Teaching teachers to manage classrooms

Teaching teachers to manage classrooms

Karen Henry

A teacher in a classroom

What if a teacher could manage a class like clockwork—including those students with challenging behaviors—and even when teaching tough lessons? That’s the way CW-FIT (Class-wide Function-related Intervention Teams) works. What’s more, teachers do use clocks—actually timers—as part of the system’s game format.

Classes are divided into teams of two to five students. The teacher sets a timer to ring every two to three minutes. At the beep, the teacher awards a point on a chart to teams with everyone engaged in appropriate behaviors. At the end of the class, rewards are given to each team that meets a stated goal. Students who need more support get booster sessions. They are the managers of their own behavior and are directed to award themselves points if they are behaving appropriately during the time interval.

Beginning in 2005, LSI behavioral scientists Howard Wills and Debra Kamps began testing their classroom management system to improve students’ engagement during academic instruction. Since then more than 1,600 students in culturally diverse urban communities in Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Utah have benefitted from the program.

“Our research showed that classes as a whole stayed on task better. Students with behavior issues decreased disruptive behaviors and also stayed on task more often,” said Kamps.

Students also reported that they liked the system. “One student even taught her family how it works,” said Wills.

Further, teachers found CW-FIT easy to use and very effective. Wills and Kamps are now conducting a more extensive evaluation of CW-FIT with schools in Missouri, Tennessee and Utah. Nearly 3,000 children will have participated in CW-FIT by 2015.

“Students with disabilities and at risk for emotional or behavioral disorders—between 3 and 6 percent of school-age children—have an alarming risk of failure in school,” said Wills. “The need for evidence-based interventions that improve classroom management and ameliorate or prevent severe problem behavior is of the utmost urgency.”