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better to your requests or directions than other students. How your students
respond to your requests and directions will depend on their learning history. If
they have learned that cooperation gets consistently reinforced, and that failure to
cooperate earns punishment, then directions from adults are likely to have
stimulus control over their behavior. They will tend to comply with those
directions, especially if they see that their cooperation continues to be reinforced.
For students who lack this type of stimulus control, it is important for you to
develop stimulus control by reacting consistently to their cooperation or lack of
cooperation. Here are some additional ideas to consider when deciding how to use
• Have discussions with your students about how they need to behave in
different situations. Reinforce them when they exhibit those behaviors 36 in that situation. For example, talk to them about appropriate field trip
behavior. Those who behave appropriately should be reinforced.
• Provide students with signals that help them determine the appropriate
behavior for a situation. For example, use a zero-noise signal to let
students know they are being too noisy in groups, and reinforce them
for lowering their noise level. • Help students know how expectations for them may have changed.
This is particularly important as students transition between
elementary school and junior high, or junior high and high school. Shaping and Chaining
Shaping and chaining are ideas that associated primarily with operant
conditioning. Although there are differences between the shaping and chaining,
they have evolved from the common underlying principle that learning of
complicated behaviors is a gradual and often step-by step process.
Shaping. Shaping is a process that involves reinforcing learners for
making gradual progress toward a terminal behavioral goal (Becker, Engelmann
Thomas, 1975; Savage, 2001). Classroom teachers typically use shaping as part of
a goal setting procedure for students. A goal is set for students, and as they
achieve a goal, a higher goal is set. Consequently, shaping helps teachers focus on 37 gradual improvement in students’ behavior. A shaping procedure occurs in five
steps (Zirpoli & Malloy, 1997).
• Identify the desired target behavior or terminal goal. • Identify sub-goals for the terminal goal that help students move toward the terminal goal. These sub-goals are successive approximations.
• Identify what the student can already do in terms of the identified successive approximations.
• Help students progress through the successive approximations by reinforcing them for each step they take.
• Continue the process until the terminal goal is reached. Consider this use of shaping with a student who is only bringing in one
math homework a week. The teacher wants the student to bring in homework
every day (terminal goal). This teacher would use shaping by reinforcing the
student for improving on the entry behavior. Maybe next week, the student is
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- Spring '08