It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Gaining Compliance Through Balance

GAINING COMPLIANCE THROUGH BALANCE: Here’s an approach to gaining compliance that works well at home or school. In this case, we’ll focus specifically on applications within the classroom using a strategy I call “Balanced Expectations.” The following observations of defiant and noncompliant students are addressed:

Observation #1: A student cannot be compliant and noncompliant at the same time. One of the surest and quickest ways of defeating noncompliant behavior is to empower the student out of it. The easiest way to accomplish this is to offer some sort of choice, although it should be made clear that choice is given all the time.

Observation #2: Defiant and noncompliant students generally feel “What’s the use, anyway,” that they are so hopelessly behind, and that everything they’re being asked to do is absolutely urgent. If we can chip away at this view, we have a chance of gaining more compliance.

Both of these characteristics are addressed when expectations are grouped into three levels: High, Mid, and Low.

High-level Expectations

This level is unyielding; there is no tolerance for any defiance or noncompliance, at all. This is made clear to every student; no exceptions. Whatever the hassle or cost, a high-level expectation will be enforced.

Safety issues at school are a great example, starting with school fire drills. Defiant and noncompliant students know they can’t stay in the building during a fire drill. Result: They leave the building like everyone else.

For a high-level expectation to be effective, a youngster has to know resistance will not be tolerated. This level works best when it is pruned regularly to contain only those expectations that are critical and worth the effort it takes to enforce them. If the high-level category becomes overloaded, old problems will return.

Mid-level Expectations

This level is always task-specific; its purpose is to get work accomplished by empowering students with choice. One way to accomplish mid-level expectations is to offer the same work in several forms or options. For instance, ten math problems could be offered on each of three sheets. The work is the same type and level of learning on each of the three assignments, so it makes no difference to the teacher which one a student selects. The ability to pick from a “menu,” however, could make a big difference to the student, a difference that could pay off in terms of compliance.

Another excellent way to employ a mid-level expectation is to offer a discard:

Tommy, here are five things to do this week. You can pick three and give two of them back to me.

Consider how much better this little empowerment exercise works as compared to giving Tommy the three assignments to start with.

Low-level Expectations

An expectation at this level essentially is a “give back” to a student. It will probably shock the youngster a bit, but he’ll like it, and he should respond favorably.

Low-level expectations are never task-specific; rather they focus on the approach to a task. I was using a low-level expectation in giving this assignment to my middle school students years ago:

Class, it’s now time to work on your SRA kits (reading). You know where you left off last time. Now, you can work at your desk, or you can borrow a clipboard and sit on our new carpet as you work on your assignment. You can stretch out and get comfortable, if you like. Just don’t go to sleep.

Or, if you’d rather, you can sit in the Reading Tub and work, or you can use either one of the large tables in the back.

Notice here how there was no choice as to task; they were told to work on their SRA kits. They had six choices, however, of where they could go to do the activity. That was a menu as to approach to the task. (Parents: Are you getting any ideas here? This works great at home, also.)

Offering students the same assignment, but on different colors of paper, would be the empowerment of choice of approach to a task. For some students, this could make a big difference in overall task compliance.

One additional benefit to the effective use of low-level expectations is that they seem reasonable and enjoyable to the students. They really do position the teacher well. This can only help with other compliance tasks throughout the school year.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064


September 23, 2011 - Posted by | Educators, family, Parents, Uncategorized | , , ,

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