Bringing Behavior into the ABCs of Education

From the UConn Foundation's Our Moment newsletter (September-October 2012)

George Sugai, the Carole J. Neag
Chair in Behavioral Disorders
It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a school, even an entire district, to educate one.

That's the premise of George Sugai, whose years of research and study have made him an authority on student behavior and school discipline.

Instead of using a piecemeal approach of behavior management for individual students, Sugai believes good, effective education requires a continuum of positive behavior support for all students throughout the school.

The broad approach developed out of frustration working on behavioral issues with individual students, says Sugai, whose early research emphasized improving individual student behavior. "Even if an intervention works really well with one child, the student is not going to be successful if the classroom or the school is not functioning well," says Sugai, who is the Carole J. Neag Chair in Behavioral Disorders.

While at the University of Oregon, Sugai and colleague Robert Horner received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a national center to develop and disseminate an evidence-based, positive and preventive school-wide approach to support academic achievement and social behavior development of all students. When Sugai moved to UConn in 2005, he maintained co-directorship of the National Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, and he established the Center for Behavior Interventions and Supports in the Neag School of Education.

"The goal is to teach behavior the same way we teach academic skills, explicitly and deliberately," says Sugai. "PBIS provides students and teachers with a multi-tiered continuum of interventions aligned with student needs so every student experiences prevention-based and school-wide social skills instruction. It happens not only in the classroom, but also in the hallways, and in the cafeteria and on the playground."

Where the approach is implemented accurately, schools experience reductions in office discipline referrals, improvement in test scores, decreases in suspension rates, and decreases in teacher-reported incidents of bullying behavior and peer victimization.

"The endowed chair allows me to work with really smart people and support them in their work," says Sugai, who has served as project director or co-director of major training or research grants totaling more than $35 million. He has also published more than 125 articles and a number of college textbooks on effective teaching practices, positive behavior support and applied behavior analysis.

Much of his current effort has involved presentations and meetings with federal policy makers and government leaders related to the effective implementation of evidence-based behavioral practices in classrooms and schools.

"Because the endowed chair supports our research, writing, and participation in important conferences, it helps highlight the expertise of our faculty; and that visibility improves our ability to attract not only great faculty but also great students."


To support the Neag School of Education, please contact the Foundation's development department.

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