The focus of this article is to describe the implementation and evaluation of a proactive classroom management model designed to enhance self-efficacy levels in teachers of adolescents who display disruptive behaviors in a classroom setting. The model was developed by a psychiatricmental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) as a component of a capstone project in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.
Adolescents with social, emotional, and psychiatric problems typically display inappropriate and disruptive behaviors within the school setting (Musser, Bray, Kehle, & Jenson, 2001; Singh et al., 2007). Teachers have struggled to keep students engaged and on task in completing school work while concurrently being challenged to address disruptive behaviors exhibited by students. Consequently, lack of training and skills in proactive responses often leads to ineffective classroom management and an increase in disruptive behaviors.
Teachers and Classroom Management of Disruptive Behaviors
Research has suggested that most teachers lack understanding of behavioral symptoms exhibited by students in the classroom and are also ill prepared in effective de-escalation methods for disruptive behaviors (Lannie & McCurdy, 2007). Many teachers have not been properly educated to recognize when a student begins to escalate until a crisis has already evolved; therefore, application of an intervention is often delayed. As a result, the student’s inappropriate behaviors are not neutralized, the disruptive behaviors persist, and teachers begin to respond to students’ behaviors in a reactive manner as opposed to using proactive strategies.
As the classroom environment is disrupted, all individuals within the classroom setting are negatively affected. The learning process of other students becomes compromised and, more importantly, teacher self-efficacy levels are affected and significantly compromised (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007). Accordingly, teachers often conclude that their abilities to maintain a controlled classroom environment are weakened. In response to disruptive behaviors, teachers often reprimand students and issue excessive sanctions for violations of classroom rules without providing an opportunity for students to correct the disruptive behaviors. Multiple sanctions issued to disruptive students often lead to suspensions or expulsions and referrals to mental health providers and facilities.
The author (R.T.P.) noticed while employed as a PMHNP at a state adolescent behavioral facility that students were being referred from various schools to the facility for disruptive behaviors. After identifying a problem in the clinical setting, a needs assessment was conducted at a local middle school. The principal at the middle school was presented data concerning disciplinary consequences for students who display disruptive behaviors, including referrals for evaluation at behavioral facilities. The principal was also presented a proposal to deliver a classroom management model at the middle school.
Prior to delivering the proactive classroom management model, time was spent with teachers at the middle school observing student and teacher interactions, including teachers’ responses to students who exhibit disruptive behaviors. Common disruptive behaviors observed in the classroom were students talking back to the teacher, talking out of turn, exhibiting verbal aggression, displaying disrespectful behaviors to the teacher, in addition to exhibiting oppositional and defiant behaviors. Oppositional and defiant behaviors (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000) exhibited were students failing to respond to the teacher’s request, becoming argumentative with the teacher in response to the request made, making efforts to deliberately annoy their peers, and exhibiting low frustration tolerance or responding opposite of the request made by the teacher.
The needs assessment determined that teachers need training on effective classroom management when addressing disruptive behaviors exhibited by students. Teachers at the middle school also expressed a lack of confidence in addressing disruptive behaviors exhibited by adolescent students in the classroom setting. The lack of confidence also strongly influenced the teachers’ reactions to students’ behaviors. The teachers also expressed a lack of gratification and self-fulfillment in their profession as a result of ineffective classroom management skills. The concept of self-efficacy has been associated with predicting success in one’s goals based on performance of tasks (Bandura, 1977).
The theory of self-efficacy, proposed by Albert Bandura, was selected as the framework for the project and is based on the assumption that teachers’ job performance is strongly influenced by confidence and skills necessary to manage the classroom. The self-efficacy framework was initially coined from the social cognitive theory, which targets the concept of interaction based on the environment, person, and behavior. Bandura (1977, p. 195) emphasized the sources of self-efficacy expectations as follows: (a) performance accomplishments targeting personal mastery experiences; (b) vicarious experiences that allow an individual to witness others in performance of a perceived threatening activity without receipt of negative outcomes; (c) verbal persuasion, in which individuals receive encouragement in their capabilities to successfully cope with a perceived threatening situation; and (d) physiological state centered on emotional arousal.
The self-efficacy framework is based on the assumption that one’s thoughts, beliefs, and feelings have the potential to influence one’s behaviors and actions. In situations that result in the individual feeling that he or she lacks control, the individual often avoids challenges that may compromise levels of confidence. Bandura (1977, 1983) identified dysfunctional inhibitions and defensive behaviors as determinants of low self-efficacy levels. He further suggested that successful performance of a task by an individual has a tendency to heighten self-efficacy levels.
Generally, the theory of self-efficacy determines the effect of one’s level of confidence as it relates to the ability to perform a certain task. Bandura (1983) concluded that there is a significant difference in possessing a certain skill and being able to use that skill even in the face of adversity. Individuals are typically fearful in performing tasks in which they doubt their skills; therefore, avoidance actions and defensive coping strategies are used, which further lower self-efficacy levels.
Proactive Classroom Management Training Model
The literature has revealed a lack of psychiatric and mental health consultants within the school system to assist and guide teachers in methods to effectively manage disruptive behaviors of adolescent students in the classroom setting (Walter & Berkovitz, 2005). According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it is imperative for teachers to understand the dynamics of their classrooms as well as behaviors exhibited by students individually as they relate to mental health concerns (Walter & Berkovitz, 2005).
Mental health professionals (e.g., psychiatric nurses, advanced practice registered nurses [APRN]) who practice in psychiatric treatment facilities receive a substantial amount of training in de-escalation methods to minimize disruptive behaviors and to prevent crises occurrences. Conversely, teachers within school settings should be equipped with similar training as mental health professionals because they work with similar populations in comparable situations.
The APRN, either a PMHNP or psychiatric-mental health clinical nurse specialist (PMH CNS), is an RN prepared at the graduate level and has advanced knowledge and skills in diagnosis and management of psychiatric and mental health disorders, medication management, and psychotherapeutic interventions (American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 2010). PMHNPs as well as PMH CNSs provide clinical and organizational consultation and community interventions, coordination of services, and referrals. Community interventions include needs assessments and program planning for at-risk groups in school settings (American Nurses Association, 2007). The PMHNP and PMH CNS are certified at the national level, licensed at the state level, and the scope of practice varies by state. The PMHNP with a DNP degree obtains additional expertise and training to improve patient and population outcomes through organizational and systems leadership and interprofessional collaboration (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2006). A proactive classroom management model consisting of early detection of probable student behaviors with utilization of proactive interventions was developed to deliver to teachers in a middle school. The model was designed to increase teachers’ knowledge and confidence in appropriately and safely managing disruptive behaviors in a classroom setting.
The development of the model included classroom observations, a needs assessment, and a systematic review of the literature. The proactive classroom management model was derived from evidence-based literature as well as the needs expressed by teachers of adolescent students during classroom observations over 3 months. The review of the scientific literature identified proactive, creative, and effective classroom management interventions used by teachers to address disruptive behaviors of students (Clunies-Ross, Little, & Kienhuis, 2008; Couvillon, Peterson, Ryan, Scheuermann, & Stegall, 2010). Development, implementation, and evaluation of the proactive classroom management model occurred over a 9-month time period. The pro-active classroom management model was implemented at the middle school.
Population and Setting
After obtaining Institutional Review Board approval, participants were recruited, over a 2-month period, from a rural public middle school in a south central state. Participants were a convenience sample of 27 teachers who serve as educators for 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade students ages 12 through 17. No participants were excluded regarding gender, ethnicity, or years of educational or teaching experience. Exclusion criteria included teachers nonaffiliated with the public school district as well as non-teachers.
Teachers were recruited based on inclusion criteria and their willingness to consent to program participation. Additional recruitment efforts were made through distribution of flyers at the school. Participants were provided the opportunity to volunteer for participation in the proactive classroom management program during teacher orientation at the beginning of the school year. This training was incorporated into the professional development calendar for the teachers; therefore, programming for routine scheduled workshops was not interrupted.
The proactive classroom management model intervention was constructed and delivered in five phases: Pre-Phase, Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, and Evaluation Phase. A total of 2 hours was allotted by the middle school principal to deliver the proactive classroom training program. The Pre-Phase and Evaluation Phase were 10 minutes in length whereas Phases I, II, and II were of 30-minute duration each. The participants were also granted two 5-minute breaks during the program.
Pre-Phase. During the Pre-Phase, an oral presentation explaining the training program and consent process was delivered to all teachers. Following the oral presentation, teachers were given the option to accept or decline participation in the training program. Teachers who declined participation remained in attendance as requested by the principal. Those teachers who were willing to participate provided written informed consent.
For those participants who provided informed consent, a folder was distributed that contained two Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale(s) (TSES long form) for pre- and posttest, one demographic survey form, and one program evaluation form. After distributing the folders with the enclosed documents to the participants, objectives of the training program were reviewed. The objectives were to (a) explain adolescent psychosocial developmental stages, manifestations of disruptive behaviors, stressors, and maladaptive coping strategies; (b) recognize the importance of emotional self-awareness and communication; (c) explain precursors to crises and preventive measures; and (d) demonstrate de-escalation methods with safety techniques. Participants who provided informed consent were then asked to complete the TSES and the demographic survey form. The Pre-Phase component of the intervention lasted 10 minutes.
Phase I. A Microsoft PowerPoint® presentation was delivered during Phase I and addressed:
- Freud and Erickson’s psychosocial developmental stages for children ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 18 (Corey, 2005; Snowden, 2010).
- Signs of common disruptive behaviors.
- Common teacher responses to disruptive behaviors.
- Effects of student behaviors and teachers’ responses.
- Signs and symptoms of psychiatric disorders (conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) (APA, 2000).
- Physiological manifestations of stress.
- The influence of stress in stagnation of psychosocial growth as associated with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Huitt, 2007).
- Examples of common stressors, ego defense mechanisms, and maladaptive coping responses by adolescents (Corey, 2005; Snowden, 2010).
Participants were actively engaged in the discussion of the topics covered in Phase I. The presentation and discussion in Phase I lasted 30 minutes. Participants took a 5-minute break between Phase I and Phase II.
Phase II. At the beginning of Phase II, participants were asked to partake in an engaging self-evaluation activity, which assisted participants in becoming conscious of their own emotions and personalities as well as the potential effect that their emotions and personalities have on others. The self-evaluation activity included a personality self-assessment using ice cream flavors (Personality Quiz, n.d.) and an emotional self-awareness activity using Johari Window (Shenton, 2007). The participants were asked the question, “If you had to select a flavor of ice cream, which flavor would you be?” Participants were provided several ice cream flavor options. Each flavor coincided with a different personality type. Participants were asked to stand when the flavor picked was called and the personality description was then provided. The Johari Window emotional self-awareness activity helped the participants determine beliefs, attitudes, and values that were unknown and known to self and others (Shenton, 2007).
After the self-evaluation activity, a PowerPoint presentation was delivered. Information presented in Phase II addressed self-awareness of emotions, transference and counter-transference, effective communication, recognizing precursors to aggressive behaviors, and verbal de-escalation for crisis prevention. Other points stressed during Phase II were the communication process; types of communication (verbal, nonverbal, paralanguage; therapeutic, non-therapeutic); types of adolescent behavioral emergencies; and responding to and debriefing after adolescent behavioral emergencies (Small & Tetrick, 2001). Phase II lasted 30 minutes. Participants took a 5-minute break between Phase II and Phase III.
Phase III. A PowerPoint presentation was delivered during Phase III, which covered verbal information and demonstration of safety techniques in the event of a crisis. Safety techniques covered included body posture alignment, stances, effective nonaggressive blocks, avoidance techniques, and activation of the buddy system. Additional content covered in the presentation was defining a crisis and explaining the crisis cycle including escalation, crisis, and de-escalation (Couvillon et al., 2010; Musser et al., 2001). Participants were allowed to observe the presenter demonstrate safety techniques; however, the opportunity for return demonstrations was not provided secondary to time constraints. Immediately after providing demonstrations, participants were asked to process, as a group, a case scenario (Figure) concerning all material presented throughout the 2-hour training program. All participants were engaged and participated in this activity.
At the conclusion of Phase III, participants were readministered the TSES. Phase III lasted 30 minutes. Although participants were allowed to openly ask questions throughout all phases of the program, participants’ questions and the presenter’s responses were not recorded or documented.
Evaluation Phase. Participants were asked to complete the evaluation form to obtain input and feedback concerning the structure and content of the pro-active classroom management training program as it related to the presenter’s knowledge of the topic, information provided, and methods of delivery. Additional suggestions and recommendations for future training programs were also noted. The evaluation phase lasted 10 minutes.
Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy Scale
Teachers’ self-efficacy levels were measured using the TSES (long form). The TSES, developed by Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001), has been used to measure the degree to which teachers perceive themselves as capable of bringing about significant positive outcomes such as managing their classrooms effectively. This instrument was structured in a full 24-item scale; however, a condensed 12-item scale has been formulated. Teacher capabilities are categorized in the scale according to three classroom domains: implementing instructional strategies, managing student behaviors, and engaging students in the learning process. The TSES was used to measure teachers’ management of student behaviors for this project. The TSES: Efficacy in Classroom Management subscale is measured in eight questions (3, 5, 8, 13, 15, 16, 19, 21) (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001):
- 3: How much can you do to control disruptive behavior in the classroom?
- 5: To what extent can you make your expectations clear about student behavior?
- 8: How well can you establish routines to keep activities running smoothly?
- 13: How much can you do to get children to follow classroom rules?
- 15: How much can you do to calm a student who is disruptive or noisy?
- 16: How well can you establish a classroom management system with each group of students?
- 19: How well can you keep a few problem students from ruining an entire class?
- 21: How well can you respond to defiant students?
The TSES is scored on a 9-point Likert scale. Subscale scores are determined by computing unweighted means of the items that load on each factor. The scale’s reliability is consistently high, averaging 0.94 for the 24-item scale and 0.90 for the 12-item scale (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001). Nevertheless, the scale’s construct validity has been evaluated and supported in studies (Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001). The TSES was used to measure self-efficacy levels of teachers at baseline and immediately following the training program to determine the effects of the intervention on self-efficacy levels.
Demographic Survey Form
The demographic survey form provided information regarding the participants’ gender, age, ethnicity, educational level, teaching experience, and training on disruptive behaviors in the classroom, mental health issues in adolescents, self-awareness, effective communication, and self-protective techniques. Demographic information was collected and analyzed, but is not reported.
The overall aims of the proactive classroom management model were to determine teachers’ self-efficacy levels at baseline, provide a proactive classroom management training program intervention, and reassess teachers’ sense of efficacy levels after program completion. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and were drawn from the TSES and the evaluation form.
Teachers assessed their levels of self-efficacy on a 9-point Likert scale using the TSES for the pre- and posttest. Data analysis was carried out on the subscale, Efficacy in Classroom Management. Data were analyzed through a paired t test as an effort to compare pretest data to posttest data and to determine whether the program influenced efficacy in classroom management. Consequently, the pretest mean of 53.77 (n = 26 [one teacher withdrew from the study]) had improved at posttest to 61.42 (n = 26) following the program intervention. These results revealed a t score of t(25) = 7.68 (p < 0.001), indicating a statistically significant increase from pre-intervention to post-intervention in the area of efficacy in classroom management.
The program was evaluated by the participants, in which there was an overall rating of 4.9 on a 5-point Likert scale. Recommendations from the participants included the need for more specific tips and strategies for addressing specific behaviors, more scenarios and opportunities for role-play for hands-on experience, development of more solutions to address disruptive behaviors, more explanation and clarity for presentation purpose, lengthier presentation on physical interventions and self-protective techniques, and more workshops of this quality in general.
The first aim of the project was to determine teachers’ self-efficacy levels regarding the management of disruptive behaviors exhibited by adolescents in a rural middle school classroom setting. This goal was accomplished through use of the TSES subscale, Efficacy in Classroom Management, as the assessment tool. The mean score at pretest concerning teachers’ self-efficacy levels in classroom management was 53.77 (n = 26), suggesting perceived deficits in classroom management skills.
The second aim of the project was to provide a proactive classroom management educational intervention on disruptive behaviors of adolescents to teachers in a rural middle school. Teachers were provided with three phases of training addressing disruptive behaviors, stressors, and common coping strategies of adolescents; emotional self-awareness and effective communication; and de-escalation and protective techniques. The overall rating of the program by participants, 4.9 on a 5-point Likert scale, suggested that the presenter was well prepared for the presentation, knowledgeable of the topic, and helped enhance the teachers’ knowledge regarding classroom management. Participants expressed verbally the need for continuation with the training program to assist in improving insight concerning disruptive behaviors of students.
The third aim of the project was to determine change in teachers’ self-efficacy levels after the proactive classroom management educational intervention. Individual means of the participants demonstrated an increase from pre-test 53.77 (n = 26) to posttest 61.42 (n = 26) regarding teachers’ sense of efficacy concerning classroom management. The overall mean, pre- to posttest, suggests that participants were able to gain insight during the proactive classroom management program, which ultimately improved their efficacy levels in classroom management. There was also an unexpected increase from pre- to posttest scores in the areas of Efficacy in Student Engagement and Efficacy in Instructional Strategies on the TSES (results not reported); therefore, it is suspected that participants’ insight gained from the program intervention influenced these improvements.
Many teachers who participated in the program agreed that they lacked a conceptual understanding in the relationship of student behaviors, mental health issues and diagnoses, and disruptive episodes, which suggest further implications for clinical practice. These behaviors are often misinterpreted by teachers and addressed with punitive, reactive measures as opposed to proactive techniques. As a result, students are often removed from the classroom by teachers and disciplinary actions are implemented, causing students to forfeit more and more time away from the school setting. Theoretically, Bandura (1983) considered teachers’ reactions in these particular situations as defensive coping mechanisms, specifically avoidance, in which the ultimate tasks of addressing these students’ behaviors are escaped; however, this reaction further compromises efficacy levels of teachers. Consequently, students become educationally delayed and teachers’ self-efficacy levels decline.
Implications for Practice
The findings of this study have a number of essential implications for future practice. There is a need to improve teachers’ self-efficacy levels, specifically in the area of classroom management, through proactive classroom management training programs, as teachers who have disruptive students may experience lower levels of self-efficacy. Evidence suggests that work-related stressors, job satisfaction, and burnout strongly influence self-efficacy levels (Klassen & Chiu, 2010; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007). More training opportunities should be made readily available for teachers to effectively acquire skills for proactive classroom management. Improving teachers’ knowledge regarding disruptive behaviors and proactive responses, through proactive classroom management training, would enhance self-efficacy levels. As self-efficacy improves, teachers will hopefully experience less job burnout and increased job satisfaction.
If classroom management strategies for teachers remain obsolete and PMH CNSs remain absent from the school setting, disruptive behavior exhibited by students will remain a serious deterrent and teachers’ efficacy levels will remain compromised. Consequently, the possibilities of teachers effectively managing their classrooms proactively will be highly improbable. Overall, these findings strongly support the need for proactive classroom management training for teachers and support further development and evaluation of proactive classroom management interventions.
A practical and essential implication is the incorporation of the DNP-prepared PMHNP into the equation as a PMH nurse consultant (NC) to bridge the gap between the school system, mental health professionals, and behavioral health care facilities that treat adolescents. For this project and model, the PMHNP and DNP student (R.T.P.) served in the consultant role and used leadership skills to create change in the classroom and school setting. As an expert clinician and leader, evidence-based knowledge was translated to the school setting to improve outcomes for the teachers, students, and middle school. The overall outcome of the intervention was improvement in teachers’ insight regarding students’ behaviors from diverse backgrounds as well as enhancement of teachers’ ability to intervene based on individual student’s display of disruptive behaviors. The proactive classroom management model can be implemented by school nurses and PMH nurses, CNSs, and nurse practitioners.
The PMH NC can also serve as a consultant to school social workers, counselors, and nurses. A proactive classroom management training program can be delivered to all professionals at the school so that all professionals can effectively handle and manage disruptive behaviors exhibited by students. The school nurse can be trained on managing disruptive behaviors and serve as an onsite resource. The school nurse can also serve as a liaison for the schools and facilitate referrals to the PMHNP for treatment of the adolescent students’ mental health problems and psychiatric disorders at the behavioral health care facility.
Training in proactive classroom management enhanced self-efficacy levels in teachers of adolescent students who exhibit disruptive behaviors in a rural middle school. Teachers who possess training and skills in proactive classroom management may better position themselves to identify and respond appropriately to individual student’s needs, communicate more effectively with students, and develop rapport and de-escalation skills needed to intervene in the event that a crisis situation evolves. As teachers continue to build on proactive classroom management skills, self-efficacy levels are enhanced, enabling teachers to regain control of classrooms and educate students in a calm, therapeutic learning environment.
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