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Creating positive classrooms by improving student behavior and PBIS

Corrinna PoleFebruary 15, 2021

In episode 11 of The Great Exchange podcast, Classcraft’s in-house learning Jedis Andrew “Hutch” Hutcheson and Kinshasa Msola join host Brian Belardi to talk about their work helping schools and districts to improve student behavior and school culture with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

Kinshasa and Hutch are both former educators who leverage their real-world experience to keep Classcraft relevant, grounded in solid pedagogy, and effective in real schools with real kids.

Hutch was a middle and high school science teacher for 16 years, in both private and public venues. Kinshasa has a background in corporate training and education. She spent over 16 years in technology education, from a technology teacher to a technology administrator as the director of academic technology for a school in Atlanta.

Together, they’re positively changing behavior in schools!

How does the Learning Team work with school administrators and their teams to make their implementation smooth and successful? 

[Kinshasa] We basically make the implementation seamless. We help train your cohort — meaning your teachers,your administrators, or your pilot —whoever needs to understand how Classcraft works.

The great thing about Classcraft is that we don’t stop there. We’ve got your back. We follow you the entire year — not just with the virtual professional development sessions — but we help you look at the analytics in the background to see where teachers may need some more training, which students are getting involved, what admins need to do to get the teachers excited. So we’re kind of your cheerleaders as well.

What specific implementation challenges can you help administrators solve?

[Hutch] With almost every kind of edtech implementation, you want consistency across the board. You want teachers to use it with fidelity. That’s one thing that’s amazing about Classcraft, we help you get all the teachers to send the same clear, consistent message to students by rewarding them for the same positive behaviors, schoolwide. 

We get everybody to understand there’s real power there when all the adults in a child’s life — especially at the school environment — are sending the same clear, consistent messages to that child about what it means to be a better citizen, remote worker, and be better at things like social distancing, or whatever they want to be working on with the kids.

It really has power and Classcraft is efficient at doing that. We take anxiety off teacher’s shoulders, help them feel like it’s not going to be a lot to figure out or learn because a lot of Classcraft runs itself.

[Kinshasa] I love how you say we kind of take the anxiety off of teachers. As an admin, the biggest challenge is getting the educators on board. 2020-21 brings a whole new type of challenge, of course, but educators have always had a lot on their plate. They wear many hats, and sometimes bringing in a new initiative, if not met by all the stakeholders, can be “another thing.”

We try to work with the administrative team to bring everybody on board, to understand how the implementation happens, and make sure it’s a part of the school, and not just another new tech that they have to deal with.

[Hutch] And we want it to feel fun. It’s about revolutionizing the life, culture, and climate at the school. It’s like Kinshasa said, any edtech can be met with the thought of “this is just one more thing” and teachers are constantly getting one more thing thrown at them. The reason why I work at Classcraft is that I saw the deep positive impact it has on the entire climate of a classroom. And when it’s applied at the school level, it really does have a positive impact.

And it’s fun, not just for the kids. But when the kids are having fun and they like coming to your class or to your school that is so purposeful, enlightening, and heartening for the adults. 

Educators become educators — not because we couldn’t find another job —but because we want to make the world a better place. We want to leave a stamp on the future. When kids are enjoying what’s happening, and they’re enjoying learning, and becoming better people, that’s so wonderful for us. That’s what we love to see happening for the adults as well and make [school] a fun place to learn for everyone.

As an educator, what was it about Classcraft that got you excited? 

[Kinshasa] Like Hutch mentioned, it helped me get organized and helped my students get excited. But the geek in me really liked that I was able to track things that I couldn’t track with other edtech that we were using in the classroom. And that was a couple of years ago, Classcraft has added on to that since.

The data that I received from Classcraft was not just about the kids having fun and giving them points. But every time they would get points, I would track the positive things that they were doing in the classroom, and that turned out to be way more helpful than I thought. It turned three-hour RTI meetings into 10-minute conversations because I was able to mention things I saw to our student support team.

You are the experts on Classcraft’s behavior presets. Can you explain what those are and why they are so powerful?

[Kinshasa] Think about them as customized behaviors themed around a certain learning environment or goal that most schools already have. Most schools have a PBIS matrix or competencies. What we do in Classcraft is take those goals or competencies and bring them into the platform.

So now they’re not just posters on the wall when your kids walk by, or a cool little bulletin board, they’re a part of the learning process.

And students actually begin to form new rituals, behaviors, and attitudes toward the classroom, because we’re integrating these presets into their everyday life. Something as simple as “fail and try, try again”. A student hears or sees that on a cool little poster, but it has more impact through Classcraft because they get instant feedback. When someone notices that you fail but are trying and they give you feedback, it gets that intrinsic motivation going and makes the student really want to continue to try, and try it again.

It goes beyond the point system. That’s where Classcraft starts at the surface, but it goes so much deeper.

As educators, we’ve done a lot of research and put together a couple of presets that we think will help the schools this year, especially in the 2020-21 school year. We have remote learning presets, social distancing presets, presets aligned to ISTE, CASLE, PBIS matrix, social emotional learning…  I could go on! The presets are basically plug-and-play. The teacher just has to get on the platform, figure out what preset they want, and start having their students live that, whether they’re home, in class, in front of you, or wherever they are.

[Hutch] The presets are designed to take some of the anxiety off of the administrator’s shoulders, or the educators, who want to just start promoting positivity in the classroom and school, and they don’t want to have to do a whole bunch of front-end legwork. We’ve done the work. We ask “what kind of ways do you want your class or your school culture to improve,” and then we give schools a tailored list they can plug-and-play, or customize, but it gives you a default list to start with and share with everybody in your school.

I mentioned that we want consistency. These customized behaviors, like being respectful, responsible, safe, engaged — specific ways of doing those — can get instantly put out into every class, in every classroom, by the administrator with a few clicks, and now every teacher knows exactly what we’re promoting or looking for this semester. If you want to have a different goal in the spring than what you had in the fall, you can even switch them with a couple of clicks.

[Kinshasa] I like that the students see this too. I think that’s what makes presets so much different than your regular rules. Because we’re usually holding students accountable for things that they don’t know. Now they know.


Listen to more conversations with educators making an impact on student engagement at The Great Exchange podcast. Visit Great-Exchange.com to stream inspiring sessions with leaders across education, tech, and gaming from Classcraft and Google’s student engagement summit. 

Interview edited for clarity.

Classroom Management - Distance Learning - MTSS - PBIS - Technology Integration - Virtual PBIS