WHAT ARE LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES?
Have you ever felt that it didn’t matter what the consequences were for a student’s behaviour, they didn’t make any difference? If a behaviour management strategy isn’t working, it may be time to change and perhaps that means taking a completely different approach.
Despite all our best efforts at prevention, there will be times when students do not always follow directions or comply with our expectations. So how do we respond in a way that will help students learn appropriate behaviour and maintain positive relationships?
It is essential to have calm, considered responses to inappropriate behaviour if we want consequences to work. And by ‘work’ I mean change behaviour. Jails are full of people who do not respond to the threat of incarceration.
So why do we think that loss of recess or suspension from school will work for students? Threats work for 75-80% of the population. The other 25% need a different approach.
a) to be taught explicitly how to behave appropriately;
b) to be positively reinforced for appropriate behaviour;
c) support to behave appropriately; and
d) considered responses when they behave inappropriately.
- First of all, consequences need to be RELEVANT.
Relate the consequence to the behaviour e.g. If a student is displaying inappropriate behaviour in maths, then it does not make sense to have them miss out on sport.
They need to learn how to behave in maths- investigate the reasons why maths is a problem (time of day, work expectation, student cohort). Teach and reinforce the appropriate behaviour in the context in which it occurs.
Look at the function of the behaviour. What is the student gaining or avoiding through the behaviour?
- Consequences need to be KNOWN.
Students must be aware of the consequences of their behaviour in advance. There are no surprises. Students know that if they don’t complete their work in class, then they will have to complete it for homework.
They know that if they waste time in class the teacher will speak to them privately about their behaviour.
Keep any consequences short and to the point. As soon as possible give the student the chance to have another go at doing the right thing and get back to the learning.
- Consequences must be CONSISTENT.
This does not mean that the consequence is the same for every student. Fair does not necessarily mean the same.
What it means is that your approach is consistently proactive, caring and supportive, taking into account the student’s background.
It means that you will listen to their side of the story, you will maintain the dignity of the student, you will start fresh every day with them and you maintain high expectations and a high level of support and nurturing.
Some teachers think that consistency means having the same consequence for everyone, but just as every student’s learning needs are different, so every student’s behaviour needs are different.
While Emily may respond to a ‘look’ to get back on task, Michael may need to take time out to calm himself before getting back to work. Consistency really means that students know that there will be follow up and that they will learn through ‘certainty rather than severity’ (Bill Rogers).
- Consequences must be SUPPORTIVE.
This means that teachers have high expectations for their students and they provide high levels of support for students to live up to the expectations. Support could be in the form of a reward system, an agreed cue between the teacher and the student or small group instruction on appropriate behaviour.
It could also mean working with the parents so that the student is getting the same message at home and at school.
Remember that consequences are NOT about punishing a student, but about teaching them more appropriate ways to have their needs met.
- Consequences must be PRIVATE, maintaining the dignity of the student and the teacher.
Some students hate being singled out even for praise so be mindful of how students feel. Keep students behind after class for a brief chat or talk to them in the breaks.
They are more likely to be receptive to discussing their behaviour without an audience of their peers, especially if they know that you will listen to them.
Maintaining positive relationships is paramount, so humiliation and belittling of students is unacceptable. Allow students to save face by having private conversations and you will maintain your own dignity, prevent further escalation and development of secondary behaviours.
If you are feeling angry it may not be the best time to discuss a behaviour. You can model appropriate ways to deal with your anger by saying, ‘I am feeling very angry right now. I am going to discuss this in a couple of minutes when I am feeling calmer’.
- Consequences need to be a LEARNING OPPORTUNITY.
Problem behaviour is an opportunity for the student to learn about their environment and for us to learn about the student. When we decide on relevant consequences, we must consider what the student will learn from them e.g. they may have learnt that they get more attention from the teacher when they are off-task than when they are on-task.
In this case, the teacher needs to give more attention to on-task behaviour (a reward system, praise) and minimal attention to off-task behaviour (quick reminder, agreed secret cue, reminder of reward).
‘When consequences are fair and respectful, there is more likelihood that students will learn better ways to meet their needs.’