What strategies can educators implement to prevent or address challenging behaviors?
Page 4: Active Supervision
Active supervision requires the educator to frequently and intentionally:
- Move around the room
- Scan and monitor student behavior
- Interact with students
It is commonly used in both instructional and non-instructional settings (e.g., cafeteria, playground) to prevent challenging behaviors from occurring (or escalating) while simultaneously encouraging positive and on-task behaviors.
Active supervision is an efficient and effective strategy to reduce challenging behaviors and increase positive ones:
- In classroom and non-classroom settings
- During transitions to different activities or settings
- Across age groups
(Allen, Common, Germer, Lane, Buckman, Oakes, & Menzies, 2020; Haydon, DeGreg, Maheady, & Hunter, 2012; van der Mars, Volger, Darst, & Cusimano, 1994)
Using the Strategy
To help educators prevent or address challenging behavior, the table below describes the steps to implement active supervision and provides an example.
To prevent challenging behavior from occurring, identify when or where students are commonly off-task or likely to engage in challenging behaviors.
The teacher identifies the context in which challenging behavior occurs.
Context: Peer editing during language arts class.
Challenging Behavior: A couple of students often argue with their partners while working on peer editing.
Remind students of the behavior expectations before they get started.
The teacher reminds the students of the classroom expectation for respectfully working with a partner.
||Once students begin the activity, walk around the room, frequently and intentionally scanning the room and monitoring student behavior. Be sure to circulate throughout the entire classroom, making sure you vary pathways.||
The teacher walks around the classroom observing students as they work with a partner. She more frequently scans and monitors partners who tend to argue.
Walk around the room and interact with students:
Reinforce desired behaviors: Use non-verbal (e.g., eye contact, thumbs up) as well as verbal cues (e.g., behavior-specific praise) to indicate to students that they are following expectations.
Address challenging behaviors: Redirect behavior quickly, calmly, respectfully, and in a neutral tone. As soon as students get back on track and begin to follow expectations, acknowledge their behavior and offer positive reinforcement.
The teacher offers non-verbal cues to students who are respectfully working with their partner. She notices that two partners begin to argue and quickly redirects them back to the task by asking a question about their paper. She reinforces them once they begin working collaboratively again.
In this video, Mr. Santini engages in active supervision as students work independently (time: 0:46).
In addition to the four steps listed above, the three actions below can be helpful when implementing this practice.
Students may not be aware of the behavioral expectations for a particular activity or setting. For example, some students may need to be given explicit directions on how to ask for help if they have a question or feel that the activity is too difficult. Other students may need more help or reminders to understand what’s expected during transitions, including what to do if they have not finished one activity before it is time to move on to the next.
Walking around the classroom facilitates close physical proximity (e.g., within three feet) to all students, which can prevent challenging behavior and increase student engagement (i.e., proximity control). To do so easily, arrange your classroom in ways that allow you to quickly and efficiently scan, monitor, and physically access all areas.
Keep in mind that even in large open spaces, like playgrounds and cafeterias, you still need to actively walk around and maintain an appropriate level of proximity to interact with students and prevent challenging behaviors from occurring.
Check in with students to see if they find your prompts or reinforcement helpful. For example, it may be that they prefer verbal reinforcement rather than non-verbal reinforcement. Active supervision may also be new or unfamiliar to students, and they may find your constant monitoring to be intrusive. Remind students that you do this to support them and help them succeed.
In this interview, Janel Brown explains why it’s important to use active supervision (time: 2:22).
Although this strategy works as a Tier 1 support, it is also effective as a Tier 2 support when working with students who consistently display challenging behaviors. For these students, educators should:
- Identify the challenging behaviors and the context(s) in which they usually occur.
- Move in close proximity to the students more frequently.
- Monitor and interact with these students more often.
- Increase the frequency of reinforcement for the desired behavior.
To make sure you are using this strategy with fidelity, download this active supervision implementation checklist.
To view our IRIS Fundamental Skill Sheet on proximity control, click the title below.
To learn more about effectively arranging your classroom, click the IRIS Case Study title below.