and Strategies for Positive Behavior:
School-Wide Programs & Strategies:
Class-wide or school-wide
Reinforcement is a stimulus that follows and is contingent upon
the display of a behavior and increases the probability of that
behavior being repeated. Positive reinforcement can increase the
probability of both desirable and undesirable behaviors. For example,
if a student disrupts class in order to get attention and is successful
in getting it, the attention will serve as a positive reinforcer,
which increases the likelihood that the student will continue to
act in a disruptive manner. Likewise, the student who receives 5
minutes of free time following the completion of a difficult assignment
is more likely to persist with and complete a similarly difficult
assignment in the future. Planned positive reinforcement is very
effective in promoting desirable change in student behavior.
is a powerful behavioral principle that often guides our behavior.
For example, most adults begin a job and continue to go to work
because of the powerful reinforcer known as a "paycheck".
The friends we choose remain our friends because our interactions
with them make use feel positively reinforced. We do not typically
remain friends with people who do not respond positively to the
friendship or who try to harm us. For a response to be positive
it must be valued, preferred, and often individualized. What may
be extremely motivating for one student may be entirely useless
are five types of reinforcements:
Reinforcement: This type of reinforcement occurs naturally
from the appropriate behavior. For example, a student who works
cooperatively with a group in a class activity is likely to receive
more invitations to join in such activities in the future. For
most students, the attention that the student receives for helping
other students and cooperating is positively reinforcing. The
goal should always be to move the student towards natural and
intrinsic reinforcement (i.e. the reinforcement comes from within
the child such as positive thoughts or feelings).
Reinforcers: These are reinforcers that are socially mediated
by teachers, parents, other adults, and peers. They express approval
and praise for appropriate behavior. Comments ("Excellent
work," "I like the way you are working with your group"),
written approval ("Way to go!"), and nonverbal expressions
of approval (smiling, clapping, nods of approval) are all very
Reinforcers: Activity reinforcers are very effective and positive
for students. Allowing students to participate in preferred activities
(such as games, computer time, etc.) is a very powerful strategy.
Reinforcers: This category includes edibles (food), and non-edibles
such as toys, balloons, stickers, and awards. These should be
used with caution. Parents may have reason to object to certain
reinforcement and toys can make other students envious. However,
tangibles can be in the form of awards, certificates, displaying
work, and letters sent home to parents commending the student's
progress. These are powerfully motivating reinforcers and for
many students are absolutely necessary when first implementing
a reinforcement plan.
Reinforcement: Token reinforcement involves awarding points
or tokens for appropriate behavior. These rewards have little
value in themselves but can be exchanged for something of value.
should reinforcement be delivered?
should be delivered as promised (make sure you follow through).
will be most powerful when delivered immediately.
not give reinforcement because you feel sorry for a student or
when it is generally undeserved.
possible, pair tangible or external reinforcement with social
sure that social reinforcers are not ambiguous (make sure the
student knows exactly what they are being praised for)
should be age-appropriate.
taper back the schedule of reinforcement such that tangible reinforcers
do not have to be provided each and every time a desirable behavior
should be periodically changed so that old reinforcers do not
to the reinforcer must be limited (students will not engage in
the desirable behavior if they can obtain the reinforcer in other
ways. Similarly, a reinforcer losses its value when a student
has constant access to it).
& Additional Resources
Hindz, R., & Driscoll, A. (1989). Praise in the classroom. ERIC
K., Stichter, J.P., Nelson, C.M., Scott, T.M., & Liaupsin, C.J.
(2000). Improving post-school outcomes for students with emotional
and behavioral disorders. ERIC/OSEP Digest E59, ED447616.
R. (1998). Good or bad, what teachers expect from students they
generally get! ERIC Digest ED426985.
University of Minnesota. Tip Sheets: Positive ways of intervening
with challenging behavior. Available at: http://ici2.umn.edu/preschoolbehavior/tip_sheets/posrein.htm