Dr. Fred Jones's
Tools for Teaching
Tools for Teaching
Implements PBIS Level 1:
Primary Prevention in the Classroom
I have received an increasing number of emails from district administrators and staff development specialists thanking us for helping them implement PBIS. They use such phrases as "has perfect alignment," "gives us everything we need," and is "positive and practical." Those emails led me to ask myself, "What in the world is PBIS?"
WHAT IS PBIS?
In the 1990s, the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, founded the National Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), centered at the University of Oregon. The centers objective is to give schools the capacity for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide disciplinary practices.
The Department of Education focused upon discipline management because of the disproportionately large number of suspensions, particularly out-of-school suspensions, being given to minority students. Those referrals were not only ineffective in reducing behavior problems, they were counterproductive because they increased the number of dropouts.
Most schools, particularly high schools, lack any discipline management program except for a "discipline code" that lists a hierarchy of consequences. In the classroom, teachers simply do the best they can for as long as they can, and then, when they are at their "wits' end," they bounce the kid to the office.
PBIS stresses the word proactive because discipline management at most school sites is reactive. It stresses the word positive because most discipline management is punitive. And it stresses the word system because so many school sites lack any real system.
In order to reduce suspensions for severe misbehavior, PBIS focuses on the development of teachers classroom management skills to prevent typical behavior problems from escalating. The accompanying pyramid illustrates the type of interventions that, with a well-trained staff, should precede an office referral.
CONTENT OF PBIS
PBIS is not a specific program or curriculum. Rather, it serves as a catalyst. It engages school districts and school sites in the team building and consensus building required to produce a coherent system of discipline management.
The PBIS Pyramid
Images courtesy of Fred Jones
The PBIS pyramid is based on the applied behavioral research literature dealing with classroom management, teacher training, and the process of change. School districts and school sites rely on that research to provide the structure for change.
To get the ball rolling, state departments of education have taken the lead in promoting PBIS. School districts and regional education centers have developed the curricula and supplied the training. Those programs emphasize the fundamentals:
- Procedures: clarifying rules and routines at the school site level and teaching them thoroughly
- Positive Reinforcement: implementing a range of programs in the literature for "catching them being good"
- Negative Consequences: developing a hierarchy of consequences that is clear to all and applied consistently
- Special Interventions: investing in intensive small-group or individualized interventions for students with more severe behavior problems that do not respond to group interventions
- Keeping Records: making sure that discipline incidents such as office referrals are tracked, compiled, and analyzed
TOOLS ALIGNS WITH PBIS
The objective of Tools for Teaching is identical to that of PBIS. Both seek to develop and implement effective discipline practices. Both focus on primary prevention in the classroom. Both employ applied behavioral research to build an advanced framework for classroom management.
Tools for Teaching, having begun in 1969, represents nearly four decades of constant research, development, and field-testing. It represents a level of sophistication that reflects those four decades of work. During that time, Tools for Teaching has added a new generation of procedures to those described in the research literature. Those new procedures are extremely cost-effective (teachers don't have extra time). They solve a wide range of problems for the entire class while freeing up the teacher's time for instruction rather than consuming it in program management.
LEARNING TO WIN THE GAME
When you spend enough time observing classrooms, you realize that the same transactions occur day after day at every grade level. The management of those transactions determines a teacher's effectiveness.
Consider classroom management to be a game with offense and defense, with fundamental skills, and with plays that recur predictably. Consider the following example.
Students typically pay attention with minimal "goofing off" while the teacher is presenting a lesson. During Guided Practice, however, the wheels fall off. Students in need of help raise their hands; the teacher begins to work with one of those students; the noise level rises; and soon the teacher is nagging:
"Class! There is no excuse for all this talking. You all have work to do. I cannot be everywhere at once. If you are having difficulty, look at my example on the board (blah, blah, blah)."
This teacher is losing. But how do you win? How, for example, do you give corrective feedback to students (the same ones every day, it seems) without both losing control of the class and systematically reinforcing learned helplessness?
Another basic play in the game is backtalk -- the source of most office referrals. The teacher says,
"Billy, I want you to turn around and get some work done."
"Why? I wasn't doin' anything. Just get out of my face (blah, blah, blah)."
What do you do next? If you mess up, this little altercation will spin out of control and end up at the office.
Here's another play. You have a lesson transition. The students know that as soon as the transition is over, you will put them back to work. They have a vested interest in dawdling. How do you get them to hustle?
To bring the variables from the research literature down to earth, you must study the game and learn to play it as it actually unfolds in the classroom. Once you begin to play the game, you will find that certain critical issues have never been addressed in the research literature. To play well, you will have to invent.
For example, how exactly do you "mean business" so your reliance on formal consequences for misbehavior is minimized? Or, to put it another way, how exactly do you train a room full of 17-year-olds to act responsibly by this time tomorrow?
TOOLS FOR TEACHING IS A MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Tools for Teaching is a classroom management system in which
a) all of the necessary pieces are provided,
b) the pieces fit together like a puzzle, and
c) the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The pieces of the classroom management puzzle fall into three broad areas:
- Instruction: maximizing the rate of learning while making independent learners out of helpless handraisers
- Discipline: training students to be responsible while getting them to stop goofing off and get to work
- Motivation: giving students a reason to work hard while also being conscientious
Discipline management in Tools for Teaching begins with small disruptions in the classroom -- everyday "goofing off." Small disruptions provide the best starting point because
a) they destroy a huge amount of learning time, and
b) when mismanaged, they escalate into large disruptions.
This level of intervention corresponds to primary prevention -- the bottom level of the PBIS pyramid.
The following thumbnail sketch will give you a sense of the "nuts and bolts" of those discipline practices in Tools for Teaching that comprise primary prevention. As you can see, prevention in discipline management quickly takes you to the center of the instructional process.
Working the Crowd:
When students are near you, they tend to be on their best behavior. Effective teachers make an art form out of working the crowd -- otherwise known as "management by walking around."
To make working the crowd as easy as possible, you will have to rearrange the furniture in your classroom. The optimal room arrangement allows you to get from any student to any other student in the fewest possible steps.
Once you focus on working the crowd, you immediately confront the natural enemy of working the crowd -- helpless handraisers. During Guided Practice, a typical teacher tutors the same helpless handraisers day after day -- a process that takes several minutes per student. As mentioned above, by tutoring helpless handraisers, you quickly lose control of the class, while inadvertently reinforcing helplessness. That raises the question, "How do you help a student who is stuck?"
For starters, corrective feedback must be brief -- a simple prompt that answers the question, "What do I do next?" By simply telling the student what to do without giving a "post-mortem" of the error, you guarantee that feedback is always positive, which is a powerful, hidden relationship builder. In addition, a brief prompt maximizes clarity while avoiding cognitive overload. That process is referred to as Praise, Prompt, and Leave.
Visual Instruction Plans (VIPs):
Next, the prompts must be visual. The steps of the lessons task analysis must be posted where any student can see them. That reduces the performance anxiety that causes help-seeking while providing a level of clarity that accelerates learning. More importantly, by prepackaging prompts visually, the duration of your helping interactions can be reduced to less than 10 seconds. That allows you to resume working the crowd, which immediately suppresses goofing off.
Say, See, Do Teaching:
The most direct way of minimizing the need for corrective feedback during Guided Practice is to teach the lesson correctly in the first place. There are two basic ways to package the activity of learning.
The first is
That pattern characterizes most teaching, especially at the secondary level. Imagine a lecture followed by a brief discussion.
The second pattern is
That pattern is characteristic of coaching and skill building in general. Students learn by doing with constant monitoring and feedback.
Educators have always pointed to the link between effective instruction and effective discipline management. But what, exactly, is that link? What separates successful teachers from their colleagues is not the curriculum. The difference is in process -- the organization of learning activity. Successful teachers coach performance, whether it is the mastery of a skill or the expression of a concept. Their students are constantly busy. When students are both busy and successful, discipline problems plummet.
Once the teacher has an effective model for instruction, he or she is in a position to teach classroom routines to mastery and to maintain that mastery throughout the semester. Carrying out transitions and routines quickly and efficiently constitutes one of the teacher's major time-savers and stress reducers. In addition, by making expectations crystal clear, the teacher simplifies the task of rule enforcement.
Highly successful teachers can get a student who is goofing off to "shape up" by simply looking at him or her. How do they do that?
When we finally cracked the code, we realized that meaning business is largely body language that signals calm, commitment, and the willingness to follow through. It teaches the students that "no" means "no." Once that understanding is established, teachers can signal students to "cool it" using progressively smaller cues until a word, a look, a pause, or ultimately, the teacher's mere presence is enough to enforce limits. Rather than providing formal consequences, the teacher becomes the consequence. When the teacher walks into the classroom, the management program has arrived.
Since meaning business involves body language, teacher training in that area is quite physical in nature. Say, See, Do Teaching is as important in staff development as it is in the classroom.
Of course, formal consequences can be employed at any time to enforce rules. But, with meaning business, these relatively complicated and expensive procedures become rare.
Why Should I?:
Before an unmotivated student will work hard, the teacher must answer one simple question, "Why should I?" The student needs something to work for--something he or she wants in the not-too-distant future. It is called an incentive or preferred activity. The trick with classroom incentives is to make them learning activities.
The risk of incentives is that students might do fast and sloppy work in order to get the preferred activity as soon as possible. How do you train students to be both hard working and conscientious?
For students to learn to be both hard working and conscientious, you must be able to check their work as it is being done. That allows you to give corrective feedback immediately so accountability enhances the learning process.
Connecting accountability to the learning process in real time requires two things:
a) Say, See, Do Teaching so you have time to check students' work during each input-output cycle, and
b) plenty of time during Guided Practice to check work rather than service helpless handraisers.
The systematic management of motivation is one of the final dividends of effective discipline management.
Tools Provides the Practical Specifics
As you can see from this brief description of primary prevention in Tools for Teaching, we are not dealing in generalities. We are describing specific skills, and the Tools for Teachingbooks, videos, and workshops provide training in those skills.
In addition, 40 years of working with school sites to implement Tools for Teaching has taught us about the complexity of producing lasting change, particularly in a high school. The Tools for Teaching Study Group Activity Guide, a free download from our Web site, provides a step-by-step tutorial for building professional learning communities (PLCs) and for coaching the classroom management skills contained in Tools for Teaching. Once again, the alignment with PBIS is perfect because we are attempting to do the same job.
Next month, we will move from primary prevention to secondary prevention in managing discipline problems. We will describe group procedures that apply to the second level of the PBIS pyramid.
Copyright © 2012 Education World
Understanding Responsibility Training is critical to understanding tertiary prevention in Tools for Teaching. Our program for helping students with extreme and chronic behavior problems is an extension of Responsibility Training. Not only is it cheap and powerful, but it is also win-win.
A RUN-IN WITH LARRY
Larry is the name we give to the student who is always getting into trouble. Larry is the student you heard about for two years before he arrived in your class.
Imagine that, earlier in the day, you had a run-in with Larry. Everybody but Larry was seated when the bell rang. Consequently, according to the structure of Responsibility Training, you could not give the class their one-minute PAT (Preferred Activity Time) bonus for being seated. When you announced that to the class, Larry yelled,
Larry is an angry and alienated child. He takes it out on you, and he takes it out on his classmates. He does hurtful things, and he is often a bully. He does not hesitate to punish the class to make himself feel powerful. Not surprisingly, he is unpopular.
Would Larry like to be popular? Show me a child who would not! But fear and anger get in the way. He keeps doing things that seem calculated to make the other students resent him. He is his own worst enemy.
Imagine that, earlier in the day, you dealt with Larrys outburst as best you could. Now it is later in the day, and you have time to make a plan for dealing with this problem in the long run. You could, of course, reach for the negative consequences outlined in the school discipline code. Or, you could try something positive. You could try Omission Training.
RESPONSIBILITY TRAINING PLUS OMISSION TRAINING
Omission Training is the name given to an incentive system that is designed to stop a behavior. The structure of Omission Training is dictated by the simple fact that you cannot reinforce the non-occurrence of a behavior. It would sound silly if you tried:
You can, however, reinforce a student or even the entire class for not doing something for a given length of time. You could, for example, reinforce a student for going ten minutes without interrupting.
Omission Training becomes especially powerful when it is mated with Responsibility Training. That combination of management programs mobilizes the peer group to help both you and Larry.
For example, you could give the group a minute of bonus PAT if Larry could go ten minutes without making an inappropriate remark. That gives the peer group a vested interest in supporting Larrys efforts and ignoring his provocations.
As you can see, Omission Training within the group incentive context of Responsibility Training goes beyond simply changing a behavior. It makes Larry a hero with you as his cheerleader. And, it gives you the power of the peer group while involving the class in helping a peer that they normally dislike.
THE HEART-TO-HEART TALK
You will have a heart-to-heart talk with Larry as soon as possible. During that talk you will implement Omission Training. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted for the next twenty minutes. Heart-to-heart talks usually require plenty of wait time.
Of course, you will impart your own style to this conversation. The following dialogue is only intended to map the terrain. The heart-to-heart talk has four parts.
Enough Is Enough
Larry, that scene in front of the classroom this morning is what we call unacceptable behavior. And I will make you a promise: if one of us has to go, it will be you.
Right now, we are looking at the School Discipline Code. Its purpose is to raise the price of unacceptable behavior so high that you can no longer afford to pay the price. It is not supposed to be fun.
Between where we stand right now and the School Discipline Code lies another option. It is a lot more enjoyable. Let me explain it to you. Then, if you want to do it, we will. And, if you dont, we wont. Fair enough?
Acknowledging Your Own Responsibility
This morning when you said that PAT sucks, my first thought was that I had thoroughly failed in explaining PAT. So, let me try again.
First of all, you do not have to do what the rest of the group is doing during PAT. It is always possible to do your own thing as long as it is constructive. It is even possible that everyone in the class might do a different activity during PAT. The only thing that must be the same for everyone is the duration of PAT.
So, lets sit down with a pad of paper and make a list of things that you would like to do during PAT. The boundaries are as always: It must be something that you want, and it must be something that I can live with.
This phase of program building is known as brainstorming a reinforcement menu. It marks a change of direction in the conversation from enough is enough to becoming Larrys partner in seeking enjoyment.
As you brainstorm PATs with Larry, remain flexible without giving up your focus on learning. You will never accept just kicking back or free time as a PAT. But management, like politics, is the art of the possible. If the most achievement-oriented activity that Larry cares about is reading motorcycle magazines, you might want to put it on the list. After all, those magazines represent fairly challenging reading.
Estimate a Time Frame for Omission Training
How long can Larry behave himself during a typical day? When in doubt, shorten your estimate to maximize Larrys chances of succeeding everyday.
The most common time frame in regular classrooms is half a class period (25 minutes). Even on days when Larry gets into trouble, he will probably give you at least half a class period without getting into trouble. Be conservative. If 25 minutes seems like a lot to ask, shorten it to something that is doable.
Explain the Mechanics to Larry
Brainstorming a reinforcement menu usually puts Larry in a different frame of mind than he had at the beginning of the heart-to-heart talk. Now, it is time to explain your plan to Larry.
I want you to have PAT. But I also want to be able to relax and enjoy teaching when I come to work. And that little altercation we had this morning was hardly enjoyable.
That is to say, while I want you to have PAT, I want something in return. I want something that you have given me every day that you have been in my class since school began, even on days in which you got into trouble. I want you to give me half a class period of appropriate behavior. Just cool it for 25 minutes.
Think of it as a gesture that says, I will meet you halfway. If you meet me halfway, I will meet you more than halfway. I will give you your PAT plus a minute. But it is not just your minute. It belongs to the entire class.
Always rehearse your announcement of the program to the class with Larry beforehand so there is no embarrassment when the time comes. Typically with older students, the less said the better.
The conversation continues,
There is one more part to this program, Larry, that I need to show you. It is a kitchen timer.
If anybody ruins this program, it will probably be me, not you. I will get busy teaching and forget about keeping track of the minutes. As I see you walking out of the room, I will think, Oh no! I forgot all about Larrys minutes.
So I do not have to be a clock-watcher, I will use this kitchen timer. I will set it to 25 minutes and forget it. When 25 minutes is up, it will ring, and we will both know that it is time to post the next bonus minute.
IMPLEMENTATION IN CLASS
The next day you begin the program. As soon as Larry earns his first bonus minute, announce it just as you rehearsed.
Class, let me have your attention. Larry and I are working on something different today, and Larry is doing a great job. He has just earned a bonus minute of PAT for the entire class. I will put a circle around it so that you can keep track of how many minutes he earns for the group. You might say that this minute is a gift from Larry.
Walk to the board and post the minute on the PAT tally. Draw a circle around the bonus minute and all other minutes that Larry subsequently earns for the class. Then say,
You all have an extra minute of PAT thanks to Larry, and before the period is over, you could get more. Lets hear it for Larry.
(Lead the group in giving Larry applause.)
Okay, Larry, lets see if we can get another minute before the period is over.As the class period comes to an end, say to the group, Class, let me have your attention before we dismiss. Larry has just earned a second minute for the group. Let me post that bonus minute on the board.
Class, you are all two minutes richer thanks to Larry. Lets hear it for Larry. (Once again, lead the group in applause.)
WHAT IF LARRY BLOWS IT?
One final detail needs to be explained to Larry.
With this program you can only earn time for the group. You can no longer lose time.
Consequently, if you should get into trouble in class, you will deal with me personally. After you rejoin the group, I will reset the kitchen timer so you can immediately begin earning bonus PAT. If the period should end before you have earned the next minute, I will carry all of your time forward to the next day so that you never lose time.
As you can see, Larry could not lose time for the group if he wanted to. Since Larry showed a weakness for playing the bully, we have simply removed the temptation.
A BRIDGE TO HEALING
Larry is an angry, unhappy child. Over the years, those negative emotions can produce serious deficits in social skills. Omission Training serves as a pump primer for helping Larry learn to get along with people by setting him up for success from the very beginning.
Omission Training focuses the peer groups attention on Larrys new behavior and helps them see Larry through new eyes. Without the theatrical aspect of Omission Training plus the bonus PAT that the class shares, the peer group might be slow to notice any improvement on Larrys part. In fact, they might inadvertently put his new behavior on extinction! Rather than let that happen, we will make a hero out of Larry in order to get results.
If I needed a behavioral program to make an unpopular child popular, I would immediately pick Omission Training. I have seen it bring an outcast child into the middle of the class sociogram in two weeks!
OMISSION TRAINING IS CHEAP
In addition to Omission Training being powerful, it is cheap. For the price of a heart-to-heart talk and a few marks on the PAT tally, you have rearranged the group dynamics of the entire class to support Larrys growth.
It is actually cheaper to institute Responsibility Training just so you can institute Omission Training than it is to institute a traditional individualized B-Mod program. And it is far more powerful since it delivers the power of the peer group. Omission Training in conjunction with Responsibility Training is as close to magic as anything you will find in behavior management. In special high school classrooms where most of the students had felony records, Omission Training all but eliminated office referrals.[content block]