The development of an inservice training programme to enable kindergarten teachers to better manage the behaviour of young children with behaviour disorders
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Children with severe behaviour problems occur in significant numbers in our kindergartens and schools. They have a profound and often destructive effect on those around them because of their high rates of non-compliant, aggressive, and antisocial behaviours. In New Zealand, teachers have not traditionally been trained in methods that would enable them to better manage these children and to bring about improvements in their behaviour. This is especially so in early childhood education where the predominant developmental philosophy has resulted in a the rejection of the treatments that research has shown to be most effective in the remediation of antisocial behaviours in young children. This thesis examined the training of kindergarten teachers in skills which would enable them to better manage young children with behaviour disorders in the kindergarten setting. An experimental analysis was undertaken in an attempt to identify the necessary components of an effective in-service training programme. The research consisted of a Pilot Study and four subsequent experiments. In the Pilot Study a three level multiple-gating diagnostic procedure was trialled as a procedure for identifying young children with behaviour disorders and a training programme was developed. This consisted of six workshops and the requirement that the teachers practise the skills which they had been taught. The hypothesis which guided the development of this training programme was that it should be easier for teachers to acquire and maintain behaviour management skills due to their history of training for educational practice and, as a result, that a training programme for teachers could be "looser" and less directive than the training required for parents. This proved not to be the case. While the teachers in the pilot study were very positive about the training, observational data collected throughout the experiment showed that there were no significant changes in the behaviour of the teachers and, as a consequence, none in the target children. Following the failure of the Pilot Study, the training programme was modified to include stronger prompts for desired teacher responses to target children, the setting of specific behaviour change goals for the teachers' behaviour change, and the provision of structured feedback on the teachers' performance. In addition, procedures for the maintenance of newly acquired skills were built into both the training programme and the practice requirements undertaken by the teachers who participated. The relative importance of one of these training components, feedback, was analysed in a series of four experiments each of which was carried out in kindergartens containing at least two children who met the definition of behaviour disordered. In all four experiments the teachers who took part were able to acquire and use the management techniques taught during training. Those who showed the greatest levels of improvement were the teachers who, as part of their training and practice, were required to meet a criterion of acceptable performance for their newly acquired management skills, and who were provided with daily feedback on that performance. As a result of the improvements in the management behaviour of the teachers, improvements also occurred in the behaviour of all but one of the target children. The results of these experiments suggested that it is possible to change the management behaviour of teachers in an early childhood setting to a level which enables them to effectively manage the behaviour of children with severe behaviour problems provided that the training programme includes well designed cueing, performance criteria, practice, and feedback components.