Chapter 26

  • Doc File 80.50KByte

Chapter 26

Establishing Classroom and Schoolwide Rules of Conduct[1]

(Footnote 7, page 538)

Before selecting specific consequences and administering them for the purpose of preventing or reducing problematic student behavior, establish and clearly communicate rules of behavior. Not only does this step make sense to help prevent problem behavior, but it is often required by law in schools. For example, Section 35291 of the California Education Code requires that the principal of each school “take steps to insure that all rules pertaining to the discipline of pupils are communicated to continuing students at the beginning of each school year, and to transfer students at the time of their enrollment in the school.”

Mayer and colleagues (Mayer, 1999; 2002; 2005; Mayer & Ybarra, 2003) have presented guidelines for clearly communicating classroom and school-wide rules for promoting acceptable student conduct. Each guideline is reviewed below.

Involve Students in the Development of the Rules

Involvement functions as a motivational operation. It permits some degree of choice and an understanding of the rules’ rationales. Establishing rules also is analogous to setting goals for the students’ behavior. When students are involved in the development of the rules, they tend to become more aware of and understand the rules better, and are more likely to adopt and adhere to them (Cotton et al., 1988; Fellner & Sulzer-Azaroff, 1985; Gillat & Sulzer-Azaroff, 1994). To involve students, you might ask them to suggest rules for helping to promote a positive learning environment, and/or present a possible set of rules to the class for their consideration.

State Rules Positively

Once the rules have been listed, review and, if necessary, state them in positive terms. For example, “Don’t be late to class” does not clearly communicate what is expected of the students. Are students not late as long as at least one foot is in the classroom by the time the tardy bell rings, or must students be in their seats? The rule “Be in your seat before the tardy bell rings” is a clearly stated SD. It clearly communicates the desired or expected behavior. Similarly, “Don’t blurt out” does not communicate what a student must do to answer a question or attain help. Stating the rule as, “Raise your hand and wait to be called on before asking or answering a question,” explains what students must do in order to obtain positive teacher attention or assistance. Again, positively stated rules more clearly communicate what is expected. The focus also now has moved from teaching “what not to do” to “what to do”: an approach that is more positive and educational rather than negative and suppressive.

Keep Rules Simple and Short

A long list of rules is easily forgotten. So, help students combine the suggested rules into between three to eight. Here is a sample list of eight classroom rules:

Bring books, pencil, and paper to class every day

Be in your seat when tardy bell rings

Listen carefully to the teacher

Follow all directions given by the teacher

Complete all assignments

Show courtesy and respect to others

Help others who are being bullied by getting adult help and/or speaking out

Try to include ALL students in activities

Post lists on a nearby wall, perhaps adding samples of acceptable or unacceptable products or results.

Keep Rules Developmentally Appropriate

Rules need to be suited to the developmental level of the individuals involved. Preschool children normally “do not benefit from conceptually complex rules or general guidelines (e.g., Be respectful) that are not grounded within concrete activities” (Fox & Little, 2001, p. 252). According to those authors, the statement “touch your friends gently,” may be an appropriate way to state a rule for a 2-year-olds, while “solve your problems by talking, not hitting,” might be more suitable for 4-year-oldsThe rules need to be applied within the context of the children’s activities or interactions. As a further example, a preschooler who was finding a task to be especially difficult might be told, “Say, ‘Teacher, I need help,’” followed then by the teacher helping. Or suppose students were returning from the playground to the building might be prompted with a statement such as “Bikes stay on the playground.” Rules for literate adults can be worded more sophisticatedly, but if literacy is a problem or distinctions are subtle, drawings or actual samples of acceptable (and possibly unacceptable) performances can be displayed.

Develop Common Rules

Some schools prefer to generate a set of rules that will apply to everyone involved. Such an approach helps to avoid confusion for students who have multiple teachers. One high school developed the following set of five common rules:

Be in your seat in the assigned classroom before the tardy bell rings

Bring proper books, pencil and other needed materials to class

Keep your hands, feet and objects to yourself

Listen carefully to your teacher’s instruction

Treat others, students and staff, with respect

Individual teachers could add a rule or two as determined by the teacher and class members.

A middle school (Taylor Greene & Kartub, 2000) developed the following “High Fives”:

Be respectful

Be responsible

Follow directions

Keep hands and feet to yourself

Be there – Be ready

The first two days of each school year were devoted to teaching the High Five rules to all students.

Similarly, some schools are adopting the mantra:

Be safe

Be responsible

Be respectful

These rules are discussed, taught, and applied in all situations (e.g., the grounds, eating areas, lavatories, and classrooms). After being taught the mantra and what it means within a variety of situations, students are asked: “Is that a safe, responsible, respectful way to behave?” and encouraged to justify their conclusions.

Review School Rules Consonant with Individual or Sub-group (i.e., classroom, work-team) Rules.

All educators are mutually responsible for implementing and enforcing discipline codes. Teachers and administrators need to depend on one another’s support. Once team or classroom rules have been developed, they should be compared to the school-wide rules and policies, and shared with and approved by the responsible administrator(s). Administrators and teachers need to have clear expectations for one another’s roles; to know what steps the teacher has taken, such as the actions teachers have taken before deciding to send a student to the office. Personnel must be aware of what disciplinary action administrators will take as a consequence as a consequence of an infraction. Organizational discipline programs must both compliment one another and must also be mutually coordinated. As Sprague, Sugai, and Walker (1998) have pointed out in reference to school discipline, it is important to have clear definitions of what behaviors are to be handled by teachers, and for what infractions students are to be sent to the office.

Teach the Rules

Presenting rules both visually and orally aids clear communication and minimizes misunderstandings. The rules can be displayed prominently on a poster or board, printed in handout form or on bookmarks or book covers, and copied by the students in their notebooks. It is helpful for those involved – administrators, teachers, aides, peer workers, students, including preschoolers and those with handicaps -- to role-play each rule as an aspect of the explanatory process. Skits and role-plays in which peers are involved in teaching one another also can be helpful. Schoolwide rules for older students can be printed in a student handbook and discussed in class and/or in assemblies.

Inform Parents and/or Caregivers and Solicit Their Support

Parental and caregiver support heightens the effectiveness of classroom and school-wide rules. Share the final draft with them. A letter home, or an e-mail detailing the rules, can help to avoid misunderstandings and promote increased parental support. Ask parents to sign the letter, or return an e-mail response, to indicate that they agree to the rules and have discussed them with their youngsters or charges. Reviewing the rules with parents during assemblies and parent meetings can be helpful. The use of such forms of communication provides evidence that responsible adults have seen, heard, and support the code of conduct.

Review Rules Periodically and Revise as Necessary

Rules should be reviewed at regular intervals and constructive changes made as necessary. This active student or personnel participation enables both groups to learn the code of conduct. Simply presenting them with a paper or booklet and leaving them to their own devices is not very helpful. Rules, though, are not to be written in cement. They are working drafts that will need to be modified as the law, staff, population, and organizational structures, and/or functions change.

Reinforce Rule-Following

Rules alone do not generate appropriate behavior. Rather, they are an aspect of a management plan that also must frequently include reinforcement for appropriate behavior. According to Horner and Sugai (2000), a key theme running through the operation of of schools with successful school-wide discipline programs is that they reinforce via an ongoing recognition system. Rule-following must be reinforced.. As asserted previously (Mayer & Sulzer-Azaroff, 1991) rules will be followed only when differential consequences are applied as a function of compliance and noncompliance. When rule-following consistently is reinforced, while infractions are not, the rules begin to serve as SDs that cue the individuals to behave according to the rules and as antecedents that tend to block or inhibit the occurrences of problem behavior (i.e., conduct is brought under stimulus control– see Chapter 15).

People learn to behave differently in different contexts because they have experienced distinctive consequences for acts that they have performed in those contexts. For example, workers in an assembly plant learn that it is okay to kid around with one of their supervisors but not with another. Students learn to raise their hands in Ms. Smith's classroom because she only recognizes those who have their hands up, but they learn to speak out freely in Ms. Freebee's classroom because she sometimes recognizes students who speak out. Individuals learn to discriminate how to behave, which stems from what they have experienced under given circumstances (i.e., with particular teachers, peers or personnel; or even friends or relations.) When rule-following is reinforced, those involved learn which behaviors are acceptable under what circumstances. However, if rule-following is not reinforced, eventually it will cease. If Ms. Freebee attends to those who call out but fails to recognize those who raise their hands, hand-raising probably will be inconsistent in her classroom.

In the early stages of instruction in rule-following, adherence to rules needs to be reinforced very frequently. In schools, that could mean several times each period; for any school-wide rules, daily or weekly.. Teachers might, for instance, terminate instruction 5 minutes early for each class period during which those students, who have complied with the code, are permitted to participate in a special event, such as a song, a dance, free time, or something similar. Later on, once adherence to rules has reached a high and steady rate for several weeks, praise and recognition can gradually be diminished to less frequent levels. Remember, though that the behavior needs to be intermittently reinforced, so the students know it is appreciated and will continue to exhibit it. Clearly communicated expectations or rules certainly can decrease the likelihood of problem behavior.

Practical Reinforcement-Based Programs Designed to Reduce Vandalism, Aggression and Attendance Problems

Numerous programs that Mayer and colleagues have used to reduce vandalism, aggression and attendance problems have been presented already. We shared some of those in previous Web sections associated with Behavior Analysis for Lasting Change II:positive reinforcement bombardment, warm fuzzy- or thank you-board, fuzzy grams, compliment meters, secrete-pal game, I-spy, behavioral contracts, and peer tutoring. Additionally, chapters within the main text have included the use of teams (Chapter 3), selecting high preference reinforcers (Chapter 6), specific or labeled praise, behavioral contracts, reinforcement packages like the treasure box, daily report cards, and self-management strategies (Chapter 11), points systems, peer tutoring and social skills training (Chapter 12). In Chapter 26, we described a variety of strategies were presented, including adjusting tasks to match functional levels, interspersing easier among more challenging tasks, offering choices, participating in goal setting, using response cards, and modeling. In addition, the strategies gleaned from Chapters 3 and 24 are tailored to the needs of each school, placing heavy reliance on non-contingent reinforcement (NCR), differential reinforcement of alternative (DRA), of incompatible (DRI), diminishing rates of (DRD) or of other, (DRO) behavior, along with modeling or specific programs like “ I-spy …” constitute only a small portion f the totality. Basically, the programs described in the text are designed to produce a supportive educational environment in which appropriate behavior is taught and reinforced while inappropriate behavior placed on extinction. In essence, the practices of ABA are simply good teaching practices. So why shouldn’t they be taught to all educators? We look forward to the day in which applied behavior analysis is a required aspect of all educators’ preparatory curriculum.

See below for a sampling of other reinforcing activities that have been noted to work well in specific schools.

Reinforcing Strategies For Students

1. Expand the fuzzy-gram, as various student clubs and teachers have, to include:

a. Garcia grams

b. Love-grams for Valentine’s day

c. Patty-grams for St. Patrick’s day

d. Bunny-grams for Easter

e. Boo-grams for Halloween

f. Gobble-grams for Thanksgiving

g. Christmas-grams for Christmas

Because clubs often use fuzzy grams within a fund raising activity. they often level a small charge for each gram. The purchaser fills out, the form, signs his or her own name, and indicates to whom it is to be delivered. The gram is delivered that same day perhaps along with a piece of candy, a flower, or other reinforcing item.

2. Use daily report cards (Ch. 11)

3. Use behavioral contracts (Ch. 11)

4. Earn marbles or points for improved academic or social behavior exchangeable for a special class activity

5. Earn time to play basketball with the principal or teacher, based on improvement in academic or social behavior.

6. Permit them to self-record their own behavior (Ch 11)

7. Set up classroom rules (see the Web page for Chapter 26 on classroom rules)

8. Jointly set up daily, weekly and yearly goals with students (Ch 26)

9. Greet students in a friendly manner as they come in the classroom (Ch 26)

10. Provide students with choices (Ch 26)

11. Match materials to students’ abilities (Ch 26)

12. Increase feedback to students and parents

13. Provide points or tickets, exchangeable for various high preference activities and items as rewards for bringing materials, dressing properly for P.E., and for other behaviors in need or improvement

14. Provide certificates, awards or other items or events identified as reinforcers for improvement and excellent performances.[2]

To Foster Constructive, Collaborative Staff Performance

1. Promote camaraderie by familiarizing staff members with one another. This can be abetted by asking them to complete questionnaires about themselves and share them with one another (name, where born, lives now, schools attended, size of family, favorite sport, hobbies, and other especially interesting information).

2. Encourage staff members to share pictures of their families and pets with one another.

3. Organize a fuzzy-gram or secret pals program for staff. (Described in Web section for Chapter 12).

4. Send positive notes to a few teachers each week recognizing their contributions to the school and special support for specific students.

5. Engage staff in “Positive reinforcement bombardment” (described in Web section for Chapter 12) and encourage them to develop similar programs for their students.

6. During staff meetings, provide time for sharing constructive ideas and strategies that teachers and others have found helpful in improving classroom management and staff morale.

7. Set up complement boards in staff lounge for faculty members on which to post complimentary notes to one another.

8. Redecorate staff lounge.

9. Provide a coupon for those who arrive early or on-time to staff meetings. Hold a drawing for several prizes at the end of the meeting.

10. Publicly Recognize teachers’ special efforts.


1. Form teams to assess needs within school, to design/select programs and to provide support for staff members.

2. Establish schoolwide discipline policy and clearly define and differentiate roles of administration and teachers (see Web page for Chapter 26 on establishing school rules).

3. Call students to principal’s office to give them verbal and written compliments for their good grades and behavior. Send copy home to parents and insert into students’ files.

4. Distribute tokens or tickets to teachers, counselors, administrators, teachers and aides to help them teach appropriate behavior in classrooms and on the campus (e.g., throwing litter in the trash, being on-time to school and/or class, increasing the amount of class work completed, improved attendance, etc. (Specific behaviors are targeted and tokens are distributed contingent on its occurrence.) Tokens are exchangeable for assemblies, movies, picnics, field trips, and activities with the principal

5. Provide special recognition for improved grades and/or citizenship

6. Send home complimentary reports to parents for outstanding and improved performance

7. Provide a reward, such as free dance tickets, to students in the grade with the most parents attending an evening program for parents, or to classrooms with parental attendance above a particular criterion level.

8. Provide after-school tutoring. Teachers volunteer to provide after school tutoring for students in the school library a certain number of afternoons a week for given time. And/or set up a peer tutoring program as described in the book’s Web page for Chapter 12.

9. Develop a substitute teacher plan in which the teacher and class decide on a special privilege that they will earn IF their substitute teacher provides a positive report of their behavior. The teacher also provides the substitute with a folder containing: the names of two or three dependable students in each class who can aid the substitute; up-to-date attendance cards and forms; a note stating that students should not be given passes to go to the nurse, restroom or library unless in an extreme emergency; a list of classroom rules and standards; the names of two other teachers or aides who can give the substitute teacher some help and who are aware of the regular teacher’s current activities plus an evaluation form.

10. Develop a set of rules for hallway behavior, such as walk, use a quiet voice, keep hands and feet to self, and show hall pass during class time when out of classroom. Be sure to have people monitoring for those following the rules and providing reinforcers.

11. Develop a set of rules for lunch area behavior and an incentive program for following them. Rules could be:

a. Stay in place while in line, and keep hands and feet to self (no pushing, hitting or kicking)

b. Remain seated at assigned table in lunch area

c. Keep food on tray (do not throw food)

d. Speak quietly, using appropriate language

e. Keep hands and feet away from others

f. Place all trash in trash receptacles, leaving floor and table free of papers and food

g. Exit lunch area immediately after depositing trash

A class, or set of homeroom students, sits together and can earn 1 point for a, 1 point for b-e, and 1 point for f-g. Points are totaled up on Fridays, and the class (or classes in the case of a tie) is elected “Class of the Week,” thereby earning special privileges during the following week: being seated at a special table, bulletin board space in the cafeteria featuring the class’ activities, and special desserts. Also, any youngster who displays rowdiness in the cafeteria so as to spoil the chances of his or her class winning may be required to eat lunch alone; he or she may also be the last to be dismissed from the lunch area that day.

12. If excessive litter is an issue, develop a program for a litter free campus. Administrators, teachers, aides, and a few select students distribute tickets to youngsters as they place litter in trash receptacles. . Recipients then write their names on the back of the ticket and place it in a decorated coffee can associated with their respective grade levels. At the end of the week, a drawing is held and the students with winning tickets receive a special prize provided by funds allocated by the student council (or donated by PTA, or local businesses). Additionally, the grade level receiving the most tickets can be treated to a special assembly featuring special events such as a magic show, or a performance by a rock band. These incentives are gradually reduced over time. Also, when litter is reduced over the previous day the school flag can be flown.A special announcement occurs when litter is reduced to almost zero throughout the campus. In addition to stressing pride in the campus, educate the students in the importance of recycling, clean environments, saving our earth, and food conservation. Addressing these topics can provide students with a further rationale for keeping the campus clean.

13. Establish rules and incentives for appropriate lavatory behavior. Rules can include:

a. Always flush the toilet after use

b. Place all paper towels in trash cans

c. Keep feet on the floor (no kicking doors or standing on toilets or washbowls)

d. Keep the floor, walls, and ceilings clean

e. Always turn off the water after using it

Lavatories are periodically checked and scored on the basis of how closely their condition matches the established rules. Improving cleanliness of restrooms results in a special reward while clean restrooms for a week result in a big reward, such as a special assembly, an extra recess, free deserts, or what ever is negotiated by students and school administrators.

14. Establish rules and incentives for appropriate behavior on the school grounds or playground. Lewis and Sugai (1999, p. 8) suggest the following:

a. Be kind (invite others to join, include all who want to play, and accept skill differences/teach rules to others)

b. Be safe (use equipment appropriately and stay in designated areas)

c. Be cooperative (agree on game rules before you start to play, follow game rules, take turns, and use peer conflict mediator, teacher, or adult playground supervisor to resolve conflicts)

d. Be respectful (keep game rules the same during the game, use appropriate language, and line up when bell rings)

e. Be peaceful (problem-solve conflicts and return from the playground quietly)

Students observed following a rule are given a token. Tokens can be exchanged for special privileges such as videos, local trips, extra desserts, free time, items in a school store, etc. Also, an interdependent group contingency could be added, such as the classroom possessing the most tickets by Friday receives special privileges the following week, such as first in line for lunch, a special table at which to eat, and so on.

15. Reduce tardiness. Several methods have been found to reduce tardiness. Besides daily report cards and behavioral contracts, some teachers have successfully used:

a. Writing a couple of the answers to an upcoming quiz or homework assignment on the board before the beginning of the period, and erasing the information when the bell rings to signal the start of class.

b. Giving a short extra credit quiz at the beginning of class.

c. Removing tardy marks for on-time attendance: One school had a policy of 5-tardy marks resulting in a suspension. A teacher noted that although early in the semester, a number of his students had 3 to 4 tardy marks. . He decided to help make the program a bit more positive by negotiating with the class a practice of removing a tardy mark from a student’s record for five consecutive days of arriving at class on time (a good example of negative reinforcement). He then paired this procedure with considerable praise for punctuality and was able to diminish tardiness to nearly zero for the remainder of the school year.


Cotton, J. L., Vollrath, D. A., Froggatt, A. L., Lengnick-Hall, M. L., & Jennings, K. R. (1988). Employee participation: Diverse forms and different outcomes. Academy of Management Review, 13, 8-22.

Fellner, D. J., & Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (1985). Occupational safety: Assessing the impact of adding assigned or participative goal setting. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 7, 3-24.

Fox, L., & Little, N. (2001). Starting early: Developing school-wide behavior support in a community preschool. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 3, 251-254.

Gillat, A., & Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (1994). Promoting principals managerial involvement in institutional improvement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 115-129.

Horner, R. H., & Sugai, G. (2000). School-wide behavior support: An emerging initiative. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2, 231-232.

Lewis, T. J., & Sugai, G. (1999). Effective behavior support: A systems approach to proactive schoolwide management. Focus on Exceptional children, 31, 1-24.

Mayer, G. R. (1999). Constructive discipline for school personnel. Education and Treatment of Children, 22, 36-54.

Mayer, G. R. (2002). Behavioral strategies to reduce school violence. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 24, 83-100.

Mayer, G. R. (2005). Schoolwide Discipline. In M. Hersen, G. Sugai, & R. Horner (Eds.), Encyclopedia of behavior modification and cognitive behavior therapy: Educational applications, vol. 3. (pp. 1496-1506). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Mayer, G. R., & Sulzer-Azaroff, B. (1991). Interventions for vandalism. In G. Stoner, M. K. Shinn, & H. M. Walker, (Eds.), Interventions for achievement and behavior problems. Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists Monograph.

Mayer, G. R., & Ybarra, W. J. (2003). Teaching alternative behaviors schoolwide (TABS). A resource guide to prevent discipline problems. The Los Angeles County Office of Education, Safe Schools: Downey, CA.

Sprague, J., Sugai, G., & Walker, H. (1998). Antisocial behavior in schools. In H. Watson & F. Gresham (Eds.), Handbook of child behavior therapy (pp. 451-474). New York: Plenum Press.

Taylor Greene, S. J., & Kartab, D.T. (2000). Durable implementation of school-wide behavior support: The high five program. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2, 233-235.


[1] These guidelines may readily be adjusted for use in organizations other than schools

[2] See and freely use and adapt the attached certificate.


Google Online Preview   Download