A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

Best in Class: Better Behavior for Better Learning

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—With the pandemic keeping kids at home most of this year, experts expect challenging behaviors to intensify when kids return to school. Chronic behaviors such as crying, hitting, or even biting can create a cycle where teachers may react negatively to disruptive behavior—leading to fewer learning opportunities. However, there are tips on how to promote positive behaviors that will keep kids learning.

From horsing around to rough and tumble play, kids will be kids. But some behaviors may be more extreme than others.

Maureen Conroy, PhD, an Anita Zucker Endowed Professor at the University of Florida, studies social-emotional learning in young children. Conroy says challenging behaviors that happen often and are intense, such as hitting or kicking others, can interfere with a child’s learning. In fact, nearly 75 percent of teachers report challenging behavior had a moderate to severe impact on their ability to attend to the needs of other children. If those challenging behaviors are not addressed early, they can lead to negative outcomes years later.

“They can be even more likely to end up dropping out of school,” said Conroy.

Conroy co-developed the Best in Class intervention. It teaches children behavioral expectations and rules and routines that apply to any setting: a friend’s house, the grocery store, or a library.

“We use our inside voices. We use our walking feet. We listen with our ears,” continued Conroy.

Provide corrective feedback when a challenging behavior occurs by showing kids an alternative behavior. Offer praise to show approval of appropriate behavior or responses. Conroy found when teachers were properly coached on techniques to handle challenging behaviors, children’s challenging behaviors decreased, and they had more positive social-emotional engagement with teachers and their peers.

“Teachers can use it throughout the day, during everyday teaching opportunities rather than taking children and pulling them out. And that way, children learn what to do in those activities,” stated Conroy.

Promoting positive interactions and relationships.

Social scientists say parents play a big role. This program established a home-school partnership that focuses on sharing information about the child’s behavior. The study found that coaching teachers and parents could help address challenging behaviors.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Resource: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED581316.pdf

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