Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: An Interventional Approach to Improving Negative Student Behaviors

Article excerpt

Inappropriate behaviors of elementary and middle school students are many times extremely difficult to change. These behaviors tend to be supported by reinforcement within the environment. When manifested in the classroom, these undesirable actions become the focus of negativity which translates into disciplinary problems and ultimately discipline referrals by the teacher. This longitudinal study will investigate the potential impact of a program designed to reduce the discipline referral rate of students displaying negative behaviors in the classroom.

The influx of disruptive behaviors is causing quite a stir throughout classrooms in America. Research indicates that many of these problems are related to increases in emotional and behavioral issues among students (Stanley, Canham, & Cureton, 2006). The consequences of these emotional and behavioral issues often result in many students being reprimanded, in an attempt to discourage the unwanted behavior, to protect peers, and to inform parents of their children's conduct. Unfortunately, these consequences do not address the underlying factors that cause these students to behave in a negative manner which translates to school systems experiencing a pattern of repetitive discipline referrals and suspensions among the same groups of students. This type of behavior becomes an impediment to the learning process for the behaviorally challenged students and their counterparts, as well (Warren, Bohanon-Edmonson, Tumbull, Sailor, Wickham, Grigg, & Beech, 2006).

Positive Behavior Support (PBS)

With a growing emphasis on improving the nation's schools and eliminating school discipline problems, Utley, Kozleski, Smith, and Draper (2002) note the relationship between and among those variables. Edward Carr and Robert Homer (2007) discovered the primary concern of discipline as problem contexts, not problem behavior or problem people. Cheryl Utley et al., (2002) communicated the notion that, "Researchers and practitioners must examine issues related to classroom discipline, cultural diversity, and culturally responsive teaching to develop successful approaches for teaching prosocial skills and reducing antisocial behavior" (p. 197). Research indicates that peer relations may be an underlying factor of students' negative behaviors. In a recent qualitative research study involving a variety of problem situations commonly faced among African-American urban youth (Farrell, Erwin, Bettencourt, Mays, Vulin-Reynolds, Sullivan, Allison, Kliewer, & Meyer, 2008), the theoretical framework of developing positive social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral skills was employed to address aggressive emotional behavior. Within this framework, the researchers emphasized appropriate social interaction by interviewing and transcribing students' perceptions of situation-response sets dealing with peer relationships. This intervention was infused with the school's Positive Behavior Support (PBS) system (Farrell et al., 2008). It is well documented about the use of school-wide PBS systems as a possible solution for addressing problem behavior, increasing academic achievement, and reducing discipline referral rates (Luiselli, Putnam, Handler, & Feinberg, 2005). School-wide PBS, as defined by Warren et al. (2006), is a prevention-oriented approach to student discipline characterized by its focus on defining and teaching behavioral expectations, rewarding appropriate behaviors, continual evaluation of its effectiveness, and the integration of supports for individuals, groups, the school as a whole, and school, family community partnerships.

PBS interventions are based on the premise of applied behavior analysis and should be proactive. Preventative measures that diminish problem situations before they escalate while concurrently teaching students how to make better choices during these situations (Safran & Oswald, 2003, as cited in Carr et al., 1999). Kincaid, Childs, Blase, and Wallace (2007) reiterate, The process of school wide positive behavior support includes the application of evidence-based strategies and systems to help schools increase academic performance, increase safety, decrease problem behavior, and establish positive school cultures. …