Challenging classroom behaviors can interfere with student social and academic functioning and may be harmful to everyone in schools. Self-management interventions within schools can address these concerns by helping students develop necessary social, emotional, and behavioral skills. Thus, the current systematic review synthesized and analyzed school-based self-management interventions used to address challenging classroom behaviors.
The current study aimed to inform practice and policy by (a) evaluating the effectiveness of self-management interventions at improving classroom behaviors and academic outcomes and (b) examining the state of research for self-management interventions based on existing literature.
Comprehensive search procedures included electronically searching online databases (e.g., EBSCO Academic Search Premier, MEDLINE, ERIC, PsycINFO), hand-searching 19 relevant journals (e.g., School Mental Health, Journal of School Psychology), reference-list searching 21 relevant reviews, and searching gray literature (e.g., contacting authors, searching online dissertation/theses databases and national government clearinghouses/websites). Searches were completed through December of 2020.
Included studies employed either a multiple group-design (i.e., experimental or quasi-experimental) or single-case experimental research design and met the following criteria: (a) utilized a self-management intervention, (b) conducted in a school setting, (c) included school-aged students, and (d) assessed classroom behaviors.
Data Collection and Analysis
Standard data collection procedures expected by the Campbell Collaboration were used in the current study. Analyses for single-case design studies incorporated three-level hierarchical models to synthesize main effects, and meta-regression for moderation. Further, robust variance estimation was applied to both single-case design and group-design studies to account for dependency issues.
Our final single-case design sample included 75 studies, 236 participants, and 456 effects (i.e., 351 behavioral outcomes and 105 academic outcomes). Our final group-design sample included 4 studies, 422 participants, and 11 total behavioral effects. Most studies occurred in the United States, in urban communities, in public schools, and in elementary settings. Single-case design results indicated that self-management interventions significantly and positively impacted both student classroom behaviors (LRRi = 0.69, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.59, 0.78]) and academic outcomes (LRRi = 0.58, 95% CI [0.41, 0.76]). Single-case results were found to be moderated by student race and special education status, whereas intervention effects were more pronounced for African American students (F = 5.56, p = 0.02) and students receiving special education services (F = 6.87, p = 0.01). Single-case results were not found to be moderated by intervention characteristics (i.e., intervention duration, fidelity assessment, fidelity method, or training). Despite positive findings for single-case design studies, risk of bias assessment indicated methodological shortcomings that should be considered when interpreting findings. A significant main effect of self-management interventions for improving classroom behaviors was also revealed for group-design studies (g = 0.63, 95% CI [0.08, 1.17]). However, these results should be interpreted with caution given the small number of included group-design studies.
Implications for Policy, Practice, and Research
The current study, conducted using comprehensive search/screening procedures and advanced meta-analytic techniques, adds to the large amount of evidence indicating that self-management interventions can be successfully used to address student behaviors and academic outcomes. In particular, the use specific self-management elements (i.e., self-determining a performance goal, self-observing and recording progress, reflecting on a target behavior, and administering primary reinforcers) should be considered within current interventions as well as in the development of future interventions. Future research should aim to assess the implementation and effects of self-management at the group or classroom-level within randomized controlled trials.
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