The Personal Business Plan came as an outgrowth of an activity that I had been doing in my .4 special education classroom in the public school to foster personal growth. Early on in my career, working with students suffering from learning, emotional and behavioral difficulties I realized that these students struggled to understand and conceptualize the value of goal setting behaviors. They often had difficulties with executive function, attention, organization, and mentalizing the basic conceptual framework needed to achieve goals.
Goal setting is a major part of any behavioral intervention. All behavior plans start out with a goal. The weakness of many of these programs is that the goal is often not a goal that the student values, but is rather a goal imposed on them. It bears to mentioning that this is a major problem with the academic goals we place on students also. Ross Green addressed this weakness of behavior modification through his Collaborative Problem Solving model. In this model, the teacher, or therapist, identifies problem behavior with the student, and together the two work to develop strategies to overcome the problem. This was very similar to the goal setting program I was using to promote planning, organization and academic success in my classroom with a few key difference. First, he was modifying behavior and I was trying to address broader problems of a personal and academic nature. Second, in my classic dyslexic fashion, the intervention I used was conversational and required minimal writing. In contrast the Collaborative Problem Solving model, like most behavior plans was a data intensive task.
Over the years, the demand for data in the course of behavior modification has become exhausting. I am not a fan of, nor particularly good, at the type of data collection that fell into vogue with the rise of the Applied Behavior Analysis (Richman,2001) model in my field. However, with Ross Greene’s model I saw a way that I could incorporate both what I was doing academically and organizationally with what I was doing behaviorally, bringing all three into one streamlined process, but the difficulty was data collection. The open ended nature of the intervention did not lend its self to easy statistical data collection techniques like recording scores, check marks or percentages. Honestly, at the time I was not really sure what the important data was going to be so I just started recording everything right there with the student. Because of the behavioral nature of my students, some refused to allow me to simply take notes on our meetings, they needed to have a say in what I was writing about them. At first it was because they wanted to make sure their negative behavior was being recorded in the best possible light, but overtime I found that I was the one arguing with them about the negative ways they phrased and perceived the events in their lives. This back and forth exchange lead to the crafting of a positively focused record of their lives as they strove to achieve the goals of everyday life in middle school.