Away from Reprimands, Toward Self-Regulation


How to Create a Culture of AchievementAlbert Bandura (1986) was not satisfied with what he saw as a simplistic view of learning, based totally on the environment and that which was observable. He did not believe that the behaviorist theory was making use of two of the things that make humans unique: observational learning (modeling) and self-regulation.

Bandura’s recommendations for addressing behavioral challenges can be clustered into three main areas:

  • invite students to reconsider their standards of behavior,
  • monitor their behavior,
  • and make changes along the way.

In applying Bandura’s recommendations, we have to be sure that we do not ostracize, shame, or exclude students based on their behavior. In fact, the goal of our self-regulation efforts should be to integrate the student as soon as possible after the situation has been addressed because we understand that the environment causes behavior and that behavior causes environment. Bandura labeled this concept reciprocal determinism, noting that both of these factors, behavior and environment, play a role in the learning that occurs.

The specific actions Bandura recommended include:

Behavioral charts: These are visual displays of behavior, albeit personal and not public. This can include an occurrence list, journal, or checklist. The idea is to keep track of the details, including when, where, and why, the behavior occurred. This tool is used for each occurrence of an outburst, and the student has been taught to select at least one response from each column.

Environmental planning: After analyzing the behavioral chart, the student is assisted in analyzing the chart, as needed. Although some students do not need help analyzing their behavioral charts, the conversation that a caring adult can have about the behavioral patterns is often useful. The analysis should provide the student with an idea of the actions he or she can take to avoid the behavior, including the removal of triggers or antecedents or the development of coping mechanisms following a specific stimulus.

Self-contracts: These are written and signed agreements with yourself to change your behavior and include the consequences and rewards for breaking or meeting the terms of the contract. These are often witnessed by school staff, but they are developed by the student, with assistance from a trusting adult, based on the analysis of behavioral charts and environmental planning.

A school culture should be a living example of a place where people, both adults and children, take responsibility for their interactions and make amends when they interfere with the well-being of others. We want to move away from reprimands and toward self-regulation. In other words, we want to put more energy into being proactive and preventative, rather than having to spend our days reacting to each infraction that occurs.

Adapted from ASCD member book How to Create a Culture of Achievement by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian. Until June 21st, Inservice readers can purchase this book for a 15% discount by entering promo code Z34IS here.