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Tootling: Decreasing Behavior and Increasing Academic Engagement

Info: 3292 words (13 pages) Dissertation
Published: 9th Dec 2019

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Tagged: EducationTeaching

 Tootling: Decreasing Behavior and Increasing Academic Engagement


This current literature review was designed to assess the effectiveness of the peer reporting intervention known as Tootling. Tootling is a technique that is used for decreasing inappropriate and disruptive behavior and increasing academic engagement in the classroom. The intervention teaches students to recognize and report peers’ prosocial behavior rather than inappropriate behavior. Eight different studies on the Tootling Intervention were reviewed in depth. The results from all eight articles, although different, demonstrated a decreasing trend in disruptive and inappropriate behaviors as well as an increase in academic engagement among the student’s class wide. Tootling was also rated highly acceptable and feasible by teachers who were using the intervention in their classrooms. The current review discusses the results, limitations, and directions for future research for each of the articles.

Keywords: Tootling, disruptive, inappropriate behaviors, academics, effectiveness


The purpose of this literature review is to look more deeply into the question of, “Is the Tootling intervention effective for decreasing inappropriate and disruptive behaviors, and then in turn, increasing academic success in the classroom?”

Being able to manage student misbehavior in the classroom is a huge concern for many classroom teachers. Every year brings new and different behaviors in the classroom and it is so important to set the behavior precedent at the beginning of the year and have the students follow strict rules and guidelines so that behavior is managed effectively. For many teachers this can be the most difficult task of having their own classroom. The lack of training in the area of behaviors is a trend seen in both special education and general education teachers. Every school has their own behavior and discipline guidelines and it is important for every teacher to familiarize themselves with the process for behavior incidents and referrals. Many schools have what is called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports or (PBIS). PBIS is a system that supports appropriate student behaviors across all school settings to foster a positive learning environment (McHugh et al., 2016). Even with the implementation of PBIS in schools, punishment procedures continue to be put into place to address inappropriate and disruptive behaviors. Each school has a different system but a few policies utilized for these punishment procedures would be office referrals, in school suspension, out of school suspension, etc. Although these punishment procedures may work for certain students, they will not work for all students. Some students may actually want to get suspended or are not phased by sitting in school for suspension. This is why it is important to not only have the PBIS implemented but also to have a class-wide intervention system put in place for students who are engaging in disruptive and inappropriate behaviors throughout the classroom setting.

A procedure known as Tootling (Skinner, Skinner, & Cashwell, 1998), was first introduced as the opposite of tattling and variation of “tooting your own horn,” uses these principles to have students monitor and report instances of prosocial behaviors of their peers, and then privately report those behaviors on index cards. Completed index cards are placed in a collection container throughout the day and then read aloud to students for praise and feedback. Previous research has indicated that incorporation of a group contingency with reinforcement for achieving a set goal of tootles appears to be an important element that contributes to the effectiveness or Tootling (Cashwell, Skinner, & Smith, 2001; Skinner et al., 2000). When an interdependent group contingency is in place, group access to reinforcement and the same response contingencies are in effect for every group member and are based on some level of group performance such as a class average (Litlow & Pumroy, 1975; Skinner, Skinner, & Sterling-Turner 2002). Also, students are affected by their peers’ performance and may attempt to encourage and model desired and inappropriate behavior, and may even discourage, either directly or indirectly, inappropriate behavior to gain access to the group reward (Skinner et al., 2002).

Accessing the effectiveness of the Tootling intervention for decreasing inappropriate and disruptive behaviors as well as increasing academic success in the classroom is very important to the success of all students as well as staff members school wide. When students are displaying prosocial behaviors and being recognized for them, it helps with self-esteem and peer acceptance. Teachers are also affected by the effectiveness of tootling in their classrooms. When students are displaying appropriate behaviors, it is much easier for the teacher to get through lessons and do their job to full potential without distractions. Teacher turnover is another concern for many schools, one of the reasons for such high teacher turnover is the behaviors that are occurring in their classrooms and the amount of stress the teacher is put under to help students succeed academically but are failing to do so based on the behavioral concerns that are taking over the classroom. One specific goal for this review was to find out if Tootling really is a good intervention to use in a classroom that is struggling with behaviors. Interventions, especially for behaviors can be difficult to implement in the classroom, but when one is found that is having substantial positive results, it is important to share those results with other educators who are undergoing the same behavioral concerns in their classroom which is leading to a decrease in academic time.


When looking for articles on the Tootling intervention, keywords besides Tootling that were searched were; disruptive and inappropriate behaviors, academics, and effectiveness. The online database that was used to locate articles on the Tootling intervention was the Minnesota State University, Mankato Library Services database from the MNSU website. Ten articles were found and reviewed in depth before the start of this literature review. Eight of the ten articles were chosen to be a part of this review. The articles were chosen based off the amount of content related to behavior and academics as that is the main idea of this literature review. The two studies that were excluded from this review were about peer reporting in general and not so much focused on Tootling. The purpose of this study was to examine Tootling and see the direct results from that intervention, therefore, the other studies were not included in this review.


For this literature review, eight articles were broken down in depth to look more closely into the Tootling Intervention and the effectiveness on decreasing behaviors and increasing academics in the classroom. The first article reviewed (Cihak et al., 2009) examined the effects of Tootling on classroom disruptive behaviors. This study showed that results were similar as to that of previous studies on Tootling where students were able to successfully report their classmates’ prosocial behaviors in the Elementary school setting. 19 students in the 3rd grade participated in this study. Out of the 19 students, 3 were identified as having a SLD and one student with ADHD. When the students were rewarded for reporting their classmates’ prosocial behaviors, their behaviors across the board significantly decreased. At the same time, Tootling increased positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior and decreased the amount of negative reinforcement for disruptive and inappropriate behavior. Before the study was conducted, students were engaging in about 23 disruptive behaviors daily. When Tootling was implemented, the disruptive behaviors decreased to about 8 disruptive behaviors daily which is a large decrease.  The Tootling intervention was then withdrawn, and the number of behaviors increased once again. This shows that during the Tootling phase, the number of inappropriate and disruptive behaviors has decreased significantly and has been successful.

The study conducted by (Lambert et al., 2014) included a 5th grade classroom with 19 students without a disability as well as a 4th grade classroom with 17 students, two of which having a SLD. When Tootling was implemented in classroom A (5th grade) disruptive behaviors decreased from 26% to 9%. In Classroom B started with a baseline of 27% of disruptive behaviors and decreased to 7%. These results show that when the Tootling intervention was implemented in these two classrooms, the disruptive behaviors decreased. This study did find similarities in results as those of Cihak et al., who also found decreased in class wide disruptive behaviors with the use of the Tootling intervention. The results from this study did also show not only decreases in inappropriate behaviors but also increases in appropriate behaviors.

Article three (Morrison et al., 2006) was the first study to evaluate the impact of a class wide application of positive peer reporting on disruptive and inappropriate behaviors. There currently have not been any studies to combine both Tootling and PPR into one intervention used in the classroom. In this study, positive peer reporting was conducted in two 3rd grade general education classrooms and was implemented to determine its effects on class wide social and emotional behaviors. In Ms. Bean’s class, the frequency of critical events decreased from 4 to 3. In Ms. Dawn’s class, they decreased from about 11 to 8. These results do show that both classes decreased in the critical events that were being seen daily. The teacher’s behavior was reported as positively impacted due to the prior behaviors that were being seen and the decrease in those behaviors increased the teacher’s relationships with students.

The next article (McHugh et al., 2016) assessed the effects of the Tootling intervention class wide for disruptive behaviors as well as target individual students behavior on top of increasing academic engagement class wide and individually. There were three lower elementary school classrooms included in this study. Classroom A was a 3rd grade, general education classroom with 20 students. The target student, Alma, was an 8 year old female. Classroom B was a 2nd grade, general education classroom with 21 students. The target student was a 7 year old male, Bryan. Classroom C was a 3rd grade general education classroom with 23 students. The target student, Charles, was an 8 year old. When the Tootling intervention was implemented in all three of these classrooms there was a positive trend of decreasing disruptive behaviors. In classroom A the percentage of behaviors decreased from 35% to 15%. For the Target student, Alma, the decrease in behaviors went from 43% to 4% during the Tootling intervention re-implementation phase which shows a huge trend in those decreasing behaviors. The results in classroom B showed a decrease in behaviors from 54% to 28%. For the target student in classroom B the decrease in behaviors went from 79% of disruptive behaviors to 40%. For the last classroom, C, the percentage of disruptive behavior started at 47% during the baseline and with the implementation of Tootling, decreased to 12%. For Charles, the decrease in behavior went from 43% to 17% of disruptive behaviors displayed in the classroom. This study follows in the footsteps of the previous studies by supporting the statement that Tootling has reduced class wide and individual students disruptive behaviors significantly. In this study, Tootling also increased academic engagement.

The article by Lum et al., was the fifth article reviewed. This study included three high school general education classrooms. The Algebra II course, classroom A, had 22 students and started off with a baseline of  29% of disruptive behaviors and 61% of academically engaged behaviors. After the implementation of Tootling, disruptive behaviors decreased to 17% and academically engaged behaviors increased to 78%. Classroom B, an Accelerated English II course with 24 students had a baseline of 29% of disruptive behaviors prior to the tootling intervention as well as 62% of academically engaged behaviors. After the implementation of Tootling, disruptive behaviors decreased to 14% and academically engaged behaviors increased to 79%. Classroom C, an English IV course with 26 students had a percentage of 30% disruptive behaviors and 61% of academically engaged behaviors as a baseline. After the implementation of the Tootling intervention, disruptive behaviors in classroom C decreased to 17% and academically engaged behaviors increased to 76%. These results show significant findings about the results of Tootling for decreasing disruptive behaviors as well as increasing academically engaged behaviors in the classroom.

The next article was also by Lum et al., and included three general education high school classes that implemented the Tootling intervention to monitor disruptive behaviors as well as academically engaged behaviors in the classroom. Classroom A was an English literature course. During baseline data, students disruptive behaviors were at an average of 35%, and with the reimplementation of the Tootling intervention, they decreased to 23%. Class wide academically engaged behaviors started off at 53% and increased to 63% after the intervention. Classroom B was a high school Geometry course. Disruptive behaviors were an average of 31% before the implementation of the Tootling intervention, and decreased to 16%. Classwide academically engaged behaviors averaged 54% and increased to 69% during the implementation of the intervention. The last classroom, C, was a Physical Science course that started with a baseline of 48% disruptive behaviors and decreased to 30% during the implementation phase of the study. Classwide academically engaged behaviors increased from 36% to 53%. This study shows the effectiveness of the Tootling intervention for decreasing disruptive behaviors and increasing engagement with academics in the classroom.

The seventh article by Skinner et al., included participants from a general education 4th grade classroom. During the baseline and first intervention phase, the daily tootles were high, and there was not a clear increase in the daily number of tootles that followed the Tootling implementation. During this study, there was an unplanned group punishment given to the class by the principal due to missing library books from the students in the classroom. The principal then told the students that they would get extra recess if/when they reached their Tootling goal. After the students were told this, they displayed higher levels of daily tootles until they met their goal and were awarded extra recess. This study does show an increase in daily tootles prior to implementation of the intervention but it is hard to say if that had to do with the group punishment from the principal or because the intervention was effective.

The last article that was reviewed is by Lipscomb et al., and accessed the effectiveness of ClassDojo alone and Tootling plus ClassDojo for decreasing behavior in a postsecondary classroom. Seven freshman with intellectual disabilities participated in this study. Both interventions proved to have strong effects in the classroom. The study also showed that there was not a big difference between ClassDojo and Tootling plus Dojo. When looking at the results of the individual students, it does show that ClassDojo alone was slightly more effective than Tootling plus Dojo. Disruptive behaviors among individuals in the classroom were reduced due to the Tootling and ClassDojo interventions.


After thorough review of the eight articles included in this literature review, it is clear that Tootling is an effective intervention. Tootling has proven to be an effective intervention in the elementary setting, high school setting as well as in the postsecondary setting. Tootling has lead to a significant decrease in disruptive and inappropriate behaviors as well as an increase in academically engaged behaviors, which was a specific goal of this review. The trend throughout all of the articles is that when Tootling is implemented effectively in the classroom, it does show a positive trend in behaviors and academically engaged students class wide. Even with the limitations mentioned in each study, students were still able to show progress with the peer reporting intervention on decreasing their disruptive behaviors. This shows that when those limitations and the plans for future research are implemented, the outcomes will be even more exponential. Tootling has proven to be a successful intervention class wide for reducing disruptive and inappropriate behaviors as well as increasing academically engaged behaviors class wide and individually.



Cihak, D. F., Kirk, E. R., & Boon, R. T. (2009). Effects of Class wide Positive Peer “Tootling” to Reduce the Disruptive Classroom Behaviors of Elementary Students with and without Disabilities. Journal of Behavioral Education, 18(4), 267-278.

Lambert, A. M., Tingstrom, D. H., Sterling, H. E., Dufrene, B. A., & Lynne, S. (2014). Effects of Tootling on Class wide Disruptive and Appropriate Behavior of Upper-Elementary Students. Behavior Modification,39(3), 413-430. doi:10.1177/0145445514566506

Lipscomb, A. H., Anderson, M., & Gadke, D. L. (2018). Comparing the effects of ClassDojo with and without Tootling intervention in a postsecondary special education classroom setting. Psychology in the Schools. doi:10.1002/pits.22185

Lum, J. D., Radley, K. C., Tingstrom, D. H., Dufrene, B. A., Olmi, D. J., & Wright, S. J. (2018). Tootling with a Randomized Independent Group Contingency to Improve High School Class Wide Behavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 109830071879266. doi:10.1177/1098300718792663

Lum, J. D., Tingstrom, D. H., Dufrene, B. A., Radley, K. C., & Lynne, S. (2017). Effects of Tootling on Class wide Disruptive and Academically Engaged Behavior of General-Education High School Students. Psychology in the Schools, 54(4), 370-384. doi:10.1002/pits.22002

McHugh, M. B., Tingstrom, D. H., Radley, K. C., Barry, C. T., & Walker, K. M. (2016). Effects of Tootling on Class wide and Individual Disruptive and Academically Engaged Behavior of Lower-Elementary Students. Behavioral Interventions, 31(4), 332-354. doi:10.1002/bin.1447

Morrison, J. Q., & Jones, K. M. (2006). The Effects of Positive Peer Reporting as a Class-Wide Positive Behavior Support. Journal of Behavioral Education, 16(2), 111-124. doi:10.1007/s10864-006-9005-y

Skinner, C. H., Cashwell, T. H., & Skinner, A. L. (2000). Increasing tootling: The effects of a peer-monitored group contingency program on students reports of peers’ prosocial behaviors. Psychology in the Schools, 37(3), 263-270. doi:10.1002/(sici)1520-6807(200005)37:33.0.co;2-c

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