24 March, 2022
Reinforcement can be both positive and negative. I bet many of you teachers have had moments where a student's behavior throws off your entire lesson plan. It's quite common to be tempted to address negative classroom behavior with consequences. But that only draws unnecessary attention towards unwanted behavior. Take the high road and lean towards positive reinforcement instead.
Positive reinforcement is a much better way to maintain and organized and disturbance-free classroom. It is a principle that suggests that a behavior will occur more frequently if it's quickly followed by a reward, prize, token, or praise.
In a classroom environment, positive reinforcement is a type of behavioral management that immediately rewards students when they present a positive result — whether it's learning a new skill, completing a task well, academic progress or behavioral improvements. Rather than punishing a poor choice or negative behavior with reprecussions or "time-outs", some teachers find rewarding good behavior as a more effective method. I think it is too.
The main purpose of implementing positive reinforcement in the classroom is to provide an incentive for students. The incentive is usually presented after students perform an action that results in a positive outcome, when they accomplish an achievement or display certain positive behaviors.
Positive reinforcements have more of an impact than negative reinforcements. They help increase student engagement, improve their confidence and increase their motivation to keep learning. It also helps teachers create a more positive classroom environment and minimize disruptions and disciplinary interruptions while teaching.
A verbal "good job" or a pat on the back is encouraging, but being more intentional can go a long way. Students, even younger kids, tend to be very perceptive. They can tell when a teacher genuinely cares and sincerely acknowledges their positive behavior or academic accomplishments.
Consider a variety of positive reinforcements to remove any doubt your students may have regarding your intentions. For instance, try a combination of verbal praise and nonverbal cues. Throw in some tangible rewards — like candy or movie tickets — or opt for fun activity rewards like a class party.
But make sure that you stay consistent with your positive reinforcements. If you start implementing it in your classroom, don't upruptly stop enforcing it, or neglect this class management method. Because if they are few and far between, it wouldn't be effective and students' behavior will not change.
The key to effectively promote certain behavior is the timing and delivery of positive reinforcements. The positive reinforcement you present a student should not only be genuine, but awarded right after the target behavior or positive result. Students need to be aware of when they can expect their positive reinforcement.
I get it. Sometimes, it's not possible to immediately acknowledge positive behavior in the moment, especially in the middle of teaching an important lesson — and that's okay. Just remember to present the positive reinforcement as soon as you can to maximize the positive impact it can have on your student.
There are many ideas out there on how to reward your students' positive behavior, improvement, or excellence. You can reward your students every time they respond to a question, by allowing them to grab a piece of candy from the class jar, or adding a tally to a scoreboard that makes each student eligible for a prize at the end of the week or month.
Or you can also choose to only reward correct answers to your questions, instead of after every response. This can help motivate them to study when their home, and actively engage with their class learning material. Students will feel encouraged to communicate and participate in class discussions, even if they're not immediately rewarded.
The positive reinforcements you're going to present to your class should be relevant and suitable to your students. Keep in mind their age, their collective interests and what motivates them. You also need to be mindful of the reinforcements being something all students can enjoy, but also well-received by all their parents.
For instance, high school students would not feel motivated by positive reinforcements such as stickers and gold stars. The same goes for pre-school students. What are they going to do with a pair of movie tickets? They would prefer verbal praises and candy much more. Go with a positive reinforcement that adds value to these students so that they are motivated to get it.
Your positive reinforcements shouldn't only be when students have accomplished an end goal. It's important to recognize and acknowledge their efforts, their improvements and their progress, be it behavioral or academic.
It can be as little as arriving 10 minutes earlier to class than they used to — even though they're still late. Then you can reinforce their improvement when they show up to class on time or even 5 minutes before the class begins. Avoid very high or unrealistic expectations out of your students. When you're setting these milestones and goals, think small.
If you're looking for ways on how to use positive reinforcement in your classroom, I hope these tips help! Positive reinforcement is only the first step to fostering an engaging and cooperative learning environment. But it's a step in the right direction.
Positive reinforcement can help teachers effectively change student behavior for the better. It can also simultaneously help improve class communication, enhance class collaboration, and empower students throughout their learning journey.
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Hadeel Al Haddad
The Digital Marketing Owl. The passionate bookworm/book-owl that runs on caffeine and loves soulful music. As a morning Owl, I'm at my creative peak while the sun is still up. I'm a wordsmith who enjoys writing, traveling and making punny dad jokes. Yes, seriously!