COLUMBIA, Mo. - Nearly half of all new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, and sometimes their departures have less to do with teaching and more to do with managing disruptive student behavior. Decades of research have shown traditional disciplinary actions, including in-school or out-of-school suspensions, fail to improve student behavior.
Now, researchers at the University of Missouri are aiming to improve classroom behavior and student well-being with the help of $4.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The grants were awarded to the Missouri Prevention Science Institute, a multidisciplinary center housed in the MU Office of Research and Economic Development.
Wendy Reinke, a professor in the MU College of Education and co-director of the Missouri Prevention Science Institute, received a $3.2 million grant to implement the Classroom Check-Up, an online resource she developed with videos and strategies to help early-career teachers implement effective classroom management practices. Some of the topics include establishing clear expectations early, teaching students what appropriate behaviors look like and encouraging positive reinforcement. The intervention will support teachers in rural, suburban and urban Missouri school districts.
"This online platform can reach more teachers who find themselves struggling with classroom management, and supporting these teachers can have a trickle-down effect that leads to improved academic and behavioral outcomes for their students," Reinke said. "Some teachers see thousands of kids over the course of their career, so we try to give them the skills to improve those lives they touch."
Aaron Thompson, an associate professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences and associate director of the Missouri Prevention Science Institute, received a $1.3 million grant to implement an intervention aimed at helping students with challenging classroom behaviors learn how to set goals and monitor their own progress toward those goals.
"What I believe this intervention does is put students in a situation where they are being asked to be engaged with the solution to the problem," Thompson said. "We have to help them see that certain behaviors can help propel them toward the things they want in life. As we empower kids and promote that student autonomy, they will take more responsibility for their actions."
Thompson will work with school districts in Centralia and Ashland to implement the intervention in middle school classrooms.
"My goal is to promote a process where school support personnel, teachers and students are working together to solve problems in the classroom," Thompson said.
Funding for both grants was provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences to the Missouri Prevention Science Institute, a research center at MU aimed at increasing interdisciplinary research productivity, meaningful community engagement, diversity and inclusivity excellence, and addressing the contextual factors that contribute to and drive poor mental health outcomes in youth.