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Teacher support system developed by MU researchers might lead to improved student behavior

Study finds the success rate of teacher management strategies nearly doubles under a system of training, coaching and feedback

March 08, 2018

Story Contact(s):
Cailin Riley,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Research shows that students who consistently demonstrate appropriate social, emotional and behavioral skills are more likely to benefit from academic instruction. However, the majority of educators don’t receive adequate training and support to implement effective classroom management tactics. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have developed a schoolwide system of training, coaching and feedback that improves teacher use of evidence-based practices that support students with behavioral challenges, which then may have a strong positive impact on student behavior and academic achievements.

Barbara Mitchell, an assistant research professor in the MU College of Education, and Timothy Lewis, professor of special education, say their proposed solution fulfills the overwhelming need for a strong system of support for teachers. The system also moves teacher professional development practices away from a “train and hope” model, which usually doesn’t give enough ongoing coaching to teachers and discounts the varying levels of support individual teachers need.

“You can give teachers a description of an intervention, practice or strategy and some of them can go and successfully implement it without needing further support,” Mitchell said. “However, other teachers require feedback or coaching on a regular basis. This is similar to how students with different abilities need varying levels of support to be successful.”

The support system in the study, which consisted of multiple trainings on proactive classroom management, coaching and regular observations with feedback, helps teachers build their skills while also keeping them accountable. Mitchell says with data-based performance feedback and coaching, teachers are more likely to keep new practices at the forefront of their mind during day-to-day activities. The researchers also found that many teachers were willing to adopt newly learned practices because once they were implemented correctly they often saw immediate change in student behavior and the overall classroom environment.

“Student behaviors don’t change until the adult who is in charge of the environment changes,” Mitchell said. “When teachers are given the tools they need to make simple changes or adopt new strategies, it encourages them to persevere with intervention tactics.”

“Enhancing effective classroom management in schools: Structures for changing teacher behavior” was published in Teacher Education and Special Education. Regina G. Hirn of the University of Louisville was a coauthor of this study. This research was supported by the Office of Special Education Programs within the U.S. Department of Education (Award: H326S1300004). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and is not an official endorsement from the funding agency.