Maximizing Effectiveness Using
Positive Behavior Support Methods
in the Classroom:
Ecological Adaptations
• Identify 3 main types of ecological
adaptations in the classroom
• Identify 2 broad ways of adapting the
• Recognize both group and individual
ecological adaptations
• Make adaptations to environment
Three types of Adaptations
Adapt what is taught
Adapt how it is
taught and how
learning is
Adapt the setting –
where, when, and
with whom
Research shows that the most
effective schools are those with a
well-ordered environment and high
academic expectations.
(Harry Wong, 1998)
Well Ordered
Ecological Adaptations
• Ecological adaptations involve modifying the
environment (physical and interpersonal
settings) rather than the curriculum or the
• Curriculum and instructional adaptations
depend on a sound environment
• Ecological adaptations are necessary for
curricular and instructional adaptations to be
successful, but are not sufficient alone to
change most problem behavior.
Ecological Adaptations
The purpose of ecological adaptations is to
enable a student with social, behavioral, or
emotional needs to cope with the demands of
the environment while learning new skills.
Initial Classroom Assessment:
Ecological Factors
P h ysical S ettin g
A 1.
A 2.
A 3.
A 4.
A 5.
A 6.
A re unnecessary and distracting item s rem oved from view
and reach?
A re all m aterials organized and easily accessible?
D o students have secure and adequate spaces for personal
H as furniture been placed to decrease traffic flow
D o instructional areas of the classroom have clear, visual
boundaries for students?
A re the rules posted and w ritten in w ords that all can read
and /or illustrated w ith graphics or icons?
In place
Som ew hat
In Place
N ot In
Initial Classroom Assessment:
Ecological Factors
S ch ed u lin g
B 1.
B 2.
B 3.
B 4.
Is the daily schedule of activities posted and review ed
A re transitions and non -instructional activities posted and
regularly review ed?
D oes the daily schedule provide each student w ith regular
tim e periods for independent w ork, one -to-one instruction,
sm all and large group activities, socialization, and free tim e?
D oes each student spend m ost of his/her tim e engaged in
active learning activities, w ith little or no unstructured
dow ntim e?
In place
Som ew hat
In P lace
N ot In
P lace
Initial Classroom Assessment:
Ecological Factors
S o cia liza tio n
C 1.
Is there an em phasis on the developm ent of the in dividual
responsibility and independence of all students?
C 2.
Is there a p rocess for regular (at least w eekly)
com m unication betw een the teach er and fam ily?
C 3.
A re skills taught in the settings and situations in w hich they
are natu rally need ed?
C 4.
A re friendships betw een students prom oted?
C 5.
A re classroom assistants actively involved w ith students in a
m anner that prom otes their independence, learnin g and
interaction w ith peers?
C 6.
A re effective, efficient com m unication strategies being used
or taught?
A re students w ith disabilities given opportunities to interact
and socialize w ith typical peers?
C 7.
In place
Som ew hat
In P lace
N ot In
P lace
Aspects of Effective Classroom
• Social Environment
– The interaction patterns you promote in the classroom
• Organizational Environment
– The physical or visual arrangement of the classroom
• Because goals change from lesson to lesson and week
to week, so too must your classroom climate that
supports the goals
Social Environment
• Authoritarian
– Teacher is the primary provider of information,
opinions, and instruction
• Shared Responsibilities
– Students are given freedom of choice and judgment
under your direction
• Laissez-faire
– Students are the primary provider of information,
opinions, and instruction
Classroom (Social) Climate
– Competitive
– Cooperative
– Individualistic
– Full Class
– Groups
– Individual
Competitive Climate
• Students compete for right answers among
themselves or with a standard established by
teacher. The teacher is the sole judge of the
appropriateness of a response.
• Example Activity: Drill and practice
• Authority Vested in Students: None
• Authority Vested in Teacher: To reorganize the
instruction, present the stimulus material, and
evaluate correctness of responses
Targets: Competitive
• Full Class: Students compete with other students by
having the correct answer when it’s their turn.
• Groups: Subgroups compete against each other as
opposing teams.
• Individual: Individuals compete with each other by
having to respond to the same question. The
quickest most accurate response “wins.”
Cooperative Climate
• Students engage in dialogue that is monitored by the
teacher. The teacher systematically intervenes in the
discussion to sharpen ideas and move the discussion
to a higher level.
• Example Activity: Small and large group discussion
• Authority Vested in Students: To present opinions, to
provide ideas, and to speak and discuss freely and
• Authority Vested in Teacher: To stimulate the
discussion, arbitrate differences, organize and
summarize student contributions
Targets: Cooperative
• Full Class: Students are allowed to call out hints or
clues when a student is having difficulty finding the
right answer.
• Groups: Subgroups work on different but related
aspects of a topic combining their results into a final
report to the class.
• Individual: Pairs of individuals cooperate by
exchanging papers, sharing responses, or
correcting each other’s errors.
Individualistic Climate
• Students complete assignments monitored by the
teacher. Students are encouraged to complete
the assignment with the answers they think are best.
Emphasis is on getting through and testing one’s
• Example Activity: Independent seatwork
• Authority Vested in Students: To complete the
assignment with the best possible responses
• Authority Vested in Teacher: To assign the work and
see that orderly progress is made toward its
Targets: Individualistic
• Full Class: The entire class recites answers in unison.
• Groups: Each subgroup completes its own assigned
topic that is independent of the topics assigned the
other subgroups. No shared report is given to the
• Individual: Individuals complete seatwork on their
own without direct teacher involvement.
Organizational Environment
• The social climate created by your words
and actions always should match the
organizational climate created by the
physical arrangement of your classroom.
• Where, When, and Who
Ecological Adaptations
Three types of
Adapt the place
Adapt the schedule
Adapt the staff or
Activity: Self-Check
on your Physical Space
• How many students will you have in the room at
one time?
• How should your pupil’s seats be grouped?
• What kinds of activities will be taking place in your
• Do any students need to be isolated? If so, is it for
certain activities or for most of the day?
• How is movement in the classroom to be
• What can you do to create a sense of well-being
and safety for your students in your classroom? 21
Helpful Hints: Physical Space
• Classrooms should contain options for students
– e.g., quiet work areas, group interaction areas, and
whole-class discussion areas
• Interest areas should be clearly defined
• Areas should be located within easy access of any
external requirements
– e.g., water, electrical outlets, quiet
• Incompatible activities should be separated
– e.g., creative dramatics and listening centers
• Areas should be clearly labeled and easy to see
Helpful Hints: Physical Space cont.
• Aisles and pathways should be clear and not pass
through work areas
• Large, open spaces that may invite inappropriate
physical activities should be avoided
• The teacher’s desk should be located out of the way
to encourage the teacher’s movement around the
• Instructional materials should be accessible and easily
Classroom Arrangements
Desks in rows
Desks in a horseshoe
Classroom Arrangements
Desks in clusters
Desks in circles
Overview: Where
• Change the place
– Provide access to privacy for a student has difficulty
concentrating or staying on task (study carrel, trip to
another teacher’s room)
– Minimize congestion and clear traffic lanes
– Groups/stations positioned to minimize distractions
– Clear lines of vision to the students
– Students see all instructional displays
– Behavioral expectations clearly posted
– Create a background sense of well-being and safety
within classroom
Where: Strategies
• Social Interpretation or Reframing (Maag, 1999)
– Helps students understand the meaning of and
clarify their thinking regarding behavior that is
directed toward them
• Relationship Transfer
– Using a positive relationship between two
people to engender other relationships that can
assist a fearful student in adapting to a new
• Positive Unconditional Regard (i.e., Respect)
– Exhibiting ongoing respect and caring for a
student regardless of the student’s successes or
Where: Strategies
• Use of Literature
– Having students identify with characters in a novel or
story and experience a different understanding of their
difficulties or new solutions to their own problems
• Rapport building
– Verbally and nonverbally communicating interest in a
student and in his/her life situations
• Debriefing
– Student reflects on his/her own behavior with teacher
• Behavioral momentum
– Positioning a usually resisted request after a series of
requests that have a high probability of compliance 28
Where - Group Example
After minimizing classroom congestion, clearing
the traffic lanes, establishing groups/stations
across the room, and clearing the lines of
vision to the students, Mrs. Andrews began
focusing on establishing a caring classroom
environment. She began making positive
phone calls home, made a point to check in
with each and every student every morning to
see how they were doing to build rapport.
Where - Individual Example
Student Snapshot
• Andy is a 9 year old in a V.E. classroom. He is an intelligent and
conscientious boy who experiences a significant amount of
frustration in his work. During independent seatwork his frustration at
becoming distracted by those around him leads to self-injurious
• Hypothesis – When there is movement and noise around him during
seatwork, Andy becomes distracted and engages in self-injurious
behavior to get himself to attend to the task at hand.
• Curriculum adaptations – Andy was given the opportunity to work
at his regular desk, or in a study carrel. When Andy became
distracted, he could move to the carrel where he could complete
his work without distractions.
Ecological Adaptations
Three types of
Adapt the place
Adapt the schedule
Adapt the staff or
Overview: When
Change the schedule
– Opportunities for choice and reasonable control
– Adapt daily schedule to provide additional breaks (e.g., rest and
break options, neutralize routines)
– Daily class schedule posted
– Individual student schedules are developed if needed (e.g.,
creative scheduling)
– Visuals are used if necessary
– Procedures for transition times and non-transition times are posted
– Label, label, label
– Predictable routines and signals
– Anticipation cues
– Color code information
When: Strategies
• Opportunities for Choice and Reasonable Control
– Providing options within academic and work tasks and
within daily routines
• Predictability
– Clarify the daily class schedule, specific activity
expectations, and activity beginning and end points
• Rest and Break Options
– Providing the student a choice to move to another area
of the room or a separate setting to spend a few minutes
in a relaxing activity or posture
When: Strategies
• Anticipation Cues
– Once identified what triggers behavior, teacher removes
or alters cues to change the way a student responds
• Creative Scheduling
– Arranging and rearranging events during the day to a
particular student’s rhythm, pace, and preferences
• Neutralize Routines (Horner, Day & Day, 1997)
– Planned opportunities for a student to regain his or her
composure through engaging in an activity that is known
to help reinstate calm and reorient the student to the task
at hand
When - Group Example
Ms. Johns labeled her entire classroom (stations,
bins, materials) for the students to see, posted
the daily schedule at eye-level in large font,
and began using a 5-minute warning to assist
students in wrapping up their current activity.
With these pieces in place, it was easier to
offer students choices between activities (e.g.,
computer center, independent seatwork, or
listening center) throughout the day.
When - Individual Example
Student Snapshot
• Demetrius is an engaging 8 yr. old boy in a classroom for students
with mild to moderate mental retardation. During group activities
such as circle group, story time, Demetrius is engaged. During
independent work activities, especially those which require him to
remain seated, Demetrius becomes disruptive.
• Hypothesis – During activities to be completed independently,
Demetrius becomes disruptive to get attention from others.
• Curriculum adaptations – The schedule was adjusted to ensure that
independent activities were alternated with interactive activities. A
picture schedule was developed to cue Demetrius that a preferred
activity is coming up.
Ecological Adaptations
Three types of
Adapt the place
Adapt the schedule
Adapt the staff or
Overview: Who
Change the people
– Use a different teacher for a particular subject or activity
– Find opportunities for a student to spend extra time with preferred
adults or peers
– Reduce the adult-to-student ratio (i.e., provide opportunities for
individualized attention)
– Change the number of peers with whom the student is grouped for
– Friendships between students with and without disabilities is
– Opportunities for social inclusion is provided to students with
– Mechanisms are in place for daily communication between student
and teacher
Who: Strategies
• Peer Buddy Arrangements
– One student assisting another student for behavioral,
academic and/or social purposes
• Cooperative Learning Activities
(Sapon-Shevin, Ayers & Duncan, 1994)
– Provides social and academic benefits – everyone is
good at something and can help others
• Classwide Peer Tutoring
(Greenwood, Delquadri & Carta, 1998)
– All students receive and provide tutoring
Who: Strategies (continued)
• Base groups
(Jones & Jones, 1998)
– Fosters a sense of community among a group of students by
having them check on each other’s understanding of their
work and their progress
• Extracurricular activities
• Peer mediators
(Bodine & Crawford, 1998)
– Use negotiation, mediation, and consensus decision-making
processes and skills to resolve inter-peer conflicts
• Positive Communication between Educators and
– Developing home-school partnerships
Who - Group Example
Mr. Adams noticed that his math class did not seem to
get along well with each other. To increase peer
relations within his classroom, he incorporated classwide peer tutoring by having his students work on
math problems for 15-20 minutes, intermittently
exchanging roles that they learned while Mr. Adams
modeled the process one day. Then on Wednesdays,
he has the students break into their established base
groups (groups of 4) for 15-20 minutes to check on
everybody’s understanding of each other’s work and
Who - Individual Example
Student Snapshot
• Alena is a 15 yr. old student diagnosed with autism who is
mainstreamed in regular classes. In math and science Alena is
frequently non-compliant and occasionally becomes disruptive. In
language arts Alena participates appropriately. Teachers
recognized that during math and science classes there are in excess
of 30 students per class, while in language arts, there are only 20.
• Hypothesis – When working with a large group of students, Alena is
disruptive to get attention from the teacher.
• Curriculum adaptations – Alena was switched to math and science
classes that contained fewer students to enable the teacher to give
her the additional attention she needed to be successful in the class.
Three Types of Adaptation
Adapt what is taught
Adapt how it is taught
and how learning is
Task Division
Adapt the setting –
where, when, and with

Maximizing Effectiveness Using Positive Behavior Support