For example a teacher pulls a junior high student up

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Unformatted text preview: ents. From a behavioral perspective, however, reinforcement and punishment are defined by their effect on behavior (Maag, 2001). Oddly enough, praise could function as a punishment, and a reprimand could be a positive reinforcer for some students. For example, a teacher pulls a junior high student up in front of the class and publicly praises that student for her attentiveness and cooperation in class. Apparently, the teacher is intending to praise this student in order to increase the likelihood that the cooperation and attentiveness will continue. However, the effects of the praise are not as intended. The student stops being cooperative and stops paying attention. Even though the teacher’s intent was to practice positive reinforcement, her praise was serving as a presentation punishment. The behavior became less likely because the student apparently perceived the praise as a punishing or painful stimulus. How could praise be painful? From a developmental perspective, many adolescents are very concerned about peer perceptions, so the public praise could be embarrassing and, therefore, emotionally painful. As a second example of this issue, consider a student in an elementary school classroom who makes noises and generally disrupts class. The teacher responds by reprimanding him in a stern voice. “I want this stopped. You are making it hard for others to learn, and I don’t want to have to talk with you 26 again.” Instead of stopping the disruptions, however, the student continues to disrupt, and in fact becomes more of a disruption. In this case, the teacher’s intent seems to be to provide a presentation punishment for the student. However, the effect of the reprimands seems to be operating as positive reinforcements. The disruptive behaviors are more likely to occur as a result of the reprimands being given. Why could a reprimand be a positive reinforcer? Assume that the student wants the teacher’s attention. Being disruptive seems to be an effective way to get attention. That behavior, therefore, is positively reinforced by the teacher’s reprimand or attention. In conclusion, many of us who have taught have had the experience of accidentally reinforcing a student behavior we did not want, or accidentally punishing a desired student behavior. It is very important to remember that people are different and that they value or dislike different things. Understanding this point helps us interpret situations involving students who actually seem to value getting in trouble. It could be that getting in trouble is still a form of attention or status for these students. Additional Behavioral Concepts The additional behavioral concepts of schedules of reinforcement, extinction, generalization and discrimination, and shaping and chaining are important for applying behavioral learning theory in the classroom. Each of these 27 ideas helps us understand how we might teach and how we might manage classroom behavior. Schedules of Reinforcement A schedule of reinforcement is a determination of how often reinforceme...
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