The governments’ What Works Clearinghouse just released a new publication titled “Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom” that is available to download in it’s entirety. This practitioners guide is meant to be a definitive collection of behavior interventions based on evidence-based practices.
I briefly skimmed through the guide and found that it didn’t tell me a whole lot of stuff that I didn’t already know. Nor did it give specific and concrete advice to put the research into practice. It didn’t name any magic interventions either. In fact, it seemed to go out of it’s way to avoid naming interventions. For example, instead of stating that the first step to solving a student’s behavior problem is to identify the function of the behavior through a Function Based Assessment (FBA), it simply stated the need to:
1. Identify the specifics of the problem behavior and the conditions that prompt and reinforce it…Research suggests that identifying the problem behavior’s specific antecedents and consequences and then tailoring an intervention to address the distinct needs of the individual student in the classroom context are more likely to yield positive outcomes than an intervention applied without attention to the factors prompting and reinforcing it.
While most educators will agree with the quote above, many already know this part but need help with the ‘how to’ part of the intervention. As a classroom teacher for many years, I know that the ‘how to’ is the toughest part. Fortunately, as a special education teacher I know how to analyze the antecedents, behavior, and consequences of an incident and have been trained to look for patterns in this data to identify factors that may be reinforcing a students’ behavior as the guide suggests. I already know that some common reinforcing themes in the classroom are escape, attainment, and avoidance. That is, often students will engage in a behavior because it helps them to get away from something (math, reading, peers), get something (attention, toys, food), or delay something (test, homework, assignment). Once we know what students want, we can then teach them more appropriate ways to behavior to meet these needs. I realize that not everyone knows this.
So, do I recommend the guide? YES.
Why? Because it allows us to say, “Hey, we are not doing this (intervention) to be nice/patient/caring/etc, but because it is effective and research shows that it helps improve student behavior.”
Being able to tell parents, colleagues, and administrators that your interventions are evidence-based, adds credibility to our profession. We expect our doctors and dentists to use effective treatments on us – we need to be seen a providing effective treatments for our students too.