How To Develop A Behaviour Contract | The Highly Effective Teacher

How To Develop A Behaviour Contract

Marie Amaro

How to develop a behaviour contract

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A behaviour contract can be key. We know a student displaying constantly inappropriate behaviour and not effectively accessing the learning is a cause for concern.

When the student doesn’t respond to your whole class expectations, reinforcements and consequences you may decide to work with them to develop an individual behaviour contract.

Depending on the severity of the problem, parental support can also be enlisted to implement the plan.

The following steps will describe how to develop a Behaviour Contract. They will help you to make this process a success for both the teacher and the student.

Step-by-Step How To Develop A Behaviour Contract

1. WHAT To Do

Meet with the student in a neutral environment, somewhere you can both sit and chat and not be disturbed or viewed by other students.

Make it clear to the student that they are not in trouble but that this is a chance for both of you to work together to improve the situation. You might like to begin the conversation something like this “I’ve noticed that you are not having a very good time in class lately. What’s happening?”

The idea is to use open ended questions so that the student will not feel defensive or intimidated and will be more likely own their behaviour. Resist the temptation to tell them what you think is the problem. If they don’t answer immediately refrain from filling the silence.

Wait and give them the chance to speak. If they still don’t say anything you could use, “what might someone else in the class say?”

Most students will own their behaviour if the situation is non-threatening.

2. WHY are they ‘misbehaving’?

Once you have come to an agreement about the problem behaviour ask the student what they think is causing the behaviour. This can give you clues as to the function of their behaviour and this information will help you support them in their learning.

If they find the work too difficult, boring or irrelevant think of ways to address these issues.  Consider providing additional support, using agreed cues between student and teacher, breaking the work up into achievable chunks, offering additional breaks for students who have difficulty working for long periods of time and providing reinforcement when tasks are begun and completed as agreed.

Other Relevant Resources

Why Do Students ‘Misbehave’?

3. HOW can you help them?

Work out a positively stated, learning behaviour goal with the student stating the replacement behaviour e.g. if they do not do any class work then the replacement behaviour will be to begin work tasks and complete a percentage of the work. Make it a SMART goal.

How To Make a Goal SMART

  1. Specific: Tommy will begin work tasks once the teacher has completed instructions.
  2. Measurable: The teacher or student will monitor how often the student begins work immediately. Set a number of times in the lesson or the day the student could achieve this goal.
  3. Achievable: Discuss with the student what they think they will be able to achieve. If necessary make the goal easier to begin with in order to set the student up for success.
  4. Realistic: If Tommy never starts his work immediately then make it part of the agreement that he will do it a couple of times a day. If you make the goal too difficult the student may become disheartened and give up. You can always raise the bar when he/she is achieving the goal easily.
  5. Timely: Set a time to meet again with the student to review the contract, preferably within the week.

4. STUDENT direction and instruction

Make it clear for the student what they need to do e.g. when the teacher sets a task, the student will do something that shows they are ready to begin.

5. TEACHER direction

Work out what the teacher will do e.g. the teacher may give assistance to the student as soon as the class is working or the teacher will give the student free time when they complete their work or the teacher will give the student a secret signal to get back on task.

6. REINFORCE the behaviour

Decide on a reinforcer or reward system. This could be communication with parents eg for primary and secondary students a call home when the student has been successful; during class the student may gain free time on the computer or with a friend. Remember to ask the student to give you some ideas.

7. PLAN for when they do not follow

Work out a plan with the student about what to do when they do not follow the plan e.g. the teacher will give a reminder.

“ Tommy, you need to begin work, thanks “ then walk away and allow take up time.

If the student complies give a non-verbal cue to recognise this. If the student does not begin work give another reminder “Tommy you need to begin work. This is your second warning.”

Again walk away and allow time for processing.  If the student still does not comply, then the reward for that session has not been achieved.

The negative consequence for not completing a task can simply be that they do not gain the reward.

Remember the student is learning new behaviours and will not be successful every time.

8. SIGN it

Write up the contract, print and both teacher and student sign it. Give a copy to the student and then at the beginning of the lesson or session give them a private reminder of the behaviour goal.

Celebrate the successes you and the student achieve and be realistic. If the student has done no work in your class all year and is now completing some work, recognise the change and reinforce yourself and the student.

Remember learning a new habit takes time!

Further Resources

Teachers Beginning Of The School Year: Series

How to Set Up a Whole Class Reward System

How To Deal With Disruptive Student Behaviour In The Classroom – Kindergarten – 3

SERIES: Effective Use of Reward Systems in The Classroom