Introduction Candy is the main reinforcer used inside the elementary classroom to manage the behavior problems. Teachers start out with other token or symbolic rewards such as stars, coupons, and play money but in the end use candies.
In a fifth grade classroom I witnessed the token start- out. Students were rewarded play money for completing homework assignments and for their behavior inside and outside of the classroom, but the end result was that they added it up to purchase candy at the class shop. In an art room, if students earned coupon (s) during the art prep then they get to claim a reward for the candy box after they have accumulated five coupons.
In a kindergarten class I have witnessed the symbolic reward start-out. Each student gets a star for their behavior throughout the day. If students earned five stars during the course of the day, then they get a reward from the prize box, which is full of candies!
Traditionally schools have used punishment to deter students from unwanted behaviors, but this consequence behavior system has been proven ineffective. (Siegel, 2008). According to the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education “punishment is one of the least effective responses to problems behaviors” (As cited in Siegel, 2008)
Now, many teachers in compliance with the Department of Education have implemented positive reinforcement systems in their classrooms.
Positive reinforcement by definition is increasing in the frequency of a preferred behavior due to the addition of a stimulus and according to Skinner (1937) positive reinforcement is more effective at changing and establishing preferred behavior than punishment.
Therefore many teachers have chosen to use reinforcers such as candies, stars, free-time, etc to increase preferred classroom behaviors. So, what makes the candy such as a powerful or more prevalent reinforcer used in the classroom by elementary school teachers?
Statement of the Problem I will compare two positive reinforcers – candy and praise. In my reading, I have discovered that praise can be just as effective as tangible rewards. So, why haven’t elementary teachers eliminated the use of candy as the reinforcer and take greater measures to implement the praise reward?
Review of the Literature One alleged effect of reinforcement is that it undermines intrinsic interest in task; however findings show that verbal praise produces and increase intrinsic motivation. The only negative effect appears when expected tangible rewards are given to individual simply for doing a task (Cameron & Pierce, 1994).
Praising student’s intelligence gives them a short burst of pride (“you must be smart at these problems”); rather, students must be praised for their effort (“You must have worked hard at these problems” or “I know it was a hard assignment, but you stuck to it and got it done”). Effort praised students will remain on task, confident, and eager (Dweck, 2007).
There are different effects of reinforcement with different kind of students. Student with an external locus of control (those who believe that their actions are determined more by outside events and other people than themselves) perform better with tangible reinforcement than with verbal reinforcement. (Cotton,2008)
Research Hypothesis HR1: If praise can be just as effective as candy as a reinforcer, teachers with the proper implementation and continuity of praise can reduce or even eliminate candy as the primary reinforcer inside elementary classrooms.
References Cotton, K. (1988, May) Instructional Reinforcement. School Improvement Research Series (SIRS). Retrieved September 22, 2008, from http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sirs/2/cu3.html http://www.nwrel.org/scpd/sirs/2/cu3.html B. F. Skinner. (2008, October 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 14, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=B._F._Skinner&oldid=244415149 Siegel, Chelsea T. (2008, August) School-Wide Positive Behavior Support Programs in Elementary schools. Online Submission.38pp. School of education Dominican University of California. Retrieved September 29, 2008 from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail Dweck, Carol S. (2007, October). The Perils: The wrong kind of praise creates self- defeating behavior. The Right kind motivates students to learn. Stanford University. Educational Leadership. Retrieved September 29, 2008 from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail
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