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Positive greetings at the door

Written By: Daryn Egan-Simon
5 min read
Original research by:

Cook CR, Fiat A, Larson M et al. (2018) Positive Greetings at the Door: Evaluation of a low-cost, high-yield proactive classroom management strategy. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions 20(3): 149–159.


The research paper is based on a study of positive greetings at the door (PGD), a proactive classroom management strategy designed to improve student behaviour. I was drawn to this particular paper as I was interested to read original research around what I have long considered to be an effective strategy as a classroom practitioner. 

What is the research underpinning the study? 

The researchers investigated whether using PGD as a proactive classroom management strategy would improve middle-school (ages 11–13) students’ behaviour. The study attempted to answer three research questions:

  1. Do students exposed to PGD exhibit gains in academic engaged time (AET) when compared with students in attention control classrooms?
  2. Do students exposed to PGD exhibit reductions in disruptive behaviour (DB) when compared with students in attention control classrooms?
  3. Do teachers find the PGD strategy to be acceptable, appropriate and feasible?

How did they conduct the research?

The study was conducted at two middle schools in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. In total, 203 students and 10 teachers participated from six language arts classes and four mathematics classes. These classes were specifically selected because they are ‘typified by a high rate of disruptive and off-task behaviors’ (Cook et al., 2018, p. 3).

The researchers observed the classes to assess their levels of academic engagement and disruptive behaviour, which they used to match and pair the groups. Each class within the matched pair was then randomly assigned to either the intervention (where the PGD strategy was used) or attention control group (where the strategy was not used). 

The teachers in the intervention group received training on how to implement PGD strategies. The approach focused on four strategies: positive interactions (verbal or non-verbal) with each student as they enter the classroom; reminding the class of expected behaviours; privately encouraging students who had struggled with their behaviour the previous day; and delivering behaviour-specific praise to reinforce desired positive behaviour outcomes.

Teachers in the attention condition met with their school administrators to discuss their current classroom management practices as well as receiving support from specialist colleagues with responsibility for teaching and learning. This was done through a process of inquiry with the teachers asked to reflect on current practice and areas for development. 

Data was gathered using class-wide and individual student observations and recorded under one of two categories: AET and DB. Trained behavioral consultants collected pre- and post-observation data and were kept blind to the condition of the teachers. 

The teachers completed daily implementation logs to track how closely they were keeping to the delivery of PGD. The log consisted of four questions which teachers responded to with ‘yes’ or ‘no’, for example, did you positively greet the students as they entered the room?’

An Intervention Rating Profile was also used to measure the teachers’ perceived acceptability of the intervention using 15 items on a 6-point Likert-type scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. 

What were the key findings? 

  • Academic engagement among the students exposed to PGD increased from an average of 58.75 per cent before the trial to 79.70 per cent after. This was different to the control group whose academic engagement remained roughly the same at around 54 per cent.
  • Disruptive behaviour also decreased among the students exposed to PGD from 13.68 per cent before the trial to 4.13 per cent at the end. This was larger than the reduction seen in the control group, which decreased from 15.3 per cent to 12.53 per cent. 
  • The researchers also note that there was a significant correlation between student AET with a change in DB.
  • Results from the implementation log indicated that the teachers using PGD did so with high levels of adherence (mean = 96 per cent). 
  • The results from the Intervention Rating Profile suggest that the teachers found the PGD strategy to be effective, reasonable and acceptable with an average 5.5 rating (on a scale of 1–6). 

What are the limitations of this study? 

The researchers identify a number of limitations with this research study:

  • The study did not investigate the different effects of the PGD strategy so it’s difficult to know which of the four strategies had the greatest impact.
  • There was no follow-up research to see if the teachers in the intervention continued to use the PGD strategies and whether the initial gains were maintained.
  • The sample size of teachers and students was relatively small. 
  • The research was only conducted in two similar settings. This limits the generalisability of the findings. 

Impact on practice

What ideas might you adopt for your own classroom from the research? 

The findings from this paper suggest that PGD is an effective and easily implementable proactive behaviour management strategy which can potentially increase academic engagement time and reduce students’ disruptive behaviour. I plan to adopt the four strategies outlined in the study incrementally over the course of a term, beginning with verbal and non-verbal positive interactions with each student as they enter my classroom. I will keep a log of student behaviour after each session as a way of monitoring the impact of the strategies employed. 

What questions does the research raise for teachers? 

  • How do proactive behaviour management strategies compare to more reactive strategies, such as verbal reprimands and detentions?
  • How can teachers incorporate proactive behaviour management strategies into their classroom repertoire? 
  • How would the PGD strategy compare across phases especially where there are more transitions during the school day? 
  • Would the use of PGD be more effective as a whole-school approach?
  • What impact does the use of PGD have on developing teacher/student relationships? 

Want to know more? 

Allday RA, Bush M, Ticknor N and Walker L (2011) Using teacher greetings to increase speed to task engagement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 44: 393–396.

Colvin G, Sugai G, Good RH and Lee YY (1997) Using active supervision and precorrection to improve transition behaviors in an elementary school. School Psychology Quarterly 12: 344–363.

Codding RS, and Smyth CA (2008) Using performance feedback to decrease classroom transition time and examine collateral effects on academic engagement. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation 18: 325–345.

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