In The Art and Science of Teaching Marzano shows that both positive and negative consequences have a strong effect on student behavior, but the greatest effect can be achieved through a combination of the two (2007). If we treat our new classes with all stick and no carrot, however, we risk alienating students and creating a cold and uncooperative class environment. Thus it is essential to formulate a strategy for applying classroom rules and procedures that is clear and balanced; early and consistent application of rules and procedures will best ensure adherence to behavioral expectations.
In secondary education there is a vast difference in student behaviors and suitable strategies between grades six and twelve. What works with a fresh group of sixth-graders may not chime with a difficult eighth-grade class, you can even have two identical grades showcased in “Tough Young Teachers” expecting the same reality but in return receive something completely opposite. Behavioral standards also differ from school to school, with students’ backgrounds and parental expectations playing a huge role in the class climate. Individual school policy can also affect the strategies for behavioral management that we choose to use, for example if there is a school-wide token economy or time-out zones for misbehaving students.
For the purposes of this assignment I will plan for my Eighth Grade English class at a private international school. I will assume that the students come from middle- to high-income families with a moderate level of parental involvement. In this kind of environment behavioral standards may be higher than in schools in disadvantaged areas, although one should not underestimate the factors of privilege and entitlement that can contribute towards complacency and low effort among some students. And, without question, an eighth grade class in any school will have its fair share of misbehavior.
First, I will examine positive reinforcement, which in Marzano’s data has a greater effect size than punishment (2007). I believe this tells us something useful about positive and negative consequences: as teachers, we should be positive first and foremost, and negative only in response to non-adherence to and procedures. One of our primary goals is establishing a climate of care and concern, and this can best be achieved with a positive tone in our verbal and physical communication.
It is my belief that as students grow older, they should be encouraged more and more to meet high behavioral and academic standards for their intrinsic value, rather than for extrinsic rewards and punishments. Perhaps the best way to achieve this goal is through positive reinforcement, which can provide clear and constant reminders that adherence to rules and procedures is acknowledged and appreciated. When applying positive (or negative) reinforcement it is important to focus on behavior rather than innate qualities or characteristics. A useful strategy for positive reinforcement is “precise praise” from Teach Like a Champion (Lemov, 2010). In this strategy we distinguish between acknowledgement for students meeting our expectations and praise when our expectations are exceeded.
Precise praise is a quick and positive form of recognition that does not emphasize extrinsic rewards for good classroom behavior. Rewards will still have a place in my eighth grade class, but will focus more on academic efforts: merits will be awarded for exceeding expectations in a given task or assignment. In order to easily keep track of this reward system, I will use an online tool like We Chat – A Chinese app that hold many similarities to What’s App but with this tool I can post documents, mini videos of classroom discussions, and I have a group that consists of students and parents so everyone; especially the parents, can see their child’s progress in real time. This tool allows for quick and convenient positive feedback, with a feature for messaging parents to highlight behavior or effort worthy of praise. It is important to remember that a message sent to parents via an app like We Chat should not replace more proactive uses of home contingency such as emails and phone calls home; rather it should supplement those other forms of communication that we use on a regular basis.
I will use this point system to reward exceptional effort and behavior each midterm. The school may have a system for rewarding high achievements; in my secondary school students who received the most merits won a book voucher, which was presented at a special assembly to which parents were invited. This seems to me like an ideal format for tangible recognition, as it acknowledges high achievement without parading the “best students” in front of the rest of the class.
Below is a diagram of steps I will take to reinforce positive behavior in class
Next, I will discuss my strategies for correcting misbehavior with negative consequences. As stated above, I see negative consequences as secondary to positive reinforcement, and there are a few strategies that can be used before resorting to stricter disciplinary measures, namely: withitness, redirection, and “positive framing” (Lemov, 2010). Withitness refers to a teacher’s ability to be aware of what is happening in the classroom at all times and to notice the warning signs of disruption before disruptive behavior occurs. As a negative consequence withitness is a quick and subtle intervention that can involve proximity, eye contact, deliberate pauses, and other cues. It is a preventative measure that can be seen in the most successful classrooms, where triggers for disruptive behavior are averted before the disruption can happen (Lemoy, 2010).
Redirection is a technique that goes hand in hand with withitness. The cues listed above that the with-it teacher employs can all have the effect of redirecting a distracted student back on track. Cues for redirection can have significant benefits over more dramatic interventions, in that they cause minimal disruption to the flow of a lesson and maintain a calm and focused learning environment. Redirecting cues can be particularly useful when dealing with students with special needs who have trouble staying on task. A student with ADHD may have limited control over their disruptive behaviors, leading to frequent breaking of class rules and procedures.
Positive framing is a technique illustrated by Lemov (2010) that draws on what’s known in psychology as the “framing effect.” One of the implications of the framing effect is that humans are more likely to choose an option that is worded positively than one which is worded negatively (Framing effect, n.d.). Lemov describes positive framing as, “narrating the world you want your students to see even while you are relentlessly improving it, making corrections consistently and positively” ( Lemov 2010, p. 43). The key element to notice here is that the positive tone is used specifically to make corrections. Positivity should not obscure the correctional message, but rather frame it in a way that is more attractive to students than anger, sternness, or sarcasm.
Negative consequences for misbehavior will take place where withitness and redirecting cues have failed to avert a disruption. I will use positive framing to inform the student(s) of my expectations for acceptable behavior and tell them clearly and calmly that they’re on a first warning. I will record the names of students on a first warning on my own seating chart. If a student violates class after their first warning, they will be calmly notified that it is a second infraction, with a consequence of a lunchtime detention. In cases where misbehavior continues or escalates quickly to an unacceptable level (perhaps skipping the warning stages), a student will be sent outside or to a school time-out zone. In such instances additional consequences will be incurred alongside detention: meeting with a senior member of staff, speaking to parents, etc.
Schools often have specific systems in place for negative consequences. A necessary consequence for repeated misbehavior is a behavior intervention plan (BIP) that seeks to address a student’s individual needs. BIPs should involve a strong element of home contingency and are necessary to avoid a stalemate where the same pattern of misbehavior repeats indefinitely, causing frequent disruptions to the class.
Below is a diagram on the steps I would take for negative consequences in class.
Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Lemov, D. (2010). Teach like a champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Framing effect (psychology). (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2016, fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology)