A University of Missouri instructional teaching consultant is using a grant to help improve classroom culture and student behavior. Jen Foster is a senior coordinator with eMINTS, an instructional model for educational professional learning. She has received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help promote what she calls prosocial behavior to enhance student engagement, academic achievement, and reduce teacher stress.

“Teachers are saying, one of the number one reasons why they’re leaving the profession is due to student behavior issues in the classroom,” she said. “So, we’re trying to figure out a different way or a better approach to dealing with student behavioral issues.”

The funds will build upon a previous grant to expand a project to 80 middle schools throughout Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to reach 1,200 teachers and staff as well as 25,000 students.

“We applied for this $8 million grant to expand that project, so that we can work with an entire middle school approach, so that all of the teachers are engaging in the same professional learning experiences, so that they can all work together to not just improve their individual classroom climate, but to transform the climate in the entire building,” she explained.

Foster admits that 80 schools in 4 states is a lot.

“It’s a very lofty goal but I think we’ve got the interest in the states, and we’ve got data that says what we’re doing is working and it is making positive change,” she stated.

A key strategy includes emphasizing person-specific praise and pointing out positive behavior. Additionally, threats, punishments, or bribes can undermine prosocial behavior.

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