How To: Manage Problem Behaviors: Precision Requests
Teacher requests are an important everyday tool for behavior management. The precision request structures communication with the student in a concise, predictable, respectful format that preserves adult authority and increases the likelihood of student compliance. Here are guidelines for using this communication tool (De Martini-Scully, Bray, & Kehle, 2000; Musser, Bray, Kehle, & Jenson, 2001):
Preparation. In preparation for using the precision request:
- the teacher selects appropriate consequences for student non-compliance. Examples of appropriate consequences include loss of free time, phone call to a parent, loss of a point or token, or restriction of activities at recess.
- the teacher meets with the student to reinforce the need to comply with adult requests and to inform the student of the consequences for non-compliance.
Procedure. When making a precision request, the teacher follows these steps:
- Make first request: "Please...". The teacher states a brief request that starts with the word 'Please' and -- whenever possible--frames the request as a goal behavior rather than as a behavior to stop (e.g., "Rick, please open your math book and begin the assignment written on the board"). The teacher then waits 5 seconds for the student to comply. If the student complies, the teacher praises the student (e.g., "Thank you for starting your math assignment") .
- Make second request: "I Need...". If the student fails to comply with the first request within 5 seconds, the teacher repeats that request. This time, the teacher starts the request with the phrase "I need..." (e.g., "Rick, I need you to open your math book and begin the assignment written on the board"). Again, the teacher waits 5 seconds for the student to comply. If the student complies, the teacher praises the student (e.g., "Thank you for starting your math assignment") .
- Deliver consequence for non-compliance. If the student fails to comply to the second request within 5 seconds, the teacher follows through in delivering the pre-determined consequence for non-compliance.
Integrity Check. It is very important when using this strategy to preface the first request with "please", to start the second request with "I need...", to praise the student for compliance, to wait a full 5 seconds after each request for student compliance before advancing to the next step, and to deliver consequences consistently for non-compliance.
- De Martini-Scully, D., Bray, M. A., & Kehle, T. J. (2000). A packaged intervention to reduce disruptive behaviors in general education students. Psychology in the Schools, 37(2), 149-156.
- Musser, E. H., Bray, M. A., Kehle, T. J., & Jenson, W. R. (2001). Reducing disruptive behaviors in students with serious emotional disturbance. School Psychology Review, 30, 294-304.