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Problem Solving Approach to Changing Behaviour

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A Problem Solving Approach to Changing Behaviour

Has anybody tried the following strategy? When working with individual students I can really recommend it. This approach requires a structured setting in which the student agrees to the need for change. The discussion should start in general terms and it is important to discuss what is going well before focusing on areas of difficulty. When the discussion moves to problem areas it is important that the student decides which area needs to be worked on. Once the area of difficulty has been established discussion needs to focus on times when the student has managed to achieve success in this area.

What is it that helps to achieve success? List the student’s strengths and resources that contribute to success. Draw a line representing a scale of 0 - 10 where

0 = the worst it could be and

10 = utopia

Ask the student to indicate where they feel they are on that line, mark the place with the appropriate number. Ask the student where they would like to be and mark that place with the appropriate number. Find out what it would take to move towards the desired position, what it would feel like and what would be different. Ask the student to provide the solutions. Set achievable targets.

The advantages of this approach are:

The student is encouraged to take responsibility for his/her behaviour.

The student feels listened to.

The approach has a positive effect on self-esteem.

I would be interested to hear about anyone’s experiences using this approach which I consider to be as much a life skill as an educational strategy.

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What you describe is very much what intelligent and successful people do in their head’s all the time. I agree, that this is a good strategy to adopt with students. The problem is that for it to work the student needs to be given a lot of special attention. I can see it working in a small group situation (for example, a Special Needs Unit) but have doubts about how practical this system is when you are teaching a class of 30 plus. So many of the problems faced by teachers are caused by class size.

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This problem solving strategy is only meant to be used with individual students in SEN units or in the pastoral system and not in a classroom situation. However, I think that most teachers become involved in talking to students who have problems that need resolving on an idividual basis. Whilst I think that people may use a modified version of this technique as you suggest, in my experience the power of this strategy lies in being able to support an individual whose problems seem so overwhelming to them that they are unable to help themselves.

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Thanks Anne - this actually sounds like just what I need.

I started the year with about 4 (almsot 5) students who displayed extremely challenging behaviours in the classroom. In one term I've managed to bring that down a significant amount but two of them in particular are still proving to be very difficult - including one boy who has just managed his 9th suspension in about 17 weeks of schooling - mostly for serious violence against other students and teachers. Another isn't a regular suspension, but is very difficult to control in the classroom. The other 2-3 are improving but still challenging.

I think that your strategy above will be great for these students, to discuss their current behaviours and where they might like to head in the future and how they see their time at school.

I have a uni intern starting with my class this week, so I might be able to use some of my time sitting down individually with these students (because seriously, when else do you get that time) and follow your basic strategy above. It would be good to have a serious discussion with them and get them to think positively about their time at school and what they hope to achieve.

I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes...

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Time - I think John hit the nail on the head. I will try this strategy when I have time.

Targets - I think the kind of individually-tailored targets Anne is suggesting are useful.

It is unfortunate that the basically good idea of having targets for pupils has become a behemoth. An alienated child is laden with twenty targets which make her/him feel more alienated. Targets which the child "has possession of" seem more worthwhile

I think Anne's strategy is a good one and I will give it a try

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The problem solving approach I have described is a simplified outline of Solution Focus Therapy developed in 1986 by a group of therapists in Milwaukee. Since then this therapy has gained huge international respect. The essence of this therapeutic approach is

to work with the person rather than the problem;

to look for resources rather than deficits;

to explore possible and preferred futures;

to explore what is already contributing to those possible futures;

to treat clients as the experts in all aspects of their lives.

For more information - solution@brieftherapy.org.uk - their courses are in my opinion inspirational.

I have known students become so involved in using this technique that they will give me the day's number on their scale without a prompt.They can become very adept in using this framework to break down what seems like an insurmountable problem. Using what is referred to as the 'Miracle Question' the facilitator helps the student articulate hopes for a preferred future where the problem is resolved by saying the following;

While you are in bed asleep tonight a miracle happens and the problem which brought you here is resolved. When you wake up how will you know that the miracle has taken place?What will you be doing differently? What will others be doing differently?

donnaGEM do let me know how you get on if you try this technique.

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