Behavior Management through Self-Advocacy

By Sebag, Ronen | Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August 2010 | Go to article overview

Behavior Management through Self-Advocacy

Sebag, Ronen, Teaching Exceptional Children

A Strategy for Secondary Students With Learning Disabilities

Implementing a behavior management model that focuses on student selfdetermination and self-advocacy can improve students' understanding of themselves and their strengths and weaknesses as well as support their ability to formulate strategies and goals for behavior improvement. Such a model promotes student buy-in and provides the student with behavior management tools, strategies, and experiences that could serve him or her beyond the classroom. At its core, the self-advocac)' behavior management (SABM) model is student centered: It puts the student in charge of identifying the areas of conduct struggle; devising a strategy to successfully tackle the struggle; and reflecting on success, progress, and areas in need of improvement.

How often does student behavior hinder teaching and learning in your classroom? Disruptive student conduct is an issue most teachers, both veteran and novice, deal with every school year. In a 2004 study conducted by the nonprofit research institute Public Agenda, 77% of teachers acknowledged that disruptive student behavior negatively impacts their ability to teach effectiveIy. A teacher survey conducted by the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (2006) found that classroom management is of central concern to most teachers.

Effective behavior management is an essential aspect of a productive teaching and learning environment, and behavior management often presents tremendous challenges to students, teachers, and administrators. Although there are a variety of behavior management approaches to helping students improve their conduct in the classroom, no single strategy fits all situations and/or all students; educators require varied and diverse tools to achieve effective behavior management. The self-advocacy behavior management (SABM) model is one tool that might be included in a diverse behavior management toolbox.

At its core, die SABM model is student centered, student directed, and student driven. The model departs from conventional behavior management models in which the educator is the sole author of the strategy- observing, collecting and analyzing data, and devising intervention strategies. In the SABM model, the student who experiences conduct struggles is the lead author and principal of the behavior management process.

Through the process of self-monitoring behavior management tools and strategies and frequent student-teacher conferences, the SABM model puts the student in charge of (a) identifying the conduct struggle, (b) devising a strategy to successfully tackle the struggle, (c) reflecting on the effectiveness of the strategy, and (d) making necessary adjustments for further progress. The teacher has a vital role to play in this process as well: as a guide and a coach to scaffold the student through the process. The SABM model is based on self-advocacy literature.

Self-Advocacy and the SelfDetermination Approach

Self-advocacy is a component of the broader concept and approach of selfdetermination. The concept of selfdetermination is "based on the belief that all individuals have the right to direct their lives. It encompasses a broad set of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that enable an individual to seek goals, make decisions, explore options, solve problems, speak up for himself or herself, understand what supports are needed for success, and evaluate outcomes" (Test, Aspel, & Everson, 2006, p. 160). Over the last 2 decades, self-determination has become a major focus in research and practice regarding educating students with disabilities. Self-determination programs have been shown to promote higher levels of achievement and success rates, both academic and social, for students with disabilities as well as prepare them for life outside and beyond school (Agran, Blanchard, & Wehmeyer, 2000; Shogren, FaggellaLuby, Bae, & Wehmeyer, 2004: Wehmeyer, 1999; Wehmeyer, Baker, Blumberg, & Harrison, 2004; Wehmeyer, Palmer, Agran, Mithaug, & Martin, 2000; Wood, Karvonen, Test, Browder, & Algozzine, 2004). …

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