Behavioural Analysis in Class Room
Use Negative Reinforcement Effectively
Use Prompts and Shaping
Earlier in our discussion of operant conditioning, we indicated that discrimination involves differentiating among stimuli or environmental events. Students can learn to discriminate among stimuli or events through differential reinforcement. Two differential reinforcement strategies available to teachers arc prompts and shaping (Alberto & Troutman, 1999).
Prompts A prompt is ,m added stimulus or cue that is given just before a response and increases the likelihood that the response will occur.
Shaping When teachers use prompts, they assume that students can perform the desired behaviors. But sometimes students do not have the ability to perform them. In this case, shaping is required. Shaping involves teaching new behaviors by reinforcing successive approximations to a specified target behavior. Initially, you reinforce any response that in some way resembles the target behavior. Subsequently, you reinforce a response.
Decreasing Undesirable Behaviors
When teachers want to decrease children's undesirable behaviors (such as teasing, hogging a class discussion, or smarting off to the teacher), what are their options? Applied behavior analysts Paul Alberto and Anne Troutman (1999) recommend that when teachers want to decrease a child's undesirable behavior, they should consider using these steps in this order:
1. Use differential reinforcement.
2. Terminate reinforcement (extinction).
3. Remove desirable stimuli.
4. Present aversive stimuli (punishment).
Thus, the teacher's first option should be differential reinforcement Punishment should be used only as a last resort and always in conjunction with providing the child information about appropriate behavior.
Use Differential Reinforcement
In differential reinforcement, the teacher reinforces behavior that is more appropriate or that is incompatible with what the child is doing. For example, the teacher might reinforce a child for doing learning activities on a computer rather than playing games with it, for being courteous rather than interrupting, for being seated rather than running around the classroom, or for doing homework on time rather than late.
Terminate Reinforcement (Extinction)
The strategy of terminating reinforcement involves withdrawing positive reinforcement from a child's inappropriate behavior. Many inappropriate behaviors are inadvertently maintained by positive reinforcement, especially the teacher's attention. Applied behavior analysts point out that this can occur even when the teacher gives attention to an inappropriate behavior by criticizing, threatening, or yelling at the student.
Remove Desirable Stimuli
Suppose you have tried the first two options, and they haven't worked. A third option is to remove desirable stimuli from the student. Two strategies for accomplishing this are "time-out" and "response cost"
Time-Out - The most widely used strategy that teachers use to remove desirable stimuli is time-out. In other words, take the student away from positive reinforcement.
Teaching Strategies For Using Time-Out
In using time-out, you have several options:
1. Keep the student in the classroom but deny the student access to positive reinforcement. This strategy is most often used when a student does something minor. The teacher might ask the student to put his head down on the desk for a few minutes or might move the student to the periphery of an activity so the student can still observe other students experiencing positive reinforcement.
2. For time-out to be effective, the setting from which the student is removed has to be positively reinforcing and the setting in which the student is placed has to not be positively reinforcing. For example, if you seat a student in the hall outside your classroom and students- from other classes come down the hall and talk with the student, the time-out is clearly not going to serve its intended purpose.
3. If you use time-out, be sure to identify the student's behaviors that resulted in timeout.
4. Keep records of each time-out session, especially if a time-out room is used. This will help you monitor effective and ethical use of time-outs.
A second strategy for removing desirable stimuli involves response cost, which refers to taking a positive reinforcer away from a student, as when the student loses certain privileges. For example, alter a student misbehaves, the teacher might takeaway ten minutes of recess lime or the privilege of being a class monitor. Response cost typically Involves some type of penalty or fine. As with the time-out. response cost should always be used in conjunction with strategies for increasing the student's positive behaviors.
Present Aversive Stimuli (Punishment)
Most people associate the presentation of aversive (unpleasant) stimuli with punishment, as when a teacher yells at a student or a parent spanks a child.
The most common types of aversive stimuli that teachers use are verbal reprimands. These are more effectively used when the teacher is near the student rather than across the room and when used together with a nonverbal reprimand such as a frown or eye contact. Reprimands are more effective when they are given immediately after unwanted behavior rather than later and when they are quick and to the point.
Many countries, such as Sweden, have banned the physical punishment of schoolchildren (which usually involves school paddling) by principals and teachers. However, in America, 24 states still allow it (Hyman, 1994).
Physical or otherwise, numerous problems are associated with using aversive stimuli as intended punishment (Hyman, 1997; Hyman & Snook, 1999):
* Especially when you use intense punishment such as yelling or screaming, you are presenting students with an out-of-control model for handling stressful situations.
• Punishment can instill fear, rage, or avoidance in students. Skinner's biggest concern was this: What punishment teaches is how to avoid something. For example, a student who experiences a punitive teacher might show a dislike for the teacher and not want to come to school.
- When students are punished, they might become so aroused and anxious that they can't concentrate clearly on their work for a long time after the punishment has been given.
* Punishment tells students what not to do rather than what to do. If you make a punishing statement, such as "No, that's not right," always accompany it with positive feedback, such as "but why don't you try this."
• What is intended as punishment can turn out to be reinforcing. A student might learn that misbehaving will not only get the teacher's attention but put the student in the limelight with classmates as well.