Self-Management Can Be Sweet!

by Kristin Holst, M.Ed.

She stares forlornly at the "Death by Chocolate" mocking her from the pages of her favorite bistro's dessert menu. She would love to end its taunting, but knows she would pay the price for this sweet indulgence when she returned home and had to add its billion points to her food journal. With approximately 44,000 meetings in 30 countries around the world, a leading diet firm is an excellent model of just how effective self-monitoring and peer pressure can be.

Teachers who instruct students with disabilities in general education settings need proven, effective strategies for dealing with behavioral issues, so that academics can take center stage in the classroom. Self-management strategies offer one way to reduce time spent on behavior management and increase time spent on instruction. With self-management, a student monitors his or her own behavior, and then records the behavior occurrences on a data collection form. The student may then evaluate his or her progress by graphing these data (Gunter, Miller, Venn, Thomas, & House, 2002).

A comprehensive series of 34 self-management studies revealed that the proper use of self-monitoring techniques promoted engagement in instruction, appropriate peer interactions, academic achievement, and appropriate classroom behaviors, while simultaneously reducing incidents of problem behaviors. Self-management is deemed particularly successful for students with behavior disorders across primary and secondary grade levels (Project REACH, 2005). Specifically, it increases student responsibility and also creates accountability for proper and improper actions.

While self-management systems were initially begun in special education classrooms, the advent of inclusion has made these strategies equally valuable in other settings. For example, Mitchem and Wells (2002) outlined a self-management program that can be utilized in a general education setting. The Classwide Peer-assisted Self-Management Program (CWPASM) combines self-management with peer matching and support.

In order to be effective, a self-management system must be well organized and structured. The CWPASM ensures that:

  • Students receive an overview of self-management (e.g., definition and benefits).
  • Teachers ensure students have a clear understanding of classroom rules (e.g., treat everyone with respect, stay on task, follow directions, raise your hand to speak).
  • Students learn the ABCs of behavior (Antecedents, Behaviors, and Consequences) and apply these principles to the classroom rules.
  • Students are taught and practice evaluating how well they and a partner are following classroom rules.
  • Students select three peers with whom they would like to be partnered.
  • Teachers assign partners based on student input.
  • Teachers assign partners to one of two class teams. Team composition varies weekly.
  • Teachers determine the interval for cueing the students to evaluate their own and their partner's behaviors (e.g., every 15 minutes).
  • Students evaluate both their own behavior and their partner's on point cards.
  • Students earn a point for each appropriate behavior recorded on their cards.
  • Students earn a bonus point if their evaluation matches their partner's.
  • Points earned are compiled and contribute to the team score.
  • Team winners are announced at the end of each school day.
  • The team that earns the most points in a given week chooses from a menu of rewarding activities on Friday.


Much like the aforementioned dieting system, peer-assisted self-monitoring procedures encourage appropriate behavior through mutual support and personal responsibility. Self-monitoring empowers students to make the right decisions and prepares them for the adult world where they are expected to act in an acceptable manner on their own. As H. Jackson Browne once said, "Our character is what we do when we think no one else is looking."

Gunter, P.L., Miller, K.A., Venn, M.L., Thomas, K., & House, S. (2002). Self-graphing to success: Computerized data management. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(2), 30-34.

Mitchem, K.J., & Wells, D.L. (2002). A classwide peer-assisted self-management program: Adaptations, implications, and a step-by-step guide for rural educators. Rural Special Education Quarterly. Retrieved December 12, 2005, from

Project REACH: Resources for teachers. (2005). Retrieved December 12, 2005, from

Date: February/March 2006