What can Ms. Rollison do to encourage initial compliance to her requests?
Page 3: High Probability Requests
Behavioral difficulties that occur in classroom settings often follow a teacher’s attempt to get a student to comply with a request or to engage in a required activity. Repeated attempts to get a student started on a task are the source of great frustration for many educators. The prevailing belief holds that once a student becomes compliant or engaged, it is easier for a teacher to maintain the appropriate behavior through more traditional means (e.g., positive feedback or praise).
High Probability Requests
Differential reinforcement of other behavior (DRO)
Differential reinforcement of low rates of behavior (DRL)
Differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviors (DRI)
A well-documented strategy for encouraging initial compliance to the social and academic demands found in classrooms is high-probability (high-p) requests. Simply stated, high-probability requests operate on the assumption that students are more likely to obey teacher directives if they are already engaged in compliant classroom behavior.
Listen as Kathleen Lane, explains how to implement a high-p request strategy and gives an example involving a middle-school student (time: 1:35).
Kathleen Lane, PhD Professor of Special Education University of Kansas
What you’re trying to do in a high-p request is typically you would ask the child to do three things that they’re very likely to do. “Okay, take out your piece of paper. Great job! Go ahead and write your name in the upper corner. Nice work! I see you got that done. Go ahead and mark an X on the first box.” And then you deliver a request that they’re less likely to do. And basically the goal is, if I’m building momentum, I ask, they respond, I ask, they respond, I ask, they respond. Now I’m going to ask you something you’re less likely to do, and you’re more likely to do it. I remember the first time I ever tried this. When I was a middle-school teacher, I had this child who was extremely difficult, and he was just very noncompliant because he had such splinter skills. He missed a tremendous amount of school, so he didn’t want to start any activity because he assumed that every activity was going to be difficult for him. So this one day, I said, “Can you come on up here?” and he said, “Yes,” and he came forward. So that’s one. Then I said, “Would you mind passing these out to everybody?” And he passed out the papers to everybody, and I said, “Thanks for much for doing that.” And then I said, “Would you mind putting these extra copies on my desk?” and he complied. And then I said, “Okay, go ahead and start the first three problems.” And he sat down and started right away. Normally he would have engaged me in an argument about having to start, but he right away went and started the first three problems, and then he looked up at me—he knew. He said, “You tricked me into doing this.” And I said, “You’re capable of doing it. It’s fine.” The upside of doing something like high-p or differential reinforcement—you’re not delivering any aversives. It’s a positive experience. So it’s a way of getting the kids to comply and demonstrate behaviors that you want in a very respectful way.
Research suggests that the strategy is most effective when the difficult request is delivered within five seconds of the last high-p request and that the high-p requests need to be varied (i.e., a pool of requests is needed). Studies demonstrating the effectiveness of high-p requests have included a range of situations and behaviors including:
The completion of academic work
The initiation of appropriate social interaction
The development of smooth transition between settings
Ms. Rollison and Ms. Thibodeaux decide that high-p requests might be a good way to increase Tameka’s compliance with writing tasks. Ms. Rollison develops the following sequence and brings it to Ms. Thibodeaux for feedback:
Ask Tameka to come to my desk.
Ask her to pass out the papers to the class.
Ask her to complete the writing assignment that the class is working on.
Activity: High-p requests for Tameka Ms. Thibodeaux’s feedback
Mia, the first two requests are good, but you have to remember to give immediate praise after each request: “Tameka, can you please come up to my desk? Thanks. Can you please pass out these papers? Nice work, thank you.” Now, the third request goes immediately into completing an entire writing assignment, something we know is difficult for Tameka. Maybe the third request should be something more general, like, ”Write your name on your paper and then wait for me to give you further instructions.” After she’s complied with that request, praise her and then make a more difficult request, such as starting the writing assignment, maybe writing one paragraph or even two sentences, something that won’t be so overwhelming to her. Here’s what I would suggest:
Ask Tameka to come to your desk.
Give her positive verbal feedback (“Good, thank you.”).
Ask her to pass out the papers to the class.
Give her positive verbal feedback (“You did that very nicely. Thank you.”).
Ask her to write her name on the paper and wait for you to give her further instructions.
Give her positive verbal feedback (“Nice.”).
Ask her to start on her writing assignment and write for two minutes and then check her work.