Back to School Series: Increasing and Decreasing Behaviors in Staff

August 15, 2017 No Comments
Our classroom paraprofessionals are there to help us.  However, we need to be mindful of how we make sure they are successful at helping us do our jobs.
Hopefully you got some ideas for discovering the preferences of your staff.  This is going to be key to figuring out what motivates them, what activities they find reinforcing.  This will make things much easier once we start thinking about the behaviors we want to increase (and possiblely decrease!).
We have all been there.  Maybe you had a staff member that looked at their phone more often that the data sheet in front of them.  Or you had a para that didn’t run a program the way you explained it.  It’s frustrating, and sometimes, you feel like you are the problem.
When we are thinking about what we want to change in the classroom, we want to keep one thing in mind.  It’s one of those ABA things that should be thinking about with our kids too (so many overlaps).  We should really be thinking about the skills we need to teach rather than the skills we are trying to diminish.  Many times, the behaviors that we don’t want to happen are happening because the individual doesn’t know another skill.

Think about what change you want to see in the classroom, not just the result

Thinking about the effect you want behavior change is important, yes.  However, we want to think about what observable behaviors will make this happen.  Maybe you really want to see your classroom be kept clean throughout the week.  In order to achieve this, we have to think about the behaviors that will cause this type of change.  Maybe it’s having a para sweep during their 1:1’s free time, or having paras make sure they put their garbage in the garbage when they are finished with it.
Setting goals together will definitely help with buy-in from classroom staff.  Like I mentioned before, think about the behaviors in objective terms.   Avoid thinking of goals in term of what you want the end goal to be.  For example, assisting a student to complete work in 20 minutes is thinking about the end results.  This can lead to staff not using the best methods to meet that goal, such as over prompting.  Picking one or two goals to target at a time is a great way to keep each other accountable, rather than setting multiple goals.  Kristine from Autism the TeenYears has an awesome post about goal setting with staff. 

Set them up for success

No matter how busy things might be, make the time to TRAIN YOUR STAFF.  This is personally tough for me to wrap my head around after all these years, but really, your staff will have no idea what you want from them unless you spend the time to discuss, model, and give feedback.  I’ll be discussing an evidence-based method to training staff next week.
Once staff is trained, I personally love using self-monitoring to help keep staff accountable.  Many school unions have rules against taking data or evaluating paraprofessionals, so this is not the type of self-monitoring where you are expecting staff to give you a hard copy of their self-monitoring data.  However, a simple checklist or task analysis can be great ways to help staff remember the steps they need to take when working with students.


Make sure you’re reinforcing staff immediately.  Just like with our kids, feedback is much more effective if it’s immediate rather than delayed.  How you reinforce is going to change based on your staffs’ preferences.
Verbal praise, many times, is going to be the method in which we’re reinforcing our staff.  Make sure praise is specific and enthusiastic.  Nothing is less motivating than a piece of feedback which you don’t even entirely believe the giver actually believes.  If you find staff is really reinforced by attention, you may even want to look for opportunities to let administration know what an awesome job they’re doing.  Be creative!

Read more from this blog series:
Week 2: Increasing and Decreasing Behaviors in Staff
Week 4: Handling Conflict with Staff


Our classroom paraprofessionals are there to help us. However, we need to be mindful of how we make sure they are successful at helping us do our jobs.
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