A Practical Plan for Managing the Behavior of Students with Disabilities in General Physical Education: Behavior Management Means More Than Controlling Students to Make Them Behave

By Lavay, Barry; French, Ron et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, February 2007 | Go to article overview

A Practical Plan for Managing the Behavior of Students with Disabilities in General Physical Education: Behavior Management Means More Than Controlling Students to Make Them Behave


Lavay, Barry, French, Ron, Henderson, Hester, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Physical education experts agree that a lack of behavior management skills is the most significant barrier to effective teaching (Rink, 2006; Siedentop & Tannehill, 2000). The inability to manage and motivate student behavior is often the number one reason given by beginning teachers for leaving the teaching profession (Rose & Gallup, 2004). The problem is intensified when there are a large number of students with diverse emotional, social, cognitive, and physical abilities in the same physical education class. In recent years, effective behavior management has become even more challenging with the inclusion of an increased number of students identified as at-risk or with serious behavior problems in general physical education classes (Graham, 2001; Loovis, 2005; Rink, 2006; Sherrill, 2004). Based on Sugai et al. (2000), these students represent an estimated one to seven percent of all students in schools.

Many physical educators still maintain a narrow perspective about behavior management. They tend to equate behavior management practices with punishment used to control students or make students behave. The current philosophy has shifted to more positive behavior management practices that foster behavior changes through support and intervention to improve performance and learning (Lavay, French, & Henderson, 2006). The purpose of this article is to describe how to develop a positive behavior plan designed to empower students rather than control their performance and learning. Field-based research and best teaching practices will be integrated with behavior management approaches that have been proven effective in creating a positive physical education environment that is conducive for all students, including students with disabilities. The information and examples provided will guide physical educators through the steps of developing their own plan, customized to reflect their philosophy of behavior management, their behavior management goals, and the characteristics and needs of the students in their classes.

The Behavior Management Eclectic and Ecological Model

Behavior management is interdisciplinary in that it incorporates theories, methods, and best instructional practices from the disciplines of education (Charles, 2005; Walker, Shea, & Bauer, 2007), psychology (Weinberg & Gould, 2003), and physical education (Hellison, 2003; Lavay et al., 2006; Rink, 2006). Behavior management approaches are typically grouped in three categories: behavioral, psychodynamic, and biophysical. No one specific behavior management approach will work all the time with all students. Most physical educators have a dominant behavior management approach or one they prefer to use most often based on their philosophical beliefs as well as their knowledge about and their experiences using that approach.

In this article, the authors use the terms "behavior management plan" and "behavior intervention plan" (BIP). A behavior management plan is an umbrella term used to describe any plan the teacher develops to change behavior. The BIP is a formalized type of behavior management plan that is developed by a team of professionals specifically for a student with a disability who has chronic behavior problems. The development of a behavior management plan for the physical educator to follow is a complex task, and there are many dynamic factors and interactions to consider. The authors believe the physical educator needs a comprehensive behavior management plan that will be applied to all students and classes. When possible, this plan needs to follow a school-wide collaborative effort. This is important for consistency and fairness. All students need to know which appropriate behaviors are expected and which inappropriate behaviors will result in consequences. All teachers, administrators, and support staff must commit to using the behavior management plan.

When a particular student has chronic and intense behavior problems, a formal BIP must be developed (Janney & Snell, 2000). …

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