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& Jackson, 1968; Salend & Meddaugh, 1985; Tolin, 2001; Zimmerman &
Zimmerman, 1962). However, there are a number of important considerations in
the effective use of operant extinction in particular. First, the assumption is that
the reinforcers can be identified and removed from the environment. Many times,
behaviors have multiple reinforcers and some of them may not be directly under
the control of the teacher or even known to the teacher. This makes operant
extinction difficult. For example, we have all heard teachers talk about how hard
it is to extinguish a behavior if peers or parents reinforce that same behavior.
Second, with operant extinction, the behavior can actually increase in
frequency or intensity before it extinguishes (Lerman & Iwata, 1996; Walker &
Shea, 1995). This escalation is sometimes referred to as the extinction burst, and 32 in the case of misbehavior, you will feel as if the student is testing your resolve.
You need to be prepared for this escalation in the misbehavior, because if you
intervene when the behavior is increasing in severity you may accidentally end up
reinforcing a more severe behavior. Be aware that extinction takes time to occur,
and that this approach requires patience.
Third, specific behaviors are extinguished, but the needs or motives that
produce those behaviors often remain intact. If a student desires attention and you
extinguish one attention-seeking behavior, that student will probably still try to
seek attention some other way. You might, therefore, take the opportunity to teach
the student how to get attention more appropriately, and you would reinforce the
student’s appropriate attention-seeking behavior. In general, extinction should be
paired with the reinforcement of alternative behaviors (Catania, 2000, 2001).
Here are some additional suggestions for the use of extinction.
• Identify reinforcements for misbehaviors and try to eliminate them
from the environment. Learn to ask yourself questions like, “Why is
this student doing this?” or “What is the payoff for this behavior?” • Become familiar with the types of classroom experiences that are
likely to create discomfort or anxiety in the students you teach. Try to
reduce or eliminate the times that those situations occur in your
classroom. For example, with kindergartners, meet them at the door on 33 the first day. Try to show them that you will help them get used to this
new and strange experience.
Generalization and Discrimination
Generalization and discrimination occur both in classical and operant
conditioning. In both cases they refer to learners’ ability to determine when to
produce a particular response and when not to produce that particular response.
They, therefore, refer to how learners interpret different antecedent or eliciting
Generalization occurs when students respond to similar stimuli with the
same behavior (O’Donnell, Crosbie, Williams, & Saunders, 2000; Skinner, 195...
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- Spring '08
- Classical Conditioning, B. F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov