In these two studies, students with disabilities improved their academic productivity during independent practice activities, after their teachers trained them to use a tactile cued self-monitoring device called the MotivAider. While students worked, the MotivAider, placed in the students' pocket, vibrated periodically, thereby cueing students to ask themselves if they were doing their work. Then students checked yes or no on a self-recording form and immediately resumed their work. In Study 1, a 10th-grader with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tripled the number of responses he wrote when solving linear equations in a general education Algebra class. In Study 2, a 7th-grader with emotional disturbance reduced, by two-thirds, the time he took to complete vocabulary word-of-the-day task, in a self-contained special education program, during English class. This article includes training procedures, practical tips, and resources for teachers who would like to help their students self-monitor academic performance or social behaviors. Both studies illustrate how to apply practically the principle of reactivity, derived from cognitive-behavioral theory, whereby raising ones own awareness of behavior can prompt improvements in an individual's performance.
An irksome experience for teachers is observing a student who produces little work during independent practice activities, especially when that student has the capacity to produce. Some teachers find that they must remind or cue the student, much too frequently, to stay on task. Teachers also might find it necessary to use proximity control, teacher-delivered reinforcement, or response cost. Fortunately, behavioral self-management (BSM) techniques, particularly self-monitoring, can help students manage their own behavior. When used effectively, BSM reduces students' over-reliance on teachers' cues, frees up teachers' time for more proactive tasks, and improves students' academic productivity (McDougall, 1998).
In their analytic review, McDougall, Skouge, Farrell, and Hoff (2006) concluded that self-monitoring was the most frequently applied, most versatile, and most broadly supported of all BSM techniques. Self-monitoring consists of self-assessment plus self-recording (Glynn, Thomas, & Shee, 1973).
When self-assessing, a student covertly asks a question such as "Am I working?" while doing a task. Then the student answers the self-assessed question by covertly noting yes or no, or--more overtly--by writing a mark on a self-recording form to indicate yes or no, then immediately resumes the task. Self-monitoring is based on the long-established, cognitive-behavioral principle of reactivity, whereby people benefit by becoming more aware of whether they are performing a specific task, such as reading a page from a book, as opposed to other behaviors, like staring out the window. Improved awareness (cognition) has a reactive effect in that it enables changes in performance (behavior) (Kanfer & Karoly, 1972; Rachlin, 1974). Many students routinely and covertly cue themselves, but some at-risk students require overt cues and systematic training in order to self-monitor effectively (McDougall, 2008).
The most common self-monitoring interventions applied in classroom settings are audio-cued and visually-cued self-monitoring, both of which employ overt cues. Audio cues can be sounds such as beeps, tones, or a student's own prerecorded voice ("Am I on task?") emitted by audio/digital recorders or timing devices. Fixed or variable cueing schedules can be adapted to meet the self-monitoring needs of individual students and contexts, with more frequent or less frequent audio cues, as needed. Visual cues can be printed words, directions, or forms, as well as symbols, signs, schedules, drawings, and photos. Research and practice indicate that teaching students, including those without disabilities and those with a wide range of disabilities, how to self-monitor is a 'best practice' that produces moderate to strong improvements in academic performance and social behaviors, across diverse settings, from pre-school through adulthood (Frey & George-Nichols, 2003; Hughes et al. …