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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

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What ways do you use positive reinforcement in your classroom to prevent behaviors?

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Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Mike Procyk's picture
Mike Procyk
Band teacher from Bowling Green, Ohio

As someone already said in the Twitter comments, it's essential in band. For me, the students see my excitement when they do something well, which helps them get excited. I think that is the simplest, most honest and effective form of positive feedback.

C. Capece's picture
C. Capece
Physical Education Teacher, Baltimore, MD

In PE, I have students model and demonstrate for their peers when I catch them doing something constructive in class. I think it helps build self-esteem and encourages the other classmates to work hard.

zep's picture
Education Specialist

I am always as careful with positive feedback as I am with corrective feedback, Alfie Kohn has an excellent book on this topic, Punished by Rewards. He outlines the many dangers of "molding" our kids through praise rather than allowing them the space and respect needed for them to grow into their own person.

Diane Woodward's picture
Diane Woodward
I teach elementary general music in Shreveport, Louisiana.

I completely changed my teaching four years ago (after about 20 years) after learning about and implementing Whole Brain Teaching (wholebrainteaching.com). It is so positive and effective. There is a lot of positive reinforcement, not just from the teacher, but from peers. Great management tools!
I think one has to be very careful with general praise. It is better to DESCRIBE specifically what you see that is positive and let the student draw his/her own conclusion about himself rather than make a general comment on character. That kind of praise can backfire, especially in a child with a poor self-concept. Read Teacher and Child by Haim Ginott (old book, great if you can find it), How to Talk so Students Will Listen by his proteges, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, and Don't Shoot the Dog (behavior mod that is not dry reading). These books changed my life even before I found WBT. The last two are very easy reads.

Wendy's picture
Title I Teacher, Grades K-2 in Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Hi! I'm new here, and just "getting my feet wet". In reference to positive reinforcement, I just read something interesting. In Teaching With Love and Logic, it talks about saying, "I noticed that you..." instead of "I like that you..." because using the word "like" gives the impression that the student is working to please the teacher, rather than for him or herself. Any thoughts on this?

zep's picture
Education Specialist

Wendy, all educators who think about the question of how we facilitate intrinsic motivation versus the conventional rewards/punishments which extoll extrinsic motivation are always thinking about both the explicit and latent functions of our practice, welcome!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Hi Wendy, welcome to the community!

There's been some really interesting research lately comparing the value of praising a child's innate qualities ("You're so smart!") versus their process ("You worked so hard!"). Turns out that one (process) is much more effective than the other.

Here are a couple of articles that go into more depth:



zep's picture
Education Specialist

All praise is ripe with dangers regardless of our intent, I would strongly encourage taking a look at any of the research done by Alfie Kohn, "PUNISHED BY REWARDS: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes". He does a nice job and is extraordinarily well documented in showing the danger of turning students into little "us" robots inadvertently.

Forever Learning's picture
Forever Learning
Second grade teacher from New Jersey

I love watching the teachers in action in the Whole Brain videos. So far I've watched many of them over and over again. They are great models for motivational teaching.

Forever Learning's picture
Forever Learning
Second grade teacher from New Jersey

Whole Brain Teaching is amazing! I loved watching the teachers over and over again. I want to implement as many ideas as I can next year.

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