Misbehaving Students

Section One

Context of Behavior of Concern

Anderson exhibits undesired behaviors during the ESL lesson. When he is asked to answer questions in class, he makes animal-like noises and sometimes bangs his books on the table. Worse still, when his teacher asks him to walk to the front of the class to respond to questions or make contributions to discussions in class, he spends three minutes pretending to be tying his shoelaces. In one incident, he banged his friend against the wall and only stopped fighting him when the teacher asked him to stop. These behaviors show that he is non-compliant: he is not ready to take part in class activities, even when the teacher asks him to comply. He also exhibits physical aggression and tantrum behaviors by wrestling his friend and banging his books on the table as a way of demonstrating his frustrations. These behaviors are a problem to the teachers and the other students in his class.

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Priority Behavior

Time wastage due to non-compliance is the most disturbing of all the undesirable behaviors exhibited by Anderson. It impedes him from learning since it makes him spend less time in acquiring knowledge. Worse still, his non-compliant behaviors make him a passive learner. He does not acquire knowledge practically. As a result, he takes in less information compared to his classmates, who actively go through the learning process by answering questions and making other important contributions in class. The actions he does to avoid participating in class discussions: tying his shoelaces instead of going back to back to his seat, waste three minutes for him and the entire class every time he is given an opportunity to contribute to the discussions. In a week, it wastes at most 15 minutes for the entire class.

Intervention is necessary because it will help save time for Anderson and the entire class. It will also help him gain more from the ESL lesson through active participation in all class activities. The teachers need to bring his time-wasting tactics to an end to help him achieve the objectives of going to school.

Assessment Information

Anderson is not ready to comply with many of the rules set in school. He fights his schoolmates, bangs his books on the table without provocation and deliberately avoids participation in class. He looks for activities that can make the teacher excuse him from participating in discussions and answering questions. Most of the times, he pretends to tie his shoelaces. He engages in this activity for approximately three minutes. As a result, he wastes a lot of time for both himself and the other members of his class. The teacher is always forced to ask him to sit down and let somebody else answer the question. These behaviors need a long-term solution. Otherwise, Anderson will not gain anything from his classes and the entire class will lose an extensive amount of time giving attention to his tactics.

Strengths and Deficits

Most of the time, Anderson is a good student. He does his work very well when everybody is quiet in class. However, when asked to answer questions in class, he exhibits undesired behaviors. He wastes a lot of time moving back to his seat, pretends to be tying his shoelaces and even makes animal noises in class. Sometimes, he even becomes violent against his own friends.

Current Level of Functioning

Anderson recently soaked all his clothes when his mother told him they would go to church together. This was a very good excuse for him to miss the church service. When his mother came to ask him to accompany her to church, he told her he had already soaked his clothes. He also oversleeps, and his mother has to wake him up every day to go to school.


Anderson picked up the rebellious habit about two years ago. Previously, he was a very obedient boy. He always did what his mother told him without questioning anything. According to his mother, he suddenly changed to a boy that only does whatever his mind asks him to do, and not what other people tell him to do. He was never rebellious and non-compliant.

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Medical Status

Anderson has been visiting a psychologist for over three months now. The reports written by the psychologist indicate that he is very normal, but needs counseling. The report indicates that many children in Anderson’s age bracket tend to be rebellious and non-compliant, and that regular counseling can help shape them into good people. The psychologist warned Anderson’s parents against leaving him to continue with his behaviors since they may tamper with his development, making him a social misfit in the future. The psychologist’s report did not have any prescription for drugs or any other form of therapy. In fact, it said that drugs always have short-term effects and may cause dependency. Most of the people that have used such drugs have only shown signs of improvement while using the drugs, but when they are withdrawn, they go back to their original states.

Section Two

Physical Assessment

The assessment was carried out on 10th, 11th and 13th March 2015 during math lessons.

Time and date Antecedent Behavior Consequence
10thMarch 2015
12: 33
The teacher asked Anderson to go to the board and work out a question on algebra. Anderson loosened his shoelaces and pretended to have been tripped by one of the laces. The teacher asked him to stop tying his shoelaces and finish the sum first. The teacher then asked him to move his desk to the front after the lesson.
11thMarch 2015
12: 43
The teacher asks Anderson to go the board and solve a mathematical problem. He rises and walks straight to the board. He walks back to his seat after solving the problem. The teacher congratulates him for not tying his shoelaces and asks the class to clap for him.
13thMarch 2015
12: 30
The teacher asked the class a question about the steps followed in solving algebraic sums. Anderson raised his hand quietly. The teacher praised him for not hitting his books on the table. He said, “I would like to congratulate Anderson for voluntarily raising his hand to answer the question I just gave to the class. Today, he did not even wait to be asked to answer the question; neither did he hit his books on his table.”

Baseline Data on Non-compliance


Anderson was always not ready to answer any question in class. Every time he was asked to go to the board and work on a sum, he would pretend to tie his shoelaces, and whenever he was asked to just answer a question, he would hit his books on the table.


Anderson was very much used to this behavior. He never feared showing his rebellion to the teacher. Hitting his books on the table shows how serious the behavior was. He was very much used to it.


Anderson has been behaving this way for the past two years. However, his teacher only noticed it recently.


The observation was made during the math period, which runs from 12: 20 to 1: 05 pm. The teacher started a timer immediately he asked Anderson to return to his seat and stopped it when he arrived at his sitting position. He then recorded the amount of time that had elapsed between the time he asked him to move to the front and when he sat down. The latency recording log below shows the values obtained during the experiment.

Latency Recording Log (3/10/2015)

SD (teacher asked Anderson to return to his seat) Response latency (the time the student took to return to his seat from the timer)
3 3m 47s

11th March, 2015

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SD Response latency (total time the student took to return to his seat from the timer)
2 2m 3s.

13th March, 2015

SD Response Latency
2 1m 29s.

Average Time of Latency

Converting seconds into minutes

(47s + 3s +29s)/ 60s= 1.3m=1m 19 s

Sum of minutes

(3m + 2m+ 1m)+ 1m 19s=7m 19s

Average time taken

7 m 19s/3=2m 25 s

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Therefore, Anderson spent 2 minutes 25 seconds walking back to his seat after refusing to make his contribution in class.

Setting and Events

Anderson is always stubborn during the math lesson. He is very hard-working when working alone on assignments given to the class. However, when asked to walk to the front to work on something before the whole class, he, usually, does something that helps him avoid making his contribution. Most of the time, he pretends to be tying his shoelaces and wastes too much time in that action until the teacher decides to ask him to go back to his seat. Back at home, he is also very rebellious. He does not do any of the things his mother asks him to do.

Testable Explanation

Anderson’s behavior is meant to make him avoid participating in class discussions. A comparison to how he behaves at home confirms that he is rebellious and enjoys being non-compliant to both the parents and teachers. The best way to deal with his behavior is neglecting his negative actions and making him give his contributions no matter the excuses he gives. When he starts tying his shoelaces, the teacher should not excuse him from participating in class discussions. Instead, he should stop him from tying his shoelaces until he is through with contributing to the discussion. The teacher should then praise him to reinforce the replacement behavior. In case the student voluntarily moves to the front to answer a different question, the teacher should also reinforce the recurrence of this behavior by praising him and asking the other students to clap for him. If the non-compliant behavior continues, the teacher should not give it attention. He should ask the student to forget about the shoelaces and go ahead to answer the question. When the student hits his books on the table, he should not even look at him. Instead, he should ask him to answer the question. Apart from wanting to avoid participating in class discussions, the behavior is meant to give him attention. So, denying him attention will diminish the behavior. Therefore, attention is the independent variable while tying the shoelaces and making animals noises are collectively the dependent variables.


Anderson’s behavior, hitting his books on the table and tying his shoelaces, is meant to help him avoid participating in class discussions. It is also meant to draw the attention of teacher the whole class to him. Therefore, correcting this behavior will involve diminishing the undesirable behavior and reinforcing the replacement behavior. Particularly, the teacher will praise Anderson whenever he shows any sign of compliance and will neglect any sign of non-compliance. Any manipulation of the attention (independent variable) will cause a change in the way he responds when the teacher asks him to answer a question or go back to his seat.

Section Three

Literature Review

According to Gilliam (1993), it is very difficult to prevent the occurrence of crises even in ideal learning situations. Therefore, teachers should learn how to proactively deal with them. He proposes a three-stage method of handling crises among the students. This method entails the pre-crisis, during the crisis and post-crisis stages (Gilliam, 1993). All the three stages emphasize the prevention of the occurrence of the undesirable behavior. Among the main ideas in this method are: stating the rules and the consequences of breaking them and the use of physical intervention methods only as last resorts (Gilliam, 1993). Gilliam argues that the student must always know why he is taken through the intervention process (Gilliam, 1993). White and Koorland propose several interventions for handling cursing among students. They include time-outs, DRL, the use of approximations instead of real curses when correcting the students, reinforcing the use of less offensive words and avoiding the use of words that may encourage the use of curses among other interventions (White & Koorland, 1996). They argue that students use curses for the sake of creating a shock value.

Therefore, intervention methods should concentrate on fighting the eliciting of the shock value. On the same note, Webber and Shuermann (1991) argue that teachers and parents should work on accentuating the positive and diminishing the negatives among students. Their proposition entails reinforcing any sign of positive behavior and neglecting the negative behavior (Webber & Scheuermann, 1991). They insist that methods such as DRO, DRL, DRI and DRC are the best for carrying out the process of transforming the behaviors of misbehaving students. The proponents of this method believe that it is a good method of correcting bad behavior in class since it does not involve punishment (Webber & Scheuermann, 1991). They also argue that it can be effective in dealing with serious cases of bad behavior when combined with punishment. However, they advise teachers to use punishment only when all the other pro-social methods have failed.

The three articles mainly propose that the teacher should first identify the student’s problem, look for a pro-social and non-violent method of dealing with the problem, avoid using methods that may aggravate the problem and concentrate on what the student should be as opposed to what the student is. All the three articles emphasize the reinforcement of positive outcomes and ignoring the negative outcomes. They also agree that one method of handling the situation may not be enough for dealing with the undesired behavior. Therefore, several methods need to be combined in order to effectively correct the students.


Teachers should carefully study their misbehaving students to determine the real causes of their behaviors. They should clearly state rules that govern their students’ behaviors and also state the consequences of breaking the rules. In addition, they should be proactive in dealing with the undesired behaviors and know what to do when the behaviors escalate. However, they should not give too much attention to the negative behaviors exhibited by the students. Instead, they should concentrate on the replacement behavior. In the case of Anderson, the teacher should let him say what makes him agitated when asked to participate in class discussions and why he pretends to be tying his shoelaces whenever he is expected to walk to the front. The teacher should also neglect the negative behaviors: banging his books on the table and pretending to be tying his shoelaces, and reinforcing any slight deviation from this behavior.

Section Four

Description of Instrument

This research used the ABC chart that described the replacement behavior and the time it takes the student to exhibit the behavior. This instrument is appropriate to the target behavior, non-compliance. The chart shows that the student takes approximately 2.4 minutes to move back to his seat. The teacher expects the student to use five seconds to move back to his seat. The same instrument should be used in measuring the effectiveness of the intervention plan. After the use of reinforcement, ignoring the student and using a polite language to make him exhibit the replacement behavior, the teacher will use a timer to determine the amount of time the student takes to move back to his sitting position. Below is a sample ABC chart made on 10th March 2015 and the latency log made on 13th March, 2015.

13th March, 2015

Time and date Antecedent Behavior Consequence
10thMarch 2015
12: 33
The teacher asked Anderson to go to the board and work out a question on algebra. Anderson loosened his shoelaces and pretended to have been tripped by one of the laces. The teacher asked him to stop tying his shoelaces and finish the sum first. The teacher then asked him to move his desk to the front after the lesson.
SD Response Latency
2 1m 29s.

Replicable Directions

Replicable directions in this intervention plan include the use of reinforcement to encourage the recurrence of the replacement behavior and ignoring the undesired behavior with the view of bringing it to an end. These practices can be replicated by teachers dealing with other students or with the same student if the undesired behavior persists. During the replication, teachers should remember not to overuse the artificial reinforcements since they may cause dependency. The outcome may only be visible when the rewards are present and absent when they are not used.

Section Five

Goal of the Replacement Behavior

The goal of the replacement behavior is to make Anderson move back to his seat within five seconds after being asked to go back by the teacher. Therefore, it should completely eliminate Anderson’s habit of tying his shoelaces and making animal noises. The period between when the teacher starts his timer and when Anderson reaches his sitting position should be five seconds. Particularly, Anderson should stop taking 2.4 minutes and take 5 seconds to reach his sitting position.


The teacher should ask Anderson or request him to go back to his seat without tying his shoelaces or making his usual animal noises. This criterion will be effective since commanding him to go back or work on a sum infuriates him, making him aggressive. The time he takes to move back to his seat is measured using a stop watch. A series of reinforcements follows to make him adjust to the amount of time the teacher requires him to take when responding to his request. The reinforcement should be slowly withdrawn to prevent the occurrence of dependency. This ensures that he elicits the desired behavior even in the absence of reinforcement. In other words, the replacement behavior should be made to come out naturally and not dependent on the reinforcements.

Section six

Instructional Prompts

The instructional prompt the teacher should use whenever Anderson makes his noises instead of walking to the front or back to his seat and when he starts tying his shoelaces is staring at him in a manner that suggests warning him. When the teacher wants him to go back to his seat immediately, he will point at his seat. The teacher should explain to him in advance what the non-verbal signals he will use mean. For example, he should tell him, “When I point at your seat I mean you move back to your sitting position within 5 seconds”. These signals will help the teacher avoid shouting back at him and having to verbally remind him to go back to his seat every time. Shouting at Anderson agitates him further, and the use of signals completely eliminates such occurrences.

Responding to Positive Behavior

Reinforcement for Low Rates of Desired Behaviors

The teacher should reinforce Anderson for exhibiting slight deviations from his bad habits. For example, when he stays for a whole day without making his usual animal noises, the teacher should praise him and ask the class to clap for him. He should say, “Today, Anderson has not made his usual disruptive noises when asked to answer questions. Let’s all clap for him. Keep it up Anderson.”

Verbal Presentation

The teacher should phrase his statements carefully when asking Anderson to do something. Anderson is usually rebellious and non-compliant when the teacher commands him to answer questions in class. Therefore, the teachers should request him to move to the front and work out sums or should frame his statement in form of questions. For example, he should say, “Anderson, will you come to the front and work out this sum?” He can also say, “Anderson, kindly come to the front and show the class how they can work out this sum.” The manner in which the teacher communicates determines the kind of response the student will give. Students do not always take messages shouted to them by their teachers kindly. The teacher should try to be as polite in their communication as possible in order to easily communicate their messages to students who are usually easily agitated.


The teacher needs to advise Anderson to communicate his frustration using words instead of making animal noises. He should then check for any sign of improvement towards this direction and reinforce him appropriately. Speaking out the cause of his frustrations will prevent the occurrence of his outbursts. It will also help the teacher to come up with the best ways to handle him when the outburst occurs.

Responding to Inappropriate Behavior

Ignoring his Excuses

Since Anderson’s behavior in class is neither self-injurious nor threatening to his classmates, the teacher should ignore him. Whenever he makes his noises, the teacher should behave as if nothing has happened. He should not let the noise appear to be disrupting the progress of the lesson. If he had asked Anderson to answer a question, he should let him go on to answer it and neglect his protestations.


The teacher should also give Anderson time-outs to cool down and think about his behavior whenever he shouts in class. He will come back from the time-outs when he has realized that what he did was not right. In case he shouts again, the teacher should take him back to the time-out room for a longer period. He should only come out of time-out once the teacher is satisfied that he is ready to join the rest of the class and is remorseful for his behaviors.


The teacher should continue encouraging Anderson to tell him what his problem is. He should know why Anderson is always agitated whenever he is asked to answer a question and why he is always pretending to be tying his shoelaces just to be excused from participating in class activities. He should also continue with the process of reinforcing him whenever he uses words to communicate his problem instead of making animal noises. For example, instead of wasting time pretending to be tying his shoelaces, he should simply tell the teacher, “Sir, I am always uncomfortable answering questions in front of the class.” He can also say, “Teacher, I hate it when you command me to do something. I am not used to commands.”

Crisis Response

  • The teacher will loudly tell Anderson, “No making animal noises in class.”
  • If he persists, the teacher should ask him to go to time-out. If he refuses to go to time-out, the teacher should ask for help from another teacher and eject him from class.
  • He should let him stay in time-out for about five minutes before asking him to come back in case he will have cooled down. If he will not have cooled down, the teacher should let him continue staying there.
  • When taking him back to class, the teacher should explain to him why he was sent to time-out. For example, he should tell him, “You made your usual animal noises despite being aware that such behavior is against the rules.”
  • The teacher should then give him his expectations. He will say, “I want you to go back to class and answer questions whenever I ask you without making any noise or pretending to be tying your shoelaces”.
  • He should then allow Anderson back in his seat and ensure that the rest of the class treats him with dignity.

This intervention makes sense since it describes what the teacher should do before, during and after the crisis. Such a plan ensures that the student’s behaviors do not escalate. The reinforcement of slight improvements also encourages more improvements. In addition, this plan pays more attention to the positive behavior and little attention to negative behaviors. It only pays attention to the negative behaviors when a crisis is likely to occur or when it occurs. Therefore, the student sees the importance of transforming his behavior because everybody puts emphasis on good behaviors and not his bad habits.

Data Decision Rules

For this plan to succeed, the teacher must always reinforce any slight improvements in Anderson’s behavior. For example, if he goes back to his seat instead of pretending to be tying his shoelaces, the teacher should praise him and encourage him to move even faster next time.

The teacher must not pay much attention to negative behaviors. For example, if Anderson complies with the teacher’s request to have him stop tying his shoe laces and go back to his seat immediately, the teacher should not talk about the act of tying his shoelaces. Instead, he should accentuate the act of going back immediately he asked him to.

This plan will fail if the teacher shows aggression whenever Anderson becomes emotional. Aggression from the teacher will make Anderson more aggressive, and he will not correct his actions.

It will also fail if the teacher gives attention to Anderson whenever he shouts or wastes time moving back to his seat. Anderson’s behavior will persist if the teacher asks him why he ties his shoelaces or shouts every time he is asked to move to the front. He should not exempt him from participating in class activities because of these habits. All the activities should go on despite the negative behaviors Anderson shows with the view of disrupting the smooth progress of the class.


Gilliam, J. (1993). Crisis management for students with emotional/behavioral problems. Intervention in School and Clinic, 28(4): 224-230.

Webber, J. & Scheuermann, B. (1991). Accentuate the positives…eliminate the negatives! Teaching Exceptional Children, 13-19.

White, R. & Koorland, M. (1996). Curses: What can we do about cursing? Teaching Exceptional Children, 33-36.

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