LDI 2018: Special Education Leaders from Hawaii Help Teachers Connect with Students with Behavior Challenges

  • Special education leaders from the Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area have observed an increase in the frequency of students displaying volatile behaviors (e.g., inappropriate language, physical aggression, explosive/oppositional/defiant behaviors) that require an individualized intervention.
  • Teachers currently address these challenges by calling district-level support.
  • A Behavior Strategies Quick Reference Guide enables Campbell-Kapolei teachers to effectively de-escalate behavior and continue to engage in instruction before seeking external district support.

By leveraging the research-based behavior strategies within Goalbook Toolkit, Campbell-Kapolei district leaders believe they can do the following:

  1. Increase teacher efficacy in the area of classroom management
  2. Provide students with high-level behaviors a consistent learning environment that leads to successful outcomes

… as evidenced by a reduction in the number of occurrences of disruptive behaviors.

Prior to attending Goalbook’s 2018 Leadership Design Institute (LDI), special educators and district representatives Manu Anan, Susan Chinen, Allison Oshiro, and Shawn Chang observed an increase in the frequency of disruptive, and sometimes dangerous, student behaviors that were not being addressed in a way that students were de-escalated. In fact, more often than not, teacher intervention further escalated students until they ultimately had to be removed from the instructional setting. This meant that a district or administrative intervention had to occur as opposed to the problem being solved in the classroom.

Left to right: Susan Chinen, Allison Oshiro, Shawn Chang, and Manu Anan came to LDI to design a solution to help the teachers in the Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area of the Hawaii Department of Education with behavior management for students with volatile behaviors.

Knowing the Challenge: Identifying the Source and Assessing the Impact

Their observations revealed that there was a skills gap their teachers had in terms of behavior management. They simply did not have the skillset to approach behaviors that were outside of the realm of the disruptions that teachers typically manage on a day-to-day basis.

These escalated volatile behaviors are jarring in that they negatively impact the academic and community experience of an entire class. There is a ripple effect that occurs when teachers are unable to manage these intense situations.

  1. The student displaying negative behaviors misses out on instructional time and oftentimes fractures important relationships.
  2. The other students in class also miss out on instructional time and may feel unsafe in their classroom.
  3. The teacher is unable to deliver quality instruction and may develop a negative relationship with the student.
  4. District or administrative personnel and resources must be utilized to handle the situation by more restrictive means.

The leaders from Campbell-Kapolei came to LDI with a strategic goal to design a system that helps teachers keep students with dangerous or disruptive behaviors from being referred to alternative programs outside of the general education population.

The design thinking framework that LDI teams engage in requires them to zero in on a very narrow challenge in order to be effective. The leaders from Campbell-Kapolei focused on a very specific subset of students when they began to design the system their teachers would use to address behaviors.

The system had to be one that was effective at the onset of the ripple effect that led to district level intervention: a system that helped teachers de-escalate students at the first signs of negative behaviors.

At the center of that solution is the teacher. The leaders from Campbell-Kapolei empathized deeply with the challenges that their teachers were facing and channeled that empathy into the solution they designed—one that gave teachers the power to lead in their classrooms.

Conserving Community: Empowering Teachers to Cultivate Healthy Interactions

Their solution: The Behavior Strategies Quick Reference Guide—a user-friendly behavior intervention manual that is comprised of a list of the disruptive behaviors that happen most frequently and the intervention strategies that align best to each behavior. Using the UDL Strategy Pages in Goalbook Toolkit, their guide acts as an extension of a teacher’s repertoire of behavior management skills by listing the behaviors next to appropriate teacher responses. The prototype they put together at LDI was the first page of the quick reference guide, and the behavior they chose to focus on was profanity.

Behavior Strategies Quick Reference Guide Prototype: the leadership team took feedback from user interviews and made the reference guide easier to read by adding bullet points outlining the most important information. They also linked the strategies to pages within Goalbook Toolkit: Planned Ignoring for extended learning.

Prototypes in the Wild: Leveraging User Feedback to Improve Designs

A major part of the design thinking process involves user testing, and the leaders from Campbell-Kapolei had some of their greatest insights when they were soliciting feedback on their prototype from two actual teachers.

  • The first insight was that although their solution was specific to the challenge they faced in their schools, it was one that was universally felt and their prototype targeted the challenge effectively.
  • The second insight was that teachers want to be empowered to preserve relationships and give all students the best experience in their classrooms as opposed to relying upon district and administrative resources.

The two teachers they interviewed revealed these insights through their eagerness to optimize the prototype by offering feedback that was founded on how they would use the the guide in their classrooms. Both interviewees suggested that the one change that would make the strategies actionable was if the most salient functional information were bite-sized.

The leaders from Campbell-Kapolei ended up applying that feedback by writing short bullet points that summarized teacher actions in one section of the guide and explained the rationale in a separate section.The challenge and solution that Manu, Susan, Allison, and Shawn addressed resonated with the reality of one of the interviewees so powerfully that she actually requested a copy of the guide when they completed it after LDI.

The power of design is not measured by the perceived effectiveness of the solution but rather its actual impact on the problem. In order to design solutions that have the greatest impact on problems, designers must be intimately connected to the problems they’re addressing. The leaders from Campbell-Kapolei were connected to the challenge and tapped into the power of empathy to realize that the best solution was one that centered on empowering the teacher. This helped them avoid getting caught up with designing superficial solutions to symptoms of the problem. By tying that empathy to the perspectives of real teachers, they were able to refine their prototype enough to create a solution with the potential to make lasting change.


Goalbook’s annual Leadership Design Institute (LDI) is a conference for district and state-level instructional leadership teams held each winter. Our upcoming conference is the Goalbook User Symposium (GUS), which will be held in New York City in July. Registration information can be found on this page.

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