A Special Consideration With the Evaluation Process: Off-Task Behavior

The focus throughout this chapter has been on monitoring the degree of participant involvement in meaningful versus nonmeaningful task involvement. Sometimes, however, results of the monitoring indicate that concerns exist not with the degree of meaningful task involvement but rather, with high levels of off-task behavior (Parsons et al., 2004). For example, the monitoring may indicate that a center-based program is consistently providing meaningful tasks for its participants, but the participants are not engaged in the tasks very frequently (i.e., many of the observations are scored as off-task).

When off-task behavior is scored often, such as above 20% of the recordings, then strategies other than those for increasing meaningful task involvement are usually warranted. Generally, these involve various classroom management procedures to increase the frequency with which program staff prompt and reinforce on-task behavior (Parsons et al., 2004). In those situations in which nonmeaningful task involvement and off-task behavior are frequent, then it is generally recommended to first focus on the provision of more meaningful tasks (again, see chapter: A Staff Training and Supervision Plan to Increase Meaningful Activities). Subsequently, ways to increase actual involvement in the tasks, or increase on-task behavior, should be the focus. It would make little sense to initially focus on increasing on-task behavior when what participants are assigned or expected to do has no meaningful utility for the individuals.

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