Wednesday, February 1, 2006

February 2006: Will Dudenhausen, Role Model for Addressing Behavior Challenges


 February 2006 America Learns Strategy of the Month    
Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate

This month's strategy is from Will Dudenhausen, a mentor with the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Will has mentored with BRMA since 2004. Professionally, he is the youth programs coordinator at the Orange County Dispute Settlement Center, where he works daily to help youth develop peaceful conflict resolution skills.  We hope your tutors, mentors and students will benefit from the experience, tact and understanding Will shares in his strategy.

The Strategy


Created by: William Dudenhausen, Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program
(America Learns Network member since 2005)
Topics: Behavior
Conflict Resolution
Your Relationship with Your Student
Grade Levels: Fourth - Twelfth
Arrangements: One-on-One

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Situation: In discussing some behavioral issues at school with my student, I really wanted to make sure he felt heard, acknowledged and supported, while at the same time help him hash out the issues that led to his problems at school.

In this particular case, I was not the authority figure, the school was, so my role was to support the student in resolving the problem, rather than act as an authority figure.

Step 1: Listen and show that you hear.

While the student describes the situation, listen attentively without outside distractions. Turn off your cell phone, TV, radio or anything else that can get in the way of a good conversation.

While listening, remember that you are hearing the student's perspective, and that you need to leave your judgments at the door. Absolute truth isn't the important thing here. Focus on understanding the student's point of view. Listening does not constitute agreement, so even if you disagree with what the student is saying, suspend your judgment and comments. The goal here is to support the student in solving the problem, not to find out who is right or wrong.

Step 2: Use reflective listening to acknowledge and show the student that you understand.

Reflective listening is a way of summarizing what the speaker has said ("reflecting" what they said back to him).  The goal of this process is for the student to confirm that you understand his point of view and feelings, or to correct your reflection, so that your student feels more comfortable exploring this issue with you.  As with Step 1, to practice reflective listening well, you don't have to agree, just understand.

- Student: "I got in trouble at school today, and Michael is going to get it!"

- You: "Wow! you sound really upset."

- Student: "You bet I am upset, he kept talking to me during the test and now I got a zero on it, and I am going to get a D on my report card."

- You: "So, you received a zero on your test and you are worried about your report card?"

Step 3: Ask open-ended questions to discover more information.

Close-ended questions lead your student to respond with "yes or no"-type answers, while open-ended questions can help you discover more about the situation by requiring answers that are longer than "yes" or "no."

Here’s an example of a close-ended question:
- You: "Are you and Michael friends?"
- Student: "No!"

Here's an example of an open-ended question:
- You: "Tell me more about how you know Michael."
- Student: "Well,..."

Step 4: Come up with an action-plan.

The most important idea in this step is that students are much more likely to follow through on a plan to resolve a problem if they come up with the plan. You can help do this by continuing to listen, reflect, and ask good questions.

Sometimes, a reality check can be in order too. A reality check is the process of asking probing questions that allow the student to think a little bit more about the best way to solve the problem.  If it feels necessary to make suggestions, try your best to limit them and make sure the student's input is taken into account.

What are the differences between the following two types of questions?

#1) "Do you think that your teacher would be willing to accept you retaking the test?"

#2) "What else do you think you could do to make this situation better?"
In the second question, I focused on the student, and not someone else (Michael in this case). This encourages the student to take responsibility for the situation, and encourages the student to take action.

Step 5: Follow up!

Later, ask the student about the plan they created and about the reasons it is or is not working out.  If things aren't going well, you may need to go back to Step 1 to continue exploring the issue and set up a modified or new plan.  Contact teachers, school personnel and supervisors about the situation.

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Will below.