Home Forums EBP Tools for Staff Using the BITS to teach skills rather than as punishment

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  • DebbieSmith

    A BITS user recently asked us whether we have any research that supports why we discourage the use of BITS as a form of punishment. We do!

    1. The research literature on the effect of punishment is very clear: Punishment is not an effective response to changing behavior. Certainly, holding one accountable to harmful behavior is appropriate but it does not, by itself, change behavior. (See Mark W. Lipsey and Francis T. Cullen’s meta-analysis “The Effectiveness of Correctional Rehabilitation: A Review of Systematic Reviews” at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228187332_The_Effectiveness_of_Correctional_Rehabilitation_A_Review_of_Systematic_Reviews.)
    2. We have received numerous testimonies from clients and practitioners who indicate that engaging clients in completing the BITS is key to them learning from the tool. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an individual to be engaged in a worksheet when they view it as a punishment and something to be avoided. In that context, they are more likely to be resentful that they have to fill it out and are less likely to exert effort and learn.

    That said, many jurisdictions are using the BITS as a behavioral response to noncompliant behavior. That is different from punishment in the sense that it is an intervention designed to help individuals learn from the incident. The use of the worksheet might be linked to a negative behavior but it is given as a way to assist, not as a form of punishment. This is not unlike a parent teaching their child how to calm down and control their anger as opposed to just making them sit in their bedroom for an hour when they have an outburst. It is the skill-building portion of the response that changes behavior, not the punishment itself.

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