Enhancing Classroom Participation
Astor Mental Health Clinician (MHC), Ana was assigned a consultation with a 6th-grade special education classroom that had been identified as being particularly difficult to manage and whose teachers were having consistent difficulties engaging students and implementing intervention strategies.
Ana engaged the classroom with the support of the school administration and guidance department.
Upon first encountering the classroom, Ana observed students:
- Throwing chairs and desks
- Fighting, yelling and climbing classroom walls
- Disregarding instruction and playing computer games
- Unable to participate in physical education due to safety concerns
After three structured observations, Ana met with the classroom team for a feedback session. The teachers were eager to hear what was observed – but focused on student’s difficulties, probed for diagnoses and medical treatment, and various ways to “fix” the children.
Ana was able to shift the conversation to a discussion on behavior as a communication skill, and looking for ways to empower and teach students.
Given a new lens, the teachers were motivated to utilize new strategies in the classroom which now include:
- Behavioral goals and objectives co-created by teachers and students with a daily review.
- Utilizing developmentally appropriate language and concise verbal/written expectations for the students. Students practicing skills like asking for assistance or time away from the classroom. Academic tasks were split into smaller units which students could better tolerate and attend to.
- Individual and group contingencies were developed with students reinforcing new behaviors and methods.
Since the implementation of these strategies, there has been a notable decrease in aggression in the classroom. Fights have decreased by approximately 60% and the class is now engaged in physical education.
Class and homework have been completed more consistently, and it has been observed that students are more readily asking for help when they require assistance.
The classroom staff report increased satisfaction not only related to their academic work with students, but greater success in engaging their classroom as a whole. Substantial gains were made in a short period of time and sustained during the year through booster interventions, group discussions, and ongoing consultation.