USING STRUCTURED POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENTS TO MODIFY STUDENT BEHAVIOR IN AN EDUCATIONAL SETTING IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE STUDENT ACADEMIC SUCCESS
University of Houston - Downtown (UNITED STATES)
Traditionally, approaches for dealing with student disruptions and misbehavior involve the use of various forms of punishment: removal from the classroom, fines, in-school and out-of- school suspensions, or expulsions (Garret, 2015). For the most part, schools continue to base their discipline policies on a strict adherence to obedience (Goodman, 2006) and zero-tolerance policies (Maag, 2012; Skiba & Peterson, 2003). This practice is stated in every code of conduct handbook in public schools throughout the United States.
These approaches may give educators the false sense that schools and classrooms have become safer when disruptive students are removed. However, research shows that punishment has minimal effect on helping students perform more socially acceptable behaviors because removal from the classroom does not typically come with appropriate behavior instruction or applicable reinforcement (Carter & Pool, 2012; Skiba & Peterson, 2003; Skinner, 1953). Congruently, there is growing evidence that indicates that disruptive behavior may have a deleterious affect on all students learning in the classroom.
Skinner (1953) introduced the theory of operant conditioning—a system of learning that occurs through the association of rewards, punishments, and reinforcement. With operant conditioning, good behavior is associated with positive or negative reinforcements, and bad behavior is associated with positive or negative punishment. Since the implementation of Skinner’s (1953) work, techniques based on positive reinforcement have been well developed and implemented, yielding positive results (DiTullio, 2014). Because learning is a behavior, these techniques also produce better academic success; moreover, they are adaptable and easy to implement in any behavior situation or discipline challenge.
Despite evidence to the contrary, educators and schools continue to find zero-tolerance policies and punishments as the more acceptable approaches to deter misbehavior (Skiba, 2014). Therefore, the aim of this paper is to look at the reasons for the continued use of punishment in schools, while exploring positive behavior practices that help all students achieve academic success. Several of these proven practices are presented in this paper.
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