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February 2014
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TTAC Region 4 at GMU
A news brief linking people and resources to support quality practices in the education of all students
For the 2013-14 school year, we have updated the format of our TTAC newsletter. All subscribers will now receive a news brief of information and resources via email once a month from September through May, excluding December. Each news brief will highlight a key topic in education related to supporting the learning needs of all students.
Photo of a teacher directing a student's attention to instruction

Noncompliance, or the failure to follow a specific teacher direction, is a common concern. Fortunately, when teachers can predict when noncompliance is likely to occur, prevention strategies can be used to increase the probability that students will follow directions.


Be ready to predict when noncompliance is likely to happen and when compliance is likely to occur. Prediction takes observational data to know when and how often compliance occurs and when noncompliance occurs.

  • Create a chart, with compliance on one side and noncompliance on the other. Identify the task, routines, individuals, and/or settings that can be predicted for both compliance and noncompliance.
  • One may start to see patterns related to when noncompliance typically occurs, such as when asked to start tasks with multiple steps or tasks that are not preferred, asked to stop tasks that are preferred, or asked to put items away.

(Colvin & Sugai, 1988)


Set reasonable expectations and a course of action:

  • For tasks you can somewhat predict noncompliance, set yourself up with universal strategies to increase compliance.
    • Get student’s attention
    • Use Do versus Don’t statements
    • Premack Principle (i.e., When this is done, you can do that)
      • TIP: Avoid invitations to do something (i.e., Let’s begin) or question formats (i.e., Are you ready to work?)
    • Preset consequences for noncompliance
  • For tasks you can highly predict noncompliance, set yourself up with more specific and targeted strategies.
    • Use student’s name
    • Use Precision Command
      • In close proximity, with eye contact, and firm voice, state specific action required.
    • High Probability request sequence builds momentum for compliance
      • By sequencing tasks you’re likely to get compliance before asking to do low probability request.
      • Behavior contract of preset consequences signed and agreed upon by student, teacher, and administrator (if needed).
  • How to respond....
    • When the student complies, reinforce it. Use a variety of reinforcement such as behavior specific praise, high five, pat on back, sticker, or token.
    • When the student does not comply, correct it with the preset consequence and another opportunity to comply. Preset consequence might include a tally mark to show the number of times the student complied versus did not comply. You could restate and provide prompts to complete. It’s important not to engage with the student when noncompliance happens. Mark it then walk away.

(Belfiore, Basile, & Lee, 2008)


Noncompliance is a common, but complex, issue. For more information, go to:

Web Resources:

Article Resources:

Banda, D.R. & Kubina, R.M. (2006). The effects of a high-probability request sequencing technique in enhancing transition behaviors. Education and Treatment of Children, 29(3), 507-516.

Beaulieu, L., Hangley, G.P., & Roberson, A.A. (2012). Effects of responding to a name and group call on preschoolers' compliance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45(4), 685-707.

Belfiore, P. J., Basile, S. P., & Lee, D. L. (2008). Using a high probability command sequence to increase classroom compliance: The role of behavioral momentum. Journal of Behavioral Education, 17, 160-171.

Belfiore, P. J., Basile, S. P., & Lee, D. L. (2008). Using a high probability command sequence to increase classroom compliance: The role of behavioral momentum. Journal of Behavioral Education, 17, 160-171.
Colvin, G., & Sugai, G. M. (1988). Proactive strategies for managing social behavior problems: An instructional approach. Education and Treatment of Children, 11(4), 341-348.
This news brief is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers at George Mason University and James Madison University. This issue was prepared by the staff of the VDOE TTAC at George Mason University. For questions about the content, please contact Dr. Kristy Lee Park, BCBA-D at or 703-993-5251.
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