Friday, 19 October 2012

Give Me Your Attention!

We have all used the phrase, she is such an attention-seeker... in reference to a student who's behaviour we are finding problematic and frustrating.
With many such students, this need / desire to obtain attention is a key function of why they demonstrate negative behaviours - they want to be noticed, regardless of whether this is in a positive or negative light.


How do we effectively deal with such students and behaviours?

1. The traditional approach in schools has been along the lines of... 

  • Setting and enforcing strict standards,
  • Attempting to 'dominate' the behaviour / student - showing them who's boss... 
  • Punitive approaches - the student suffers escalating consequences and has 'privileges' taken away. 
  • These approaches value and expect compliance - all students should behave in a common way [the way that the teacher / school wants... ].
2. An alternative approach moves away from a deficit model, where the focus tends to be on what the student is missing, or cannot do. Instead, the focus is on directing and focusing attention towards the positive behaviours that the student does demonstrate... 

  • 'Catch them being good' [preferably early], so the student is getting the attention they desire / need - diminishing their 'need' to demonstrate *other* attention-seeking behaviours... 
  • Promote what you value - by recognising the behaviours that you do desire from students, a message is being sent to others about the sorts of behaviours that are important and are valued in this setting.
  • We will not 'fix' the significant behaviour issues of students overnight and there are no 'magic bullets' - we need to reduce the severity and frequency of negative behaviours over time.
  • These approaches acknowledge that - like in other Learning Areas - students have different starting points and individual capacities - we need to be aware of these differences and be willing to help students learn the positive behaviours that will better-enable them to succeed in school and beyond. 


School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support [SWPBS]

At our school, our approach to dealing with and teaching behaviour aligns closely with the second point from above.
The School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support approach is used and, this week, we have all had opportunity to reflect upon our progress and effectiveness with this approach, having had a visiting consultant work in our school for the week.
Some of the key aspects of this approach include:
  • The approach is implemented [you guessed it... ] school-wide - whether students are in their 'home' classroom, with a specialist teacher, outside in the playground or up in the front office area, they are experiencing similar messages and similar responses to their behaviours and actions.

  • Staff endeavour to be pro-active about providing positive recognition to students about their behaviour. We even have a ratio [!!] of positive : negative recognitions that we aim for [4:1].
  • Collection and monitoring of data - we 'track' just about everything at our school and behaviour data is no exception: 
  • We monitor all of our negative behaviours that result in students being sent out of class - this has enabled us to identify 'spikes' in negative behaviour, in terms of time and location of incidents.
  • We monitor many of our positive recognitions provided to students, including 'merit certificates' for in-class behaviours, 'honour awards' for earning 'x' amount of merits, 'thumbs up' tickets for playground behaviours, etc. - all of this has been useful for us to identify who / where may need more positive attention, in order to offset any 'spikes' in negative behaviour, as well as help teachers to identify any students who may be 'flying under the radar' and missing out on positive recognition.


  • Investigating the common functions of negative behaviours - why are students behaving this way and how can we address these underlying issues? 
  • teach and model the desired behaviours - it is so important for us to remember that we are the mature adults in these relationships: 
  • We need to model the behaviours that we are talking to students about and hoping for them to demonstrate.
  • We need to avoid getting into conflict and we definitely need to avoid demonstrating to students that aggression, physical size, loud voices, etc. are the ways to influence somebody's behaviour... 


More on functions... 

SWPBS operates on a premise that the functions of negative student behaviours invariably boil down to two reasons: to avoid [a task / person], or to obtain [an item or attention].
So, referring back to the top of this post re. how to deal with the 'attention-seeker' in your classroom, what are some ways that we can be proactive about providing this attention, in a bid to short-circuit the need for these students to obtain our attention via negative behaviours..?

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