What should Ms. Rollison know about behavior in order to help Joseph?
Page 3: Applying Behavior Principles
Now that you have learned about the A-B-C model and the behavior principles, let’s revisit the classroom scenarios featuring Dajè, Dawson, and Cheralynn. Do you think each teacher achieved what he or she intended?
|Dajè’s teacher passes out class work.||Dajè completes the work quickly and accurately.||Dajè gets to play a math game on the computer.||Dajè continues to complete her work quickly and accurately. (positive reinforcement)|
|Dawson’s teacher passes out class work.||Dawson completes the work quickly and accurately.||Dawson receives more worksheets to complete.||Dawson completes his worksheets more slowly. (punishment)|
|Cheralynn’s teacher passes out class work.||Cheralynn makes a rude comment.||Cheralynn has to stand in the hallway—but she also gets out of doing the assignment.||Cheralynn’s rude comments increase. (negative reinforcement)|
Dawson’s teacher did not intend for her extra worksheets to seem like a punishment, but they did decrease his behavior. The next time Dawson finishes quickly, his teacher should consider a different consequence, one that Dawson finds rewarding. Cheralynn’s teacher intended to decrease her rude comments through punishment. In fact, she negatively reinforced the behavior, and the rude comments increased—Cheralynn wanted to get out of doing the class work and getting sent to the hallway allowed her to do this.
Kathleen Lane, PhD
Professor of Special Education
University of Kansas
Click on each student’s picture below to hear Kathleen Lane discuss their cases in more detail.
Transcript: Kathleen Lane (Dajè)
As you look at these different illustrations of these three different students, in each instance the teacher did exactly the same behavior. So, for Dajè, they passed out the work, and the student did it and she did a great job and she finished it quickly and accurately and was able to go on to a computer game. And in this situation she was reinforced for both the accuracy and the speed of her work. So when she completed it she was allowed to do something that was reinforcing for her, and in this case it was to play a math game on a computer.
Transcript: Kathleen Lane (Dawson)
In Dawson’s situation, this child completed the work quickly and accurately, just as in the former case, but in this instance the teacher then gave more work. Now, certainly that teacher didn’t intend to have this become a punisher. The teacher’s probably thinking, “Oh, I need to make sure that I continue to keep this child academically engaged; therefore, I’m going to give more work.” But from the student’s perspective it’s, like, “Hey, I finished this, and I did a good job and so the consequence is that I get more work.” This will shape his behavior in the future. If he’s viewing extra worksheets as a punisher then that child is likely to slow down the rate of his work completion or maybe even shape his accuracy, so he will be less likely to do it accurately because that child may want to avoid worksheets, unless those worksheets were something that the child really liked to do. If the student enjoyed doing worksheets then they may not be perceived as a punisher.
Transcript: Kathleen Lane (Cheralynn)
Now, in Cheralynn’s case, I think this is perhaps the most interesting case. When this child received her class work, she made a rude comment, and as a consequence of that comment the teacher responded by removing her from class. Now, if this behavior pattern occurred consistently in the future, then that would lead me to believe, as an outside observer, that this student doesn’t want to do the work that’s being assigned. And then we have to look at the reason why. Why is she making these rude comments so that she can escape the work? In some cases, it’s because the work is too difficult, and you’ve probably read lots of illustrations about the importance of making sure that the assignment is of appropriate difficulty level, and that is very true. If something is too hard, you’re going to work to avoid it because we’re not going to want to do things that we’re not successful with. In her situation, as she’s looking at this assignment, it could be that it’s too difficult and, therefore, she acts out to get out of something that’s too difficult. But at the same time, it may be that she’s bored with the task because it is way beneath her ability level. Let’s say you give a student geometry problems, and they’ve been successful in geometry and they’ve demonstrated mastery and you’re giving them yet another set. Those students may act out to get out because it is not interesting or it’s boring because they’ve already mastered the concept. So we as teachers really need to be careful to not only look at our behavior and how that’s influencing kids’ behavior, we really need to think about the reason why the student is responding as they are because we don’t want to unintentionally reinforce the wrong behaviors. In Cheralynn’s case, we don’t want her growing old out in the hallway. We want to make sure that she’s in the classroom and is engaged, so we need to look at this to think about why is she acting out to get out. Is it because it’s too easy, is it too difficult, or is there something more reinforcing happening in the hallway?
It’s important to remember that a stimulus or consequence that is reinforcing to one student may be aversive or seem like punishment to another. For example, a teacher might publicly praise a student’s work in front of the class, forgetting that not all students like public praise. A subsequent decrease in the quantity or quality of the student’s work might indicate that the praise was actually perceived as a punishment. Further, poorly selected reinforcers will not lead to increases in desired behaviors, which could cause some teachers to mistakenly believe that reinforcement does not work. For this reason, teachers should know their students well enough to select appropriate reinforcers or else involve the students in the selection process. Remember, too, that a consequence is only reinforcing if observations of future behavior verify behavioral increases.
Though positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and extinction are all used in classrooms, positive and negative reinforcements are most commonly recommended for the majority of classroom behaviors. Punishment is not recommended because it is generally not effective in decreasing unwanted behaviors and, as we mentioned above, runs counter to most schools’ philosophies. Extinction should be used only with caution and only then with its numerous possible drawbacks (e.g., does not produce quick behavioral changes, can produce extinction bursts) kept in mind.
For Your Information
When a classroom teacher is confronted by an annoying behavior, he or she may (unknowingly) positively reinforce the child’s behavior by giving in to the demand. For example:
In order to keep him quiet and stop the behavior, a teacher calls on the student who bounces up and down in his seat yelling, “I know! I know!” However—because he got the attention that he wanted—she is inadvertently reinforcing the behavior and increasing the probability that the student will engage in this behavior in the future.
Click on any image below to open that scenario.