Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chapter 8: Tweak the Environment

This chapter was kind of fascinating, looking at it from a psychological perspective. It makes so much sense to me, because I think it's something that we all fall victim to. It's so much easier to automatically jump to conclusions about people's character, than it is to rationally evaluate how the environment is affecting someone's behavior. However, as the authors state in this chapter, "What looks like a person problem is often a situation problem" (180). While it may be easier to jump to the conclusion that there is something inherently wrong with the person, that's usually not the case. As I was reading this section, I kept thinking about those students that I have in my class who continually cause behavior issues. I realized that rather than blaming the student for blurting out an answer or interrupting someone, I should really look at the situation and at the environment that I have created in my classroom; I was simply "attributing people's behavior to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in" (180).

As an educator, it's much easier to place the blame on the student than it is to take responsibility for what I may have helped create. It's a bit overwhelming to try and pin-point what, exactly, it is about certain situations that might cause someone to misbehave. This chapter made me really want to question that and try to "shape the Path" (181). The authors reiterate on page 183 that because it is possible to change the environment then, "no matter what your role is, you've got some control over the situation." This is very important to remember, because often I feel as though I have done everything possible to set my students up for success. So it is very frustrating when a student isn't practicing the "right behaviors." The example that really stuck out to me was the management firm that had employees refusing to use the mandatory electronic time sheets. The executives assumed that the employees weren't using the system because they were lazy or obstinate, when really it was because the paper system was more efficient for the workers. The executives were even about to resort to threats, ultimatums, and punishments: "At that point, the executives felt they'd tried every tool in their toolbox, so they jumped to punishments" (185). Sometimes, it's hard not to feel this way when you're dealing with a student who you have had to continually redirect; the only other option seems to be to resort to those punishments. But, as the authors point out, simply resorting to punishing students every time they act out is not going to get them to really change their behavior (most of the time). It's not going to motivate them to really want to change. Instead, I should take a look at how I can change the situation, rather than trying to punish the student. I'm not sure how to begin this process, or what the answer is, but this chapter has made me realize that I still have some other tools in my tool belt.


  1. I loved this quote as well: "What looks like a person problem is often a situation problem" (180). It opened my eyes up to looking at my students, family members, and even friends in a different light. The example you used about the management firm was "the path of least resistance" idea. The workers were using what was easiest for them to complete the task which makes sense. How many times do parents look at how some of the math concepts in the engageny lessons are taught today and say they are "too hard" because they want to use the strategies they learned? The reality is that it's easier to do what is familiar or easy so when working with students we need to make situations more "kid friendly" in order to get the results we want.

  2. I too liked the quote- "What looks like a person problem is often a situation problem." And I agree with Ms. Lysiak, punishing a student every time they act out isn't really going to get them to change their behaviors. We should take a look at changing the situation or environment rather than trying to change the behavior.

    I think of our issues with Advisement- we continually have students wandering in and out of the library without passes, during non-travel times. We have been struggling with changing this behavior, to no avail. I think it is time to change the path. I am hoping as it says on page 202: "Simple tweaks in the path can lead to drastic changes in behavior." Not sure how I am going to do this yet, but as Ms. Lysiak said, "I'm not sure how to begin this process, or what the answer is, but this chapter has made me realize that I still have some other tools in my tool belt." I will report back!

  3. I guess I still see it as a person problem in that the person needs to learn to handle or cope with situations because we can't always change the environment. Obviously, there are things we do in the classroom to shape the environment such as rules, safety concerns, procedures, etc... and we try to create a safe environment where kids can express themselves, not be afraid to participate, and where they can feel valued. However, there will be consequences in the outside world once they graduate, and there will be no blame on the environment that caused that person's behavior. At times, people need to learn to adjust to the environment. If a teacher's whole class is one big behavior problem then, yes, the teacher needs to adjust the environment. But if there is one behavior problem student, I don't think blaming the environment is the answer.

  4. I also found this chapter to be very interesting as it talked about people jumping to conclusions and not considering the environmental factors that could be influencing a particular behavior. This idea of environmental factors applies to interactions with students, but I also thought about how we interact with parents and our colleagues. I think we all at times jump to conclusions about why people are doing things and it clouds our judgement as we determine what can be done. This makes it more challenging to be successful and I know I need to keep this in mind when interacting with individuals. I like how this chapter challenges us to look at my own thought process when problem solving and make sure that we look at problems from multiple perspectives before determining that one viewpoint is correct or more valid than another. This also applies to my classroom because I need to remind myself that when addressing more complicated behaviors I need to look at all of the factors and see if there is some environmental factor influencing an individual to make particular choices. I think by keeping this in mind I will be able to better respond to challenging behaviors and hopefully help some of my friends to make positive changes so that they can be successful.


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