Education assistants support teachers in the classroom by understanding students’ behavioural characteristics, assisting in developing individualized student programs, and much more. To help them accomplish important tasks like these, education assistants help carry out behavioural interventions for students who exhibit problem behaviours or who are struggling academically.
One type of behavioural intervention that’s frequently used in schools is called positive behaviour support (PBS), which is designed to promote good behaviour in students. Because PBS is so widespread in education, it is important for education assistants to understand the theory behind it and how it is applied in the classroom.
Positive Behaviour Support Helps Encourage Good Behaviour in Children
PBS is a type of behaviour management system that is widely used by schools as a way of reducing problem behaviour and encouraging good behaviour in students. According to non-profit research organization Child Trends, problem behaviour can include externalized behaviours like “aggression, disruptive behaviour, and oppositional defiance” and internalized behaviours like “withdrawal, anxiety, or depression.” PBS is based on the assumption that problem behaviour occurs because something in the student’s environment rewards or encourages such behaviour. PBS focuses on identifying the root cause of problem behaviour and developing a plan to discourage it while also encouraging alternative, positive behaviours.
Schools utilize PBS using a three-tiered model: at the primary level the focus is on school-wide interventions, such as encouraging all students to walk rather than run in the hallways. The secondary level focuses on groups of students who are at risk of behavioural problems and who require short-term interventions. Lastly, the tertiary level focuses on interventions for individuals who have a persistent pattern of behavioural problems and require individualized attention. Tertiary level PBS typically applies to just 1-5% of the student body for whom primary and secondary level interventions are ineffective. For students who require tertiary intervention, an individualized behaviour plan is developed and implemented.
Educational Assistants with PBS Training Work to Identify the Root Causes of Problem Behaviour
If a child exhibits problem behaviour, PBS encourages first identifying if that student is being inadvertently rewarded for behaving badly. For example, many young children act out because they know that they will get attention by doing so. As a result, yelling at a child who is exhibiting such behaviour actually ends up rewarding them since the “punishment” draws more attention.
By utilizing the PBS strategies you learn during education assistant training, you can identify why a child is behaving poorly and what the best response to the behaviour may be. While PBS does allow for consequences for problem behaviour, such as through requiring the student to complete unfinished homework during recess, such consequences are not the final goal. Rather, PBS is focused on replacing problem behaviours with positive behaviours.
Education Assistant Training Will Show You How PBS is Applied in Schools
If you become an education assistant you will not only learn about PBS during the theory component of your training, you will also see it put into action during your career. That’s because PBS is used in most schools in one form or another. For instance, receiving a sticker or gold star for doing well on an assignment is an example of a primary level intervention that is applied at many schools.
In your education assistant career, you can also use PBS to replace problem behaviours with positive ones in individual students. For example, if a child is looking for attention, you may want to speak quietly to that child and calmly explain why their behaviour is inappropriate. Talking calmly removes the reward (i.e., getting more attention) that the child is seeking. With the reward removed, you can then ask them to complete the assignment. When the student completes the assignment, he or she can then be rewarded for doing so by being praised in front of the class. Praise satisfies the child’s desire for attention, but in a way that encourages him or her to seek that attention through positive behaviours.
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