ERIC Identifier: ED371506
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and
Gifted Children Reston VA.
Managing Inappropriate Behavior in the Classroom. ERIC Digest
The atmosphere of
the classroom has much to do with student behavior. The setting should be
appealing, with attention given to varying the physical features and the
schedule to prevent boredom in both the teacher and the student. Teachers should
let students know specific do's and don'ts: which behaviors are expected or
desired and which will not be tolerated. Then teachers must consistently
reinforce the desired behaviors while ignoring or in some other way
extinguishing the undesirable ones.
WHAT ABOUT ESTABLISHING RULES?
Some teachers make too many
rules, and the children, confused or frustrated, ignore them. Teachers should
establish only a few rules and should specify the consequences for not following
HOW CAN TEACHERS INCREASE STUDENT MOTIVATION FOR ACADEMIC TASKS?
One approach could be to make one activity contingent on another:
students can earn time in one favored activity by performing well in another.
Students having difficulty in one subject area could serve as tutors to younger
students in that same skill, dependent upon the older child's satisfactory
performance. Classroom privileges such as helping to distribute papers can also
be made contingent on performance.
WHAT ABOUT TOKEN ECONOMIES?
This approach, in which pupils
are given a mark for rewards redeemable at a later time, can help students
learn. However, token economies are usually costly. In addition, results of
research investigating whether or not performance is maintained after the system
is removed have been discouraging.
HOW CAN TEACHERS DECREASE UNWANTED BEHAVIOR?
reward a student when a specified behavior does not occur, or when it occurs
below a designated frequency or duration level. Differential reinforcement of
other behaviors (DRO) is a way to decelerate a behavior when behaviors other
than the target behavior are systematically reinforced.
Overcorrection is another possibility. Teachers instruct students to correct
the inappropriate behavior and execute the act within a natural sequence of
events. For example, in one case a child who mouthed objects was told "no" and
required to brush his teeth and wipe his lips with a washcloth each time he put
a potentially harmful or unhygienic object in his mouth.
Satiation involves actually giving students more of the event that the
teacher ultimately wishes to eliminate. The classic example of this technique
involves a hospital resident who hoarded towels. Staff began giving her
towels-up to 60 per day-until she voluntarily returned more of them and ceased
WHAT ROLE DOES PUNISHMENT PLAY IN CLASSROOM
Punishment can be defined as a technique that decelerates the
frequency of a behavior when it is given contingent on that behavior.
Reprimands, frowns, reminders and other subtle expressions can serve as
punishment, and can be very effective when used appropriately.
A possible disadvantage of punishment is that its effects may overgeneralize,
eliminating more behaviors that originally intended. Another difficulty is that
the student might associate the technique with the person who administered it,
causing ill feeling toward the teacher.
WHAT ABOUT TAKING SOMETHING AWAY TO DECREASE UNWANTED BEHAVIORS?
Teachers can take away the opportunity to obtain
reinforcement, attention, or a portion of some event contingent on target
behavior. These three procedures are also known as timeout, extinction, and
response cost. Timeout can involve physically removing a student for short
periods from the reinforcing event or area. Ignoring tantrums is a withdrawal of
attention that may lead to extinction of the problem behavior. Taking away
tokens or points for disobeying rules is an example of response cost.
IF A TEACHER CAN'T CONCENTRATE ON INDIVIDUAL PROBLEMS,
ARE THERE GROUP METHODS THAT WILL WORK?
group contingencies. Each student receives the same consequence for stated
behavior, as in staying after class for out-of-seat behavior. Although easy to
administer, this approach does not take into account individual student
group contingency. The same consequence is given to all members of a group. In
order to receive the consequence, a selected member must perform at or better
than a specified level. One student's behavior can influence the group's
consequence. This approach can improve peer group behavior at the same time. A
program in which a student accumulates free time for the entire class by on-task
behavior may encourage fellow students to support his appropriate activity and
not engage him in off-task interaction.
consequence, contingent on group. The entire class is considered as one group.
An example is making free time dependent on appropriate behavior: an
individual's inappropriate activity reduces the entire class's reward. This
approach might be effective when several individuals are behaving
inappropriately. However, repercussions might occur if group members feel unduly
punished due to the behavior of an individual student.
WHAT ARE SOME GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR MANAGING
Examine the events that maintain students' behavior.
Keep data to determine whether or not an approach is working. Compare behavior
during baseline and treatment phases.
Consider a variety of techniques.
Combine approaches to be more effective. For example, a teacher might praise
appropriate behavior while ignoring inappropriate behavior.
Concentrate on teaching new behaviors and deal with inappropriate ones only to
the extent that they interfere with the individual's or group's learning.
The information in this digest is taken from "Managing Inappropriate
Behaviors in the Classroom" by Thomas C. Lovitt, Reston, VA: The Council for
Exceptional Children, 1978, 44 pp. (ED 157 255)
Cheney, C. O. (1989). "Preventative discipline
through effective classroom management." 15 pp. Reno, NV: University of Nevada.
(ED 304 689) This document is reproduced in its entirety in "Preventive
Discipline and Behavior Management," Computer Search Reprint C572, Reston VA:
The Council for Exceptional Children, 1989.
Johnston, L., and others. (1984). "Setting limits: Tips for teachers of young
children." Project enlightenment. (ED 293 294)
Romney, D.M. (1986). "Dealing with abnormal behavior in the classroom.
Fastback 245." 42 pp. (ED 275 944) Available from: Phi Delta Kappa Educational
Foundation, Eighth and Union, Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402
Smith, D.L. (1988). "Preparing teachers for classroom management decisions
using simulated open-ended video vignettes." 11 pp. (ED 290 729)
Wolfgang, C.H., & Glickman, C.D. (1986). "Solving discipline problems:
Strategies for classroom teachers." Second Edition. 330 pp. (ED 216 788)