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How Does Your School Set Itself Up for Success?

How Does Your School Set Itself Up for Success?

The Need for Consistent Systems for Both Staff and Special Education Students

By: Dan Mades

 

The very landscape of education seems to be changing on a monthly basis. Whether your school is implementing distance, hybrid, or in-person learning, the state of our delivery system seems to be constant flex. For staff and students, this can be challenging and frustrating.  The need for consistency is paramount when planning and implementing lessons with our special education students. For special education students who struggle with behaviors, this frustration can impact their ability to learn and negatively influence the social benefits of being a part of a school community.

The purpose of this article is to introduce readers to the Expectations Behavior Management System (EBMS) and how it can help your staff create a system that will work for your special education team. EBMS is built on three key pillars; Prevention, Best Practice Instruction, and Communication. When these three tools are used correctly, your school can create an environment conducive to students’ success. For the purposes of this article, we will delve into the topics of Prevention and Best Practice Instruction. For information about how EBMS implements its communication technique, please refer to a previous article entitled: “Creating Meetings that Produce Results”

Prevention:

When a school can implement successful prevention techniques they can anticipate potential problems and provide a path for positive outcomes. The EBMS helps staff accomplish this by having students complete an Assessment of Student Needs. This tool helps staff identify the student’s needs and allows staff to create strategies to help them attain their needs during the day.  The phrase “All behavior is meant to meet a need” rings true. A student may not understand how to recognize their needs in an appropriate way and the EBMS system provides them with a path to success with the guidance of staff.

In addition to the Assessment of Student Needs, the student will also complete a Forced Choice Reinforcement Assessment. The purpose of this assessment is to give staff an understanding of what motivates the student. Whether the assessment indicates a motivator for the student is adult approval, technology, independent rewards, consumable rewards, competitive approval, or peer approval, staff can begin to create a pathway to those motivators. Staff mistakably believe that technology or consumable rewards are the first choice for students, but after observing the results of this survey they realize students are most often seeking adult approval. Regularly elementary age students are highly motivated throughout the day with the possibility of spending 15 minutes with their favorite staff member. The practice of allowing students to spend time with their favorite staff member nurtures positive relationships which is invaluable to the learning process.

In addition to the Assessment of Student Needs, the student will also complete a Forced Choice Reinforcement Assessment. The purpose of this assessment is to give staff an understanding of what motivates the student. Whether the assessment indicates a motivator for the student is adult approval, technology, independent rewards, consumable rewards, competitive approval, or peer approval, staff can begin to create a pathway to those motivators. Staff mistakably believe that technology or consumable rewards are the first choice for students, but after observing the results of this survey they realize students are most often seeking adult approval. Regularly elementary age students are highly motivated throughout the day with the possibility of spending 15 minutes with their favorite staff member. The practice of allowing students to spend time with their favorite staff member nurtures positive relationships which is invaluable to the learning process.

An important aspect of the Prevention phase of a behavior management system is staff training on de-escalation and redirection techniques. By having a well-prepared staff who are confident in a variety of strategies makes navigating difficult situations more successful.

 

Best Practices:

Once the school staff have put their preventive measures in place, it is time to teach our special education students how they can take control of their behaviors and decide for themselves how they can become the best version of themselves. The teacher guides students through best practice created lessons. These lessons focus on assessments, reviewing concepts, creating visuals for student use, goal setting, self-assessment, and artistic expression.

The 8 lessons provided in EBMS curriculum focus on a student’s comprehending that their IEP goal that has been created for them by their IEP Team. The 8 lessons center around the student understanding why they have a goal, and creating a path to reach that goal. An overview of the lessons is as follows:

 

Lesson 1: Self Evaluation

The students review the preventive assessments and determine if the results of the data are a true representation of what they need and what motivates them.  The teacher and student then begin to determine how their needs can be met at school, and implement the motivators.

 

Lessons 2 & 3: Student Goal Setting

During this time teachers introduce students to their goal and help them articulate that goal in their own words. By personalizing their goal, a student is more apt to take responsibility for meeting that goal.

 

Lessons 4 & 5: Creating Expectations

Once a student has articulated the goal, it is important that they understand practical ways of reaching the goal. Throughout Lessons 4 and 5, the student will first create a set of 2-3 Expectations for themselves to help them reach their goal. These expectations are written in “I will” statements such as:

I will keep my hands to myself. 

I will follow directions within two tries.

I will complete my work tasks.  

 

In the second step, students will create visuals with the teacher to help them be accountable for their expectations. Examples of these student-created Expectations are shown below:

 

Student Created Expectations

Lessons 6 & 7: Helping Students Create Goals and Self-Evaluate

Once students have created their Expectations, they will begin to practice these Expectations. Staff members will begin tracking their progress when they demonstrate their expectations. Students expectations are tied to points. If the student exhibits their expectations during a designated time, they earn the point. If they don’t exhibit their expectations, they don’t earn the point.  Students set up weekly and monthly goals. At the end of every week, students self-evaluate to assess their progress.

 

Lesson 8: Using Art to Allow Students to Express Themselves

The last lesson has students create a collage using a variety of mediums to express their identity. This collage becomes the cover of their Expectations binder. Many students enjoy this lesson because it encourages them to express their interests and let the adults who surround them get a better understanding of them.

Ultimately the desired outcome of implementing these lessons is for students to have a better understanding themselves, especially in the areas of strengths and needs. Once the lessons have been completed, staff have guided students in creating a pathway for reaching their goal, becoming the best version of themselves.

When Prevention Strategies and Best Practice Instruction is implemented, the ability to have a high functioning behavior management system can be created. If these two pillars can be solidified teachers and students are setting themselves up to reach goals that they didn’t think were possible.

Ultimately the goal of the Expectations Behavior Management System is to get students to a place where they do not need high levels of intervention and services. If the student has attained the necessary skills and no longer needs to rely on Special Education Services, we all have been successful at reaching our goals of assisting students to become strong independent individuals.