, experience has shown that these usually are not the most effective or efficient means to eliminate problem behavior. "Reactive" approaches that follow inappropriate behavior, such as punishment, are not only time consuming, but they fail to teach the student acceptable replacement behaviors and also may serve to reinforce the inappropriate behavior. Many teachers have thus begun to introduce various programs to teach students more acceptable, alternative responses. For example, social skills programs have been an especially popular way to teach appropriate behavior; however, decisions regarding which behavior to teach a student usually are based on the program’s curriculum, rather than on what skill a student demonstrates he or she lacks. As a result, understanding why the student misbehaved in the first place is seldom addressed.

Today, there is growing recognition that the success of an intervention hinges on: 1) understanding why the student behaves in a certain way; and 2) replacing the inappropriate behavior with a more suitable behavior that serves the same function (or results in the same outcome) as the problem behavior. Intervention into problem behavior begins with looking beyond the misbehavior and uncovering the underlying causes of the misbehavior. Examples of statements that consider "why" a student misbehaves are:

  1. Charles swears at the teacher to get out of completing a difficult assignment.
  2. Juan makes jokes when given a geography assignment to avoid what he perceives as a boring assignment and to gain peer attention.

Knowing what compels a student to engage in a particular behavior is integral to the development of effective, individualized positive behavioral intervention plans and supports.

Generally, the logic behind functional assessment is driven by two principles. First, practically all behavior serves a purpose: it allows students to get something desirable, escape or avoid something undesirable, or communicate some other message or need. Second, behavior occurs within a particular context. It may occur in certain settings (e.g., in the cafeteria), under certain conditions (e.g., only when there is a substitute teacher), or during different types of activities (e.g., during recess). Because of these two things, students will change the inappropriate behavior only when it is clear to them that a different response will more effectively and efficiently accomplish the same thing. For this reason, identifying the causes of a behavior-what the student gets, escapes, or avoids, or is attempting to communicate through the behavior-can provide the information necessary to develop effective strategies to address those behaviors that interfere with learning or threaten safety. This can be accomplished by means of a functional behavioral assessment.

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Moderate/Intensive Interventions

Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans
Author: Mary K. Fitzsimmons
November 1998

For some time, researchers and school personnel have been studying the effects of a wide range of problem behaviors on classroom learning. Research funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and other government agencies corroborates educators’ concerns that behavior difficulties interfere with the learning of both the student exhibiting the behavior problem and his or her peers.

In light of this research, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997 require that understanding the relationship between learning and behavior must be a key ingredient in planning the individualized education program (IEP) for a student with disabilities. Consequently, teams charged with developing IEPs are required to address the children’s behavioral as well as learning problems. IEP teams must conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement behavior intervention plans that include positive behavioral interventions and supports.

States are responding to these new requirements speedily. As of June 1998, 35 states and territories have current plans to develop or revise written policies and procedures or guidelines related to FBAs to be consistent with the requirements of IDEA. Some of the IDEA requirements relate to FBAs and the influence of behavior on learning. They include the following:

  1. IEP teams must explore the need for strategies and supports to address any behavior that may impede the learning of the child with disabilities or the learning of his or her peers.
  2. IEP teams must meet within 10 days of any disciplinary actions resulting in suspension or expulsion of a student with disabilities. The meeting’s purpose is to plan a functional behavior assessment so data will be available for a behavior plan. If such a plan already exists, the IEP team reviews and revises it, as necessary, to ensure that it addresses the student’s behavior that precipitated the disciplinary action.
  3. States must address the in-service needs of education personnel in the area of development and implementation of positive intervention strategies.

Why Conduct a Functional Assessment?
The purpose of a functional assessment is to gather information in order to understand a student’s problem behavior. However, an FBA goes beyond the "symptom" (the problem behavior) to the student’s underlying motivation to "escape," "avoid," or get something. OSEP and other government-sponsored research and educators’ and psychologists’ experience have demonstrated that behavior intervention plans stemming from the knowledge of why a student misbehaves (i.e., based on a functional behavioral assessment) are extremely useful in addressing a wide range of problems.

Often, the functions of a behavior are not inappropriate- rather, it is the behavior itself that is judged appropriate or inappropriate. If the IEP team determines through an FBA that a student is seeking attention by acting out, they can develop a plan to teach the student more appropriate ways to gain attention, thereby filling the student’s need for attention with an alternative or replacement behavior that serves the same function as the inappropriate behavior. At the same time, strategies may be developed to decrease or even eliminate opportunities for the student to engage in inappropriate behavior.

Conducting a Functional Assessment
Identifying the reasons for behavior will take many forms, and while the IDEA advises an FBA approach to determine specific contributors to behavior, it does not require or suggest specific techniques or strategies to use when assessing that behavior. However, several key steps are common to most FBAs:

  1. Verify the seriousness of the problem. Many classroom problems can be eliminated by the consistent application of standard and universal discipline strategies of proven effectiveness. Only when these strategies have not resulted in significant improvement on the part of the student should school personnel go forward with an FBA.
  2. Define the problem behavior in concrete terms. School personnel need to pinpoint the behavior causing learning or discipline problems and to define that behavior in terms that are simple to measure and record. For example, a problem behavior might be "Trish is aggressive." A concrete description is "Trish hits other students during recess when she does not get her way."
  3. Collect data on possible causes of problem behavior. The use of a variety of techniques will lead the IEP team to a better understanding of the student behavior. Key questions include the following: Is the problem behavior linked to a skill deficit? Is there evidence to suggest that the student does not know how to perform the skill? Does the student have the skill but for some reason not perform it consistently? Also, a probing discussion with the student may yield an enhanced understanding of what, in each context, causes problem behavior.
  4. Analyze the data. A data triangulation chart is useful in identifying possible stimulus-response patterns, predictors, maintaining consequences, and likely function(s) of the problem behavior. A problem behavior pathway chart can be used to sequentially arrange information on setting antecedents, the behavior itself, and consequences of the behavior that might lead to its maintenance.
  5. Formulate and test a hypothesis. After analyzing the data, school personnel can establish a plausible explanation (hypothesis) regarding the function of the behaviors in question. This hypothesis predicts the general conditions under which the behavior is most and least likely to occur as well as the consequences that maintain it. The team can then experimentally manipulate some of the relevant conditions affecting the behavior. If the behavior remains unchanged following this environmental manipulation, the team can reexamine the hypothesis with a view to altering it.

Behavior Intervention Plans
The student’s behavior intervention plan should include positive strategies, programs or curricular modifications, and supplementary aids and supports required to address the behaviors of concern. It is helpful to use the data collected during the FBA to develop the plan and to determine the discrepancy between the child’s actual and expected behavior.

Intervention plans that emphasize skills needed by the student to behave in a more appropriate manner and that provide proper motivation will be more effective than plans that simply control behavior. Interventions based on control often only suppress the behavior, resulting in a child manifesting unaddressed needs in alternative, inappropriate ways. Positive plans for behavioral intervention, on the other hand, will address both the source of the problem and the problem itself and foster the expression of needs in appropriate ways.

Evaluating the Plan
It is good practice for IEP teams to include two evaluation procedures in an intervention plan: one procedure designed to monitor the consistency with which the management plan is implemented, the other designed to measure changes in behavior.

In addition, IEP teams must determine a timeline for implementation and reassessment and specify how much behavior change is required to meet the goal of the intervention. Assessment completion should be within the timelines prescribed by the IDEA.

If a student already has a behavior intervention plan, the IEP team may elect to review and modify it or they may determine that more information is necessary and conduct an FBA. The IDEA states that a behavior intervention plan based on an FBA should be considered when developing the IEP if a student’s behavior interferes with his or her learning or the learning of classmates. To be meaningful, plans need to be reviewed at least annually and revised as often as needed. However, the plan may be reviewed and reevaluated whenever any member of the child’s IEP team feels it is necessary.

Addressing Student Problem Behavior: AN IEP Team’s Introduction to Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans by Mary Magee Quinn, Robert A. Gable, Robert B. Rutherford, Jr., C. Michael Nelson, and Kenneth W. Howell (January 1998). Available from the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, 888.457.1551. Email: center@air-dc.org. Web Site: http://www.air-dc.org/cecp/ceep.html.

"Addressing Problem Behaviors in Schools: Use of Functional Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans" by Robert A. Gable, Mary Magee Quinn, Robert B. Rutherford, Jr., and Kenneth W. Howell in Preventing School Failure, Spring 1998 (42:3), 106-119.

Functional Behavioral Assessment: State Policies and Procedures from Project Forum at NASDSE, June 1998. Available from 703.519.3800 (voice) or 7008 (TDD).

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Al’s Pals

Al’s Pals is an early childhood intervention program based on a resiliency framework designed to develop personal, emotional and social skills.  Al’s Pals is authored by Susan Geller.

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Bully Prevention Program (Olweus)

The Bully Prevention Program is a comprehensive, school-wide program designed for elementary and junior high students.  The primary goals of the program are to reduce and prevent bullying problems among school children and to improve peer relations at school.  The Bully Prevention Program is authored by Dan Olweus.

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Child Development Project
(Caring School Community Program)

The Child Development Project (Caring School Community Program) is a multi-faceted school change program focused on creating caring, supportive learning environments that foster students’ sense of belonging and connection to school.  The Child Development Project is authored by Eric Schaps.

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Good Behavior Game

The Good Behavior Game is a classroom management strategy designed to improve aggressive/disruptive classroom behavior and prevent later criminality.  The Good Behavior Game is authored by Sheppard Kellam.

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High/Scope Curriculum

High/Scope Curriculum is a curriculum framework that seeks to contribute to children’s intellectual, social and physical development so they can achieve success and social responsibility in school and life.  High/Scope Curriculum is authored by a variety of different authors.

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I Can Problem Solve

The I Can Problem Solve program is a violence prevention program that helps children think of nonviolent ways to solve everyday problems.  The I Can Problem Solve program is authored by Myrna Shure.

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Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT)

Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) is an intervention program that prevents the development of aggression and antisocial behavior.  The LIFT program is authored by John Reid.

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Lion’s Quest

Lion’s Quest works with educators, parents and community members to help adolescents develop social and emotional skills, good citizenship skills, positive character, skills to remain drug free and the ethic of service to others.  Lion’s Quest is authored by Susan Keister.

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PeaceBuilders is a school-wide violence prevention program in which staff and students change the school climate to promote prosocial behavior.  PeaceBuilders is authored by Peace Partners, Inc.

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Peace Makers

Peace Makers is a violence reduction intervention program that reduces physical violence and verbal aggression and increases positive interpersonal behavior.  Peace Makers is authored by Jeremy Shapiro.

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Project ACHIEVE is a program that works to improve school and staff effectiveness and places a particular emphasis on increasing student performance in the areas of social skills/social emotional development, conflict resolution, academic progress and positive school climate.  Project ACHIEVE is authored by Howard Knoff.

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Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS)

Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) is a curriculum that teaches the five areas of social and emotional development: self-control, emotional understanding, self-esteem, peer relations and interpersonal problem-solving.  PATHS is authored by Carol Kushé and Mark Greenberg.

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Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP)

Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP) is a violence prevention program designed to teach middle school and junior high students conflict resolution strategies.  RIPP is authored by Wendy Northup and Aleta Meyer.

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Second Step

Second Step is a violence prevention program that develops social and emotional skills in students ages 4-14.  Second Step is authored by the Committee for Children.

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(The Seattle Social Development Project)

SOAR, The Seattle Social Development Project, is a comprehensive program that provides social skills training and promotes positive youth development and academic success in grades one through six.  SOAR is authored by J. David Hawkins. 

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Social Decision Making/Problem Solving Program

The Social Decision Making/Problem Solving Program is a social-emotional program that trains children grades K-8 in social and decision making skills to handle social and emotional stress in healthy ways.  The Social Decision Making/Problem Solving Program is authored by Maurice Elias and Linda Bruene Butler.

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Questions? Comments? Please email Scott or Tracey.