School Culture

Report: Certain Student Behaviors Tip Balance to More Positive School Culture

Report: Certain Student Behaviors Tip Balance to More Positive School Culture

Recently, a company that produces an application to help teachers track student behaviors issued a report summarizing the 19 behaviors that appear to be most conducive to achieving a positive school culture.

A healthy school culture has been linked to a decrease in absenteeism and improvements in teacher commitment, motivation to learn, student identity development and other education values. A big aspect of creating such a culture is recognizing the positive behaviors students display during the school day, such as showing pride in school or enthusiasm for collaboration. Yet, in most schools, the negative behavior is what gets the most attention, at least in documented form.

In the new report, published by Kickboard, education researchers and authors Tom Hierck and Kent Peterson suggested that a ratio of three positive emotions for every negative emotion acts as a "tipping point" between a student "flourishing or languishing." Kickboard's mobile app helps educators to capture data on all kinds of behavior and roll that information up into a calculation of "positivity scores" for classrooms and schools.

The work is based in part on a 2013 report by Barbara Fredrickson, a University of North Carolina professor who studies positive emotions and psychophysiology from the PEP Lab. Fredrickson explored the use of a ratio to determine how many positive emotions counterbalance the negative ones. On the positive side, she wrote, "More is better, up to a point"; and likewise, on the negative side, "less is better, down to a point. Negativity can either promote healthy functioning or kill it."

The company analyzed 152 million behaviors captured in 645 schools over seven years (nearly 34,000 behaviors per school per year). The idea was to identify the patterns that might exist between certain behaviors and positivity scores in classrooms. According to the researchers, schools logging greater than 20 percent of behaviors from the "Positive School Culture Inventory" (PSCI) had a positivity ratio between 67 percent and 90 percent. In contrast, schools logging less than 10 percent of the student behaviors from the PSCI showed a range of positivity scores and much lower positivity ratios overall.

As Peterson explained, while the "benefits of a positive school culture have been documented extensively, educators often have questions about what specific behaviors they should be tracking and reinforcing." While all positive behaviors "are desirable," he added in a prepared statement, "some are more essential than others in creating a positive school culture."

The report shared those behaviors that surfaced most frequently in the districts and schools with the highest PSCI scores. Among them were these:

  • Showing kindness;
  • Taking pride in one's work;
  • Displaying leadership;
  • Helping others;
  • Using time wisely;
  • Being prepared;
  • Loving learning; and
  • Making good choices.

"For years, many proponents of PBIS have wanted to go beyond tracking disciplinary referrals to measure the success of their efforts, but there has been little research or guidance around which behaviors to focus on," noted Hierck. "With the [PSCI] educators now have clear, data-driven insights as to which positive metrics to track to achieve their culture goals."

The report is available with registration on the Kickboard website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.