Here are two key questions that are surprisingly difficult to answer about behaviour interventions in school: 1) Are they having any impact? 2) Are they providing value for money?
In today’s episode, Dr. Rob Long explains how to objectively measure whether your interventions are effective using the SNAP-B profile. He’ll also explain how to use SNAP-B to select the right intervention strategies, so we address the underlying problems driving the pupil's behaviour.
Learn more about the SNAP-B profile: www.hoddereducation.co.uk/snapb
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Show notes / transcription
Rob Long 0:00
When it comes to like children, so we got an autistic child and ADHD child, and I'm trying to say we've got a child. I am a great believer in mantras and my mantra when I try to get people to follow is the problem is the problem, not the child.
Simon Currigan 0:13
Welcome to Episode 12 of the school behaviour secrets podcast and today we have an interview with Dr. Rob long on how to measure the impact of behaviour intervention groups. So if you're running a social skills group and anger management group or nurture group, any type of intervention that focuses on a child's social, emotional and mental health needs, there'll be something here for you today. I'm here with my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.
Emma Shackleton 1:16
Hi there. Simon, this week, I'm going to switch things up a bit. And I'd like to ask you a question. Have you ever wasted time trying to fix a problem, but you were focused on entirely the wrong thing.
Simon Currigan 1:29
We had some damp along the walls at the back of our house. And we got people in and they were looking at repointing the bricks and putting in a dam course or none of those things helped with the damp, the damp kept on coming back. And we finally got a plumber in and he put a camera down some of our pipes. And he found there's actually a hole in one of the pipes. And the problem all along was the pipe and it was nothing to do with the damp at all.
Emma Shackleton 1:52
So you were trying to fix the damp. And actually it was to do with the pipe.
Simon Currigan 1:56
Absolutely. Well, and today we're going to talk about something similar with behaviour interventions. Dr. Rob long is going to explain how we can make sure we focus our attention on the right problems when we put together an intervention programme for our kids, whether that's an individual or a group of students, plus he's going to explain how to measure the success of your programme. So when a school leader asks you is that programme working, or inspector comes in and asks you the dreaded question, Is this programme value for money? You've got all the answers you need at your fingertips.
Emma Shackleton 2:27
This sounds like it's going to be really useful for schools because they have to prove the impact of the interventions, don't they?
Simon Currigan 2:34
Absolutely. So without any more ado, let's play our interview with Dr. Rob Long. Today I've got a special guest on the show. Dr. Rob Long is a chartered psychologist who provides training and support to children and young people who face social, emotional and mental health issues. He's written and published books and assessments to support his work and training. Today, we're going to be talking to Rob about something that is notoriously difficult. How can we measure the impact of behaviour interventions and social emotional interventions in school? How do we know whether our nurture groups as social skills groups or anger management groups are really working? And how can we measure that impact? Plus, we'll also be looking at using assessments to make sure our interventions are focused in the right place on the causes of behaviour rather than the symptoms of behaviour because that's when we're going to have the biggest effect. And the tool we're going to be looking at to help us do this is the Snap B profile. Rob, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much, Simon. Thank you.
Can you tell us a little bit about what the Snap B profile is and how it developed?
Rob Long 3:42
Well, going back in time, Hodder and Stoughton had kind of produced an assessment programme for children with specific learning difficulties, a guy called Charles Knight. And they worked with two other people, Charles Weeden, and Gavin Reid. And they produce this kind of profile for dyslexic type difficulties and everything. And then they got in touch with me to see if I could work with Charles Weeden. And whether we could produce something for behaviour and behaviour is my main special interest area. So we developed it, and then it's been modified. And that's what I'm here to describe and explain to you.
Simon Currigan 4:20
What problems is the profile solve?
In a way we were ahead of the times there's the thing about behaviour, how do you manage behaviour? How do you control behaviour? I think our approach was more kind of, how do you understand behaviour. So we were already thinking in terms of behaviour being a form of communication, but it wasn't so much about just that behaviour. It was about the individual of which the behaviour was probably symptomatic of some kind of difficulties. And that's where Charles and myself came up with this idea of looking at the relationships that children have with themselves, with their peers and with adults and almost like saying an assessment needs to have that kind of focus because all the stuff about collecting how many times certain behaviours occurred or anything like that, that behaviour is ambiguous that behaviour needs to be understood, you need to have a kind of hypothesis as to what might be causing this particular behaviour. We were interested in not just doing an assessment profile. I'm a psychologist, and you can get lots of kind of fancy psychological assessments. We wanted to go beyond that. And I've always wanted to say it's not the theories you apply to children is the techniques based on the theories what people who are working on the front line want is, yes, this child has got this, that or the other problem, but what do I do about it? And I felt as a psychologist, myself, and Charles, we wanted to build into the assessment, a bank of user friendly ideas that would give a person an idea or nudge them in a certain direction, but we felt that they shouldn't be starting off with, okay, here's the problem. Where do we go now to deal with it? We wanted to say contained within Snap is a very kind of a significant number of user friendly interventions for in school and home,
How would a school go about completing a Snap B profile? Who completes it? What kind of questions do they ask? What does the process look like?
Rob Long 6:07
Well it's an online assessment. So it's derived from having a whole bank of questions that teacher, Senco, support staff that know the child that they answer the kind of frequency that certain behaviours are occurring. So when we look at say, relationship with self, and we thought about the psychological construct of anxiety, or depression, we then looked for, what are the behavioural indicators for a child with anxiety? So once we kind of said, well, a child with anxiety is typically like this, then we put those kind of questions in. So the person that knows the child will actually answer those questions. And then the magic bit for me, and this was where Charles was so good as once all the data is in. And you've answered all the questions at home, in school with relationship to a specific child, how they relate to themselves, how they relate to peers and adults, and you hit that button, it produces a profile. And the profile then shows you areas of strength and areas of concern or weakness, because I suppose that the analogy for me is something like if you've got a boat is leaking. So if a child has got a difficulty, it needs to be addressed. But the little boat has got a leak, but it's also got a sail, and it's the sail that takes the boat forward. So we will equally concerned that, what are the child's strengths? So how can we build those in so once all the questions have been answered, and you can then have a profile that shows the areas of strength in the areas of concern, the Senco, then who's working with the child will know we're going to tackle this one area. And then when you hit that button on the assessment profile, it then comes up with a bank of information about different types of aggression, or anxiety or anything like that, it gives you information about it. And then there's suggestions for what the Senco could help a class teacher do within the class. And also similar information for home for parents or carers to have about the difficulty, and a bank of ideas and resources. It actually was a toolbox.
Simon Currigan 8:05
So what a fair analogy be in the past, our car's broken, we've taken it to the mechanic left it for half the day. And the mechanic might say, yes, the news is your car is broken. I kind of knew there was something wrong already. That doesn't help me move things along. What Snap B does it it says yes, there are issues here. But this is how we move things along. This is how we get this car back on the road.
Rob Long 8:24
Definitely, we will tend to medicalise you know, there's an issue about anxiety or whatever, you know, what's causing it. It's almost like those kind of questions suggest to this a deficit model that there's something wrong with a child and the child needs fixing. So I mean, I think our argument was more like sometimes we need to be asking what has happened to this child, because the anxiety could equally be caused by worry over the work being bullied, etcetera, etcetera, outside factors. So we wanted to avoid this idea that what is the cause there's not one factor that causes it usually, there's a kind of interlocking number of biological predispositions to it, and there's kind of personality factors, environmental factors, etc, etc. So when people are looking for the silver bullet, I mean, snap almost says, I think in the manual that, you know, multifaceted problems require multifaceted solutions, you're not going to have one intervention that does it, you're going to tend to have a number of different interventions into place to achieve it.
Simon Currigan 9:20
You spoken about a Snap B sort of looks at the child's relationship with themselves and anxiety, what are the kinds of areas to snap B look at?
Rob Long 9:29
Policy, youve got the typical one's of attention, defiant behaviours were defined behaviours or sometimes you just got a strong willed child. Anger, aggression, different types of aggression, instrumental, reactive aggression, so you've got all these different strands. When you take a piece of behaviour, behaviour is nothing more than the behaviour that you observe. It's a question of how you analyse that how, you interpret it. Managing behaviour is a bit like being a detective. You have to investigate what is driving this behaviour? Is it this? is it that? So Snap B gives you a direction to say this is a plausible explanation for this behaviour. It is in no way trying to diagnose it. It's trying to say these behavioural descriptors that you filled in on the assessment seem to fit with. So the all the different strands, possible areas to explore within Snap B.
Simon Currigan 10:19
I just like to take a pause on the podcast for a minute to say that if you're finding this podcast useful, then you'll love what we've got waiting for you in our Inner Circle programme. The inner circle is your one stop shop for all things behaviour. It's a comprehensive platform filled with videos resources and behaviour inspiration to get you unstuck with classroom behaviour. It feels like having a behaviour expert on call 24-7. Our online videos walk you through solutions to common behaviour problems step by step whether it's the best classroom strategies and tactics, behaviour, special needs, or practical resources, the Inner Circle has got you covered. And just like Netflix, you can turn an Inner Circle subscription on or off whenever you need to. Get the behaviour answers you've been looking for today, with Inner Circle visit beacon school support.co.uk and click on the Inner Circle picture near the top of the page for more information. And now back to the podcast.
So let's imagine I'm a school leader or a Senco or learning mentor or counsellor, something like that. And I've got a child is experiencing difficulties that I've been asked to work with perhaps put in place an intervention programme, how can I use Snap B to prepare an effective intervention programme?
Rob Long 11:38
Well, once you got the people who know the child remember built into Snap is involving the young person themselves in terms of how they want to be supported. What it does is like brings together those people that know the youngster well. They complete the profile. And the profile then comes up and highlights certain areas. So it's almost like gathered a lot of data and almost indicate to people these are the areas of most concern its signposting a direction. The people that are involved can say, Okay, this is an area of concern. The young person if they're old enough and cognitively aware enough, will be involved in it, and the home will be in it. But if all the people then say okay, this is the kind of problem remember, when you get into the philosophy behind it, the problem is the problem not the child. It is the problem that's being referred it's the problem that's been dealt with, the problem being explored for the child, it could be the solution. If a child is needing more attention, and you're irritating adults in the classroom, which gets them to behave negatively to the child, the negative attention is fine for the child. So quite often children have got inappropriate problem solving techniques. So at Snap, we put the problem on the chair, not the child, I want the child to work with us to tackle this difficulty, because the way they're coping with a need or an emotional, you know, issue is not helpful for them to be successfully included within the class within the school within the home. So try to get away from this pathologizing children. Yeah, I mean, we talk about, you know, attention seeking children, we talk about ADHD children, we don't talk about flu people or broken bone people.
Simon Currigan 13:10
That's very true.
Rob Long 13:11
When it comes to like children who say we got an autistic child or an ADHD child. And I'm trying to say we've got a child, I am a great believer in mantras. And my mantra that I try to get people to follow is "The problem is the problem, not the child."
Simon Currigan 13:24
What kind of interventions does Snap B recommend. Are they evidence based? Are they easy to follow?
Rob Long 13:29
Yes, as a psychologist, for me, there's nothing wacky about our ideas. They're about social skills training, cognitive restructuring to improve a student to have a better attitude about themselves, to build their self esteem, relaxation, anxiety, they're all techniques that are user friendly, but nothing that hasn't got evidence base behind it. We wanted to save people going to look for an intervention, we've done that looking, Charles and I have done the looking. And now we're able to say, these are techniques that work, you might need to modify it because obviously transferring a technique from one situation to another, you're the context obviously matters a lot. But our interventions are meant to be user friendly at home or in school. They're not meant to be complicated or anything like that. But they are supported
Simon Currigan 14:12
How detailed are the recommendations and what type of recommendations do you get,
Rob Long 14:16
We take the view that it's not just the individual child you might be looking at, but also the interventions within the class, within the group and in the school. So we also talk about in the manual about restorative practices, I think our interventions and everything are more in tune with schools that have got kind of attachment-stroke-relational type philosophies. Yes, schools that are saying, we want to build an ethos, where we have children come in, and some of them for various reasons, might need to have support in learning the right skills. So we don't have to pathologise or anything like that. But we have some kids that will need extra help to learn how to be in our context with us. So we've got individual interventions, whole class, so they Ideas for the class teacher, a lot of it applies to all children. But there are some children that needed a little bit more targeted. And that's what Snap B is able to identify. It's not for children who've been diagnosed, you know, as having a medical type based problem, it's more for those who are having some difficulties and the kind of Senco wants a quick way of finding a way of supporting them at home, in the class and at an individual level, then Snap B is what can achieve that.
Simon Currigan 15:27
Okay, so we've got our imaginary school leader, and they filled out the snap B profile for their child or children. And the children themselves have completed the snap B profile and snap B gives us lots of recommendations and ideas for interventions and the whole class recommendations and that kind of thing. So our leader goes away and we set up an intervention with the children, for say, a period of about 12 weeks, and then an Ofsted inspector turns up and then asks the dreaded question. Can you prove that your intervention is providing value for money? You know, sometimes like to separate money from the work that we do. We care about kids, but it is a question that schools get asked and a lot of school leaders, when they're asked that question, there's a moment of silence where their jaw drops, and they're not quite sure how to answer they kind of anecdotally know it's making a difference, they're spoken to the class teacher, the child looks a bit happier, but how do we use Snap B to prove that?
Rob Long 16:20
Initial assessment will give you a profile, and then what you will do is that you can do two or three repeat profiles, that can actually show you changes in the pattern of behaviours that you can narrow in to, if you've been looking at kind of aggressive responses or defiant behaviour, you've got a baseline, this is what we're concerned with. And then after a period of time, I'm obviously going on that the inspector has some understanding about the complexities of behaviour.
Simon Currigan 16:44
Rob Long 16:45
Children don't readily give up a behaviour that works for them, there's a reluctance to change because what they're doing is working for them in helping them cope in one way or the other. So there's that expectancy, that you know, Snap isn't giving silver bullets. But over a period of time, you can show that the interventions have been, you know, either effective or making little by little changes. Obviously, with some children, it might be the step thing, we now need to refer on that we've done this for so long. And there has not been a kind of any change in behaviour because sometimes children need more support, more intense support. And snap is not trying to be that kind of solution for children, perhaps medically based, or more severe attachment disorders or anything like that. Snap is not trying to do that. Often the model is, what skills does this child need to have, to not have the problem? And so snap is coming up with like interventions and friendship skills, you know, ideas like that, role play, modelling and things like that. What snap is trying to say, how do we help a child develop the skills to be able to cope better with the difficulty that we've identified and be more successfully included? You could show to an inspector, this is where we were, this is where we are, this is how we changed our path, because that wasn't working that intervention. So you are monitoring it, you're not just doing it, you are monitoring the intervention and checking out the changes.
Simon Currigan 18:05
And of course, having the knowledge to know something isn't working as well as you thought it was is powerful, isn't it?
Rob Long 18:10
Simon Currigan 18:11
Interventions, from my mind always work best when schools and parents are on the same page working together? How can Snap B help with that kind of joined up approach?
The key thing right from the very beginning is that home is part of the assessment. So it isn't that one side is doing, like a school is doing the assessment, obviously, there would be meetings and discussions. And then, everyone is contributing to the profile. If a child has only got difficulties in school, but not at home, well that can improve understanding as to what are the differences? And why might that be? So I think snap can provide information that can help home and help school work together. A lot of the behaviour might be occurring in one place, but not in others, that information is indicative of us, you know, probing further. So I think it's like involving parents family within the process, not something that's been done to them, it's been done with them,
what kind of information do they get from the profile,
if it was something like anger or defiant or that kind of behaviour, there's an attempt to include an information sheet about the typical characteristics that typical behaviours and you observed. And then behind that, it's not expecting parents to to follow the interventions, but for the interventions to stimulate an idea, or for them to say what we've been doing something like that, but we could be trying this. So it's a holistic kind of understanding of the child rather than just a very narrow look at the child's behaviour in one place. Because obviously, children learn how to behave differently in different contexts differently with different adults. So snap is trying to take that on board. Snap is trying to help people understand the complexity of behaviour, tackling the problem behaviour rather than looking to say well hold on, what is the function of that behaviour? What is the child learning from that behaviour? Are they using that behaviour to avoid something or to obtain Something
I think we live in a world that sometimes obsessed with simple answers to complicated questions. This is a case of this is now sometimes those behaviours you see in the classroom are driven by all sorts of factors.
Rob Long 20:11
Yeah, it's usually a combination. I think even a diagnostic you get co occurring behaviours child with ADHD can also have anxiety, we naively try to present, oh, this is ADHD, no, it's not the child has got a range of issues, you only get out of a mince machine, what you put into it. And I think with snap, we've tried to put in intuitively what is important is the relationships, you'll get more and more schools saying we're moving away from a behaviour policy to a relationship based policy. This is how we want children to behave to themselves with peers with adults. And that's why, you know, when I look back, I think when we constructed this, we were already seeing the use of reward structures, it tends to be the same children that keep on being punished. And I think snap is trying to say, hold on, there's a better way to understand and support this child by doing this kind of profile. And following up with interventions.
Simon Currigan 21:01
There's a great cartoon, I think, from the 1940s. to do with the war. It's just it's a picture of a sergeant major talking to his corporal and he says, the beatings will continue until morale improves, to bring that full circle. And to talk about some of the you spoke about at the start many schools at the moment will measure their interventions and the impact of those interventions by keeping records are things like behaviour, incidents, Tally, charts behaviours, just crossing off or ticking whether the kids met their IEP targets. Where does snap b take them beyond that
Rob Long 21:32
Well I think for a start that snap shows the young person's strength. So you've got the strength, you've got the intervention built into the programme, which you then can go back on and actually see exactly whether or not there has been changes in behaviour. You've got the child actively involved in the process, you've got the family involved in it. So I think it compared to a lot of other assessments of tally accounts and everything like that, you've still got to analyse the behaviour, because behaviour is ambiguous, you need a framework that says, okay, which road should we go down because any behaviour could be interpreted differently, I mean, you can have three students tapping making a noise in the classroom, I mean, one might be bored, one might be hungry, the third one might be trapped in a cupboard at the back trying to get out of it. So you have to look very carefully at behaviour. And I think too often schools, you can end up counting the incidence counting the fights, counting the disruptions, and it's more like gathering evidence as to why this child needs to either be somewhere else or needs extra help, or whatever. What snap is gathering the information to say, how do we understand and support this child with the behaviour that we're concerned about?
Simon Currigan 22:41
What age range is it suitable for?
Rob Long 22:42
well 5 to 16 it's an idio graphic, I dont want to get jargony. But it's more of an idio graphic rather than normally authentic. It is not grounded in kind of baselines and everything like that. So you could use it on the older children, but you're trying to understand an individual child. So the idiographic approach is saying the child is at all baseline. We're trying to understand what has moved that so I wouldn't expect it below five.
Simon Currigan 23:06
I'll finally ask this of all our guests. Who's the key figure that's influenced you? Or what's the key book that you've read? That's had the biggest impact on your approach to working with children.
Rob Long 23:17
I'm surrounded by so many books, Simon, so many.
Simon Currigan 23:21
If you were to pick one for someone listening to this, which one would you pick?
Rob Long 23:26
There was a guy when I started studying ,a guy called Martin Seligman and he was around doing learned helplessness but he's moved on from that and strongly developed darting and a lot of your listeners will know with Maslow .Maslow was a humanist , Maslow was on about people self actualizing, achieving their potential Well Seligman has built and developed what has become known as positive psychology. And the book Ive not long read was called The Hope Circuit, which I really enjoyed. And then following on from that, I'm now reading the second wave of positive psychology that I'm trying to help people, especially with a pandemic going on, is that while we have to be aware of the anxiety, the negativity that is surrounding all of us, we also got to understand the powerful side of positive emotions, how we help them develop those. So the books are at the moment that are influencing my work, my practice, my understanding is not just the kind of problems that children have, but how do you help fill the sail so they can go forward and be successful as well.
Simon Currigan 24:25
Rob, I think that's a brilliant note to end the interview on. Thank you for being on our podcast today. I'm sure our listeners will get a lot out of what we've spoken about. Thank you very much for being on the show.
My pleasure. Thank you. Bye bye.
And if you want to find out more about snap B or want to know how to get the snap B profile for your school, look up www.Hoddereducation.co.uk/snapb that's hodder spelt with two "d"s all one word hoddereducation on the web, and all the information you need is waiting for you and I'll also put a copy of that URL In the podcast description.
Emma Shackleton 25:01
And of course, when you're resetting a pupils behaviour, the first thing you'll need to do is check that you've got your whole class systems up and running well, because the right systems and environment will have a significant impact on a child's individual needs in class.
Simon Currigan 25:17
So here's a simple and free way of making sure that you've got that environment, right. It's called the classroom management score sheet and you can get it from our website today, it's got a list of things that you are doing or not doing. Think of it as a clear roadmap to improve your presence in the classroom and the way you organise the environment in the classroom. It's based on 1000s of observations that Emma and I have conducted between us. So you know, it's based on sound classroom practice.
Emma Shackleton 25:44
And this is really useful. Also, if you're supporting a colleague with their classroom management, it can help to make your feedback and action points even more clear and objective. You can get that now by going to beaconschoolsupport.co.uk clicking on the free resources option in the menu, and you'll find it near the top of the page. We'll also drop a link to the score sheet in the episode description. It's free, so get your copy today.
Simon Currigan 26:10
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Emma Shackleton 26:33
Thank you so much for listening to school behaviour secrets. Have a great week and we look forward to talking to you again in the next episode. Bye bye
Simon Currigan 26:41
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)