Why Kids Don't Change Problem Behaviour (Even When It's To Their Advantage) Part 2

Why Kids Don't Change Problem Behaviour (Even When It's To Their Advantage) Part 2

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Sometimes our students get stuck in cycles of negative, challenging behaviour â€" even when they†ve been offered support and intervention programmes in school. That leads to poor outcomes for the individual â€" emotionally and academically â€" and often results in disrupted learning for their classmates.

In this episode, we continue our discussion with Tom McIntrye, Sean Turner and Kenny Hirschmann about the Stages of Change model. They reveal their insights into why some pupils are so resistant to change â€" and how to use this information to dramatically increase the success of your SEMH interventions in school.

Important links

See the full 1 hour video of the interview with slides.

Visit the Behavior Advisor website for more behaviour strategies, ideas and interventions.

Join our Inner Circle membership programme: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/inner_circle.php

Get our FREE SEN Behaviour Handbook: https://beaconschoolsupport.co.uk/SEN-handbook.php

Join our FREE Classroom Management and Student Behaviour FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/school.behaviour

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Show notes / transcription

Sean Turner  0:00  

So I think for teachers, this model is not going to give you the solution, but it's going to give you a different lens to maybe reexamine your students and be able to show growth. I don't care where we are in the world. Teachers are under the gun to be able to show growth. So the other part I would say, while you want to look at it, is your administrators coming to you and saying, I don't see any growth of this kid. This kid is continuously getting on the Dean's list or sent to the principal's office. So how can we show growth? You're the support provider. Well, this is one way to show growth.

Simon Currigan  0:35  

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan and welcome to another episode of school behaviour secrets. When you listen to this do remember weve both got degrees. proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that a university education isn't a guarantee of success. I'm joined today by my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma. 

Emma Shackleton  1:34  

Hi, Simon. 

Simon Currigan  1:35  

So today, we're going to be playing the second part of our interview about why some kids don't change negative behaviour patterns, even after lots of help and support in school and by parents.

Emma Shackleton  1:48  

But before we get to that, Simon, I just want to ask you a quick question. 

Simon Currigan  1:53  

Role Reversal. Okay, go on.

Emma Shackleton  1:55  

Why has this interview been broken into two halves? 

Simon Currigan  1:59  

Well when I sat down with Tom, Kenny and Sean to record this interview over the summer, they shared loads of good information on this topic. And when we edit interviews, we normally like to get them down to sort of the 20, 25 minute mark, which means the episode will fit into the average commute. But when we got to the edit, we realised we couldn't do that without losing loads of great content that people should hear. So we decided to break this episode into two halves.

Emma Shackleton  2:24  

Simon, I've got another question for you 

Simon Currigan  2:26  

Go on. 

Emma Shackleton  2:27  

What's your favourite type of bacon?

Simon Currigan  2:28  

I'm a traditionalist, unsmoked back classic, it's not going anywhere.

Emma Shackleton  2:32  

Good to know, perfect. Just before we play the second half of the interview, can I ask a quick favour of our listeners, please, small actions have a big ripple effect. So if you find the information that you hear in today's podcast helpful or useful, please would you consider sharing with a couple of your friends or colleagues in education, that way, you will be helping us on our mission to reach lots of other like minded individuals who want to do their very best for the kids that they work with. And that's behind to put a spring in your step. So now, here's Simon talking with Tom McIntyre, Kenny Hirshman and Sean Turner, about the stages of change.

Simon Currigan  3:12  

So we've talked about the kind of the theoretical side and we've talked about how this approach originally came from, you know, adult fields around addiction and diet and alcohol and whatever. Now you are researching and validating this approach at the moment of working with real young people in schools, what form has your research taken so far?

Sean Turner  3:33  

So we'll start at the beginning, Tom wanted to create some validity around the instrument to assess what stage a student was in. And so our initial work was, we had grad students in service and pre service teachers take based off of previous survey different behaviours, and try to see what stage they thought the child was in based on those behaviours. And from that initial data, we found out that there was a lot of agreement around the pre contemplation stage, what those behaviours would look like and a lot of agreement on what maintenance reaction maintenance would look like. But there was not as much agreement in the middle. And that brought us to a place where we really wanted to go deeper into why that was, as well as ensuring that we were going through all the validity, physical validity necessary for an instrument because there already are instruments out there around the different models. And so what we came out with in that process is we've done a very extensive review of literature. So what kind of approaches have been used in school and the ways to test instrument. For our purposes, we've been doing a lot of content validity. And Tom and I both have classes with pre service and in service grad students in advanced behavioural disorders. And so we've had panel discussions with them. We've had them study the model and look at ways that they think it's practical. So we're looking at content validity and practical significance, that doesn't really mean a whole bunch of whatever if it doesn't work for teachers. And what we found out so far is the teachers are very, very excited about this in New York City. And one of the reasons is that because it allows the child to be included in the conversation. Where often on an FDA, even though theoretically the child is supposed to be there, a lot of the work is done just observing, and by adults, not with the child in mind. It also allows for more collaboration. So we found a lot of great information, what do we do we have kids that are on the autism spectrum. What do we do? Well, we're already doing behaviour change. But we're like Tom was saying, how do we address decisional balance, and what came out of that was the importance of self efficacy. So self efficacy, in simple terms, I can do what I say I want to do. And particularly with older kids, I work with adolescents, efficacy is one of our major issues, I don't believe I can pass that test, I can't do it no matter what. So part of it is developing the efficacy, not just so much to pull up my chest, you know, super ID, every 18 year old kids got that I can do it. But the problem of self efficacy is I can do it, I know I can do it, because I can do it. And I can show evidence that I am doing it. What that means that's very, very important that we found with the pre service teachers and in service teachers we've developed so far is one internal survey. And we're going back to revise our external survey. And then we've also out of our research, been able to tweak the original model, we're not doing an assessment, that's just going to tell you what stage the kid is in, we're doing assessments that allow us to pinpoint the readiness to move from one stage to another stage, and then be able to tie it to specific interventions or strategies that would help us. And so we're also trying to take a lot of this Edu talk, it gets very confusing and make it very teacher friendly. So they can understand this is the stage, these are the processes, these are some strategies that can particularly help. So that is where we're at. We're also in the process of now having to panel discussions with experts in the field, meaning experts with the transtheoretical model, experts with school psychologists, exercise for teachers to do more content validity. And we also have some informal interviews with other researchers on this model in the health industry to get their feedback about our changes to the theoretical model. So that takes place this school year and then the following school year, then we'll be ready to take our instruments into the school, and then test that to have students but to answer your question, most of our work, because we're working with teachers in our classes that are already in schools and applying them to different case studies, or their own personal work with students and behaviours and how that all works.

Simon Currigan  8:03  

So this is really exciting, isn't it, because often you have a scale, and it describes what the problem is, but then you're left with no practical solution about what to do about the problem, what you're doing, if I understand it correctly, is you've got a scale that helps teachers understand where the child is, and then maps across to something we can actually do to help the child move around stage. 

Sean Turner  8:25  

Yeah,that is correct. That's where we see a gap, what Tom was saying, there's a lot of different processes or what they call techniques in each of these stages. And so you know, we have to be able to learn specific strategies to what's actually going on.

Simon Currigan  8:40  

And this is really important, isn't it, because often, certainly, in the UK, you'll have an issue around behaviour with a student, I'm using inverted commas with my fingers, as senior leader says something must be done. And we rush in with often expensive interventions expensive in terms of time, expensive in terms of money and staffing, that then don't have the effect we want them to have. And that might just be because of where the child is on the Stages of Change the transtheoretical model. 

Sean Turner  9:07  

It could be, it also could be that we're not looking at our interventions in all of these different processes, like some of them have to do with how I work with others, what support groups I have in place to help me. So that's where you're talking about family. That's where you're talking about. It's not just the teacher and the student, but it's also how are they using those support mechanisms? How are they practising strategies, depending on what the behaviour is? That's what we also found out from the teachers. They're like, we just thought this is a black and white problem intervention isn't working, but now we can see how much of this that the child might actually been trying to make an improvement but they needed support in this, you know, for example, so there's a different way to look at that.

Simon Currigan  9:57  

So that's your approach. What kind of results are you seeing So far, and what kind of reactions are you getting from the teachers who are using the pre teachers and in service teachers so far?

Sean Turner  10:06  

People in my class, it's eye opening, because you I think every teacher gets empowered when they see a child get empowered. Nobody wants to be Pavlov's dog, they don't want to treat kids as animals and manipulating that is called the transtheoretical model, I always think of as a transformative model, this is an idea something is transformed. And I think that's what gets teachers really excited because it's able to break down the problem and into very doable pieces and look at something a little bit different than just antecedents and consequences. Right? I have I'm manipulating the antecedents and the consequences, it still doesn't work. Now sudden, we have something that I can work with, we can be partners with, we can show growth, we can reach out to our other partners. And this is about over time helping kids develop these particular skills that they're able to, you know, look at things.

Tom McIntyre  11:03  

Maybe even making our students aware of the behaviour change process can help them better wrap their minds around what they're going through, why they're hesitant, why they're resistant, why they're feeling like there is some optimism Additionally, some of our teachers have applied the model in the interventions to kids on the autism spectrum, we tend to be focusing on externalised acting out behaviour patterns, but we're getting some reports that, you know, this behaviour change process applies to anyone who needs to change their ways for the better.

Simon Currigan  11:42  

And it's been a big move over the last few years towards metacognition, in general in teaching hasnt there? So this fits beautifully with that, if you're a teacher, a school leader, or say a learning mentor, or a counsellor, or what we would call in the UK, a Pastoral Worker, so not pastoral in the religious sense, and you're working with a child who's presenting behaviour issues, and they're not really engaging with your supporter interventions, as we've just spoken about, and you see them stuck in an unhelpful pattern of behaviour, what action points or insights should you take away from this interview?

Sean Turner  12:14  

For me, this gives a framework to look at the problem from a different lens. That's the number one thing like it allows you to take a step back, even though we're going to create an assessment, there's already assessments out there, there's questions out there, there's different behaviour indicators, you can look at it. And if you take anything away, teachers can often put the kids in the two categories, the kids that they just don't want to do it, they don't want to learn, they don't want to change, they just don't care, or the kids are beautiful, they were doing everything. And it allows you to look at the other three stages in what you might think is a kid that's perfectly well behaved. But maybe there's areas of growth, there are other places, as Tom said, on the ladder. And this allows you to look at how they're using their other systems, because maybe they're doing well in your class, but not doing well in somebody else's class. Maybe they're doing great, but they're not working well with their therapist, or their other support staff, which is a big issue in terms of, they're not going to spend the rest of their life in schools. The idea is that we want them to take what they learned in schools and be able to apply it in being whether you want a college career, life of being independent. So ever forget the statistical facts that its population that Tom is referring to, has the highest incarceration rate, the highest, you know, unemployment rate.

Tom McIntyre  13:33  

And dropout rates, yes.

Sean Turner  13:35  

In this world is ever changing, you got to make money, and you got to be happy. And you have to be adaptable. So I think for teachers, this model is not going to give you the solution, but it's going to give you a different lens to maybe reexamine your students and be able to show growth, I don't care where we are in the world. Teachers are under the gun to be able to show growth. So the other part I would say, while you want to look at it, is your administrators coming to you and saying, I don't see any growth of this kid, this kid is continuously getting on the Dean's list or sent to the principal's office. So how can we show growth, you're the support provider. Well, this is one way to show growth moving from one stage to another stage and applying specific strategies. And, you know, growth might not be where we want to be, but at least we're showing growth,

Simon Currigan  14:25  

I think to bring Sean and Tom's points together there. I think you make such a good point. That change is a process that takes time. It rarely comes from a motivational speech and then you see you know, a quick training montage sequence as you do in the movies and then suddenly everything's fixed. It is a process over time that we have to work away at.

Tom McIntyre  14:44  

But to bring it down to the nuts and bolts of will What can teachers and school staff support staff do our role in helping our behaviorally challenged kids switch to a manner of acting that meets with school expectations can be contained in a quadrant. What to do is first is be aware of the stages and the behavioural indicators for each of those tiers, in order to determine the student's present place and the change process. Second, know the procedures that are associated with each stage that one apply the advance the learner toward the next step in changing one's ways. As they move through the transition process, they gain increasing self efficacy, that self confidence that I can do it the belief in oneself that one can indeed advance and fully change, progress and self efficacy co construct each other. As kids progress through the change process. They believe in themselves more, they're willing to continue to undertake the change. Third, select and implement interventions that align with the prescribed processes for the stage in which the young person exists at that moment. Our intervention resistant kids become intervention impossible kids, when we mismatch our interventions and stages when we attempt to implement strategies that belong in another stage. And fourth, build and maintain positive relationships with our students. We are a big influence, perhaps the biggest convincer and whether our errant urgents decide to engage in the change process. They have to trust us believing that we are unswervingly supportive in their efforts and hold their best interests in our hearts and our minds. In essence, it all boils down to this, they gotta like the messenger, if they're going to listen to the message.

Simon Currigan  16:42  

Kenny, can you tell us about your role in the research and what you've learned along the way that our listeners should take away with it.

Kenny Hirshman  16:49  

 I come at it from a very different perspective, because I don't have the experience in in schools, that Tom and Sean have, I'm an adult researcher. And so because the stages of change model, the transtheoretical model has typically been applied to adults, the existing literature is really geared towards working with adults, it's been helpful, I think, to have my perspective in this group in order to translate some of that work into how it might apply into younger populations. So what I've picked up a lot of the things that perhaps the three of you take for granted, that you have this familiarity with with these populations, that you understand the mind of a child that I may not necessarily have quite the same perspective on. But one thing that I've really appreciated in this model is the way that it's very interconnected. And as Tom said earlier, it's very fluid. So a child can exist in multiple stages at once can be partaking in multiple processes at once. And then there are many, many different strategies that can be engaged at once as well. And I think just to also touch on something that Sean said, in that it's very easy to understand a child that is very resistant, and it's very easy to understand a child that gets it and is exhibiting the behaviours that we want. But there's a lot of grey area in between. And this model really helps to clarify and provide some insight and detail in that grey area. What are those things that happen in the middle that get somebody from that resistance to the behaviours that we really want to see. And that's really what I've taken from this,

To someone who's interested in learning more about this, they might be tempted to go away and grab a book on the transtheoretical model for adults, because I don't think there are very many of them for kids at the moment, would you have any caveats for them as they're reading those books, having come from the adult world and applying it to kids? If they go away and find out more about this? Is there anything they should be holding back at the back of their mind as they read how this applies to adults?

It's a tough question, because my background doesn't really involve children and the psychology of children as much as these other two researchers. But I would say anytime you're approaching an individual, you have to treat them as an individual. And you can't necessarily take something that might have worked with somebody else. And just try it wholesale on that child, you have to adapt anything that you're doing to the individual that's in front of you. And no matter what we come up with in terms of our own model in terms of our own intervention strategies, they're still going to have to be adapted to the individual. And so whether you're reading a book that's based on the transtheoretical model, as applied for adults, primarily with these health behaviour changes, and you want to try to adapt that into a child that's in front of you exhibiting very specific patterns. You have to really think through what is this particular child need? What are these behaviours suggesting about their psychology about their situation? their context? and always bring it back to that that, to me is the most important thing.

Simon Currigan  19:50  

So no cookie cutter approaches, interventions yet always wrapped around the individual needs of the child. This is to everybody. What's the first step our listeners and viewers can take to find out more about your research and start applying this knowledge in their own settings?

Sean Turner  20:04  

The easiest one is go to Dr. Mac's site www.behaviouradvisor.com, because there's a lot of resources there. And then I think based off of this interview, we're going to add some slides to make this video presentation where there'll be some visuals for that. And I think that would be the best place to start. One thing to keep in mind about the stages of change model is the transtheoretical model sort of umbrella for all of these different models of change. And then one thing that came up for us as we go through all of this, and we certainly encourage people to not do things in isolation, but to talk to their colleagues about the model is that this process of change is something whether you're two years old, or here our age that we all go through for the rest of our lives. We're all going through different things, I don't want to do something that my wife wants me to change in my life. So I think we often, as you pointed out, want to go to quick fixes and solve problems. But to approach this is understanding that this is a theory. That is what Kenny said that all human beings have resistance to change. We've all gone through this process at some point. No matter what the child is, they have succeeded in some point going through these stages.

Simon Currigan  21:19  

We ask this of all our guests, who's the key figure that's influenced you? And what's the key book that you've read? That's had the biggest impact on your practice? 

Sean Turner  21:28  

Yeah, I think influenced me was Paulo Freire, because I work with older kids that are often on the margins of society. And so this idea of transformation, being not just about one discourse changing or one child's world changing, but the world that they interact, changing. So that has influenced me a lot as a teacher and educator, a way to look at change, not just being behaviour modification, but what do I have to change as a teacher?

Kenny Hirshman  22:00  

I would say, Bob Keegan, Harvard professor at school of education there, he developed the constructive developmental theory, which was really formative for me in my doctoral programme, and really helped me to kind of get a sense of how people make sense of themselves in the world and try to differentiate the self from other and how that process takes place over the lifespan. It definitely, for me, provides a lot of insight from an adult developmental perspective on what the research that we're doing, and how that might also impact children. Because, of course, this is a lifespan process. And so it does start at birth. And in fact, he has a really great book called Immunity to Change where he talks a lot about how we are resistant and how we can look at our own mindset and overcome some of that resistance. And I think a lot of that could apply to children as long as it's approached in a way that's developmentally appropriate.

Simon Currigan  22:58  

And Tom, which key finger influenced you the most or what's the key book that's had the most impact on your practice? 

Tom McIntyre  23:05  

For me it's a pioneer in working with urban street corner youth and kids with conduct disorders for its Dr. Redle spelled R EDL. And his book with David Weinman, titled Children who Hate and it has a broken toy soldier held tightly in a clenched fist on the cover, and it's a book that made me think, gee, I want to teach the kids that few others want to teach. It was published back in 1951, even before my wrinkled old soul arrived in this grander planet, but it still has relevance for today for understanding group dynamics and dealing directly with them productively and positively with kids with conduct disorders. Dr. Redle worked with teens and trouble with school in the community and law enforcement. He directed therapeutic efforts at the summer camps for these kids from inner city, Detroit, Michigan, they were bused up to what are known as fresh air camps in the wilds of Upper Michigan. And he developed these conversational methods for reaching through the behavioural barbed wire to the value systems and the motivational switches inside these students. And he developed techniques that are known as the lifespace interview, which were later updated by Nick Long into life space crisis interview in the conflict cycle ways of explaining why it is that adults and kids get into escalating and arguments and disagreements and how to avoid and escape them in the best interests of the youth.

Simon Currigan  24:32  

Sean, Tom and Kenny, that's been an absolutely fascinating insight into your research. Thank you very much for being on the podcast. I'm sure all our listeners will have found that fascinating. 

Kenny Hirshman  24:42  

Thank you.

Tom McIntyre  24:43  

Thank you for the invitation to join you.

Emma Shackleton  24:45  

Again, lots of great insights from Tom, Kenny and Sean about the actions we should be taking to help to get buy in from children and young people before even starting an intervention programme with them.

Simon Currigan  24:59  

Don't forget Tom's website www.behaviouradvisor.com With behaviour spelt the American way BEHAVIOR without the U. I'll put a link to that in the episode description as well because it's full of useful SEMH and behaviour resources for teachers. Plus, don't forget, this episode comes with a bonus. What you heard today was very much an edited down version of our conversation which actually lasted for about an hour. If you want to see the full video where Tom's graciously added slides to help explain the content, then please check out the YouTube link in the episode description.

Emma Shackleton  25:33  

And if you're working with children with challenging classroom behaviour, I'd just like to draw your attention to our completely new and revamped SEND handbook. We recently gave it a massive update, but it's still available as a free download. If you haven't got it yet, it can help you to link behaviours that you see in the classroom with possible underlying causes such as autism, ADHD, and trauma.

Simon Currigan  26:00  

The idea here isn't for teachers to make a diagnosis. We're not qualified to do that. But if we can link behaviours we see in the classroom to possible causes more quickly, it means we can get the right help and get early intervention strategies in place quickly.

Emma Shackleton  26:16  

And the new updated version now contains fact sheets on conditions like PDA, ODD, DLD, FASD and more. It's a free download, so head over to our website www.beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. click on Free Resources near the top, and we'll also put a link in the episode description.

Simon Currigan  26:38  

Finally, if you like what you've heard today or found it valuable, then subscribe to make sure you don't miss next week's episode, simply open up your podcast app and tap the subscribe button or the Follow button, as it's now called in Apple podcasts and to celebrate subscribing to the show. Why not devise a modular building system specifically for creating apartment blocks for field mice? Using nothing more than match boxes and double sided sticky tape. It is time consuming Yes. But you'll walk away with the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from having done important work.

Emma Shackleton  27:13  

Okay, thanks for listening to today's episode. I hope you have a great week and we can't wait to see you next time on school behaviour secrets. Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  27:22  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)