Posted on 01 Jun 2007 in Classroom Behavior, Student Behavior | Comments Off on Accountability

Accountability is a popular word these days (not in politics, of course, but in education). We hear about it in IDEA, NCLB, and from parents and administrators. But it doesn’t have to have negative connotations.

What if we began to associate the word accountability with Independance or Self-determination. Then it would have positive connotations, especially if we worked to teach our students to be independent and accountable to themselves in the classroom. This is one way to successfully manage a classroom.

In the realm of classroom management, one very effective (and evidence-based) management strategy is to use a token economy. Some people dislike this strategy because they think it is artificial and relies to heavily on external motivators. Get over it. Many people work in environments where they have to clock in, follow concocted plans for assembling widgets or whatever, all for a paycheck at the end of 40 hours. Life relies on external motivators too. The bottom line is that token economies are very effective. But for argument sake – let’s say that you want a system with more student accountability and less teacher accountability. The solution = self-managment.


Self-management teaches students to self-monitor their behaivoral or academic performance. We use this strategy everyday without even knowing about it. We monitor when we sleep/wake, what we eat (especially if we’re on a diet), our use of rude comments or behavior (even if the other driver deserves a dose of road rage we resist), and our answers to that Sunday crossword puzzle in the newspaper. If we can teach our students to be accountable and to take notice of their own behaivor, this strategy will be useful and functional throughout life.

Self-monitoring consists of five basic steps:

  1. Choose a behavior to work on and define what it LOOKS LIKE when the student is on-task and not engaging in the disruptive behavior. For example: Rocking in chair – on-task is sitting on the chair with my bottom on the seat, facing forward, with all four chair legs and both feet flat on the floor.
  2. Teach the student to look for this on-task behavior and notice if they are off-task. At regular (5, 10, 15, 30 minute) or ramdom intervals – signaled by a timer, tell the student to ask themselves “Was I on-task this interval?”. The answer should be “I was doing ______” (the behavior you defined above).
  3. Record the response on a data-sheet as either on-task or off-task for that specific interval of time. Use a pen & paper or handheld computer database.
  4. At the end of the day, record the percent that the student was on-task on a graph. Use pencils, crayons, markers, or a computer spreadsheet to create the chart. Research shows that graphing the performance leads to bigger and quicker gains then just self-monitoring alone.
  5. Finally, reinforce the student for their success!

Self-monitoring is really that easy and is a great way to teach students to be accountable. This strategy is effective for young and old students and even works for us adults. So the next time someone talks to you about accountability – tell them that you’re already self-monitoring your performance and teaching your students to do the same.