Making good student behavior a game
Over the last three years, the Monroe Community Coalition has worked to identify evidence-based prevention strategies that could be used in Monroe schools to help improve outcomes for kids.
Now, it has added the PAX Good Behavior Game to its prevention repertoire.
The coalition is a volunteer-driven nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the Monroe community by reducing underage drinking and substance use. The goal of the coalition is to identify risk factors conducive to alcohol and substance use and work preemptively to diminish those risks. Led by Monroe School District prevention specialist Joe Neigel, the coalition meets on the second Thursday of each month at the district administration building.
The coalition is funded through the Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI), a grant-funded initiative administered through a contract with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery.
Each year, the coalition plans how to use its funding through careful analysis of available prevention techniques, basing its decision on what will make the best use of limited resources. Last year, a classroom management tool called the PAX Good Behavior Game was selected and added to the volunteer group’s strategic plan.
This year, it is actually being implemented.
During May’s coalition meeting on Thursday, May 12, Maltby Elementary School Principal Bonnie McKerney and first-grade teacher Mary Reule gave the coalition an overview of the PAX Good Behavior Game and how it’s been working in Reule’s class.
The PAX Good Behavior Game (PAX GBG) is an environmental strategy that combines the use of five evidence-based prevention kernels, which are small actions or remedies that have been proven effective at influencing behavior in a positive way. Prevention kernels can be used to minimize the trauma response in trauma-impacted children, and can be combined to create a “behavioral vaccine,” Neigel said.
The National Institute of Medicine has referred to the PAX Good Behavior Game as one of the most effective classroom-based prevention strategies a teacher can use, as it is associated with across-the-board reductions in occurrences of drug and alcohol addiction, smoking and antisocial personality disorder. Studies have revealed long-term positive outcomes, Neigel said.
“We’re seeing positive outcomes from a September to June first-grade implementation up to 35 years after that one year of implementation,” he said.
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International research has shown the Good Behavior Game to be an efficient method for reducing off-task behaviors in the classroom, as well as increasing prosocial skills, while long-term follow-ups have indicated positive effects on a wide range of health issues.
As Yamhill-Carlton Elementary School third graders worked on math problem, teacher Kourtney Fjelland watched not only how well they were handling fractions, but also how well they were behaving. Most were concentrating, cooperating, focusing on their work and staying in their seats. In other words, they were exhibiting the good behaviors students themselves suggested and agreed upon earlier in the year, also as part of the PAX Good Behavior Game.
Medication-assisted treatment and recovery services work, but in order for the U.S. population to reach its full health potential, behavioral health and addiction treatment providers need to go on the offensive, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, told attendees at the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference on Tuesday in Seattle.
“We are asking students to change a belief system without changing the situation around them.”