Dr. John Murphy Professor, University of Central Arkansas

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The following material is taken from a pre-publication draft of the book:  

Murphy, J.J. (2008). Solution-focused counseling in schools (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.  

A Student-Driven, Solution-Focused Approach to Classroom Teaching

            A solution-focused perspective is also helpful in classroom teaching. Several researchers (Freiberg, 1999; Pianta, 1999; Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Wahlberg, 2004) have linked positive student outcomes to teaching styles that (1) respect the integrity and individuality of students, (2) demonstrate confidence in their ability to learn and act responsibly, (3) encourage students to examine and resolve their own problems, (4) involve students in classroom discussions, activities, and decisions, and (5) facilitate positive teacher-student relationships.

Just as effective counseling requires the client’s participation, the success of teaching rests largely on a solid student-teacher relationship that encourages the student’s active involvement in learning (Pianta, 1999; Zins et al., 2004). Effective teachers manage the process and structure of the classroom while encouraging student input and participation, providing ample opportunity for students to share their opinions, experiences, and successes, and  connecting instructional topics and activities to the experiences and interests of students (Doll, Zucker, & Brehm, 2004).  For example, in presenting a geography lesson, the teacher might encourage students to read and write about a place they have actually visited.

Solution-focused practices can also assist teachers in preventing and resolving classroom behavior problems. Effective teachers explicitly recognize and amplify students’ strengths, resources, and successes instead of attending only to their mistakes and problems (Goldstein & Brooks, 2007). For example, a teacher might ask a student who is displaying behavior problems to present a class report on their favorite hobby. This may improve the teacher–student relationship, as well as showcasing the student’s unique talents and resources. Similarly, a teacher could ask the student’s opinion of what might help turn things around for the better. As illustrated throughout this book, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by enlisting students as consultants on their own problems and goals. Students, like the rest of us, appreciate being asked for their opinions and ideas. Even if the student has no specific ideas for improving things, the question itself conveys respect and enhances the teacher–student relationship—which is a benefit in teaching and behavior management.

Additional ideas for applying solution-focused principles to teaching and establishing resilient, effective classroom environments can be found in Berg and Shilts (2004), Goldstein and Brooks (2007), and Doll et al. (2004).

What is Video Self-Modeling?

Video self-modeling is a unique application of building on exceptions in which a student learns productive behavior by observing himself or herself engaged in positive behavior on edited videotapes. Self-modeling is based on the well-established principle of modeling, which states that people are more likely to perform a desired target behavior if they have previously observed someone else performing that behavior (Bandura, 1977). Modeling effects are most powerful when the observer and model share similar characteristics. Self-modeling makes optimal use of this principle by employing the most powerful model of all—oneself.

Self-modeling typically involves the following steps: (1) videotape the student; (2) edit out all problem behavior to create a self-modeling video—a 2 to 5 minute seamless display of positive behaviors (“video exceptions”); and (3) have the student watch the tape four or five separate times over a two-week period. Allowing students to see themselves behaving well is a unique and empowering way to help them improve school behavior. Video self-modeling has been effective in improving communication skills (Murphy & Davis, 2005), classroom conduct (Kehle, Clark, Jensen, & Wampold, 1986), social skills (Savina & Murphy, 2007), and many other school-related behaviors (Hitchcock, Dowrick, & Prater, 2003). Students who are referred for services generally do not receive a lot of positive feedback about their school behavior. Some may wonder if they are doing anything right at school. Self-modeling provides indisputable, empowering evidence of their ability to behave productively at school.

The technological requirements of self-modeling make it impractical for some practitioners and some settings. However, as video technology and equipment become more user-friendly and accessible, self-modeling holds great promise as a positive intervention for a variety of school problems from preschool through high school. Instructions for implementing self-modeling in schools are provided below.

Instructions for Implementing Video Self-Modeling in Schools

1. Videotape the student (S) performing desired behavior. You may need to videotape a few different times to get enough behavior. You can also prompt S to perform the targeted behaviors if they are not occurring enough on their own. The purpose is to get the appropriate behaviors on tape, prompted or otherwise.

2. Edit out inappropriate behaviors in order to create one or two videotapes of positive-only behavior (2-3 minutes per tape). The editing does not have to be perfect. Small gaps between different episodes of positive behavior are no problem.

3. View the tape with S four or five times over a two-week period. There are two ways to do this: (a) you can simply sit with S and watch the tape, redirecting S’s attention to the tape as needed; or (b) you can make occasional comments during the viewing session (“Wow, you’re really working hard there”), as well as briefly following up on the session with a few comments or questions aimed at empowering desired behavior (“How did you manage to pay attention so well and keep working?”).

4. Measure changes in desired behavior. Pick selected times at school to observe and measure the desired behavior. Compare levels of behavior before and after beginning the self-modeling viewing sessions. Ask for S’s perceptions of change (“How is school different for you now?”).