The question posed for the research is “What strategies do Early Years Professionals use to promote positive behavior? ” The aim of the research is to review the literature surrounding the topic, identify a methodology to conduct new research thin a particular setting and present the findings of what strategies the setting uses to promote such behavior. Kay (2006) defines the term behavior management as policies, strategies and responses used to eradicate misbehaver and promote positive behavior. There are different strategies that early year’s settings can implement to promote positive behavior and this research is going to identify some of the techniques that are being used within the specific setting.
Every child and parent is unique, so each individual will respond differently to different strategies. By reviewing what strategies have been adopted previously and what is currently used along with government legislation will provide a background to the research. The aim is also to identify sanctions used against negative behavior, in order to ultimately promote positive behavior within the setting. Roofer (2006) indicates the importance that children understanding what settings mean as ‘good’, and the behavior that is required of them. This is in order for them to internalize pro-social behavior and not Just fearing the negative consequence.
It is important to note the overspent legislation surrounding this topic – The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYES) (2012) highlights that no corporal punishment of any form may be carried out on a child, and that it is offence if done so. There are no strategies defined within the document to promote positive behavior and no guidelines on what sanctions can be used. However each early years setting will have their own behavioral policies in place, as illustrated by Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, (Offset), (2005). This research aims to review what is in place in the particular setting. The area of interest relates to behavior in a classroom environment.
Learning to cope with different positive and negative behaviors is a key element with all practitioners. As emphasized by Neil-Hall (2008) children are not born ‘bad’ or ‘good’ but develop a range of behaviors through growing up. These behaviors are not always positive and can be challenging to the adult responsible for care at the given time. This research will aim to identify a variety of techniques that can be used by the practitioners in order to promote positive behavior within the setting. The rationale for choosing the subject is an interest to identify the techniques and balance between promoting positive behavior and dealing with negative behavior in early years. More than at any other age, those who work with children in the early years hold the future in their hands… Research continually emphasizes the importance of the first few years of a child’s life” (Roofer, 2006 peg. L). Early years settings are where many individual behavioral traits are formed so this time is critical in which to identify what is deemed as positive and negative behavior. Although there are many external influences to what is seen as ‘right and wrong (for example culture, religion, aground, location) this research will aim to identify the strategies used to promote the desired behavior within the setting (Roofer, 2006).
For the purposes of the research the ‘setting’ implies the location in which the research will/has taken place and the ‘Parent’ identifies the person in charge of the child. Literature Review What strategies do Early Years Professionals use to promote positive behavior? The term Positive Behavior indicates that the child is displaying the behavior that society desires and is behaving in a positive manner while ‘misbehaver’ or problematic behavior’ indicates that the child is displaying the behavior that needs to be eradicated (Swales, 2006). Positive behavior can be reinforced by rewarding the good behavior, thus encouraging the child to repeat the behavior. This supports theorist B F Skinners’ Behavior Theory which states that actions can be conditioned through reinforces.
Positive reinforces offer a good consequence in the hope to repeat certain behavior, whereas negative reinforces offer a negative consequence in the hope to diminish a particular behavior, this is known as Operant Conditioning (McLeod, 2007). The idea is to give the child attention but in a positive manner and be alert to a child’s good behavior and making sure it is recognized. McKay (2013) points out that practitioners can frequently forget to praise and often correct and criticize the negative things in life. Furthermore, Glenn et al. (2010) states that in order to maintain positive behavior, it is important to establish good relationships with the children, if the child respects a practitioner then they are more likely to comply.
Kay (2006) points out that part of an Early Years Practitioner’s role is to teach children acceptable behavior and recognize that each child is unique and will present different behavior depending on their personal circumstances, cultural background, developmental stage and personality. It is important for the practitioner to strike a good relationship with both the child and the parents in order to have a full understanding of the child’s circumstances. The child will have to learn what is now expected of them within the setting and what is deemed unacceptable behavior, because what may be acceptable behavior at home may be deemed as unacceptable within the setting. This opinion is shared by Roofer (2006) who states practitioners need to consider that all children experience efferent upbringings and need to learn what is acceptable in the setting.
Porter (2006) continues to explain that where certain behaviors such as violence are unacceptable behavior, there are other fairly minor’ behaviors that one as an adult must learn to expect from children depending on the age and developmental stage of the child, although these behaviors can be aggravating and even anger a practitioner, they are normal behaviors and part of growing up. The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYES) (2012) highlights that no corporal punishment of any form may be carried out on a child, and that it is offence if done so. The EYES explains that physical intervention is permitted if there is a risk of immediate danger or to prevent a child from hurting themselves or others. However these are the only guidelines that EYES have given on behavior management, there are no strategies defined to promote positive behavior and no guidelines on what sanctions can be used.
However each early years setting will have their own behavioral policies in place, as illustrated by Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Offset) (2005). Offset (2005) states that most schools and colleges have behavior policies in place, that set out their expectations clearly and in two thirds of schools the policies are implemented consistently by their members of staff. These policies have also had a positive impact on early year’s settings, leading to a secure environment for children and this in turn increasing children’s self-confidence, which has led to a positive impact on their attitude towards learning (Offset, 2005). The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYES) (2012) recognizes the need to educate children about positive ways to behave and how to control feelings and emotions. Children alack about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behavior, and its consequences, and know that some behavior is unacceptable” (EYES Handbook, 2012, peg. 26). Glenn et al. (2010) believes that the most powerful strategy in promoting positive behavior is praise and reward, this opinion is shared by Kay (2006), Coyly (2006) and Neil-Hall (2008). Children respond better to being praised than to being reprimanded. They believe it is important to reward children with constant praise to encourage positive behavior. Praise boosts ones self-esteem and if a child’s good behavior is recognized through praise he/she is ore likely to repeat the behavior (Glenn et al. , 2010).
In contrast Rogers (2008) argues that praise can be over used and in effective if it isn’t sincere. Praise needs to be personal and carry a purpose, it is important to explain what it is that they have done well, why it is the practitioner is proud of them, rather than Just making a generic comment such as “well done”. Whereas McKay (2013) recognizes that praise should be to carry out instruction to show the pupil what it is that they have done correctly and this in turn gives them the knowledge of how to repeat the behavior. Such as “Excellent effort there Martha, you have sat with your legs crossed throughout circle time, superb listening”.
This personal praise is more constructive than Just “good Job”, Martha now knows that she is being praised because she listened well and sat nicely throughout circle time, hopefully leading to a repeat performance of good behavior during circle time. Roofer (2011) supports this view and states that praise needs to be specific and genuine in order for students to recognize what they have done that is praiseworthy, otherwise praise is meaningless. Glenn et al. 2010) illustrates that by providing the child with a good role model this can lead to promoting positive behavior. When a child is displaying good positive behavior, pointing this out to other children will reinforce what behavior is expected of them and should encourage other children to follow suit in order for them to receive the same positive recognition.
Swales (2006) emphasizes the importance giving a child a warning prior to an activity ending, to enable the time to finish their game and to prevent any protest. A sand timer is a useful tool for children to be able to see the passing of time. An adult would become “extremely annoyed if somebody turned off the television in the middle of our favorite program, without warning” so practitioners should bare this in mind and be more empathic towards the children in their care (Swales, 2006, peg. 18). Boredom can trigger misbehaver therefore it is important to try and prevent a child from being bored. At meal times children can be expected to sit and wait for long periods of time, this can lead to misbehaver.
Not leaving children sitting and waiting for meals to arrive can prevent this, also not making children wait at the table for others to finish, having them sit in he book corner reading quietly is another option (Swales, 2006). Swales (2006) also suggests that during free play sessions, if things start getting out of hand, rather than stopping the activity or reprimanded the child, a more positive approach would be to introduce a practitioner to Join in the play and calm things down. Children can misbehave for a number of reasons, establishing the source can help eradicate that particular behavior. (Glenn et al. 2010). A child may misbehave if they are wet and uncomfortable, hungry/thirsty, tired or cold etc. The child’s behavior may improve once these basic needs are met which fits in with Mascots Hierarchy of Needs (see appendix 1 . Which states that all the basic needs such as shelter and food, need to be meet before learning can begin (Chapman, 2014). Glenn et al. (2010) recognizes that when a child misbehaves it is often a form of attention-seeking because they want to get noticed. Ignoring unwanted behavior is often a good strategy to stop the unwanted behavior, because if a child is misbehaving to seek attention by ignoring the unwanted behavior the child will hopefully stop. A reaction to the unwanted behavior is effectively giving the child the desired attention that they want, and the child is more likely to repeat the behavior in the future, the next time that they want attention. Glenn et al. 2010) believes that in order to maintain positive behavior sometimes it is necessary, as a last resort, to apply a sanction, otherwise known as a Punishment or Consequence. Sometimes children Just won’t cooperate and comply, and it is necessary to give the child a negative consequence in order for them to stop the current behavior and start behaving in a positive manner. Cooley (2006) endorses the use of sanctions in order to diminish the unwanted behavior, to teach the child that the behavior is unacceptable and that it will be punished. It is important that the child knows it’s the behavior that is unwanted and not the child. This theory is supported by behaviorism B.
F Skinner and his Operant Conditioning theory. Skinner believed that when a negative consequence is applied it weakens/ diminishes the behavior. However when a positive reinforce is applied, this strengthens behavior and it is more likely to be repeated in order to obtain the positive reinforcement (McLeod, 2007). Other strategies for sanctions highlighted by Cooley (2006) are: disapproval, shouting, removal, loss of privileges and the naughty place. However it is not always feasible to use a reward to manage behavior that Cooley (2006) recognizes that sometimes a punishment should be used to stop a problematic behavior from occurring again.
Cooley states “If a child has behaved in a totally inappropriate way, then she must learn that this behavior will be punished… Your child will quickly learn not to repeat the behavior” (Cooley, 2006, peg. 124). When using the distraction method, although this is effective in deterring a hill from a potentially disruptive scene, there will come a time when a practitioner actually has to deal with the problematic behavior rather than continuing to distract the child. For example, if a child is repeatedly throwing a tantrum when one parent leaves the room, eventually the issue will need dealing with rather than simply distracting the child’s attention away from the tantrum by the other parent time after time (Cooley, 2006).
Roofer (2011) argues that punishment can be meaningless to some people because they have already dealt with worse things in life than the punishment that is being dealt to them. Therefore going to have very little effect and is unlikely to deter the unwanted behavior, in fact the punishment could provoke feelings of anger and aggression. However rewards can reinforce positive behavior. As stated “If punishment worked well as a deterrent our prisons would be empty’ (Roofer, 2011, peg. 71). Decides (2000) Self-Determination Theory, a study of human motivation and personality believes that ultimately the child needs to be intrinsically motivated and behave because they want to succeed and not Just to gain the reward and this is often the view of experience practitioners in EYES.
Methodology The purpose of this assignment is to find what strategies are used within Early Years Settings (EYES, 2012) to promote positive behavior. There are several research methods that can be used but after careful consideration the chosen methods are questionnaires and an interview. This section will explore the reasons for the chosen methods and why alternative methods were not used. Before carrying out any research it is important to consider the ethical issues surrounding an investigation. There is a responsibility to participants and sponsors of research (BEER, 2011). Permission to conduct the research was sought via a Letter of Request (Appendix 2. ) addressed to the manager of the setting.
It is important to obtain consent from the manager for they are the gatekeeper to the setting in which the proposed research will take place. However the manager cannot give permission for each individual participant in the research. Voluntary informed consent will need to be obtained from them as and when it is appropriate. This outlines the key ethical considerations in view of the British Educational Research Association (BEER) guidelines (2011). The Letter of Request explained the focus of the research project, how the research was proposed and why the information was needed. The participants’ rights to withdraw and anonymity of the participant were clearly expressed. The research was carried out within a local nursery that looks after children aged between 0-4 years old.
Questionnaires (Appendix 3) were given to each member of staff to obtain the strategies that they use to promote positive behavior. The researcher decided that the use of questionnaires for key staff members would be an ideal data collecting teeth, the researcher could obtain the views and opinions, but they could complete the questionnaires in their own time and it didn’t interfere with their work. Also this was a more convenient ethical option, as a consent letter (appendix 4) was attached with each questionnaire and the member of staff was asked to read and sign it before completing the questionnaire to ensure the participant understood their rights to withdraw and obtain their consent for participation in the project (BEER, 2011).
All questionnaires have the same set of questions, Denseness (2010) explains hat it is important to ensure that each person completing the questionnaire has an identical set of questions, in order to maintain consistency and precision, this therefore helps make processing the answers easier. Denseness (2010) highlights the importance of making sure that the respondent can read and understand the questions, and considering the respondent age, intellect, language and eyesight. Timing needs to be considered, a practitioner needs to be organized and allocate enough time for preparation of your questionnaires and consider the length of time you will allocate for participants to complete the questionnaires.
Lengthy questionnaires may lose the participants interest. The questionnaires were hand delivered and left with the staff for 5 days to allow enough time for completion. Open questions were used in order to obtain the staffs points of view (Bell, 2010). Careful consideration is needed when wording the questions, it is important not to use leading questions that can prompt the answers given, for this would not be a true point of view. When seeking an opinion from a participant it is important not to use closed questions. It was decided to use an additional interview with the Behavior Manager of the setting. This was to ensure clarification of the ideal setting.
This person has worked for the company for 10 years and has worked within the childcare industry for 20 years. It was considered best speaking with the behavior manager because of her wealth of experience and to discover her views on successful strategies in promoting positive behavior at this setting and any strategies that have changed over the years. Careful consideration had to be paid to the type of interview used. Bell (2010) highlights the different approaches to interviews, structured, semi- structured and unstructured. There are both advantages and disadvantages for each approach the information that is required, will enable the researcher to make the best decision on the most suitable approach for conducting research.
For the purpose of this assignment a semi-structured interview (Appendix 5 & 6) was prepared whereby the topic had already been chosen and questions were asked that had been previously organized. However because it was a semi-structured interview, the questions allowed room for the interviewee’s opinions and thoughts upon the subject matter. The researcher thought that the best format for the interview was MME-structured due to the fact that the opinions and experiences of the interviewee were required but related to a specific focus and therefore needed some focus. Due to time constraints, the prepared questions helped to prompt the interviewee while keeping the session on track (Bell, 2010).
As Denseness (2007) notes some interviews are not easy to obtain as they are time consuming for the interviewee. However by executing a structured interview (pre-planned) this will help limit time constraints and limit the interviewee from going away from the interview focus. Structured interviews are planned and are based upon specific questions. The interview is conducted face-to-face and the data given can easily be recorded (Denseness, 2007). For the purpose of the research project this method would not suit as qualitative data is sought and will need to allow for elaboration during the interview process as the topic is surrounding behaviors.
Alternatively unstructured interviews offer the interviewee freedom to express their opinions and delve further into the topic matter. The interviewer will engage in a topic but will not ask any specific questions so as to let the interviewee give their own personal thoughts and opinions on the abject matter. As the research area is focused on a particular topic this type of interview was not used – data can be difficult to record when using this method and the interviewee could not discuss the subject in detail. Bell (2010) points out the importance of wording questions correctly, appropriate language for the person to be interviewed should be selected carefully so that they understand what is being asked of them I. E. Practitioner would not use the same choice of language for a child that one would use for an adult or use academic language on everyday people. The questions that were used related to behavior and were appropriate for the respondent as the practitioner is familiar with the terms and language used. If a candidate who worked outside of the education sector was to be interviewed with the same set of questions language would need adapting to the individual being interviewed. The possibility of an observation of the 2-4 year old setting was discussed and planned, however after consideration it was decided that for this assignment and due to the time constraints, that it was best not carrying out an observation for this age range.
For ethical purposes (BEER, 2011) consent forms old have to have been sent out to each child’s parents who were to be observed which would have been time consuming within the allotted time. The nature of the observation would have been to observe children and how the Early Years staff dealt with the behavior and what strategies they would use to promote positive behavior. However, it could not have been guaranteed that the behavior was observable on the day of observation although this remains an option for further future studies. It would have proven difficult to have structured an observation due to unpredictability of the children’s behavior.
Unstructured observations may be more difficult to record due to the uncertainty of the direction of the observation (Bell, 2010). Structured observations are more likely to be deemed biased as the observer has chosen the focus rather than Just letting a focus emerge naturally, however you will already know the importance of the behavior that the researcher are trying to observe (Bell, 2010). However Denseness (2010) emphasizes that observations provide the opportunity to see events unfold and capture data as it is happening. The research for this assignment can be categorized as being from an interpretative paradigm rather than a positive paradigm, this is because the results are individuals’ opinions and views and this can differ from one professional to another.
The research collected was qualitative data, that the findings were based on opinions and not factual. This view is supported by Bell (2010) who emphasizes that “qualitative research not only uses non- numerical and unstructured data but also, typically, has research questions and methods which are more general at the start, and become more focused as the study progresses. ” Action and Presentation of results From the findings of the qualitative data (Appendix 7) it can be confirmed that an interpretative paradigm was obtained. This is reflected in the various views and opinions from the staff that completed the questionnaire. Each member of staffs answers to the questionnaires differed slightly due to different interpretation of events.
This is supported by the views of Denseness (2010) who states; “Research using qualitative methodologies- approaches that place special emphasis on the individual’s views and personal experiences” (Denseness, 2011, peg. 94). Through the results of the questionnaires it can be seen that the setting has a clear ND precise focus on promoting positive behavior by using strategies to support children, in conducting their behavior in a positive manner. It is clear to see the staffs have used an array of strategies in order to promote positive behavior. Some of these can be quantified below. Fig 1 . A graph to represent quantified positive strategies used Fig 2.
A graph to represent sanctions used The data reveals there are more rewards than sanctions and this is because the setting prefers to refrain from using sanctions and tries to promote positive behavior using positive strategies, this is emphasized by the behavior manager on he interview tape. This coincides with the view of Glenn et al. (2010) that sanctions should be used as a last resort. Cooley (2006) believes that people respond better to rewards than sanctions, it builds self-esteem and makes an individual feel good. This is certainly the case within the setting, the interviewee states that the children respond well to rewards, praise in particular. The results showed that the strategy with the best effect on promoting positive behavior was praise.
The interviewee reveals “everything we do with behavior management is based on the positive; even the Sanctions promote positive behavior”. The interviewee states that the setting tries to deflect the unwanted behavior and praise the child when they are displaying good behavior. The setting do not use the word naughty, they do not use Time Out or a Naughty Chair, this strategies are deemed too negative by the setting and they only want to focus on the positive. The interviewee highlights using a role model to promote positive behavior, for example if a child was behaving particularly well, given that child lots of praise and attention, may result in others following suit.
This also extends to the practitioners been a good role model, as young children are impressionable. Children copy what they see and hear (Roofer, 2006) therefore if the adults are displaying good behavior and appropriate language, the children will hopefully imitate this behavior. Privileges such as having a special helper are a good strategy to encourage children to behave positively, however the interviewee highlighted the importance of not forgetting or leaving out the child that is always well-behaved. As emphasized by Glenn et al. (2010). The setting ensures that there is a close partnership with parents, all of the parents are informed on a daily basis, and how their child has been at nursery on that particular day.
If their child has been acting particularly out of character then the practitioner would have a chat with parent to see if everything is okay at home. As a result of this close partnership with parents, a sanction can be applied in the reporting of the unwanted behavior to the child’s parents. The interviewee reports that in some cases a simple threat that “mummy/daddy will be very disappointed to hear that you are misbehaving” is sometimes enough to make the child behave. The interviewee explains that a majority of the children will respond well to at least one of the strategies, and in her pinion a majority of the children respond well to praise.
In the instance that all the strategies have been exhausted, and praise does not have an effect on the child, then as a last resort a behavioral plan will be introduced, and it is at this stage that we will be looking at making a referral to explore if there are deep underlying issues such as the possibility of ADD. Victoria (2011) defines that praise and encouragement promote intrinsic motivation. It is important that a child builds on their intrinsic motivation, so that they want to behave positively in order to increase their self-esteem and regard. Rather than extrinsic motivation children behaving, Just to avoid a sanction. The common view is that positive reinforcement is preferred over using negative strategies. However they do use sanctions when applicable and the common view is to remove a child from the situation, when they are misbehaving.
This strategy supports Cooley’s (2006) belief that children need to learn that there are consequences for misbehaving. The consequence in this case is being removed from the situation (which is usually an activity of their choice). There were problems encountered on receipt of the questionnaires in that only 4 out of 8 were completed. This is a common problem amongst questionnaires as reinforced by Denseness (2010, peg. 1 54) “Non-response is a problem”. This impacts the results, meaning there is only 50% of the total potential data to analyses. The risk with questionnaires is that the answers may be collaborated between the subjects and may not be a true reflection of individuals’ opinions or events as they actually happen.
In contrast interviews provide instant information, Bell (2010) points out that interviews are more adaptable than questionnaires, they offer more freedom to elaborate and explore the questions further, whereas the questionnaire have to take the written response at face value. Some of the answers provided in the questionnaire are very vague, unlike in the interview which is very in-depth and detailed. The interviewer and interviewee were able to elaborate on the answers and even go off on tangents; this is due to the interview being semi- structured. On reflection the questions are too repetitive, leading too much data to be analyses. Sharp (2009) emphasizes the need to plan simple questions so that they flow fluently and continuous and purposeful. The interview took longer than was intended.
This meant that the practitioner was pulled away from her Job for a longer period, which in turn resulted in an interruption midway through the interview as another member staff needed to ask a question. The researcher did not take into consideration that the Dedication recorded background noise; this is due to the location of the interviewee (the nursery kitchen). Sharp (2009) indicates the importance of conducting your interview in a quiet location away from disturbances. As emphasized by Sharp (2009) it is important to refrain from asking participants leading questions during interviews. While this was noted beforehand, due to the inexperience of the interviewer, it has been noted that on review/playback of the interview session, that leading did take place with non- scripted questioning.
This should be taken into account when drawing conclusions from this study. When drawing conclusions it is important to take into consideration the interviewer effect, “what they say they do, may not always be the truth” (Denseness, peg, 194). This view is supported by Sharp (2009) and the principle extended to questionnaires, how valid is their answers? The participants may have elaborated when answering the questions; they may answer what they think the researcher wants to know rather than their true opinions. Critical reflection From the findings of the research it is clear that the setting is in support of promoting positive behavior via positive strategies.
This coincides with current day government legislation of reinforcing positive behavior strategies across the education system, from preschools-secondary schools (Department for Education, 2012). In line with OFFSET (2005) most nurseries/schools have their own behavior policy. It may be the ease that the settings’ behavior management policy may be responsible for the common view found across the questionnaires. The policy states they encourage good behavior through the use of praise and rewards, this coincides with the results from the questionnaires and interviews, that the best strategy to promote positive behavior is through use of praise.