Information on this page about the interventions is based on the book, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: The School-Based Model of Individualized Positive Behavior Support, Second Edition by G. Dunlap, R. Iovannone, D. Kincaid, K. Wilson, K. Christiansen, and P. S. Strain. 

What is the strategy? Why does it work?

Students who engage in challenging behavior during complex tasks may be having difficulties understanding the materials in a way that allows them to engage in the task. This strategy involves teaching specific strategies that allow a student to independently and successfully complete academic tasks, which are are important skills as students progress through school. This strategy can include graphic organizers and learning strategies. Graphic organizers are typically visual maps or diagrams that organize information or make abstract information more concrete. Learning strategies typically involve the use of word-based strategies that help the student understand information and solve problems, recall, comprehend, organize and synthesize new materials. Graphic organizers and learning strategies have a wealth of research support showing effectiveness in increasing a student’s understand of abstract materials so that they can become more independent and successful.

Important considerations before choosing this strategy:

  • This strategy works best for students who have the basic academic skills but have challenging behaviors when presented with materials and tasks that are more complex or abstract
  • Problem-solving strategies may need to be significantly modified if using with early elementary grade students. The majority of the research support has been shown with students in third grade and older.

Functions and antecedents the teach problem solving strategies intervention works for

If challenging behavior occurs when the student…

  • is required to work independently or has difficulty staying engaged in the task
  • is attempting to complete a complex or abstract task task
  • gets ‘stuck’ while working on an academic task and does not know how to work through the difficulty on his/her own
  • has a challenging interaction with a peer and does not know deal with it appropriately

Steps for Implementation

  1. Using PTR Assessment information, determine specific areas, events, or situations in which student needs to be taught problem-solving strategies.
  2. Select the most appropriate problem-solving strategy for the situation.
  3. Create sample charts, graphs, mnemonics, or materials for another problem-solving strategy that was selected.
  4. Develop a task analysis of steps for using selected problem-solving strategy and teach it to student by using the following procedures:
    • Provide instruction/explanation of skill being taught. Provide several real-life examples of how skills are used.
    • Demonstrate how to do the skill by modeling.
    • Provide student with guided practice opportunities after modeling.
    • Provide immediate feedback during guided practice, including positive comments for correct steps and corrective feedback for errors. Corrective feedback should be followed by more practice opportunities.
  5. Identify a reinforcement system. Consider the function of the problem behavior as a reinforcement.

How to implement this strategy in multiple ways (examples & resources)

Social Interactions

Academic Tasks

  • Providing graphic organizers
  • Using semantic maps
  • Having a checklist to break complex tasks into small steps

Learning Strategies

Graphic Organizers

  • Star, webbing, or cluster diagrams: condense and organize information about multiple traits, facts, or attributes
  • Fact or opinion: helps distinguish facts vs. opinions in a theme or chapter
  • Brainstorming charts: charts that spell out a phrase (e.g., Thanksgiving) and for each letter of the word, student lists words that start with that letter that remind the student of the word
  • Compare and Contrast: diagrams, charts, or other graphic that provides organization to features that let the student examine the similarities and differences
  • Note taking graphic organizer from Intervention Central
  • Many different types of graphic organizer templates
  • Graphic organizers by subject
  • Organizer templates categorized by type and grade levels

Other Resources

Supporting Research

Erwin, P. G., & Ruane, G. E. (1993). The effects of a short-term social problem solving programme with children. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 6(4), 317–323.

Merrill, K. L., Smith, S. W., Cumming, M. M., & Daunic, A. P. (2017). A review of social problem-solving interventions: past findings, current status, and future directions. Review of Educational Research87(1), 71–102.

Shure, M. B. (1993). I Can Problem Solve (ICPS): Interpersonal cognitive problem solving for young children. Early Child Development and Care, 96, 49-64.

Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., & Hammond, M. (2001). Preventing conduct problems, promoting social competence: a parent and teacher training partnership in head start. Journal of clinical child psychology, 30(3), 283–302.