Instructional Control: what it is & how to develop it

Have you heard the the term instructional control? It's very important in special education classes that the teachers, paras and therapists establish instructional control with their students. Sounds good, right?? Read on to find out what instructional control is and how you get it.

Developing instructional control with students in special education will help make learning smoother and more effective. Here are tips on establishing a bond and instructional control with your students.


The idea of instructional control is frequently heard in special education classrooms, especially those that use ABA and AVB protocols. Basically, instructional control is developing a positive working relationship with a student where you have established leadership control. You have control of the tasks and reinforcers. Through this positive relationship, students learn that complying with your directive is important and will have positive outcomes. If you have instructional control, students are going to want to work with you and will follow directions. Let me just add, you are still teaching students and they will never be perfect. You will still have to address behaviors at times.

Instructional control is established when you intentionally form a bond with a student. You have to take time to get to know your students and figure out what they like and don't like. To establish instructional control, you need to teach the students that you are the keeper of everything they want to have or play with.




When trying to develop a relationship with your students, you want to position yourself as the person who can give them what they want (ex: reinforcers, attention, etc.) Once you have figured out what students are interested in and want, you begin freely giving them out to students. For example, if little Billy really likes balls then you are going to have the coolest balls- bouncy balls, squishy balls, light-up balls, etc. Now when you see Billy you are going to give him a ball to play with or invite him to play ball with you. At this point, you aren't requiring Billy to do anything in exchange for access to the balls. You want Billy to think, "Ooh, I want to be with her. She has all of those balls that I really like." Then, you can start adding in some demands.

When you start adding in demands, you want to begin with easy known demands. This will help your students understand how instruction is going to go with you....it's the routine of instruction. As your students get the routine down, you should begin SLOWLY adding in more demands between reinforcers as well as new tasks. In my classroom, my students build up to working and following directions for a half hour before getting access to their reinforcers. We use a token economy system. Read more about this system: Using A Token Economy.
If you are using work for cards, make sure you check out this post: Durable Token Strips That You Can Make.




I would love to be able to tell you that once you go through the process of bonding with your student(s) and establishing instructional control you won't have to go through it again. BUT.... that's not true. Bummer, right?!?! There will be times when for one reason or another, you will need to re-establish your bond with your students. It can be a pain to go through these steps, but it will make a HUGE POSITIVE difference in your classroom. Let me know how you make out!


Developing instructional control with students in special education will help make learning smoother and more effective. Here are tips on establishing a bond and instructional control with your students.




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