Thursday, June 5, 2014

Positive Reinforcement... good or bad?

The topic is to imagine yourself in an interview for a teaching position when the principal asks, "A teacher last year got in trouble for bribing students with home work exemptions to get them to behave in class.  What do you think about using rewards and punishments in teaching?".  What would my response be in this situation:

Well first off, I think that behavioral techniques can come in handy, if you used appropriately.  I think it is important to remember that we should not treat children like animals that are being trained, but rather, that we use reinforcements to help motivate and encourage children to do their best.  However, I also feel that this belief needs to be intrinsic, but, there are ways that reinforcement can be useful in the classroom.  In Education Psychology, Anita Woolfolk (2013) identifies a reinforcer as "any consequence that strengthens the behavior it follows" (p. 251).  Positive reinforcement in the classroom can be a great tool to use for classroom management and motivation.  For example, if I see a student following directions and listening to instructions the first time, I may tell them that I like the way they are behaving.  This will indicate to the other students in the class that this is what each child should be doing right now and that this particular child is doing a great job.  This would be a reinforcer as it is considered praise for good behavior, and is a form of positive reinforcement.  I do not think that homework exemptions should be given to encourage students to behave in the classroom.  Reinforcement, whether it be positive or negative reinforcement, should be given to motivate and reward children to being on task and behaving appropriately.  The children should not learn that they should behave just to not have to do homework, but rather intrinsically want to behave and get rewarded for their good behavior and classroom attitude occasionally. 


Check out this video about positive reinforcement being used in a school setting.


Woolfolk, A. (2013).  Education Psychology (12th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. 

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