Independent Behaviour Programs
Contracting for Behaviour Gains
It is clear to teaching practitioners that optimal learning for all students takes place in a calm and secure environment. This environment depends on the predictability of consequences for behaviour which is the result of a highly structured process of managing student behaviour. In the most part good classroom management will result in classes that are a pleasure to participate in for both the teacher and their students.
Of course there are those students who have to test the structure; that is they will just see if you will carry through on your plans to provide good discipline in the class. These student will ‘break the rule’ to test the environment and that is why the catch cry for all good programs is to be consistent and persistent in the application of your ‘rules’. I have to confess that, if I see a sign that says ‘wet paint’ I have an overwhelming urge to just touch the paint to see if it is. There are a lot of students like me but we usually cause no long-term problem if the teacher is indeed persistent and consistent!
Unfortunately, or unsurprisingly there will occasionally be one or more students whose behaviour challenges the structure you have in place well beyond what is reasonable. These students have severe, dysfunctional behaviours that are a result of their developmental history. They will continue to challenge the teacher and shatter the security of the classroom unless you take action.
Throughout the resources of this webpage, and in the various publications there is ample discussion of the origins of this type of behaviour and understanding this allows the teacher to have a deal of compassion for these students. Nevertheless, it is a teacher’s professional duty to deal with these students regardless of how much resentment it can produce.
The use of a structured program that is especially designed to deal with these behaviours can assist with managing the behaviour in the short term and moulding permanent functional behaviours in the long term. This structure takes the form of independent behaviour program (IBP) that the teacher can construct preferably with the child, his/her parents and the teachers supervisor. However, if the child and/or their parents do not want to participate it is important that they know the process and the consequences for behaviour.
The following steps will help you design an independent program.
Define the behaviours you want to target:
- Be specific about exactly what the child is doing and the impact that behaviour is having. There are ample examples of how to observe and record incidents of mis-behaviour and this provides a starting point for discussion.
- Limit the behaviours you want to deal with - do not take on too much. If you can eliminate one or two quickly then you can move onto other behaviours. Eventually the child will think you really are in-charge of the classroom.
- Spell out the consequences – these must include positive and negative. It is not enough to extinguish behaviours knowing that they do serve a purpose. You have to replace that behaviour with a new one that will serve the same need.
- Keep a record of the behaviour – this allows both you and the student to track change. This will provide an intrinsic reward for both of you. Just a warning often students will increase the level of their inappropriate behaviour at the beginning of the process just to see if you are serious.
- Evaluate – after a period of time check to see if the situation has changed. If not you can revisit the process and try another strategy. In some cases the student’s behaviour is so far beyond the resources of a school they must be excluded. The process and your records will be invaluable as evidence for the expulsion.
There are a significant number of students whose behaviour is so dysfunctional they need special consideration. These students are the victims of their developmental environment and deserve our best efforts, that’s why teachers do make a difference in so many children’s lives but be aware there are another large group of kids in your class and they deserve the same compassionate care.