Technology Support for Student Behavioral Development

Abstract: 

A major concern that teachers have within the daily workings of their classrooms is with classroom management. Teachers feel that too much time is spent on controlling the classroom than on the instructional time of lessons. One program designed to assist teachers in this dilemma is an internet access system, ClassDojo. ClassDojo was created by Liam Don and Sam Chaudry, to assist teachers with behavioral management. Their program allows teachers to remain mobile in their classrooms and encourages students to become self-aware of their management skills. An action research study was conducted to determine if the use of ClassDoJo, as an immediate reinforcer, encouraged positive student behaviors during literacy stations time. To test the effectiveness of this program a third grade classroom was observed for a seven week period to track student behaviors with and without the use of ClassDojo.

Table of Contents: 

    Introduction

    A skill all teachers must learn to master is the ability to have exceptional classroom management. Classroom management is the ability to monitor classroom actions such as learning, socialization, and student behavior simultaneously so as to not distract from the needed learning (Rosas & West, 2009, p.55). There are a variety of different techniques and resources available to teachers that provide assistance and advice for handling classroom management issues. Still, classroom management concerns teachers of all levels of experience (Rosas & West, 2009, p.54). Classes with meager management procedures cannot support student learning. As Friedman (2006) explains, “poor classroom management often leads to misbehaviors which interfere with teaching and learning, and produces tremendous stress” (as cited in Rosas & West, 2009, p.55). Teachers are responsible for supporting and encouraging student development within their classrooms, but this cannot occur productively in an inadequately managed classroom. With the knowledge that strong classroom management skills are a necessity, teachers seek sound methods for maintaining a managed, productive learning environment.

    Classroom management technologies assist teachers in achieving a managed, productive learning environment. There are many advantages to using technology classroom management resources. Liam Don and Sam Chaudry (2011) have designed such a technological support resource to assist teachers in this endeavor. Their system, ClassDojo, supports all teachers, no matter what technological capabilities, in their behavioral classroom management needs, taking time back from disciplining and returning it to instructional time (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 1). The designers noted that “In some classrooms, more than 50% of class time is spent managing behavior rather than delivering instruction; ClassDojo aims to greatly reduce this so teachers can do more teaching and less crowd control” (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 7). Currently the tool is available as free shareware, and will remain that way for early adopters (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 12). The positive benefits and high praise has resulted in high levels of adoption in many schools throughout Texas. Teachers use the program either for the entire day or for certain periods where distractive behaviors may arise. Unlike other technological management resources ClassDojo allows its users to keep their mobility by having its users download an app on their mobile devices (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 3). This allows teachers to freely move through the learning environment—monitoring, managing, and recognizing appropriate behaviors that lead to more learning.

    Background

    ClassDojo was created in 2011 by Liam Don and Sam Chaudry. During the planning of the program the authors interviewed 150 teachers asking what was the most challenging aspect to teaching; and a large majority of teachers responded classroom management (Wired.co.uk.Staff, 2011, para. 6). The two founders shared an educational background, having been teachers themselves and understood the needs of classroom management and the need for further support (Dunn, 2011, video). They wanted to create a program that was “less about punishing students and…more about working with students” (Dunn, 2011, video). Their program creates a student list wherein teachers can reward positive or negative points depending on their observed students’ actions. With teacher-directed scores, related to observed positive and negative behaviors, projected on a screen, students are aware of their actions and consequences, by the points they receive. The program supports teachers and encourages student participation, personal assessment, and decision-making.

    ClassDojo is a behavioral management tool that encourages students’ positive behaviors by instant feedback, either positive or negative rewards, based on teacher observed actions and reactions to students’ behaviors using instant electronic communication. Teachers can project the internet accessed program on classroom monitors and electronic board by connecting the program to their smartphones or tablets. In essence, teachers are free to be among students while they are working in class, and respond to positive behavioral events with hand-held devices (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 3). Another positive aspect of the technological format is that every point the students receives is automatically recorded and saved without any data entry beyond pressing a button to award points (Dunn, 2011, video). This automatic documentation feature of the program is another opportunity for time saving for teachers. The system is able to generate reports for either the whole class or specific students that then can be shared with parents and/or administrators (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 1).

    Within the reinforcement design the system has there are other aspects the creators have added to support student development and teacher assistance. One of these is the ability to customize the settings of the system. The original settings of the program have the capability of showing all behaviors, positive and negative, when they are rewarded, in a public display. Some teachers believe that, “private, quiet reprimands are more effective than loud reprimands delivered in front of an entire class” (Gable, Hester, Hughes, & Rock, 2009, p.198). Therefore teachers have the ability to either remove the sound of the negative points and/or remove those who do not have positive points, so that others do not see their negatives (ClassDojo Class Reports, 2013, para.1). The program also allows the teachers to either choose preset behaviors or designing their own classroom specific behaviors (ClassDojo Class Reports, 2013, para.1). Teachers can design the management tool they need so they can model the behaviors they want their students to have and have the ability to reward them accordingly. An additional aspect of the tool, the timer, allows the teacher to include countdowns or duration timing. When interviewing a teacher in a Texas school who was preparing her students for the upcoming testing, she found this feature helpful to build stamina in silent reading. Before she had just documented on the board and kept her own timer, but now her students were aware of the time, as it would be displayed on the classroom public screen. Those students who sustained silent reading were rewarded points. The timing device encouraged student responsibility and awareness.

    The creators of the system contend that “specific positive reinforcement helps students develop a sense of purpose in the classroom, enhancing intrinsic motivation over time. By giving students visibility and data on their own behavior, ClassDojo makes class less disruptive and creates a more positive learning environment” (About ClassDojo, 2012, para. 8). For student engagement, ClassDojo entices students with its game-like avatars. Students are encouraged to design a monster avatar to represent themselves in the behavioral management program. Once students have received personal logins or “secret codes” to connect them to their classroom, they are able to navigate their personal site (About ClassDojo, 2012, para.8). Students can review their own personalized behavior reports, resulting in personal management based on self-review. Students are made aware of their actions immediately to encourage or discourage the continuation of the behavior. Teachers visually project students’ Dojo avatars use a computer or wireless devices to reward points for positive or take points away for negative behaviors. Students, in turn, use their reported points to manage their behavior, with the intent to earn more positive points.

    ClassDojo follows the design of positive reinforcement. As Kevin Sutherland, Joseph Webbly, and Susan Copeland (2001) found “when teachers praised appropriate behaviors, disruptive behaviors decreased and task engagement increased. Over time, researchers have also found that there is an increase in instructional time and a promoted feeling of competence when teachers used positive praise” (as cited in Misiowiec, 2006, p.8). It follows a method similar to B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning method (1971). B. F. Skinner said (1971), “behavior is shaped and maintained by its consequences” (as cited in Kazepides, 1976, p.56). B. F. Skinner created the term operant conditioning to help explain that when a behavior is encouraged by some form of reinforcer immediately following an action, then behavior becomes either adapted through positive reinforcement or diminished through negative reinforcement (Kazepides, 1976, p.56). “When a bit of behavior is followed by a certain kind of consequence, it is more likely to occur again, and a consequence having this effect is called a reinforcer” (Skinner, 1971, p. 25, as cited in Kazepides, 1976, p.57).

    The application of operant conditioning methodology in the ClassDojo program includes reinforcement in the form of sounds, sights, and point accumulation, which encourages students to repeat behaviors that earn rewards, in the form of ClassDojo points. By teachers’ discretions the points may be used as further reward for continuous good behavior. They may continue to build their total points or in some cases be rewarded with other prizes outside of ClassDojo. Despite the reinforcers received, students are encouraged by a form of external reinforcement, and obtain immediate feedback (Misiowiec, 2006, p.8). However, if some teachers choose to use the points awarded in ClassDojo for prizes later, such as candy or toys, the program itself is trying to work beyond that. ClassDojo replaces sugar treats as reinforcers, with the intent to, “build attainment, behavior or intrinsic motivation in the long term. Instead of the extrinsic approach, we're focused on real-time feedback to build positive behavior and intrinsic motivation” (Wired.co.uk.Staff, 2011, para. 4).

    Problem

    Students’ off task and interrupting behaviors displayed during literacy station time in the third grade classroom led to the need for a systematic way to shape behavior that encourages students to remain on-task and help others, rather than interrupting the teacher, who is working with students in guided reading groups.

    Purpose

    The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of assisting teachers in classroom management that encourages students’ behavioral adjustments.

    Research Question

    Does the use of ClassDojo, as an immediate reinforcer, encourage positive student behaviors during literacy stations time?

    Method

    Participants and Setting

    The participants were 23 students in a third grade classroom. The student demographic was 14 male students and 9 female students of an assortment of ethnicities. Of the 23 students, 3 students were African American, 4 were Hispanic, and 2 were Asian. The remaining students, 14 in total, were Caucasian. All the students had varying levels of education. There were 3 students involved in the EXPO program for critical thinkers. Another 4 students were identified with dyslexia and 3 were identified as English as a Second Language. There was a single student identified as special education and one student with a behavioral modification plan. They also varied greatly in terms of economical statisuses within their families.

    The Action Research took place across a seven week period. The first two weeks were devoted to baseline data collection, and the final five weeks tracked the behavioral changes observed in students when the ClassDojo was displayed during the literacy station time. Prior to the study students had exposure to the program. However, for the purposes of the study, the ClassDojo was not displayed during the first two weeks during the literacy station time. These literacy stations were conducted almost every morning for at least 30 minutes per station. The students would not rotate stations during their 30-40 minute period.. The teacher divided the students into five groups, and then the teacher would assign them a different station each day. The groupings did not change. These factors allowed students ample time to complete the work assigned at the station. The teacher used the five station model as established by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, the Daily 5 (Boushey and Moser, 2013, para. 1). The five stations consisted of Work on Writing, Word Work, Listening to Reading, Read to Self, and Read to Someone (Boushey and Moser, 2013, para. 1). Students had been working in this 5 station model since the beginning of the school year. Each station had posted instructions for students to reference. The stations Word Work, Work on Writing, and Read to Someone asked students to communicate with each other to complete work; however, they had to keep their voice levels at a low volume. The remaining two stations, Read to Self and Listen to Reading, required students to remain at a zero volume level.

    Data Collection

    To create a baseline for ClassDojo the students were observed in literacy stations for two weeks without the display of ClassDojo. Although the students worked in groups, they were tracked on an individual basis on the ClassDojo. Each time a student showed a behavior, positive or negative, that normally would have been tracked by the visual aid of ClassDojo, they were recorded by the observer without student knowledge. The observer moved throughout the classroom with a clipboard to document any behavior observed. The students were verbally praised or reprimanded, depending on their actions, but never made aware of the tracking that was being made. The students were marked negatively if they were off task from their assigned station or if they did not follow the class rule of asking 3 other students before interrupting the teacher, who was working in small groups. They were marked positively if they were on task for their station and if they assisted others at the station.

    After the completion of the initial two weeks ClassDojo was once again displayed. The same behaviors of on and off task work were recorded. If students were acting off task or interrupting the teacher they were given negative points with ClassDojo. If the students were on-task and assisting each other they were given positive points. When points were received the system would administer a sound. The program had different sounds for positive points and negative points. As the sound was being made a caption would appear on the screen with the student’s name, the behavior that was observed and whether positive or negative points were given. If a large majority of students were given points a caption and sound were displayed, but no names were listed. This method was repeated during every instance of literacy stations for the remaining five weeks.

    Results

    The baseline data showed that students received marks for both negative and positive behaviors approximately 50% of the time. In the first week of observation, the student percentage of misbehaviors was 55%. Students were unfocused on their assignments, which lead to the teacher stopping small group work to review the tasks and expectations of each station. Though behavior improved during the second week, it was within a small margin. Scores improved from 55% to 47% the following week.

    Figure 1 shows data that reflects students’ behaviors for the first week of observation.

    Figure 2 shows behaviors tracked during the second week of the study.

    Figure 3 shows the result of the remaining five weeks of observations.

    The chart, created by ClassDojo’s programs, indicates that the changes are dramatic. Students diminished misbehaviors from 55% the first week to 10% with the return of ClassDojo. It was apparent that students responded differently when the images were projected on the screen during the 5 week return of ClassDojo, than they did when a clipboard tracking system was used during the baseline period. Students remembered which captions related to each award, positive or negative (i.e. interrupting teacher’s groups, helping other team members). During the ClassDojo use time, students reminded other students of ClassDojo rules. Whenever they saw a caption for points rewarded or heard the sound of either positive or negative their focus was directed towards the screen. Students’ positive behaviors increased from only 45% and 53% the first 2 weeks to 90% during the last 5 weeks. As the weeks continued with the projection of ClassDojo, the behavior recorded by the teacher and the observer continued to follow a similar pattern. For the remaining five weeks of observations the scores of positive behavior continued to stay in the 90% or above range each week. At one point the whole class received positive points due to complete silent classroom behavior.

    As for the question of whether or not ClassDojo supports classroom management, the initial observations demonstrate that the system has a positive effect on student on both task and helping others behaviors. There was a markedly strong increase in positive behaviors when the ClassDojo system was present when compared to the baseline time of clipboard and teacher verbal reinforcement. Observations of the students during treatment weeks showed an apparent awareness and dependence on the display of reinforcers. Whenever a sound from the system was heard the students would turn their attention to the screen. They were able to instantly know the difference between positive and negative noises. They also remembered what the rewards signified. Throughout the remaining weeks of the project, the sounds, sights, and signifiers of reinforcement diminished the need for the teacher to stop the class and reteach the rules of literacy stations.

    Discussion

    ClassDojo, based on data collected across seven weeks, has been shown to be a helpful resource in classroom management. The most important issue that emerges from this study is the argument of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, as related to personal behavioral management in a school setting. Within that issue is the motivation behind students’ behavioral adjustments. Although ClassDojo’s claims focus on promotion of student awareness of behaviors for internal reflection and adjustment, students’ behavioral adjustments were made solely on conditioned responses to bells and visual cues related specifically to personal avatars on the screen. In addition, the system is connected to outside prizes related to a school-wide management system. The school uses a point system of “bucks” or tokens, which can be earned from either ClassDojo points, or other, external sources. This system is used school-wide by point-earners to purchase items such as lunch with the teacher, teacher’s chair for the day, or other toy-like prizes. These extrinsic reward systems, when coupled together, create an atmosphere in the school of external control, rather than internal, student control of behavior. For the purposes of getting the job done in an academic setting, while holding the group together, the Classdojo and Bucks management system seem to work, but to the exclusion of the development of internal, intrinsic control by students.

    Rafe Esquith (2007), in his treatise on how to assist elementary age students manage themselves in a classroom, applies his version of Lawrence Kolberg’s Six Levels of Moral Development to the management of his Los Angeles Unified School District, fifth-grade classroom. The levels are:

    I. Don’t want to get in trouble

    II. Want a reward

    III. I want to please somebody

    IV. Follow the rules

    V. Am considerate of other people

    VI. I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it

    Esquith provides multiple examples from his class of students progressing through the levels. A review of the results of this study suggests that the students observed were at Level II. They are seeking rewards for behaviors and adjust their behaviors to increase the rewards/points earned for meeting teachers’ expectations for appropriate behavior during literacy stations. To reach higher levels, along the Esquith hierarchy, would require releasing the control of behavior management to the students, trust that they can achieve this, and a system of rewards that are intrinsic.

    At issue as well are the positive and negative captions and rewards of the system. This study used both positive and negative points so that the students could become self-aware that negative behaviors received negative points. The points were displayed for the entire class to view. It was apparent during the study that the sound of the negative points brought everyone’s attention to the screen. Gable et al. (2009) state in their research of praise and reprimands that by publicly displaying or announcing student reprimands can damage the student-teacher relationship and trust or even encourage the behavior the teacher is trying to diminish (p. 201). The question then becomes, should ClassDojo users only record the positive behaviors? If so, how do you control and reduce the misbehaviors without damaging relationships or causing more disruption? The relationships between the teachers and students were not examined in this study, but leads to a point of further investigation.

    Conclusion

    The ClassDojo program offers teachers a unique system of classroom management that not only assists teachers in capturing instructional time, but also encourages student development and awareness of behaviors. With this technological program students and teachers have immediate responses and teachers have automatic, continuous records of student behaviors. This program encourages student development by making students self-aware of their behaviors and the consequences of these behaviors, whether positive or negative. The program offers students the chance to make their self-adjustments to behavior rather than constant teacher reminders of proper classroom procedures.

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    Figure 1: First Week without ClassDojo Projected in Classroom Observations

    55% off task behaviors (negative). 45% on task behaviors (positive).

    Figure 2: Second Week without ClassDojo Projected in Classroom Observations

    47% off task behaviors (negative). 53% on task behaviors (positive)

    Figure 3: ClassDojo Report of Total Behavior Points for Entire Third Grade Classroom