Teaching Self Management Skills

What is a self management plan?

Self-management plans are used to teach students to independently complete tasks and take an active role in monitoring and reinforcing their own behavior. An important goal in education is to foster self-reliance and independence. In fact, self-management strategies can be implemented before any problem behaviors occur. Research studies show that self-management strategies can be used to improve academic performance, productivity, time on-task, and to decrease problem behavior. The ability to use self management strategies effectively is a skill that becomes very important for success as children grow into adulthood. The critical elements of self-management include setting goals, monitoring behavior, and evaluating progress. Examples of self management include self monitoring, self evaluation, and self reinforcement.

When a student engages in self-monitoring, she observes her own behavior, records its occurrence on a data collection form, and graphs the data to evaluate progress. Self-evaluation strategies encourage students to set their own goals and compare their current performance as they work towards those goals. Both self-monitoring and self-evaluation are often used with self-reinforcement strategies. A student takes an active role in self-reinforcement strategies by determining how he will evaluate progress towards a goal and delivering a reinforcer to himself when he achieves the goal.

How can teaching self management become a strategy for replacing a problem behavior?

Many different types of behaviors can have the same effect or outcome. A student who is trying to tell you what he wants may point to a toy, grab your hand and lead you to the toy, ask for the toy verbally, or scream loudly and pinch others when the toy is nearby. Although these behaviors look different, they can result in the same outcome. Some self management plans are created to replace a student's problem behavior with a more appropriate skill.

In one research study a fourth grade student with learning disabilities learned how to engage in self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-recruitment of teacher attention. The student’s functional assessment indicated that when the student was in a group setting with one teacher and five or more students, he engaged in disruptive behaviors that were reinforced by attention. The self management strategy involved the student using a small portable tape recorder with single ear plug. The tape recorder cued the student to record his time on-task (working quietly and keeping his hands and other objects to himself). After self-recording for a designated period of time, the student learned to raise his hand during instruction and walk up to the teacher during independent seatwork to receive feedback on his assignment. The student was also able to earn credits that were pooled on a weekly basis for class rewards that allowed the student to experience increased positive attention from his peers.

Why is it important to consider the efficiency of a self management plan?

It is very important to make sure that the self management plan that you are using to replace a problem behavior with new self monitoring, self evaluation, and self reinforcement skills is as easy or easier when compared to the problem behavior. If the self management plan requires more effort and does not result in the same outcome, the student will continue to engage in problem behavior because it is more efficient. A number of factors should be considered to make sure a self management plan will be more efficient that a problem behavior. When designing the self management plan, consider how much physical effort the student engages in to achieve the same outcome as the problem behavior. Make sure that the reinforcement a student receives occurs frequently enough to maintain his or her self management behaviors. The reinforcer chosen needs to be as powerful as the outcome previously associated with problem behavior and delivered quickly when it is earned.

What steps are needed to create a self management plan?

  • Conduct a functional assessment to identify the function maintaining the problem behavior
  • Encourage the student to list possible reinforcers that can be used and assist the team in creating the self management plan
  • Develop a recording form that is easy to use and will not create a lot of extra work for either the teacher or student
  • Initial training sessions may be necessary to assure the student understands how to use the recording form and implement the self-management plan
  • Designate a small amount of time to confirm that the student understands the self-management plan and evaluate the accuracy of the student's recording
  • Some self-management studies have included incentives to the student for high levels of accuracy in self-recording
  • Review progress with the student on a regular basis and celebrate success

Why is it so important that the student is directly involved in setting up the self management plan?

Self management strategies are intended to build a student’s independence and ability to engage in self monitoring, self evaluation, and self-reinforcement. The power of self management is its emphasis on building a feeling of control over one’s own behavior. Attempts to control a student’s behavior often decreases the power of a reinforcer which makes the self management plan less efficient and problem behavior more likely to occur.