A New Look at Student Behavior 
A New Look at Student Behavior

Over the past five years, we have noticed students with more challenging behaviors in our classrooms. Twin Valley’s classroom management programs such as Responsive Classroom and Restorative Practices, were successful, yet we were missing the mark with our most behaviorally challenged students. As we looked for answers by gaining input from our staff and reading the latest research about student behavior, we discovered researchers who took a different approach to modifying student behavior.

Ed Deci, a psychologist from the University of Rochester, found that most teachers attempt to control a student’s behavior rather than helping them learn how to control it themselves. This method of behavior management creates a student who is temporarily motivated to behave for the teacher but not for themselves, making it harder for the student to learn self-control. Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, adds that teachers who use systems such as clip charts, prizes, and suspensions can actually decrease a student’s motivation to control their own behaviors because rewards and consequences do not teach them the necessary skills for appropriate behavior (Lewis, 2015).

In his book, “Lost at School,” psychologist Ross Greene takes the notion of how students can control their own behavior a step further by suggesting that the key to success for students with challenging behaviors is problem solving, not rewards or consequences. As Greene explains “kids do well if they can” meaning if they have the skills in place they will make good choices. Many behaviorally challenged students lack certain skills to be successful. However, once teachers access the skills that students need to acquire, they can teach those skills to students, allowing them to be a part of solving the problem and improving their own behavior. For example, a student may have difficulty expressing his concerns about an assignment, refusing to do it and becoming angry. When we look at his refusal as an inability to communicate his needs for help, then we can approach the problem differently. His teacher, for instance, might help him brainstorm strategies so he can express himself better the next time he doesn’t understand an assignment (Greene, 2008).

Embracing the ideas of Greene and other researchers, Twin Valley set out a year and a half ago to change our approach to students with behavioral issues. From our initial meeting with teachers, our Behavior Support Initiative was born. We spent the year training classroom teachers on developing relationships with their students, as well as how to include them in solving their own problems. Using Greene’s Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems, teachers learned to identify the skills their students were lacking. The district hired three behavior support teachers to serve elementary and middle school acting as trainers and coaches to support classroom teachers.

So far what we have is better student-teacher relationships and less student referrals to the principal’s office. Our students are spending more productive time in their classrooms learning rather than serving out consequences such as detentions and in-school suspensions. Our hope in the future is the eventual elimination of negative consequences for students and the continual collaboration between students and teachers to solve problems together.
Posted by JBuettler On March 24, 2016 at 9:22 AM