Student Focus: Jim
Student with Behavioural Issues
What we know from the case study:
  • Jim has not been identified and is not currently on an IEP
  • He refuses to complete any assignments
  • He will not participate in drama class
  • He will not participate in music class
  • Causes disruptions during class, and considers it “gay”
What we can assume from the case study:
  • Jim comes from the arts feeder elementary school (he is not one of the four from the other schools)
  • He is being a disturbance to other children in the class
What we don’t know:
  • What issues in Jim’s personal life, outside of school, are affecting his behaviour in the classroom
  • Does Jim have an undiagnosed behavioural disorder such as ADHD, ADD, or ODD
  • What has happened in Jim’s past that could be affecting his behaviour today
  • Is he having troubles understanding the assignments
  • Has he had previous challenges understanding assignments in the arts
  • Could he possibly have issues with physical aspects of learning; hearing or seeing what is happening and expectations
  • What work was done with his previous teachers, and what behavioural management techniques they used that were successful to get him engaged

Inclusion of behavioural students can be a complex challenge for teachers of the arts. They can create a vortex of students who stop participating in the intermediate grades, because of social awkwardness and wanting to fit in. According to Langdon & Vesper (2000) managing student behaviour is among the biggest problems faced by schools today. Mrs. Brown will need to address Jim’s needs and get him to participate immediately in order to contain his negative outlook on music and drama. Also, since this is still in the first few weeks of school it is critical to change Jim’s attitude towards the arts so he can start to get the most out of his arts education this year.

Since there is no clear definition of what steps to take for each individual student with behavioural issues it is important to experiment with a variety of approaches to see what the student responds to. Susi stated that,
Establishing and maintaining a well-organized and supportive art classroom is a formidable challenge
because each aspect of management has both obvious and subtle dimensions. The fact that these
principles and guidelines must be applied in the classroom populated by groups of youngsters from
different cultural backgrounds and home life situations and with different levels of ability and motivation
to learn makes the teacher’s job all the more complex (2002).

Taking this into consideration, outlined below are suggestions from Susi (2002) of some techniques that Mrs. Brown can use with Jim and figure out which techniques he responds to best and use that as a productive, stimulating, educating, and successful teaching technique .
The Teacher’s Responsibility:

Hoover and Kindsvatter (1997) outlined guidelines for art teachers to create success for students with behavioural issues. Mrs. Brown should take into consideration the following:
  • Set out procedure that guide students behaviour while allowing students to foster self-control and personal responsibility
  • Ensure that there is opportunities for each and every student to be successful
  • Always make sure that you as a teacher are not adding to the students situation making it worse
  • Expect compliance with reasonable and fair policies
  • Earn their respect by being respectful.
  • Show tolerance for their values and interests by discriminating between what is personally offensive and what is truly disruptive

Students should always be interested in what they are learning. If a teacher can engage a student and keep their interests in the subject they’re teaching, behavioural issues will be minimal. Mrs. Brown needs to find what Jim is interested in and bring that into her lesson plans. She needs to keep him intrigued in the lesson.
Classroom Layout:

The space in which daily classroom activities happen can affect students learning. The way students interact with each other, proximity to certain individuals and objects, and other factors can be major contributors to students’ behaviour. This would be a good opportunity for Mrs. Brown to make assessment notes on whether Jim has less behavioural issues in different locations. Since he is undiagnosed, his behavioural issues could stem from something as simple as poor vision and not being able to see the board.

No single classroom layout has proven to be the most successful and teachers much take into consideration their classroom, students, and lesson plans for what layout with fit their needs best. I would suggest that Mrs. Brown try a variety of these layouts listed below and see if Jim has a positive response to one in particular.
  • Row and column layout: This is effective for having students face forward, directing their attention to the front and viewing the teacher for lecturing or modelling. This allows the teacher to have a continuous view of their students to monitor behaviour. This is not ideal for most classrooms whenconducting lessons in the arts, as it does not allow room for physical participation.
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  • Horseshoe or circular format: This is a great setup for discussions. If a teacher wants to encourage participation if discussions amongst their classroom, this is an ideal setting. It is excellent for eye-contact, as well as allowing a center “stage” for drama and musical activities to be performed on. This format could be a great idea for Mrs. Brown. Jim would be able to observe how his fellow students are behaving and perhaps be influence in a positive way.
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  • Modular set-ups: This is an excellent choice for Mrs. Brown. Putting students into small groups is an effective behavioural management technique. If Mrs. Brown were to create a group that includes Jim with students that are in his social group, but have desired behaviours in music and drama, then there is the chance that he will immerse himself in this dynamic and adopt their behaviour. Collaboration within a classroom is a powerful tool. She will have to pay close attention to this technique and ensure that he is not having negative effects on his peers.


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Rules:

Behavioural students, such as Jim, can have a hard time accepting rules and regulations. Some behavioural students challenge authority and can be very uncooperative. Each teacher will outline their rules based on their personal teaching style. Depending on the teacher and their personal pedagogy their rules will vary in strictness, intensity, policy and manner in which they are carried out.

There are many different techniques that are popular with teachers today, one of which is having their students involved in creating a class set of rules together, and signing it like it is an official document. Jim is in need of clearly defined rules, as well as consequences. Once the rules are established Mrs. Brown will be able to follow clear and consistent direction in her behaviour management. Jim will benefit from the repetition of rules and consequences for his behaviour and will begin to understand that incomplete assignment and disruptive behaviour lead to undesirable results.

Just as important as consequences is positive reinforcement. When Jim does reach a desired result or complete a goal, he should be recognised and rewarded for such behaviour. An effective technique here would be to introduce more responsibility that he desired as a reward. Maybe, he could be in charge of handing out the instruments, or supplies. Often behaviour students are excellent leaders and respond well to being assigned tasks.
Proximity:

This is a very simple and effective behavioural management technique. It is amazing how students respond to non-verbal communication. Without saying a word, a teacher can entice a desired behaviour from a student with this traditional and simple teaching technique. When a student is starting to exhibit an undesirable behaviour, (such as Jim calling the arts “gay”) they can simply move towards the student, say nothing, and stand beside them continuing their lesson. This proximity allows the student to self-monitor, has no outright consequence, and can serve as a reminder of appropriate behaviour, without centering out the student.

Monitoring:

The key to this principle is to circulate. Get up and get around the room. While your students are working, make the rounds. Check on their progress. An effective teacher will make a pass through the whole room about two minutes after the students have started an assignment. Mrs. Brown should check that each student has started making it a general assessment, so Jim does not feel centered out, but feels that he has the same expectations as every other student. The delay is important. She provides individualized instruction as needed. If there are students who are not yet quite on task they will be quick to get going as they see her approach. Those that were distracted or slow to get started can be nudged along. The teacher does not interrupt the class or try to make general announcements unless she notices that several students have difficulty with the same thing. The teacher uses a quiet voice and her students appreciate her personal and positive attention.

The main idea of monitoring is to gain a general knowledge of what is going on as a class as a whole, and make sure to nip problems in the bud, before they escalate.
Knowing what to do when a problem does arrive:

As mention above, all students should be aware of the consequences for misappropriate behaviour. The teacher is required to intervene when such a problem arises. Mrs. Brown should make sure to be quick and concise with her actions, and make sure that they are clear and directive for Jim. She should remain calm and use her preplanned list of action. She should start with the easiest expectation for the student to follow and increase in severity as the situation increases. Susi (2000) outline a clear and concise list of ideas that Mrs. Brown could use:
  • Make eye-contact with Jim (or proximity) while continuing the lesson
  • Use Jim’s name in the lesson or as an example
  • Remind the class as a whole of their expect behaviour
  • Direct a quiet signal at Jim
  • Ask Jim to move his seat
  • Ask Jim to leave the classroom to a predetermined area for reflection on his behaviour

References:
Hoover R. & Kindsvatter, R. (1997). Democratic discipline. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Langdon, C. & Vesper, N. (2000). Teachers’ attitudes towards the public schools. Kappan,81 (8), 607-611.
Susi, Frank D. (2002). Behavior management: Principles and guidelines for art educators. Art Education, 55(1), 40-45.