Like its predecessor post, the content of this post also comes from The Art and Science of Teaching. This time, however, I would like to discuss specific approaches to "withitness" and the progression of interventions when dealing with student behaviours in the classroom.
According to Marzano (2007), "consequences are the other side of rules and procedures. When students do a good job at following the rules and procedures, their willingness to be a positive influence in the class should be recognized and acknowledged. Conversely, when students do not follow classroom rules and procedures, their behaviour that detracts from learning should be noted. In effect, consequences should be both positive and negative. As with rules and procedures, consequences are typically addressed routinely and frequently. That is, the teacher frequently reinforces adherence to rules and procedures as opposed to taking it for granted, and the teacher also acknowledges lack of adherence to rules and procedures. Rules and procedures for which there are no consequences - positive and negative - do little to enhance learning" (p. 131).
"Four general actions constitute withitness: being proactive, occupying the entire room, noticing potential problems, and using a series of graduated actions" (p. 140).
"Although not commonly associated with withitness in the research literature, being proactive about potential problems is a logical component behaviour. This simply means that the teacher tries to be aware of incidents that have happened outside of class that might affect student behaviour in class" (p. 140).
Occupying the Entire Room
"A behaviour typically associated with withitness is occupying the entire room either physically or visually. Occupying the entire room physically means that the teacher moves to all quadrants of the room systematically and frequently. This is not to say that it is inappropriate to spend a majority of the time in front of the room while making presentations or guiding classroom interaction. However, even in these situations the teacher makes sure to walk to all areas of the room occasionally, paying particular attention to spots in the room that cannot be easily seen. Even when the teacher is standing still she can occupy the entire room by making eye contact with every student (p. 141).
Noticing Potential Problems
"One reason for occupying the entire room is to recognize potential problems as quickly as possible. Such behaviour is straightforward but not pleasant. No one likes conflict, and noticing potential problems smacks of conflict. Unfortunately, ignoring potential problems in the classroom can be catastrophic in terms of classroom management" (p. 141).
Using a Series of Graduated Actions
When working with teachers as an instructional coach or as a literacy coach, I refer to graduated actions as the use of non verbal and verbal cues. Marzano, on the other hand, outlines them this way:
- Looking at the suspected students. The first and least intrusive action is to look at the suspected students. This should be done in a way that elicits the attention of the suspected students; it might also elicit the attention of other students.
- Moving in the direction of students. If the suspected behaviour continues, the next step is to move in the direction of the offending students. At this point, the teacher continues to address the entire class; however, she does move toward and eventually stand right next to the student or students in question.
- Stopping the class and confronting the behaviour. If the students still have not re-engaged, then the teacher stops the class and addresses the students directly and publicly. This is done in a calm and polite manner... At this stage there can also be an explicit statement of the consequences that will ensure if the current behaviour continues.
Classroom Management Action Steps for Dealing with Behaviour in the Classroom
- Use simple verbal and non-verbal acknowledgement - refer to the aforementioned approaches related to withitness.
- Use tangible recognition when appropriate - "tangible recognition is a broad term that describes any form of concrete recognition of student adherence to rules and procedures" (p. 137). This can be achieved through token economies. "Token economies are a popular form of tangible recognition, with some research supporting their effectiveness. With token economies, students receive some type of chit for appropriate behaviour or the cessation of inappropriate behaviour. Token economies appear most powerful if chits are awarded for positive behaviour and taken away for negative behaviour" (p. 134-135).
- Use of direct-cost consequences - "typically, direct-cost consequences are applied once a negative behaviour has progressed beyond a point where it can be addressed by withitness" (p. 143). These can be in the form of time-outs and/or overcorrections. "Time-out refers to a large array of techniques... it is important to note that time-out interventions can easily be abused. They should not be used simply to get rid of the more difficult students. Rather, they should be used only after other interventions have been exhausted, and their intent should be to help students understand and control their offending behaviour so that they can return to regular classroom activities as soon as possible" (p. 144). "Overcorrection involves engaging students in activities that overcompensate for inappropriate behaviour. Overcorrection is employed when a student has done something to damage class property... or can also be applied to damage done to a class' opportunity to learn" (p. 144). It is important to note, however, that if overcorrection is used as a classroom management approach, consequences should be meaningful and related to the infraction of classroom rules.
- Use group contingency - "group contingency involves holding the class as a whole responsible for the behaviour of any and all members of the class. The general message to the class is 'you are all in this together. It is your responsibility to manage your behaviour and help your classmates manage theirs.' Two types of group contingency are discussed in the research literature: interdependent group contingency and dependent group contingency. With independent group contingency, the entire class receives positive consequences only if every student in the class meets a certain behavioural standard. With dependent group contingency, positive and negative consequences are dependent on the behaviour of one student or a small group of students who have been singled out for behavioural change. The working principle behind dependent group contingency is that peer pressure will exert a strong influence on the behaviour of the targeted students. Although peer pressure is a power short-term motivator, it is not a preferred method to be used in the typical classroom. Rather, it is usually reserved for clinical use with students who have severe behavioural problems" (p. 144-145).
- Use of home contingency - this could include phone calls home, emails, letters sent home. "Usually, teachers use home contingency only with those students who do not respond to the more general management techniques employed by the teacher. Home contingency begins with a meeting among the parents or guardians, the teacher, and the student. The group discusses the student's problem behaviours, and the student has opportunities to explain or defend the behaviours in question. The purpose of this meeting or meetings is for all parties to agree on the specific negative behaviours that are to stop in class and the specific positive behaviours that are to be exhibited" (p. 145).
- Design an overall plan for disciplinary problems (Behaviour Plan) - the creation of a behaviour plan is something that can effectively work as parents, the teacher, and the student work together to address student behaviour problems in class. It outlines the agreed upon measures outlined in the home contingency method of bring all parties together to address the issues. It can then be referred to on an ongoing basis as the teacher works to ameliorate the student's behaviour in class.
- To what extent do my students know and understand specific consequences to the rules and procedures I have in my classroom?
- To what extent am I "withit" when I am teaching? What could I do to improve my overall "withitness" when teaching in the classroom?
- Do I follow this process in dealing with the classroom behaviours of my students? If not, what could I start doing to be more consistent and effective in dealing with student behaviours in my class?
Anyway, I hope that this expose on classroom management has been of benefit to those who read it. I can say that it has helped me refresh what I know about classroom management, how I manage classes when I teach, and how I can better coach teachers on classroom management when I work with them. In that way, I suppose that this exercise has been self serving in that by reading and writing on the topic I have worked through the process on my own - thus preparing myself to be better at it as well.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should have questions, concerns, or comments on the issue. Also, don't hesitate to respond by writing comments on the post. Those are always a confirmation that there is merit in sharing this information with others.
Brophy, J.E. (1996). Teaching problem students. New York, NY: Guilford.
Marzano, R.J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.