I was particularly interested in attending this session because classroom management is a skill that most student teachers need to work on and I wanted to know more about identifying and supporting my students’ behaviour while in the classroom. Liz Sparling started out her presentation by explaining that the ABCs of behaviour are Antecedent, Behaviour and Consequence. All behaviour occurs in context, in a certain environment. The environment can either cause the behaviour to occur or prevent it from occurring. Whatever triggers the behaviour in the environment is called the antecedent, and whatever happens after the behaviour is called the consequence.
The antecedent is whatever happened immediately before the behaviour. It is important to distinguish any setting event(s) from the antecedent. Setting events can be issues such as lack of sleep, changes in medication, hunger, vacation, and sensory stimuli such as bright lights or noise. A setting event may contribute to the behaviour, but did not happen immediately before the behaviour in question. Setting events can make the behaviour more likely or more intense.
It is important for teachers to identify the behaviour’s antecedent when describing a student’s behaviour in a report to school district inclusion support staff to get help with dealing with a student’s problem behaviour. It is helpful for inclusion support staff to know who was there when the behaviour took place, where it happened, when it happened and what immediately preceded the behaviour (antecedent). Including this type of detail in the reporting process helps the inclusion support staff start to figure out what might be happening and how it can be addressed. If any details on setting events are known, this information can also be included to provide more context.
Behaviour is anything that a person says or does. It is vital to describe the behaviour in enough detail to provide inclusion support staff with a place to start their analysis. For example, writing that Johnny has a poor attitude, that Susie does not behave appropriately in the classroom, or that Ben exhibits attention-seeking behaviour, are not precise enough definitions of what the problem behaviour is. It is helpful to note the topography, duration, frequency, intensity and escalation of the behaviour (see photo).
A consequence is anything that comes after the behaviour. Consequences can both increase or decrease the likelihood of the behaviour occurring again. Liz Sparling showed a grid comparing the different types of consequences (see photo). A positive reinforcement serves to increase behaviour by presenting a reward, such as a sticker, a special outing or praise. A negative reinforcement is intended to increase the behaviour by providing relief from an annoying stimulus, such as taking off a sweater when you are hot or sending a disruptive student out of the classroom so that the teacher and class can focus better. A positive punishment serves to decrease behaviour by presenting something as a consequence, such as extra chores or a verbal reprimand. A negative punishment is intended to decrease the behaviour by removing something or giving a penalty, such as a time out, paying a fine or losing something important to you (e.g. cell phone).
Reinforcement is the most effective way to change behaviour because it increases the likelihood that the behaviour will occur again in the future. To create change in our classrooms, teachers can make changes to the environment to try to teach new learned behaviour and prevent problem behaviour. For example, we can add visual supports to the environment, such as visual schedules and consequence maps, or we can re-arrange the classroom to provide quiet space, provide ear protection to block noise, put covers on fluorescent lights, move seating nearer the teacher or make materials more easily accessible. A teacher could require the student to complete a disliked task first and then allow them to work on a preferable activity. They could also provide controlled choice in the environment or materials that give the student more autonomy. Teachers should use classroom management cues such as “1, 2, 3, Eyes on Me” and “zones of regulation” and ensure that students clearly know their expectations for classroom behaviour.
Sometimes, however, none of these strategies will be effective in dealing with the problem behaviour of a particular student. If that is the case in your classroom, Liz Sparling will be presenting Part II of her seminar, “Quit Doing That! Developing Alternative and Incompatible Behaviours” in Spring 2018. Keep your eyes open for Spring “Meet and Eat” posters because this upcoming seminar also promises to provide some more great classroom management learning for student teachers.
 Topography – the physical or natural features of an object or entity and their structural relationships
 This form of negative reinforcement often gives the teacher what they want – relief from the annoying stimulus of a disruptive student – but may also backfire because the student ends up enjoying being sent out of class or to the office.
 See Zones of Regulation (www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html), which is a framework used in many classrooms to foster children’s self-regulation and emotional control.
Blogging about my experience in the 2017-18 Post-Baccalaureate Bachelor of Education program at Vancouver Island University.
All images on this blog by Erin Arrowsmith, 2017-2018, unless otherwise noted.