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Classroom Clip Charts and Coercion

At PAX Good Behavior Game trainings, we often get asked, “what should we do about our colored clip charts or electronic versions like Class Dojo?”  The answer to that question needs to be framed in the foundation of PAXIS Institute’s work in prevention, medical and educational science. We only support the use of strategies that have clear evidence of effectiveness in peer-reviewed, published studies with replications and little or no evidence of adverse effects.  This is the equivalent of the medical dictum of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm".

If one searches for peer-reviewed experimental studies at http://psycnet.apa.org or www.pubmed.gov for any possible combination of terms related clip charts, the search engine returns no science that qualifies with respect to red, yellow and green or other multi-colored behavior charts that students are supposed to flip or clip if they engage in problematic behavior.  These repositories of scientific literature (psynet and pubmed) are the best in the world, and virtually any serious educational, behavioral or medical scientist would have his or her published experiments indexed there.  Virtually all of my own and that of my co-authors’ or colleagues’ papers, with respect to PAX, are indexed in one or both of these prestigious repositories.

The sheer absence of any studies on clip charts in either of those indexes is a bad omen, given that one sees such clip charts all over classrooms in North America. The ubiquity of them is easily witnessed by doing an Internet search with the terms, (“clip chart" behavior). My search said there were 277,000 entries.  After the colorful pictures and charts you can buy or make (see figure), one finds many comments from teachers why they stopped using them or from parents who relate stories of how anxious those cards make their children.  These comments suggest there is a social validity problem being documented in the social media, and that certainly squares with our classroom observations that the clip charts are largely ineffective and often harmful. 

Now, if you search PAX Good Behavior Game, Good Behavior Game, Evidence-Based Kernels, Behavioral Vaccines, or PeaceBuilders at http://psycnet.apa.org or www.pubmed.gov, one gets all sorts of citations in published studies and papers.  If you Google, “PAX Good Behavior Game” just by itself, you get thousands of hits for schools, classrooms, and of course research. Read those, too.

Download the full paper here.

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