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School-Wide Strategies for Managing...

Students who are defiant or non-compliant can be among the most challenging to teach. They can frequently interrupt instruction, often do poorly academically, and may show little motivation to learn. There are no magic strategies for managing the behaviors of defiant students. However, research shows that certain techniques tend to work best with these children and youth: (1) Give the student positive teacher recognition. Even actions as simple as greeting the student daily at the classroom door or stopping by the student’s desk to ask ‘How are you doing?’ can over time turn strained relationships into positive ones. (2) Monitor the classroom frequently and intervene proactively to redirect off-task students before their mild misbehaviors escalate into more serious problems. (3) Avoid saying or doing things that are likely to anger or set off a student. Speak calmly and respectfully, for example, rather than raising your voice or using sarcasm. (4) When you must intervene with a misbehaving student, convey the message to the student that you will not tolerate the problem behavior—but that you continue to value and accept the student. (5) Remember that the ultimate goal of any disciplinary measure is to teach the student more positive ways of behaving. Punishment generally does not improve student behaviors over the long term and can have significant and lasting negative effects on school performance and motivation. (6) Develop a classroom ‘crisis response plan’ to be implemented in the event that one or more students display aggressive behaviors that threaten their own safety or the safety of others. Be sure that your administrator approves this classroom crisis plan and that everyone who has a part in the plan knows his or her role. One final thought: While you can never predict what behaviors your students might bring into your classroom, you will usually achieve the best outcomes by remaining calm, following pre-planned intervention strategies for misbehavior, and acting with consistency and fairness when intervening with or disciplining students. Here are other ideas for managing defiant or non-compliant students:

Jim's Recommended Internet Resources for...

Least Restrictive Behavioral Interventions. The Utah State Office of Education has put online its series of 'Least Restrictive Behavioral Interventions'. The page contains a very useful collection of 'preliminary strategies' that represent good classroom management and can reduce the likelihood that misbehavior will occur. If students do misbehave, the site also provides two collections of intervention ideas: 'Positive Intervention Strategies' and 'Mildly Intrusive Contingent Procedures'. The expectation is that educators will first try positive interventions and only use the more intrusive techniques if misbehaviors are chronic or more serious. ||Report Broken Link

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Fact Sheet. This 'Fact Sheet' on Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) provides a clinical description of the disorder and links to fact sheets on related topics, such as 'Conduct disorder' and 'Children's threats: When are they serious?' These fact sheets were created by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. ||Report Broken Link

Safe & Responsve Schools. The Safe & Responsive Schools Project seeks to make schools safer through a framework of (1) creating a positive climate, (2) early identification and intervention for students at risk for problem behaviors, and (3) the development of effective responses to address serious misbehavior. Along with other violence-prevention planning resources, Safe & Responsive Schools offers a series of useful 'Fact Sheets' that offer guidance to schools on improving the behavioral climate through anger management, increased parent involvement, and other strategies. Dr.Russell J. Skiba, Indiana University and Dr. Reece L. Peterson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln developed the site. ||Report Broken Link

Working With Defiant Kids: Articles Online. This on-line collection of research-based articles and general education articles on defiant and non-compliant students contains practical teacher-friendly advice for managing classroom misbehaviors. The site is sponsored by Heartland Area Educational Agency 11. ||Report Broken Link


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Walker, H. M., Colvin, G., Ramsey, E. (1995). Antisocial behavior in school: Strategies and best practices. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing.

Walker, H.M. (1997). The acting-out child: Coping with classroom disruption. Longmont, CO: SoprisWest.

Walker, H.M., & Walker, J.E. (1991). Coping with noncompliance in the classroom: A positive approach for teachers. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed, Inc.

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