School Name: Dr. Kearney Middle School
School District: SD#60 Peace River North
Inquiry Team Members: Carmen Gietz: firstname.lastname@example.org, Dale Boissonneault: email@example.com, Kory Cudmore: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kristina Anderson:Kanderson@prn.bc.ca
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Other: social emotional, behavioural
Focus Addressed: Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Self-regulation
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? We wanted to focus on how we support behaviour at school and consider ways to incorporate understanding of the role of lagging skills, in the ways students respond to demands and expectations, and increasing student voice specific to Functional Behaviour Assessments (FBAs) and Behaviour Intervention Plans (BIPs).
Scanning: We questioned students grades 7 through 9 at Dr. Kearney Middle School who currently had a H or R designation.
One thing we noticed was that there was a disconnect between the knowledge they were being taught in school and skills they needed outside the classroom. They determined that how well they did in school was based solely on grades, despite that most of the discipline referrals and difficulties they have had in school were more social-emotional. They seemed unaware of the connection between lagging self-regulation skills and academic success.
Students felt that there were adults who believed in them but could often only name one, although who the trusted adult was varied greatly. They determined if someone believed in them based on how the person communicated and if they were encouraged. They generally felt their teachers and staff were too busy to adequately help them.
The First People’s Principles of Learning that we referred to in the scanning process included:
Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational.
Learning requires exploration of one’s identity.
Focus: Students with these designations often feel that they are inherently bad, without a deeper understanding of where the behaviour has come from. We have a fear that the way we are doing behaviour reinforces these beliefs. We also wonder if our plans do not take into account student voice, lagging skills, trauma — including intergenerational trauma, and cultural identity. We also want to create a process that also communicates to teachers the complexity of supporting these students, and shift the paradigm from one of rewards and consequences (behaviourism), to a relational approach where students have a sense of ownership and self agency. We also want to work with how these students are stereotyped and discriminated against in the school system.
Hunch: Our school system, specifically the managing of behaviour through behaviour alone, perpetuates colonialism and ableism. As we tell the students what they are not doing, they often feel rushed, unheard and that we really are too busy for them. They often feel disconnected, unseen and unimportant. They often feel there is no way they can meet expectations, therefore they must be bad.
The current FBA/BIP process is from a purely behaviourist perspective; there is the prevailing thought that adults can change student behaviour by rewarding positive behaviours and punishing negative behaviours, without consideration of the individual factors of the student, including their past history (which often includes trauma) and lagging skills, especially in the areas of self-regulation. This gives the perspective to teachers that students are exhibiting challenging behaviours because they choose to, rather than viewing them as needing to develop new skills to meet expectations adaptively.
School structures tend to support unilateral problem solving, where the adults meet to decide on the problem that needs to be fixed – and how to fix it – without getting input from the student as to the barriers they face. Often our interventions are ‘prescribed’ and the same year after year, which may be because we are not taking enough time to understand the student’s unique perspective, strengths and needs, and how they are all connected.
New Professional Learning: This team worked on collaboration with individuals from Indigenous education, alternate programs, and staff involved with mainstream education. We had teachers, a school psychologist, counsellors, youth care workers and Indigenous support workers. We had people both who had been in the education system for years, as well as people who were new to the education system.
We also utilized Dr. Ross Greene’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model and several group members participated in training with this model this school year.
Taking Action: This is currently where we are: We are working on applying Ross Greene’s principles from his CPS model to our FBAs and BIPs. We want to help students to begin reframing their issues not as a product of being defective, but rather as their best attempts at managing the situation. This change in perspective needs to also go beyond the student to the teachers, staff and parents.
Some thoughts we have about where to go: We are hoping to start by reorganizing the meetings. We want to begin by discussing the possible lagging skills that are contributing to a student’s difficulties at school. The next step would involve the student and one of their trusted adults (chosen by the student), discussing with the classroom teacher and case manager their view of the issue. And at this point, for all the adults involved, their job is reflective listening and showing empathy and understanding. After the student agrees that we have heard them, the adults can explain their concern and collaboratively create a solution with the goal that all people at the table have to be completely okay. Ideally, there would be as much or more reflection by the adults as by the students. We want the student to communicate their perspective and their needs, as well as begin to understand how developing self-regulation skills will serve them in their life.
We are also hoping to adjust the FBAs and BIPs so that the assumption becomes “the students are doing the best they can,” rather than that they need to try harder.
Checking: We feel we have only begun. We have noticed that even the steps we have taken have led to deep conversations with peers regarding the importance of relationship building and student voice, as well as focusing on developing skills that support regulation as a foundation for our formal behavioural assessments and plans. We are hoping to continue this plan into the next year.
- Sharing our perspective and approach in working with these students with other educators and staff in our school.
- Creating a plan for behavioural meetings that is more aligned with plan B and ALSUP from the CPS model
- Regrouping to consider if the additions from the CPS model has had an effect on relationship building, student motivation, and development of lagging skills.