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Unformatted text preview: mple, & Smith, 2000; Kazdin, 1982; Schloss & Smith, 1994; Skinner, 1953).
Social reinforcers convey affection, attention, and/or approval to students. They
can be administered through verbal praise, teacher smiles, positive facial
expressions, and gestures. This form of reinforcement is very user-friendly
because it can be used spontaneously and with minimal planning. Also, it’s a type
of reinforcement that occurs as part of many naturally occurring life events, and,
therefore, is not typically objected to by parents (Kazdin, 1982).
If you use praise as a social reinforcer, certain guidelines should be
followed (Brophy, 1981; Duncan, Kemple, & Smith, 2000; Good & Brophy,
2003; Harlan, 1996; McVey, 2001). First, praise should be behavior specific.
Students need to know why they are being praised. Rather than saying, “Good
job,” you might say instead, “The opening paragraph does a great job of
previewing key issues.” Second, effective praise should be spontaneous and
natural. If your praise comes across as contrived or as if you are gushing, it will
not have value. Third, praise should focus on students’ efforts and improvements.
For example, you might praise a student’s improvement by saying, “Your extra
studying is really paying off!” Fourth, vary your praise statements and support 15 them with nonverbal demonstrations of approval like a smile or wink. Finally,
praise should typically be administered privately to individuals to avoid
embarrassing them or causing them problems with their peers. This is how
Bernice White uses these ideas in her high school English class. ‘It’s important to encourage young writers. I have my students write in
journals. At least once every week, I read what they are writing and I
try to pick-out one area of improvement and comment on it in my
Natural reinforcers occur without special attention or manipulation by
teachers; they occur naturally in the environment (Schloss & Smith, 1994). For
example, we might engage in behaviors because they are enjoyable, or we feel
successful at them, or they help us accomplish a goal. Young children and
adolescents often play video games for hours on end. Although there are a number
of reasons for this, video games do provide natural reinforcement in terms of a
fun experience, and the potential for improved play with practice. Skinner (1984)
has suggested that effective instructional programs in schools also have some of
these same characteristics. For example, students become engaged in academic
tasks that allow them to sense their own improvement. This is how Maria
Ontiveras uses this idea. “When I do math fact drill with my students, we play beat the clock. I
set an egg timer for five minutes, and students see how many problems 16 they can do in that time. Their goal is to improve a little each week.
The kids seem to like working to beat their old score.”
Feedback can function as a reinforcer by providing students with
information about their performance (Kazdin, 1994). This information typically
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- Spring '08