What can Ms. Rollison do to increase the chances that her students will behave appropriately in class?
Page 11: Negative Consequences
After a student violates a rule or procedure, a teacher can provide a negative consequence. A negative consequence is a means by which the teacher can decrease the probability that a behavior will occur in the future. Negative consequences should be:
- Things that the student considers unpleasant (e.g., the loss of a privilege)
- Applied in an educative rather than vindictive fashion (i.e., when a student engages in negative behaviors, a teacher should not take it personally and respond emotionally)
- Administered calmly and consistently
- Applied alongside positive consequences
- Logical to the undesirable behavior
- Applied immediately after the behavior occurs
- Considerate of a student’s dignity
Keep in Mind
Surface management strategies are simple, nonintrusive ways to respond to minor disruptive behaviors (e.g., whispering during instruction, getting out of seat). Teachers can often apply these proactive strategies to redirect or interrupt students’ behaviors without having to deliver negative consequences.
In a successful comprehensive behavior management plan, negative consequences are organized in an increasingly intense hierarchy. Teachers should initially respond to a student’s misbehavior with the least-intense consequence. For example, a teacher should not send a student directly to the principal’s office for forgetting her homework. Instead, the teacher might first remind the student about a classroom rule that all homework must be turned in at the beginning of the period or make the student finish her homework during recess. Below are examples of negative consequence hierarchies for elementary and secondary students. (Click either image to see a larger view.)
The first bar graph is titled “Consequences: Elementary School.” The stair-stepped colored bars indicate a series of increasingly serious negative consequences. The shortest bar is on the left-side of the graphic. It is dark green and labeled “Class Reminder.” The dark green bar is illustrated with the word “Rules” written on a chalkboard. The next bar is “Individual Reminder.” It is light green and illustrated with a picture of a teacher speaking privately with one of his students. The third bar, “Modification,” is yellow-green. The yellow-green bar is illustrated with a picture of a student sitting in a new desk in the classroom. The fourth bar is labeled “Time away in another class.” This yellow bar is illustrated with a picture of a student seated at a desk near a clock on the wall. The next bar is yellow-orange. This bar is labeled “Demerit” and is illustrated with a checkbox filled in with a large X. The next-to-last bar is orange. This bar is labeled “Parent contact” and is illustrated with pictures of a telephone and a mailing envelope. The final bar, “Office referral,” is red. This bar is illustrated with an image of the door to the principal’s office.
The second graphic is titled “Consequences: Secondary School.” It presents eight horizontally stacked segments that are meant to indicate a series of increasingly serious negative consequences. The graphic is styled to resemble a thermometer with the less-serious consequences at the bottom and the more-serious ones at the top. The first consequence is at the bottom of the thermometer. It is dark green in color and labeled “General reminder.” The next consequence is “Individual reminder.” This consequence is light green in color. The third consequence is green-yellow. It is labeled “Second individual reminder.” Fourth is “Lunch detention.” This consequence is colored bright yellow. The fifth consequence is labeled “Time-out [in class].” This consequence is yellow-orange. Next is a bright orange “Time-out [in alternative room].” The next-to-last consequence, “Parent contact,” is colored red. Finally, the eighth consequence is labeled “Office referral.” This consequence is colored black.
The manner in which a teacher delivers a consequence is important. A negative consequence delivered with uncertainty may convey the message that the teacher is unsure of himself, leading the student to attempt to negotiate or plead his way out of the situation. Therefore, when delivering consequences, teachers should:
- Apply them consistently
- Use the power of proximity
- Make direct eye contact
- Use a soft voice
- Be firm and anger-free
- Link the consequence to the expected behaviors
- Never accept excuses, bargaining, or whining
Listen as Lori Jackman emphasizes the importance of consistency in the delivery of negative consequences (time: 0:34).
Lori Jackman, EdD
Assistant Professor of Special Education
For Your Information
If a student exhibits an extremely disruptive or aggressive behavior, the teacher might need to skip low-intensity consequences and respond immediately with a high-intensity consequence.