Teaching Students to Regulate Their Own Behavior

By Johnson, Lewis R.; Johnson, Christine E. | Teaching Exceptional Children, March/April 1999 | Go to article overview

Teaching Students to Regulate Their Own Behavior


Johnson, Lewis R., Johnson, Christine E., Teaching Exceptional Children


Before general education teachers refer a child to special education services, the teachers must implement program modifications and strategies and document that the modifications were insufficient to remedy the student's problem. For these reasons, general educators and special education teachers/ consultants need methods to successfully include students with disabilities in general education programs.

A Question of Generalization

Sometimes, consultants and classroom teachers collaboratively develop prereferral interventions or behavior management plans that require the teacher to monitor, record, and issue contingent reinforcers. This type of behavior management program is time-consuming; and if more than one student in the class is "on a plan," it can be overwhelming.

In 1973 Glynn, Thomas, and Shee described an effective procedure for general education teachers to employ so students can self-monitor and improve their on-- task behavior. Although recent research has focused on the use of self-regulation techniques for students with disabilities in special education settings, it is peculiar that the technique is not used more in general education classrooms as prereferral interventions and to facilitate inclusion of students with disabilities. Self-regulation techniques can be used with students from preschool age through postsecondary age when educators adapt the level of sophistication to the age group. One limitation of self-regulation training conducted by special education teachers in the special education setting is the lack of generalization of the behavior change in the general education setting.

One way to facilitate generalization of skills is to provide the training in the setting in which you want the generalization to occur (Guevremont, Osnes, & Stokes, 1988). In this article we present a description of self-regulation and the specific procedures for teaching students to employ self-regulation of classroom work-study behavior.

Components of Self-Regulation

Self-regulation requires students to stop, think about what they are doing, compare their behavior to a criterion, record the results of their comparison, and receive reinforcement for their behavior if it meets the criterion (Webber, Scheuermann, McCall, & Coleman, 1993). Self-- monitoring involves all the steps in self-regulation, except the issuing of reinforcement.

When you begin the program, first teach students to ask the monitoring question aloud. Then, as the program becomes more routine, students ask the monitoring question in a whisper. In the initial stages of self-regulation, use a tone sounded in the classroom at random intervals to cue the student to ask the question. Cued monitoring is much more effective than uncued monitoring. When you must conduct a training session outside the general classroom, the use of the same tone aids in maintaining the skills across settings.

The Steps of Self-Regulation

Students use the following sequence of steps to use self-regulation:

1. Self-observation-looking at one's own behavior given a predetermined criterion.

2. Self-assessment-deciding if the behavior has occurred, through some self-questioning activity.

3. Self-recording-recording the decision made during self-assessment on a private recording form.

4. Self-determination of reinforcement-- setting a criterion for success, and selecting a reinforcer from a menu of reinforcers.

5. Self-administration of reinforcement-- administering a reinforcer to oneself (Glynn et al., 1973).

Target Behavior

Self-regulation is most widely used during independent seatwork; however, you may apply the technique to a variety of classroom activities. Here are kinds of behavior commonly targeted by self-regulation:

Staying on task.

Assignment completion (productivity).

Appropriate classroom behavior (such as staying in one's seat). …

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