Is Tools for Teaching Researched Based?Oh Yes!
Original, Pioneering Research
When Dr. Jones began his research in classroom management in 1969, the term "classroom management" had not yet been coined. "Classroom discipline" as a field of study did not exist. Teachers were told in their methods courses that, "You will figure it out once you are in the classroom." A decade and a half later when Dr. Jones published his first book Positive Classroom Discipline with McGraw Hill, it was published as a professional book rather than as a textbook. As the senior editor explained, "There is no point in publishing a textbook for a course that no one is offering."
The beginning of Dr. Jones' research in classroom management is described in the first chapter of Tools for Teaching. Two teachers at a special school for "emotionally and educationally handicapped" adolescents had orderly and productive classrooms, whereas their colleagues had highly disruptive classrooms. These two highly effective teachers, dubbed "naturals," were able to achieve this result without raising their voices or working themselves to death. How did they do it?
Answering that question marked the beginning of a decade and a half of classroom research and collaboration with teachers. Dr. Jones was in the classroom 3-5 days a week during that period, and, as Yogi Bera said, "You can see a lot by looking." Mini-experiments were carried out constantly based on observations and after school brain-storming sessions with teachers. Formal research was used to validate basic procedures, but the independent variables of these studies only hint at the richness of classroom practice that was being explored. This richness is more accurately conveyed in Tools for Teaching.
Throughout this period one criterion guided the research in addition to, "Does it work?" That criterion was, "Is it affordable?" If a procedure worked but was judged to be troublesome and time consuming by the teachers, it was dumped. Consequently, there was constant pressure to perfect procedures that would reduce a teacher's work load rather than increase it. Many procedures that "worked" were dumped along the way.
It was apparent during our first study that the "natural" teachers achieved their results with skills rather than with complex management programs that required record keeping, contracts, and tangible reinforcers. In studying these skills, we began to understand how effective teachers "mean business." Our research further showed that less successful teachers could be trained to use these skills. Since skill training is relatively labor intensive as opposed to the typical "in-service seminar," the question arose, "Can teachers in the field successfully train their colleagues?" The first research in peer training was published in the early 1970's, a half-decade before the term "trainer of trainers" began to appear in the literature.
The bibliography below lists formal research that was published in major peer reviewed journals in the field. All naturally have controls, although single-subject research designs were used in which teachers are their own controls as opposed to having control groups. These research designs are far more responsive to changes in student behavior and allow the precise documentation of teacher responses to student behavior.
Finally, a note about the dates of publication. While done in the 1970's, the research is not "old." Research findings do not spoil on the shelf like ripe fruit. Rather, formal research on the efficacy of procedures constituted the first phase of program development. After validating key classroom management procedures with research, efforts during the 1980's and 90's turned to perfecting methods of teacher training and dissemination in the field. This work is reflected in the Study Group Activity Guide.
Burka, Aden A.; Procedures for increasing appropriate verbal participation in special elementary classrooms, dissertation, University of Rochester, March 25, 1977.
Cowen, Richard J.; Grandma's rule with group contingencies: a cost-effective means of classroom management during reading circle, dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, October 28, 1977.
Weis, Herbert M. ; Skill training for teachers of problem classrooms at the secondary level, dissertation, University of Rochester, January 20, 1978.
Docteur, Kenneth E.; The effects of increasing verbal and non-verbal contingent teacher reinforcement on the level of attentive student behavior, dissertation, University of Rochester, May 20, 1978.
1) Jones, F. H. and Miller, W.G.; The effective use of negative attention for reducing group disruption in special elementary school classrooms. Psychological Record, 1974, 24, 435-448.
Our first research project shaped our understanding of two things: 1) successful discipline management in the classroom and 2) successful staff development. By chance, we found two teachers in a school for "emotionally and educationally handicapped" adolescents who had the kids eating out of the palms of their hands while their colleagues were dying. These highly effective teachers, which we referred to as "naturals," were not working very hard, were not getting upset, and were not using time consuming behavior modification programs. They were simply using themselves as the primary instrument of classroom management - skills that took neither planning nor record keeping. It was cheap! It looked easy! What was it?
Appropriate and disruptive student behavior was measured during class discussions as was the teachers' response to disruptive behavior. Our data showed that the "naturals" and the ineffective teachers had the same amount of appropriate student behavior, but in the classrooms of the ineffective teachers, appropriate behavior was buried in disruptions. Time sampling data showed that the ineffective teachers had four times as many disruptions as the "naturals," but tallies showed the rate to be 10 times as much. The "naturals" had some disruptions, of course, but they responded quickly and effectively so that one disruption rarely followed another. The ineffective teachers, in contrast, turned a "blind eye" to disruptions so that disruptive students could feed off of each other. Only when these classrooms reached a high level of disruptiveness did the teachers intervene, and at such times negative attention was delivered at such high intensity that the classes came to a complete halt.
Figuring out what the "natural" teachers were doing proved to be rather difficult. Their responses were quick and subtle. Often it was just a look or a gesture. Eventually, however, patterns emerged so that we could begin to describe what the teachers were doing. In the literature we referred to this "skill package" collectively as Limit Setting, but the teachers often referred to it as "meaning business." The skills of Limit Setting included:
correct identification of potentially disruptive behaviors.
mobility which increased physical proximity to students.
development of a repertoire of gestures and brief verbalizations signifying that a student was out of order.
facial expression and tone of voice consistent with mild disapproval
quick response to disruptions, often interrupting the disruption before it can elicit peer attention or approval.
reinforcement of appropriate behavior in another student following disapproval.
reinforcement of appropriate behavior in the disruptive student as soon as possible (i.e. DRO, differential reinforcement of other behavior).
A seminar was given to the entire faculty in which effective practices were described and modeled. No improvement occurred in anybody's classroom. Naturally, we blamed the ineffective teachers. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Then, in a blinding flash of insight, we realized that we were asking these teachers to implement complex new management skills in front of the entire class without ever having practiced them. We went back to the drawing board to develop training procedures that allowed the teachers to master the new skills and feel comfortable with them before "laying it on the line" in front of their students. With training we got results - our first big lesson in successful staff development.
With training, the ineffective teachers improved quickly and dramatically so that their data soon matched the "naturals." Disruptions dropped by 56%, and the ignoring of disruptions dropped by 73.5%. During reversal, the rate of disruptions for the ineffective teachers shot up to baseline levels, and when the Limit Setting skills were reinstituted, disruptions once again dropped. A three month follow-up showed that the previously ineffective teachers were still using the skills, and the level of disruption was still low. Follow-up data also showed that, by the end of the school year, both "naturals" and trainees only had to respond to disruptions one-third as often as they had during baseline in order to keep disruptions at a low level. This means that their jobs were getting easier as time passed. Apparently, "meaning business" over time trained the students in habits of rule following.
This first study proved to be seminal. We learned that; 1) teachers could manage classrooms without complex management programs by using social skills, 2) social skills were cheap since they eliminated the planning and record keeping of formal programs, 3) these skills could be described, 4) ineffective teachers could be trained to use these skills successfully, and 5) these skills would maintain over time, probably because doing it the old way increased pain and doing it the new way reduced pain.
2) Jones, F. H. and Eimers, R.; Role-playing to train elementary teachers to use a classroom management "skill package." Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1975, 8, 421-433.
Our second study sought to replicate and extend the findings of the first study (Jones and Miller). The opening remarks of the article reveal a growing sense of having found something important that needed to be shared with teachers.
The authors have reduced cost in three ways: by focusing on the management of group behavior, by relying primarily upon social contingencies to control disruptive and on-task behavior, and by developing performance-oriented teacher-training procedures.
To achieve these objectives, two separate technologies have been developed in parallel. The first involves pinpointing social skills critical to classroom behavior management and integrating them into a "skill package." The secondinvolves developing an efficient method for imparting these skills to teachers.
Disruptive student behavior was measured in two 3rd grade classrooms in a white, middle class school during both group discussions and seat work (math). During group discussions both "talking to neighbors" and "interrupting" were scored as disruptions. During seat work "talking to neighbors" and "out of seat" were scored separately as disruptions. In addition, student productivity was measured during seat work using a permanent products measure (math problems completed correctly per day, per student). Measuring both disruptions and productivity during seat work and documenting the correlation between the two was pivotal since, in our first study, it was obvious that disruptions killed time-on-task.
Teachers were trained in the skill package described in the first study (Jones and Miller). The description of the training procedures, however, reveals a highly developed methodology in which teachers play the roles of teacher, good student, and bad student in simulated classroom interactions as they are coached by a trainer. This training methodology is similar to that described in the Study Group Activity Guide (addendum H, Goof Off).
Results showed that during group discussions teacher training reduced disruptions by 73%. During seat work teacher training reduced "talking to neighbors" by 73% and "out of seat" by 72%. During seat work productivity was stable for the top third of the class, increased 29% for the middle third of the class, and increased 76% for the bottom third of the class. As the authors stated, "The ones who needed help the most showed the greatest improvement."
In addition to replicating original findings, the study confirmed that the skill package could be readily taught and was flexible enough to accommodate the daily variability among classroom instructional formats. Findings also confirmed that, as suspected, classroom disruptions kill time-on-task. This implies that one of the most effective means of increasing time-on-task would be to increase teachers' effectiveness in classroom management. Finally, it should be noted that our understanding of how teachers mean business increased daily as we worked with the trainees.
3) Jones, F. H., Fremouw, W., and Carples, S.; Pyramid training of elementary school teachers to use a classroom management "skill package." Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1977, 10, 239-253.
Previous research (Jones and Miller; Jones and Eimers) demonstrated the effectiveness of training teachers to use a classroom management "skill package" through performance practice with coaching and immediate feedback. Once research demonstrated the importance of teachers' skills which require careful training, the question arose, "Can this training be multiplied in the field so that the findings have broad implications for professional development, or is it so complex that the training can only be carried out by a core group of skilled specialists?" The present study extended previous work by developing and testing procedures for training teachers to train their colleagues (referred to as pyramid training, in later years referred to as "trainer of trainers").
The purpose of pyramid training was to multiply the efforts of an outside trainer or "expert." Pyramid training, therefore, had two primary objectives: a) to reduce the cost per teacher trained to a level that is realistic given the normal budgetary constraints of school districts, and b) to build an in-house expertise hierarchy to insure quality control and maintenance of change as the role of the outside expert diminishes. An additional issue related to pyramid training was the possible contribution of the "helper principal" to the performance of teachers serving as coaches. Would coaching help them to further improve since, "one of the best ways to learn something is by teaching it." Finally, two secondary issues were addressed: a) Did room arrangement have any affect on student behavior apart from the "skill package?", and b) Would the "skill package" work in low income, inner-city schools as well as it had worked in middle class, suburban schools?
Three teachers were trained in the use of a classroom management "skill package" (Jones and Miller, Jones and Eimers). After follow-up data were taken, these three teachers were trained to use the coaching skills that had been employed by the authors to train them. Then, each of these three teachers trained three colleagues. The first group of teachers who served as trainers was referred to as "Tier 1." The second group of teachers who was trained by them were referred to as "Tier 2."
Disruptive student behaviors scored in the classrooms were similar to previous studies;"talking to neighbors" and "out of seat." Student productivity was measured during seat work math as in the previous study (Jones and Eimers), but due to differences in curriculum, measurement was in terms of units completed per week, per student, rather than problems completed per day, per student.
A multiple baseline assessed the contribution of room arrangement apart from the classroom management "skill package." Teachers worried that the new room arrangements which placed students closer to each other would increase "talking to neighbors." Data showed that room arrangement neither increased nor reduced disruptions. Consequently, room arrangement cannot be viewed as a significant management tool in its own right. Rather, it should be viewed as setting the stage for the teachers' use of mobility and proximity in the management of disruptive behavior (i.e. working the crowd).
For Tier 1 teachers "talking to neighbors" was reduced significantly by their initial training. Two of the teachers reduced "talking to neighbors" by 69%, whereas the third reduced it by 34%. For the Tier 1 teachers, peer training produced additional gains. By the end of peer training the first two teachers had reduced "talking to neighbors" by 87% overall, whereas the third teacher reduced it by 44%.
For Tier 1 teachers "out of seat" was reduced significantly by their initial training. Two of the teachers reduced "out of seat" by 67%, whereas the third teacher reduced it by only 29%. By the end of peer training the first two teachers had reduced "out of seat" by 74% overall, whereas the third teacher reduced it by 50%.
It seemed as though the "helper effect" was playing a significant role in helping the Tier 1 trainees consolidate and extend their learning as they trained colleagues. Tier 1 teachers improved in all measures across conditions, but on each of the measures, one of the teachers improved only moderately during the first follow-up but substantially after they trained colleagues. The teacher that lagged behind during initial training was different for each of the measures thereby eliminating the notion that there was simply one weak teacher in the group. Rather, it would seem that, the more training teachers received, the more idiosyncrasies in their performance were eliminated or "ironed out." In summarizing the findings, the authors stated:
"... Serving as a coach tended to benefit most those who profited least from the initial training. This benefit derived from coaching might be attributed either to the experience of coaching itself, or to the concentrated review and additional skill practice that occurred in the prep sessions conducted by the investigators before each peer coaching session."
Peer training produced results for the Tier 2 teachers comparable to results obtained for the Tier 1 teachers who were trained by the authors. For Tier 2 teachers "talking to neighbors" was reduced as a result of peer training by 58%. "Out of seat" was reduced as a result of peer training by 69%. As a footnote, follow-up data for Tier 2 classrooms was taken in the final two weeks of the school year with the final data point being taken on the day report cards were handed out. While both students and staff were eager for vacation to begin, "meaning business" nevertheless produced an orderly classroom.
Assessments of student productivity showed the "helper effect" for the Tier 1 teachers in a matter analogous to measures of student disruptions. Following their initial training, two of the teachers recorded increases in student productivity of 62% and 67% respectively, whereas the third teacher recorded an increase of only 8%. By the end of peer training, however, the teacher who had increased 62% had increased further to 80%, whereas the teacher who had improved only 8% had improved to 56%. Furthermore, assessment of the top and bottom halves of the classes showed that, in both classrooms, 100% of the students in the bottom half had improved, whereas 77% of the students in the top half had improved. The third teacher showed a 78% gain for the bottom half of the class and a 56% gain for the top half of the class. Due to a change in curriculum, no follow-up assessment was possible in this classroom.
Not surprisingly, in all classrooms there was a negative correlation between classroom disruptions and student productivity. These findings once again confirmed the general observation that student disruptions kill time-on-task and, along with it, student learning. This would imply that training teachers in skills of effective classroom management would be one of the most straightforward ways of increasing learning time in the classroom.
This study demonstrated the feasibility of having teachers train their peers in the use of sophisticated classroom management skills. As the authors stated in their summary:
"A basic implication of the above findings is that the cost of teacher training can be significantly reduced through the use of pyramid training while at the same time improving the skills of the Tier 1 teachers and establishing them as master teachers... The cost per teacher trained in terms of outside consultant time... was reduced from Tier 1 to Tier 2 by a factor of 4:1."
However, the authors added a cautionary note"
"An additional source of help for the coaches... was the availability of the investigators during prep sessions to give support and to trouble-shoot interpersonal difficulties that arose during Tier 2 training. This 'personnel management' function of the investigators was particularly important for (one of the trainers) who became extremely discouraged during Tier 2 training due to the disruptiveness and unwillingness to role-play of one of the Tier 2 trainees. This experience underscores the risk factor inherent in peer training and the crucial role of (an expert trainer) in preventing the training process from 'going sour.'"
In closing, the authors stated:
"While the success of the pyramid training model... has important cost implications for training teachers in complex classroom management skills, it has equally important implications for maintaining effects after training. Pyramid training, in addition to producing skillful teachers, produces an 'in-house expertise hierarchy' comprised of trained teachers and their coaches. This expertise hierarchy provides the structural basis for periodic feedback and refresher training within a continuing educational framework."
4) Burka, A. A. and Jones, F. H.; Procedures for increasing appropriate verbal participation in special elementary classrooms. Behavior Modification, 1979, 3, 27-48.
The study of appropriate verbal participation by students during group discussions was prompted by the observation during previous research that classroom discussions were typically of poor quality. Discussions rarely engaged in idea building or critical thinking. Rather, teachers tended to ask closed ended questions which yielded brief factual answers, and student participation was dominated by five or six bright students while the rest of the class tried to disappear. In addition, classroom discussions tended to be rowdy as student participation was interrupted by off-topic remarks, yelling across the room, profanity, and interruptions.
At this time very little research had been done on students' verbal participation in class. The tendency of teachers to call for rote memory answers had been noted in the literature as had students' tendency to respond in a few words rather than complete sentences. None of these studies, however, dealt explicitly with building elaborated self-expression in a group discussion format.
The present study focused on increasing appropriate verbal participation (AVP) during group discussions. AVP was defined as any student verbalization which was generally relevant to the discussion topic (i.e., not silly or tangential) and addressed to the class as a whole. Furthermore, interventions (teacher training) sought to distribute AVP more evenly throughout the class so that students who had been silent would begin to participate. However, to lay the groundwork for increased AVP, we first sought to reduce student disruptions, particularly verbal disruptions, since they competed with AVP.
Subjects consisted of the teachers and students in three special classrooms in which most students were referred for unmanageable behavior in regular classrooms. Students were lower to middle-class, racially mixed, of average intelligence and ranging in age from 10-13 years. Thus, the study was conducted in a setting in which classroom discussions which engage students in idea building were hardly thought possible.
Disruptive student behavior included "inappropriate talk" and "out of seat" and was scored in a manner similar to previous studies (Jones and Miller; Jones and Eimers; Jones, Fremouw and Carples). "Inappropriate talk," however, included not only "talking to neighbors," but also disruptive behaviors commonly observed in discussions such as yelling across the room, interrupting someone who is speaking and profanity.
AVP was scored both for the group as a whole and for individually targeted students. For the group as a whole, cumulative duration of AVP was scored during each observation interval using a stopwatch. In addition, a quiet student was targeted in each classroom to see whether gains in AVP were achieved through a more even distribution of participation or through simply focusing on the more talkative students. As a further control, a "nonquiet" student (randomly selected each day) was targeted along with the quiet student in each classroom. Participation of the targeted students was scored as present or absent during each scoring interval.
The research design was a multiple baseline single subject design employing three classrooms. As in previous studies, teacher training consisted of modeling, performance practice, role-playing, and immediate feedback to help teachers achieve comfort and fluency with new skills prior to their use in the classroom. Multiple baselines consisted of the following conditions:
Instructions: Teachers were given the goals of the study (to decrease disruptions and to increase appropriate verbal participation) and were asked to achieve these goals insofar as possible during the following few weeks. No instructions were given as to how to achieve these goals. This condition was a control to partial out that portion of improvement which could be attributed to simply focusing one's efforts in lieu of formal training.
Skill Training 1: This training replicated the "skill training package" described in previous studies (Jones and Miller, Jones and Eimers). This training included not only classroom structure and "meaning business," but also the differential reinforcement of on-task behavior (DRO).
Skill Training 2: The second phase of training, discussion leader training, focused on specific skills of facilitating a group discussion. As a discussion leader, the teachers' goal was to "draw students out" while creating a safe environment for student participation. Discussions were clearly separated from the didactic portion of the lesson so that teacher input would not intrude upon student self-expression (i.e. the more teachers talked, the less students talked). Discussion leader trainingincluded the following skills:
Selective Reinforcement: Focus on the useful part of students' verbalizations rather than error ("Take the best and leave the rest."). When teachers pointed out flaws in student participation (errors of fact, mediocre or tangential content), particularly in students who rarely participated, these students would go silent for the remainder of the discussion.
Targeting Key Issues: Teachers learned that they could direct a discussion without taking it over by simply choosing where to go with the student's remark. What issue has been raised? Where does that lead?
Open-ended Prompting: After focusing on a key issue (which is optional, of course), stimulate further student discussion with open-ended rather than closed-ended prompts. Return to the student who made the previous remark if you want that student to engage in idea building. (We found that students tended to be more serious with what they said if they knew that they might be asked to explain or build upon their idea.)
Distributing Participation: Teachers were instructed to distribute participation more evenly among students rather than repeatedly calling on the five or six most likely to have quality responses.
Wait Time: After prompting a student, allow time "for the wheels to turn." During training it became apparent that the teachers had a very low tolerance for silence. After only a few seconds they would insert a personal comment or call on another student before allowing sufficient time for thought.
Skill Training 1 produced a reduction in disruptions and an increase in AVP as predicted. Disruptions were reduced from baseline by 83% across the three classrooms, and AVP increased from baseline by 244%.
Skill Training 2 produced a further reduction in disruptions and a further increase in AVP. Disruptions were reduced from baseline by 95%, and AVP increased from baseline by 604%.
Data for individually targeted quiet students showed no change from baseline to Skill Training 1. Skill Training 2, however, produced increases in the three classrooms of 36%, 89%, and 42%. Data for individually targeted random students showed no change from baseline to Skill Training 1. Skill Training 2 produced no change in 2 of the 3 classrooms, but an increase of 69% in the third classroom.
This study confirmed the effectiveness of the skill training package used in previous research (Skill Training 1) in reducing disruptions and increasing time-on-task. Increases in AVP as a result of Skill Training 1 confirmed not only that inappropriate talk competed with and suppressed AVP, but also that setting limits on disruptions enhanced students' willingness and ability to participate in discussions. Furthermore, the study confirmed the value of Skill Training 2 in enhancing the teacher's ability to effectively facilitate student participation in discussions. Finally, the study confirmed the effectiveness of Skill Training 2 in distributing participation more evenly among students so that students who rarely participated in group discussions began to participate.
Increases in the duration of AVP for the class as a whole can most reasonably be attributed to a fundamental change in group process rather than to a change in the behavior of a few isolated students. Teachers were able to shape self-expression without relinquishing the enforcement of basic classroom rules such as taking turns and not interrupting. Furthermore, teachers were able to create an atmosphere of safety so that students who had been reticent to participate became regular participants. Much of this safety can be attributed to; a) replacing negative remarks by the teacher toward student verbalizations of mediocre quality with selective reinforcement, b) targeting key issues, and c) open-ended prompting. Used together, these skills give all students a sense of having contributed something of value.
The study also sheds light on the relationship between basic skills of classroom management (Skill Training 1) and more advanced and specialized skills of discussion facilitation (Skill Training 2). While limit setting suppressed disruption thus freeing class time for AVP, it also served the correlate function of training students in readiness skills of participating in group discussions such as paying attention, taking turns, and refraining from disruptions. In addition, informal observations indicated that the quality as well as the quantity of group discussions improved markedly as a result of Skill Training 1. Teachers now in control and at ease reported having time to focus on the topic and compose their thoughts during group discussions rather than constantly having their attention fragmented.
Finally data from individual classrooms as well as from informal observations indicated that those who profited the most from discussion leader training (Skill Training 2) were those who had fewer of its component skills in their preexisting skill repertoires. The ability of a teacher to facilitate lively discussions which involve all students in idea building and critical thinking, rather than being a talent that some people are simply "born with," might best be regarded as a series of skills which, once isolated and described, can be taught in a straightforward manner. Thus, if educators wish to have idea building and critical thinking in their classrooms, systematic training in discussion facilitation might be a good place to start.
The findings of this study stand in contrast to preconceptions of many educators that discipline and structure tend to run counter to such "humanistic" educational objectives as self-expression. Rather, the study confirms that, as usual with children, clear structure, consistent limits and safety serve as the foundation for exploration.
5) Cowen, R. J., Jones, F. H., and Bellack, A. S.; Grandma's rule with group contingencies, cost-efficient means of classroom management. Behavior Modification, 1979, 3, 397-418.
The present study was prompted by the observation during previous research that classrooms became rowdy during small group instruction (reading groups and math groups). As long as teachers were mobile they could "work the crowd" and set limits as described in previous studies (Jones and Miller, Jones and Eimers). As soon as teachers sat down, however, mobility and proximity disappeared, and limit setting became extremely difficult and expensive. Teachers had to first stop instruction before even attempting to deal with disruptions which were usually on the far side of the classroom, and students, who obviously understood the teacher's dilemma, took full advantage of the situation. As soon as the teacher sat down, disruptions tripled as the noise level rose, and time-on-task plummeted to 30%.
How can a teacher conduct small group instruction without losing the rest of the class? Our teachers were all aware of the dilemma and, in fact, sighted it as one of their greatest frustrations. However, they had no way of resolving the dilemma. As a result, their main management strategy consisted of nagging and yelling.
Our attempt to deal with the teachers' dilemma during small group instruction led us to explore advanced forms of incentive management. In lieu of "working the crowd" and limit setting by the teacher, we would have to give the students a good reason to manage themselves - to forego fooling around and to remain on task even though the teacher was seated on the far side of the room.
Furthermore, our incentive management would have to be group management, and it would have to be inexpensive for the teacher. Traditional behavior modification with individual programs for targeted behaviors was out of the question since most of the class was disruptive at any given time.
Unfortunately, the literature on group management was very discouraging. Incentives for a group follow the Three Musketeers' Rule, "All for one, and one for all." In most classrooms, and especially in classrooms for emotionally and behaviorally handicapped students, there existed at least one student who would ruin it for the group just to prove that they could.
To solve the teachers' dilemma with reading groups, therefore, we would have to break new ground in the technology of incentive management. Our efforts focused on the use of time as a convenient way of simultaneously measuring both time-on-task and the presence or absence of disruptiveness.
In the study teachers structured 15 minutes of story time to follow a half-hour block of small group instruction (reading circle). The time frame for the study was, therefore, 45 minutes. The incentive system was a simple application of Grandma's Rule, "You have to finish your dinner before you get your desert." As soon as the students completed 30 minutes of time-on-task, they could have the remainder of the 45 minute block for story time.
Students were told that story time would begin as soon as the teacher had a half-hour of good work from everyone. The students were told that, if someone was disrupting (talking to neighbors, out of seat, yelling across the room, etc.), they might lose time for the group. First, however, the teacher would say the student's name and make a simple hand gesture to prompt returning to task. If the student did so immediately, no time would be lost. If, however, the student failed to get back to work, time would be recorded by the teacher until the student return to work. That time would be added to the work period and, consequently, subtracted from story time.
Two experimental conditions were tested; one in which the teacher used a stopwatch to record time, and another in which the teacher used a large Graylab darkroom stopclock that was easily visible to the class. The question being addressed by these two conditions was, "Would continual visual feedback to the class concerning time loss be more effective than the cheaper and more convenient stopwatch?"
The research employed a multiple baseline design to assess the effect of the time loss condition. In addition, it utilized a reversal procedure to assess the relative effectiveness of the stopwatch and the stopclock. Experimental conditions in order were (A) Baseline, (B) Stopwatch, (C) Stopclock, (B) Stopwatch.
Subjects were the teachers and students of five regular elementary classrooms ranging from the first through third grades. All classes were racially mixed with students of average intelligence from lower to lower-middle class homes. These classrooms were selected on the basis of a reported high level of disruptions during small group formats.
Results of the interventions showed a reduction in "talking to neighbors" of 52% for the first stopwatch condition (B), 61% for the stopclock condition (C), and 80% for the second stopwatch condition (B). "Out of seat" was reduced by 72% during the first stopwatch condition (B), by 85% during the stopclock condition (C), and by 85% during the second stopwatch condition (B). "Off task" behavior was reduced by 41% in the first stopwatch condition (B), by 46% in the stopclock condition (C), and by 60% in the second stopwatch condition (B).
Analysis of the data would indicate that both the stopwatch and the stopclock conditions were highly effective in reducing disruptions and increasing time-on-task. The simplest interpretation of the data is that the two conditions were comparable with continuing improvement attributable to the cumulative effect of training students to behave themselves in order to maximize story time. The cost and inconvenience of the stopclock, therefore, would not be justified.
Regardless of whether they were using the stopwatch or the stopclock, teachers reported feeling "more in control" of their classes and more comfortable in letting the incentive system take the place of nagging and yelling at the class. Teachers also reported feeling more relaxed. According to one teacher, "I have learned more patience because the clock does the yelling for me." Another teacher reported that the procedures made her more time conscious and saved enough time so that she could have three reading circles per day instead of two.
Teachers reported that the children liked both techniques and looked forward to reading circle and the opportunity to work for more story time. Several teachers used a variety of preferred activities rather than just story time, and they noted that their students became excited as they voted for that day's preferred activity.
During baseline, disruptions tended to go unnoticed by the teachers. As a result of implementing the incentive system, however, teachers learned to be better observers of student behavior and, therefore, became consistent in responding to it. Conversely, the students became more aware of the level of disruption that their teacher would tolerate. This finding would suggest that, when proper incentive procedures are used, students learn to govern their own actions rather than relying on the teacher to set boundaries through nagging and yelling.
While the present study utilized a time loss penalty, students tended to view it in a positive light. According to student verbalizations, they saw the locus of control for time loss in themselves rather than in the teacher. Consequently, they viewed the loss of story time as their fault. In addition, several students commented that they liked the class better now that the teacher wasn't yelling anymore.
This study, while simple in design, proved to be seminal for future program development. In a regional special education facility, delinquent teenagers who were at war with adult authority made limit setting problematical. However, a variant of the time incentive proved highly effective. Trial and error over subsequent years taught us how to use bonuses to increase the effectiveness of the program and how to use failsafe mechanisms to prevent one student from ruining the program for the rest of the class. Eventually a highly sophisticated technology of group management was perfected in which students cooperated in order to earn preferred activity time (PAT). This methodology is referred to as "Responsibility Training" in Tools for Teaching.