11/20/2009 | RANDY SPRICK, PH. D.
How can educators prepare today’s youth to thrive in such an environment, much less to assume the mantle of leadership and take on these challenges?
This is a question that hounds school personnel, administrators, school boards and government policy makers across the nation. How can we give our students the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century?
Certainly, we need to revaluate what we teach and how we teach it. Education is not just about academics anymore. It stands to reason that an increasingly global society requires its citizens to be respectful, to display cultural competence, to show responsibility, civility, and tolerance toward each other, and to work together to solve issues that today affect us all. Certainly these traits should be among the things we teach.
As to how, once again, it’s not all about academics. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a direct correlation between student misbehavior and poor academic achievement. When students are disruptive and noncompliant, academic productivity goes down schoolwide.
Traditionally, we punish students when they misbehave. If they misbehave badly, we isolate or exclude them from the school community. However, that is a strategy that will not work in the 21st century. If we expel students, we set them up for failure. Dropout rates go up, graduation rates go down, and students leave school without the skills they need.
Clearly, it’s time to do things differently. Educators must learn to deliver content in ways that foster student receptivity.
There is strong evidence that a calm, safe, and civil school environment fuels academic productivity.There is additional proof that implementing a schoolwide Positive Behavior Support (PBS) approach can be extremely effective in achieving the kind of safe and civil school climate that will best prepare students for the 21st century.
Positive Behavior Support Described
Positive Behavior Support is a broad, generic term that describes a set of strategies or procedures designed to improve behavioral success by employing non-punitive, proactive, systematic techniques.
School personnel embracing PBS must first learn to manipulate the variables they can control.These are:
- Interact positively
- Correct fluently.
The acronym STOIC is an easy way to remember these variables.
Structure your classroom for success. The way the classroom is organized. The physical setting, schedule, routines and procedures, quality of instruction, etc., has a huge impact on student behavior. Effective teachers carefully structure their classrooms in ways that prompt responsible student behavior.
Teach behavioral expectations to students. Effective teachers overtly teach students how to behave responsibly and respectfully (in other words, to be successful) in every classroom situation — teacher-directed instruction, independent seatwork, cooperative groups, tests.
Observe and supervise. Effective teachers monitor student behavior by physically circulating whenever possible and visually scanning all parts of the classroom frequently. In addition, effective teachers use meaningful data to observe student behavior, particularly chronic misbehavior, in objective ways, and to monitor trends across time.
Interact positively with students. When students are behaving responsibly, they receive attention and specific descriptive feedback on their behavior.Teachers should focus more time, attention, and energy on acknowledging responsible behavior than on responding to misbehavior — what we call a high ratio of positive to negative interactions.
Correct fluently. Teachers should preplan their responses to misbehavior to ensure that they respond in a brief, calm, and consistent manner, increasing the chances that the flow of instruction is maintained. In addition, with chronic and severe misbehavior, the teacher should think about the function of the misbehavior — why is the student misbehaving — and build a plan that ensures that the student learns and exhibits appropriate behavior.
The challenges for our children are significant.As educators, our job is to give them strategies and tools that will best enable them to live happy and productive lives in their future world.
By manipulating the five variables described above, educators can initiate a Positive Behavior Support approach and construct a school climate that fosters respect, responsibility and cultural diversity, values collegiality and tolerance, and generates students who will be prepared — academically, socially, and emotionally — to take on the 21st century.