Imagine this scenario…

Billy is struggling in mathematics with division problems that focus on dividing three-digit numbers by two-digit numbers. The teacher notices this struggle and tells Billy that he has one more chance to demonstrate his ability to solve the problem. Billy is no further in his capacity to solve the problem after this additional chance and continues to struggle. The teacher tells Billy he has run out of chances and will now need to receive a punishment or negative consequence as a result of his difficulty dividing multi-digit numbers. 

You undoubtedly note the absurdity of this situation. You’re thinking that Billy needs to be taught (or re-taught) strategies to solve this problem. You might recognize that Billy would benefit from Tier 2 support – more time and alternative strategies to master this essential mathematical skill. You might even predict that Billy’s difficulties with division stem from deficits in foundational mathematics skills – little sense of number or difficulties with basic computation – which will require Tier 3 supports. Yet if the same scenario was attached to a behavioral challenge, many of those same voices would be muted, and others would suggest the outcome described for Billy was reasonable. We too often, and inappropriately, view behavioral struggles differently than academic struggles, and it is this very dichotomy that we believe requires our full attention. Behavior and academics are inextricably linked and the teaching, learning, assessing, and differentiated support of behavioral skills and academics skills must be processed identically.

Education should have always been about more than academics. Students may earn acceptance into universities and skilled careers through academic achievement, but college is successfully completed and careers are sustained through the application of behaviors that are too infrequently prioritized and taught in our schools. 

Teaching behavioral skills doesn’t reside inside of a program or exclusively siloed inside of a Tier II or Tier III pull-out environment. It resides right where it should, alongside of academic instruction, with the classroom teacher. We have purposefully gleaned valuable conclusions and concepts from respected education research surrounding behavioral instruction. We have deconstructed, reconstructed, and reframed those strategies inside of a new framework (we call this the EFIB) to continue supporting students in their learning journey. A journey that has no finish line, as we all continue to learn and grow, adapting to our environment, while also proactively changing it.  

A new framework: EFIB

The Enhanced Focused on Integrated Behavior (EFIB) framework supports behavior from an integrated, systematic, and parallel perspective, with an enhanced focus on behavior that intertwines and complements academic engagement. The EFIB Framework address the inadequate attention currently placed on behavior, and builds a foundation that supports students’ academic and behavioral growth. EFIB is not only integrated in terms of behavioral skills with academic skills, but also within the behavioral domain itself, pro-social skills integrated with pro-functional skills.  

EFIB systematically and directly impacts all classrooms, all staff, all stakeholders, all behavioral skills, and is a comprehensive all-in-one approach. From Tier 1 content, instruction, assessment, & differentiation to Tier 2 diagnosing, strategies, and progress monitoring to Tier 3 educator-friendly FBA and BIP – we’ve got you covered with research-based, evidence-based resources

The thinking, planning, and operationalizing of EFIB occurs in parallel for academics and behavior, with both afforded equal importance. 

Significance

There is a strong significance of the connection between academic and behavioral learning outcomes. A framework for Tier 1 behavioral instruction must mirror the approaches educators use to design academic instruction. We have provided strategies, supports, templates, and guides. We have provided an approach that supports behavior from a whole child perspective, with an enhanced focus on behavior skills that support and enhance cognitive processes. Our approach rejects the deficit model to addressing misbehaviors, building a foundation that reinforces students’ academic and behavioral growth. 

We must apply the integrated and parallel framework beyond content acquisition so that we can explicitly address the pro-social and pro-functional behaviors that we want all students to exhibit. We sometimes hear from very well-meaning colleagues that certain behavior – like motivation – cannot be taught; students either have it or they don’t. it comes from within. We respectfully reject this position. Consider this: we cannot teach “reading.” Instead we teach students to: identify the 44 phonemes (sounds) within the English language; recognize initial sounds; discriminate sounds to identify letters; make letter-sound connections; blend phonemes when presented with graphemes; attack words; read fluently (with accuracy, appreciate rate, and prosody); employ appropriate and high-leverage skills and strategies to explicitly comprehend what they read; employ appropriate and high-leverage skills and strategies to inferentially comprehend what they read; and much, much more. We don’t teach students to read; we teach them to independently employ strategies intended to ensure that they can make meaning of what they read. Similarly, we do not teach motivation. We teach skills (see above) that enable in a student be self-motivating and engaged when learning, particularly when the learning process is uncomfortable or complex.

The paradox continues inside of differentiation. Inside of Academic Tier I, differentiation strategies have been well-defined for academic skills, but we must also provide the same level of application to the teaching and learning of behavioral skills. Illuminating this paradox forces us to redefine and reframe how we will provide differentiated instruction comprehensively and equitably to both academic skills and behavior skills. 

Assessment and feedback are also cornerstones of this integrated approach. All students need feedback, to reflect on the behavior that will contribute to success. We conceptualized the feedback process as a Reverberation Cycle. This cycle is unique in that the student has a major role in the feedback, hence the “reverberation.”  This cycle is built on trust, and allows students to analyze and synthesize feedback at the highest “meta” levels. 

Transformation Begins With…

Transformation cannot occur until we apply researched-based ideas to schools and classrooms. We must close the knowing-doing gaps. Transformation can’t occur until we see the significance – until we enthusiastically accept the responsibility. Now it’s time for us to act and collaboratively tailor the foundational of Tier 1 for each of our unique contexts; it’s time to build something transformative. 

What it is not

We recognize and respect that we did not invent the RTI triangle or the concept of the integration of academics and behavior. We did not intend to invent a new, prescriptive behavior program.  

Prescriptive behavior programs built on a system of rewards and consequence, and a concept of scale and functionality will not fully meet educators’ expectations because we do not own them. We have attempted to address the functions of behavioral Tier 1, respecting that teams of educators will necessarily craft the forms that match their realities. The realities about the pitfalls of behavior programs have become the signpost of our story because it addresses the problem we want to solve, and sets forth the journey we want to grow together in. 

What it is

We have attempted to re-conceptualize the challenge and redefined the opportunity. We have reconnected to those priorities and principles to which we should have been connected from the beginning. We created a framework and approach that enables us to meet the comprehensive needs of students. Our goal was to create new schemas for integration. New schemas require a new set of “engagement rules.” Looking at behavior from the EFIB approach is more than just the process of connecting academic pedagogies and practices to behavior. It’s about clearly seeing where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we must go. It’s recognizing the opportunity that exists in our current reality. There is an opportunity to meet students right where they are, growing learners academically and behaviorally. 

Beyond preparation

We all want our students to live a full, positive, and productive life. But we want more. We want them to thrive, succeed, give, connect, and change the world. As we continue on this most important of journeys, our society will rely even more on schools and educators to prepare the next generation of citizens for an increasingly more connected and collaborative world. We count on educators to provide every child with an education that nurtures both the academic and behavioral skills. 

All stakeholders, not only our dynamic teachers, must be involved in sustaining holistic, comprehensive learning. Leaders must equip and build capacities to guarantee that every child receives a high quality education every day. As instructional leaders and guides, administrators can collaboratively craft high-quality professional development for all educators, consistently and with fidelity. Like any new skill learned, the EFIB approach must be continually promoted, communicated, supported and refined as we progress through this journey. 

Support in discovery

We will succeed in this journey because we journey together. So many educators have contributed and are contributing to the need to craft a systematic set of behavioral supports for all students, beginning with Tier 1, as we have referenced throughout this chapter. We hope we have continued to ask the questions that prod, poke, uncover, disrupt, and diverge. 

Building community

Just as we must build a sense of community in our classrooms, we must build a collaborative culture amongst educators. We cannot be successful in building a comprehensive and impactful Tier 1 behavioral system without trust and belief in one another. In the midst of high takes testing, accountability measures, progress monitoring, and data disaggregation, there exists an even more heightened focus to create deeper connections and genuine relationships with our students and our fellow colleagues. The power of these relationships will always transcend any RTI intervention strategies or pull out program. The more tangible metrics become a part of our educational and society reality, the more we must purposefully seek those intangibles: care community and connection that increases collaborative capacity. 

Billy

We began our conversation with a peek into Billy’s world and that’s where we will conclude. A bit of Billy’s story resides in all of us. There is an aspect of being unheard, undervalued, and misunderstood in each one of us.  If education is going to truly transcend academics, we must refocus our sense of empathy. Transformative and empathetic learning requires that we view realities through our student’s eyes, and through one another’s eyes, seeking to understand human behaviors and how they fit into our educational schemas. Our students have unique needs, beliefs, and worldviews, and they are waiting for us to appreciate this fact. Their futures and our future depend on it. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s