Applying Classroom Rules and Procedures
This is a very difficult area to take a stand on because…there are many arguments that support both negative and positive reinforcement….
However, if the overall goal of these teaching methods are to encourage compliance, independence, self-initiative etc. Then using ‘external’ deterrents and/or incentives to encourage and shape behavior may in fact do the opposite.
“If you reward people for things they are already doing by their own volition, then they will begin to decrease their intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985)”
However, overwhelmingly, many teachers have difficulty understanding ‘intrinsic’ motivation and how they can incorporate it into the ‘normal’ classroom model. I believe we all understand that intrinsic motivation is the most effective form of reinforcement. This is basically Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory, ‘Flow’…. And though, this idea/theory on intrinsic motivation has been around for many decades, school systems and universities do not often emphasize or rely on this approach.
Daniel Pink illustrates intrinsic motivation:
Instead, the majority of teachers and school systems recognize students who are following/breaking the rules with positive and negative reinforcement. Depending on how it is delivered will of course greatly impact the effectiveness. Thus, even if you ‘script’ or ‘plan’ negative and positive consequences, the results will differ greatly from teacher to teacher and for each individual. Timing and frequency are key elements to emphasizing and amplifying this practice. A combination of randomness and planned positive/negative rewards/consequences could enhance students to act ‘better’ and follow instructions more consistently.
However, teachers and schools should be aware and evaluate the consequences so that they are proportionate to the offense and consistently enforced without prejudice. Sometimes, teachers/principals/school districts will show preferential treatment or punishment toward certain students or groups. This is not discussed too often in ‘education’ but cultural, ethnic and gender bias is definitely prevalent.
What do you think?
Negative Reinforcement Example: Students that arrive late for class from lunch recess will write a response/reason why they were late. After three ‘lates’, a message is sent home along with a copy of the student’s written ‘reasons’ why they were late for class. They message is to be read, signed and returned to the teacher with a parental response. In addition, the student’s recess is taken away.
Positive Reinforcement Example: If students have two weeks without any ‘lates’ they will receive an extra recess. If the whole class can return from recess on time for an entire month, a class party will be held to celebrate!
Positive Reinforcement Example: A special ‘certificate’ is awarded at random by the teacher (s) to students who demonstrate kind and considerate behavior toward their peers. Parents are then notified via a short email or note home explaining the event.
Link to Behavioral flow chart: