PsycholARTSical: Psyched about the arts/Behavioral Views of Learning
Behavioural Views of Learning
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Understanding Learning (pp. 197-199)
- In the text, learning is defined as a change in knowledge and/or behaviour that occurs exclusively through experience. (p 197) For example, the experience of reading a textbook brings about additional factual knowledge. This learning is deliberate. On the other hand, the experience of placing one’s tongue against a frozen metal post for the first time may prompt the avoidance of a similar situation in the future. Interestingly, in the latter example, both new knowledge (tongue sticks to frozen metal) and new behaviours (don’t do it) are gained. This learning is inadvertent.
- Thus, learning may be intentional or unintentional; however, it is always initiated by the learner’s interaction with his or her environment. It follows that changes attributed to natural development, such as maturation, do not qualify as learning. (p 197) This condition is logically sound with respect to physiological developments such as growing taller or turning gray. However, it could also be understood to suggest that learning benefits often associated with mental maturation are actually a product of experiences accumulated with age. While it is clear that neurological development does not in itself constitute the act of learning, its exclusion undermines the significance of the constantly-changing adolescent brain. For example, if the ability to reason is associated with the development of the frontal lobe, can critical thinking be considered a learned skill? What are the implications for abstract thought?
- Given the dichotomy of knowledge and behaviour, the study of learning is divided into cognitive and behavioural points of view. Cognitive psychologists emphasize internal mental processes such as thinking, remembering and problem-solving. Conversely, the behavioural perspective assumes that learning causes observable changes in behaviour. (p 197) It is not clear why there is such an insistence on favouring one position over the other – both knowledge and behaviour are clearly essential to learning. Furthermore, it could be said that behaviour is enacted knowledge and that knowledge is potential behaviour.
Early Explanations of Learning: Contiguity and Classical Conditioning (pp. 199-202)
- I was very intrigued by the discussion in the chapter about classical conditioning and how it can relate to learning in the classroom. Discovered by Ivan Pavlov, who was able to train dogs to salivate at the sound of a tuning fork, classical conditioning is described as an association of automatic responses with new stimuli (Woolfolk et. al, pg. 199-200). In the classroom students’ emotional reactions to different situations are often viewed as a result of classical conditioning. In particular, I was interested in how emotional reactions will often disrupt learning. For example, the stress and anxiety that many students feel during tests or presentations, which can often result in a poor performance. I wonder if there is a way to apply the theory of classical conditioning to eliminate the stress and possibly evoke a different emotion during a test or performance time. In the Guidelines on page 201 of the text book, the authors suggest giving un-graded tests so that students can practice daily. My concern with this suggestion is that firstly it seems unrealistic to test students so frequently, and also that perhaps this continuous testing will just perpetuate the anxiety for the student. Perhaps pairing a test with a positive stimulus could decrease the stress that is created in this situation. In my own experience my high school sociology teacher would give us candy as we took a test. A testing day was much less dreaded by the class because we knew that we would be given a treat. In theory this seems like a potential solution to the negative emotions that a test can produce. However, is it merely setting up students to perform poorly in a testing situation that doesn’t provide a positive stimulus?
- Can a teacher use classical conditioning to reduce negative emotional reactions, or would the use of reinforcements, such as in operant conditioning, be more effective?
- In response to the above question, I think that the use of both methods can be effective. However, since an example of operant conditioning has already been provided I will touch upon classical conditioning. I think testing can be something not feared if it is introduced from the very beginning of classes as a positive experience so that it creates feelings of pleasure instead of pain. One way that this could be accomplished is by providing an atmosphere that is peaceful and calm as well as providing tests that are fair (i.e. including material that has been taught, and not providing trick questions). The former can be accomplished in two ways. The first is the teacher's demeanour. If the teacher is calm, cheerful and optimistic she can help to alleviate some pre-test anxiety. Secondly, if the test space provided is peaceful and comfortable while the testing is being administered (ex. soft relaxation music) this can also help. If from the very beginning of the year, the setting for testing is associated with positive variables, the students should not associate testing with fear.
- Perhaps a way to overcome this sense of fear is by continually assessing students. By incorporating small quizzes, tests, or assignments, which will simply be used as an assessment tool by the teacher and students (and not graded), students may begin to feel comfortable and more at ease during a graded quiz/test. People often feel anxious in unfamiliar environments. They especially feel anxious when they are being evaluated. I remember the first time I had to play in a recital, I was so nervous I could not control my shaking hands and made countless mistakes from over-thinking. However, over the years, I have had many opportunities to perform in public. Now, not only am I relaxed and comfortable when I play in public, I actually enjoy the experience. By providing students with ungraded tests (written in the same format as their upcoming-graded tests), students may be more relaxed during the graded tests. They are now familiar with the format, phrasing of questions, and have a firm understanding of the types of questions the teacher may ask. Another option to overcome fear is to change the format of the tests. For example, open book tests, take home tests, or allow students to bring in one small-cheat. All of these formats still require the students to apply their knowledge, however, students may feel more control over their end product.
User:Belshawm|Belshawm]] (talk) 19:48, 12 March 2008 (UTC)
- In response to the two above postings, (especially the one on operant conditioning)I think that making testing more positive for students also ties into the section on Mastery Learning on pages 215 and 216 of the text. This idea that all students can master a skill, or achieve an 80-90% mark in a testing situation, before moving onto the next level. I know one teacher who does not allow her students to fail an evaluation. She allows them multiple tries of a similar task, until they get it right. Instead of going in thinking they will fail, these students know that they will eventually succeed, which eliminates some of the pre-test panic. As the text states, there are problems with this system, but I have seen this system work when it is adapted for only certain struggling members of the class. As students know they will have many tries to succeed, this could be another way to condition students to associate tests with positive consequences instead of the negative consequence of failing.
- Perhaps a way to overcome this sense of fear is by continually assessing students. By incorporating small quizzes, tests, or assignments, which will simply be used as an assessment tool by the teacher and students (and not graded), students may begin to feel comfortable and more at ease during a graded quiz/test. People often feel anxious in unfamiliar environments. They especially feel anxious when they are being evaluated. I remember the first time I had to play in a recital, I was so nervous I could not control my hands from shaking and ended up making countless mistakes from over-thinking. However, over the years, I have had many opportunities to perform in public. Now, not only am I relaxed and comfortable when I play in public, I actually enjoy the experience. By providing students with pre-tests (written in the same format as their upcoming-graded tests) and take up the questions in-class, students may be relaxed during the graded tests. They are now familiar with the format, phrasing of questions, and have a firm understanding of the types of questions the teacher may ask.
- In accordance with Liz's response, I have seen a similar system work where a teacher has allowed for students to re-submit their work once the teacher has done a 'basic' marking on the assignment. This practice was particularly used in music theory class for those students who were able to grasp the concepts, but were having trouble applying them to the 'big picture'. This way students were able to see their mistakes, and were given opportunities to re-write the assignment, this time making a connect as to why their result was wrong, and could seek further help how to do it properly. Assignments became more than just a 'grade', because it was the satisfaction of mastering a technique and being able to move on to the next step. This was a very smart idea as the teacher encouraged not only independent learning, but also it was a form of operant conditioning (touching on the next topic-pg. 202), as the students would learn as much as they wanted to (i.e. could choose to re-do the assignment or be satisfied with the original mark) and because of the constant learning in music theory, students would realize sooner or later that they would need to fully grasp concepts before being able to move on.
- As teacher's, how far should we go to see our students succeed?
- To make matters more interesting, this same teacher allowed students to bring in a 'cheat sheet' into their test. One single-sided, blank piece of paper where they could write anything except for examples. Because students went to such detailed lengths when filling up this piece of paper, when it came to the test, students no longer needed to use this sheet, as they had done a through job of studying and already new the material inside and out. Obviously this method would not work with all students, but for those students who have the tendency to 'freeze' in test situation, it was the perfect way for students to feel more competent.
- As a music major in university we were given as many chances to perform in a friendly, supportive, low-stress environment as possible. Though my instructors never used the term "Classical Conditioning" I believe that this is exactly what they were attempting, in hopes of aleviating performance anxiety in students. The problem with this is that a performance situation is an unconditioned stimulus which evokes a very primitive "fight or flight" response that is hardwired into every human individual. In short, when a person is experiencing performance anxiety part of their brain is telling them that their lives are in danger. This is obviously an irrational, unconditioned response, but overcoming such a strong basic instinct is near impossible for some people. Some performers are able to channel the "fight" instinct into creative energy that drives their performance, while others devote several hours before a performance to meditation in order to convince their mind that what they're about to experience is not a life or death situation.
- Are there methods we, as teachers of the arts, can use in the classroom to extinguish the unconditioned responses associated with performance anxiety?
- --Elewis (talk) 03:36, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
- It is interesting to explore how a teacher can best use conditioned stimulus defined as "stimulus that evokes an emotional or pshychological response after conditioning" (Woolfolk et. al, pg. 200) in the classroom to promote focused learning and also eleviate anxiety. The desired result is a conditioned response from the students, defined as a "learned response to previously neutral stimulus" (Woolfolk et. al, pg. 200), to optimize their learning potential in the classroom setting. In response to the above question regarding performance anxiety, I believe the power lies with the teacher and their ability to create an environment condusive to support and comfort for students in the performance setting. Simply put, I believe the teacher needs to put the subject on the "table", which is so seldom done in the context of performance classes, and discuss the subject in a group context. By shifting the conditioned response within students, an environment is created condusive to open, creative, and artistic expression. - Christopher Wilson
- In response to Eli's question above, I think there are some things you can do. I suffered (still do, I guess) from performance anxiety and I tried many different strategies to combat it. One that helped was practicing a concert program in a big, open room--ideally, the room where the actual concert will be performed. I think this helped because part of the anxiety comes from the performance environment: the nerves REALLY start kicking in when you walk through the doors, hear your footsteps echo through the hall, you can't see anyone but you hear a roar of applause--once I sat down and looked up, I usually felt pretty small in this giant hall. The idea is if you perform in a big, open space, practice in a big, open space (whether it's the performance hall during off hours or somewhere else). Your relationship to the practice space mimics the performance situation. I would often practice in a normal practice room and when I felt ready, walk straight into a lecture hall (ensuring beforehand that there was no class in there, of course!) and perform my concert program beginning to end, just as if it was the real thing.
- The conditioning comes into play get used to performing in that environment without any stress--you're dulling the conditioned response. Of course, the audience won't be there (although inviting friends to watch you practice certainly helps), but it's a start.
Operant Conditioning: Trying New Responses (pp. 202-208)
- There were a variety of themes in this reading that I found interesting in relation to teaching. One theme in particular dealt with positive/negative reinforcement (which both promote a particular behaviour) and punishment (which weakens and suppresses behaviour) (Woolfolk et. al, pg. 203-204). In my own experience both as a student and as a teacher, I find that teachers overlook the importance of reinforcing positive behaviour among his/her students and focus on punishment. I find that a tendency of teachers is to only catch students being “bad”. Instead, teachers should try and catch their students being “good”. For example, if a student who has been talking throughout the entire class has finally quieted down, then the teacher should use this opportunity to acknowledge that student’s compliance either through praise, a reward (such as more computer time), etc. This acknowledgement will encourage the student to continue with the desired behaviour which in turn, will minimize the teacher’s need to manage/punish that student during class-time.
- During my practicum, I was amazed with how easy it was to implement punishment over positive reinforcement. When students were behaving, I had to consistently remind myself to acknowledge this through a reinforcer of some kind, such as praising them, or playing a piece that they loved.
- Why is it that punishing students seems to be a more of a natural tendency for teachers rather then implementing positive/negative reinforcement? Also, is it possible for a teacher to run a successful classroom on positive/negative reinforcement alone? Or, at times, does punishment need to be enforced? Is it possible to find a balance between the two?
- Thoughts, ideas, comments?
- I'd like to quote an outside text in response to your question, “Why is it that punishing students seems to be a more of a natural tendency for teachers than implementing positive/negative reinforcement?” In his article “Rewarded by Punishment: Reflections on the Disuse of Positive Reinforcement in Schools” (cf.  ), author John W. Magg proposes multiple reasons for punishment having traditionally been a preferred form of treatment.
- First, Maag believes that positive reinforcement is often misunderstood because it is rarely associated with discipline. (Maag, 178) Furthermore, positive reinforcement is assumed by many to be coercive; bribing students to behave well, rather than motivating them intrinsically. Because of this, techniques based on positive reinforcement are often understood to threaten personal autonomy. Ironically, punishment seems more acceptable in this sense. People assume that they are free to choose to behave in a responsible way to avoid punishment. (Maag, 173) Moreover, our society views punishment as a highly effective way to control its members. Punishment often can produce a rapid suppression of undesired behaviours. (Maag, 176) I’d like to suggest that positive reinforcement is proactive, rather than reactive, and may not demonstrate immediate, identifiable changes in behaviour.
- Secondly, Maag proposes that teachers do not use reinforcement effectively because they do not understand important terms related to behaviour modification. The terms and concepts addressed in this section are covered in greater depth by our text, Educational Psychology.
- As teachers, our actions and interactions encourage behavioural responses, whether we are conscious of them or not. It is important that we recognize the differences between reinforcing and punishing behaviours. A reinforcer encourages a particular form of behaviour, whereas punishment discourages it. Because of our traditional understanding of these words, we may all too readily assume that punishment has negative connotations, and that reinforcement is preferable. This is not necessarily the case.
- Similarly, the terms positive and negative reinforcement carry their own baggage. They are two means to an end, two ways to modify behaviour. One method is not necessarily preferable to the other. Our text proposes that positive reinforcement occurs when a behaviour has been strengthened “by presenting a desired stimulus after the behaviour”. In other words, a teacher encourages said behaviour by their response (or lack of response) to it. It is possible that positive reinforcement may not be “positive” in the traditional sense.
- Positive reinforcement is a more complicated process than simply giving praise to students. During my practicum, I praised a student’s work on a diorama, hoping that she would respond to my “positive” encouragement. Rather, she seemed embarrassed at being singled out for her achievement. As I did not encourage her, I failed to reinforce her behaviour. Simply because verbal praise sounds like a reinforcer does not mean that it will function as one.
- Maag notes that when punishments are effective, they are used infrequently, because they serve to reduce inappropriate behaviours. However, students who repeatedly misbehave and receive reprimands, suspensions and the like are not being punished for their actions. They are instead being positively reinforced. “Teachers expect students to behave well, and consequently ignore them when they do so, but they usually give them negative attention when they do behave poorly. Adult attention, even if it is negative, is a powerful reinforcer - especially for students with the most challenging behaviours who typically receive very little positive attention.”(Maag, 179)
- Maag suggests that many teachers do not use reinforcement to their advantage. Effectively changing students’ behaviours also requires teachers to modify their own behaviours; but first, they must recognize how positive reinforcement is congruent with the values and techniques they need to apply. “These goals can be addressed when teachers prioritize their values” (Maag, 183). Changing ingrained techniques are hard. Accordingly, as new teachers, we have an advantage.
- Maag concludes his article by providing a series of easy-to-implement techniques to encourage positive reinforcement, which I thought I'd share.
- 1) Catch students being good. Teachers often take for granted when students behave well, and often only react to inappropriate behaviours. Some students have learned that the only way they will receive attention from teachers is to misbehave. Maag suggests that the second time a teacher gives a student a verbal warning, they should also be sure to catch the student behaving appropriately. Whereas punishment is most effective when delivered consistently, teachers only have to catch students behaving well occasionally to generate desired behaviour modification.
- 2) Think Small. Set small goals for students and reinforce incremental strides towards that goal. For instance, if a student is usually ten minutes late for class, provide positive reinforcement if he is only five minutes late. Once he begins to make improvements, it is more likely that he will achieve your desired result.
- 3) Have a Group Management Plan. Its easier to manage specific students with challenging behaviours when the rest of class is well behaved. Control the class before focussing on an individual.
- 4) Prevent Behaviour Problems. Establish classroom rules and the positive reinforcement that will follow them. Dedicate your attention to academically engaging your students, rather than dealing with problems. Monitor your students behaviours and subtly reinforce them.
- 5) Use Peer Influence Favourably. Students realize that the easiest way to get peer attention is to misbehave. Teachers should find ways to use peer influence to encourage good behaviour.
- I find this last suggestion the least straightforward. Does anyone have any suggestions how we may use peer influence to promote good behaviour?
- Can anyone provide examples of having used positive and negative reinforcement to their advantage?
- This story is extreme but gives a powerful example of positive peer influence.
- Jacob was withdrawn and pretty low-achieving from an academic standpoint. His home life was not the best and outside of school he tended to hang with the "wrong" crowd. At the very end of practicum Jacob was arrested for aggrevated assault when he got into a fight with the owner of a SUBWAY restaurant who had accused Jacob of stealing. Jacob was transfered to another school, but before he left Vanier my associate teacher sat down and spoke with Jacob about why the fight at the restaurant was maybe not a good idea and why the people he chose to run with weren't necessarily the best choice in friends.
- This teacher continuously let Jacob know that he was capable of good things, and that the transfer was a chance for a fresh start with a clean slate, a chance to make better choices and do positive things. He let him know that from this bad situation, good things could arise. At the end of this conversation, another student was brought in and asked if he would take Jacob to church with him on Sunday. The student—who knew Jacob but was not real tight with him—agreed, and was genuinely thrilled at the idea of helping Jacob get back on his feet. Jacob also seemed convinced that good things were in store for him, and started to make better choices for himself.
- This practicum placement was in the One World Youth Arts Project at George Vanier. My AT regularly made connections like this for his students, usually not on such a large, life-altering scale, but, little connections that did wonders for students' self-image and appreciation for fellow classmates.
- The OWYAP setting focuses on musical composition, and lends itself very-readily to these kinds of collaborations, but the power of peer influence in any classroom is a tool we can all use to positively affect to motivate our students. Self-image is a huge issue for adolescents and is often the reason for bad behavior. Facilitating peer connections that promote positive self awareness will often diminish disruptive behaviour and foster academic success.
- Here is another example of positive peer influence.
- In my practicum, I tried a number of methods to "tame the beasts". I tried to make a connection with the students who enjoyed challenging me. One way that I did this was to try to understand where they were coming from. I also tried to get to know them (i.e. interests etc.) so they wouldn't see me as just another authority figure. Once I became familiar with these specific students, I tried to personalize my lessons. For instance, in one lesson, I asked the students to mime their favourite thing free-time activity. This allowed some of the more unruly students to put a bit of themselves into my lesson. As a result, these "problem" students became engaged with the material, which created a ripple effect throughout the class. In turn, the students who usually followed the bad behavior, began to follow the good behavior. In turn, I acknowledged the good behaviour by thanking them individually for their great work in my class. As far as I'm concerned, positive peer influence really does promote good behaviour.
- When contemplating Mark's question, I came across a discovery that may seem cynical, but practical in reference to peer motivation for positive behaviour. My conclusion is that you can't have it. I've read many a chapter on psychology and 'school and society' and have come to the realization that a student's behaviour in the classroom is ever-evolving, and the notion that this can be controlled by a theory or a set of standards is preposterous.
- My first notion to reinforce good behaviour was, "why don't I praise a group that is doing an assignment well, therefore enacting positive reinforcement by promoting the good behaviour". I believed that this would lead to other students to recognize this praise and cause them to strive to do better in hopes of receiving praise themselves. However, I found the opposite reaction occurs.
- Under-praised students are repulsed by the praised students for their conforming nature. The symbol of a class "goodie two-shoes" can alienate the rest of the class into a "whatever, I don't really care" attitude. This creates a dangerous learning environment. The teacher loses credibility and any sense of control they may have had.
- What's the solution? Generalized reinforcement. The old teacher's college adage of "what's good for some is good for all" applies to our classroom dynamics when dealing with reinforcement. By generalizing your reinforcement, students will not single a student out as the prize student creating less social stigma within the classroom.
- That being said, I don't believe this will completely solve the situation, but it will help for a more equitable classroom. To conclude, I realize that you can try to balance your positive and negative reinforcement techniques, but the more balanced you try to make it, the greater the l imbalance amongst students. I realize that my opinion is based on my high school experiences, both as a student and teacher, and, the fact that they are only a few years younger than myself.
- The power of positive reinforcement shows up in my personal life daily with my fourteen year old daughter in grade nine, especially as it relates to her study habits, and her ability to concentrate on her homework. She responds well to positive energy. Period. An intermittent reinforcement schedule (page 204) is the most constructive approach to her attitudes towards study, and schoolwork.
- During my practicum, I was faced with an unruly, yet talented, grade ten performance vocal class. By encouraging their individual abilities, their skill set, as well as their ability to work as a group, they quickly developed a focused work ethic during class. This was accompanied by positive energy and overall enthusiasm for musical task at hand. I was fortunately able to "accentuate the positive" (page 208) in order to clearly communicate to the students which behaviour I was reinforcing to promote positive, repeated classroom patterning. The results were tremendous and highly rewarding! - Christopher Wilson
- I agree with Chris. It is vital to highlight students’ individual strengths.
- I found that during my practicum students began to respond better to my lessons once I began to develop some sort of relationship with each of them individually. I found walking around the classroom and conversing with them while they were doing seatwork to be a great tool for me in terms of classroom management. Engaging with students during that time allowed me to develop a strong mutual respect between the students and myself.
- I remember at the beginning of my practicum I got weighed down by constantly attending to those students who required a lot of personal attention. They would monopolize class time and time with me, with their never-ending questions. At first I didn’t realize the impact it was having on the class because I was so overwhelmed by the mechanics of teaching a lesson. I was more worried about what I was doing. Then, as I began to feel more comfortable with the class and started to observe the dynamics within the classroom, I started to notice that those students—apart from the four or five extremely extroverted students—had shut down mentally; some even physically! It was then that I realized I had to start becoming more even-handed in my teaching.
- After that, I made it a point to say at least one thing to every student every day, especially the introverted students. One student was so astonished, dazed even—not surprizing, because I think I woke him up. He said “I don’t know”. I said, "ok", and continued my lesson. Immediately after, he sat up in his chair and began to look on with the person sitting next to him. After awhile I came back to him with another question and he answered it perfectly! Because I made that small gesture of grace towards him, he became engaged.
- --Thomas20 (talk) 19:59, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
- Something I learned while on practicum to go along with this point, is to always have one ear on the class and one ear with your students. Being in a drama setting, the class was often divided into groups for group projects and I would circulate and give feedback to groups. My AT told me to use, what she called, "The Cowboy Method"; this is always keeping your back to a wall when talking with a group so that even though your focus is on a couple individuals, your always facing the entire group. This allows you to still have some attention on the rest of the class and give the needed attention to individuals.
- In regards to postive or negative reinforcement, I have always found postive reinforcement to be the most effective, especially when dealing with behavioural students. When I was volunteering as an Advisor with a program called Junior Achievement, we had one grade 9 student that was continually disruptive and halted the work of the rest of the members. The lead advisor tried various methods of discipline, until one day I stepped in and took this student into the hall for a one on one discussion. When talking to him, I addressed the areas of his disruptive behaviour that were concerning me and reinforced the great potential I saw in him and asked if he could be my ambassador in the company and use his outgoing and vibrant personality to rally the company to be more productive. My focus was to highlight his postive qualities and instead of putting him down encourage him to use his skills to the best of his abilities. I let him know that I believed in him and wanted him to succeed and that the only person he was failing was himself. This was very effective in managing his behaviour. I'm not saying that he did not act out again, but when he did I was able to just say "Max, can you focus?" and he would start working towards the task at hand. Kids never want to fail, but sometimes they lack someone to believe in them, so they stop trying to succeed. I know this may not work with every student, but I did witness my AT use a similar method in my practicum with one of the more difficult students and it proved effective in that case too. It is the difference in saying "No, you're bad." to "You're really good, why are you being bad?"
- --Ajlaflamme (talk) 13:19, 31 January 2008 (UTC)
Applied Behaviour Analysis (pp. 208-214)
- This section addresses methods for encouraging existing behaviour, such as praise, the Premack principle, shaping and positive practice. It states that to increase a particular behaviour, we must reinforce it. I was particularly interested in the part about reinforcement with teacher attention. Many psychologists advise teachers to “accentuate the positive”- to literally praise students for good behaviour.
- I would like the address “Using Praise Appropriately” (on page 209), it suggests not to single students out for praise because it tends to backfire (because you risk embarrassing the student you have chosen to praise.) During my practicum experience, I was asked by my Associate Teacher to single out students that were doing the assignments as asked/a phenomenal job. Basically, I was asked to hold up a students work (in front of their peers) and to point out what aspects were working well (E.g. For gesture drawing- good use of line, fluid movement etc). I was hesitant to use this technique because some students may be more technically skilled than others and I felt like I was being ask to compare students work rather then assess them on their individual growth and development. In conclusion, some students appeared to like the attention and others were embarrassed. The entire class did in fact work harder, they were extremely focused and their individual drawings improved drastically by viewing the work of their peers.
- However, after class one of the students that didn’t receive public praise approached me and said: “I’m sorry Miss that I didn’t do a good job for you”. My heart was absolutely shattered- I suddenly thought: “This is a horrible technique”; I had to reassure the student that she worked hard, did a great job and that I noticed a tremendous amount of growth within the period (which was true). I found that this girl in particular was always seeking my help and looking for affirmation. This sort of demonstrates what the book states: “Psychologists have suggested that teachers’ use of praise tends to focus students on learning to win approval rather than on learning for its own sake”.
- It makes me wonder, the kids worked harder and improved but did they do it to win my approval? I didn’t particular care for the technique of singling out individual students but obviously there was major benefits to having the students examine each others work during the “creation process”. Later during practicum I tried a different method, I began to have students casually take turns walking around the class to examine each other’s work. I found that this approach was extremely affective because no one was depicted as superior to the other. They were able to learn from one another without feeling bad about themselves or embarrassed in front of their peers.
- Q: What type of experiences have you all had with praise?
- In response to the above question, I believe in the power of praise and agree that it needs to be handled with care, especially when it begins to promote a dependency on the student’s part. As teachers we are responsible for facilitating the growth and independence of our students and praise is one of the tools we can use to help us facilitate this. Unfortunately, some institutions do not fully understand the power of praise and rely solely on systems such as token economies to shape behavior. In some situations this system of earning tokens to be turned in for rewards works, however only for a short time, then it usually becomes meaningless (unless the reward is money that can be accumulate and spend on numerous seductive consumer goods…). This is where the power of praise comes in. In reviewing an individual students progress on the token system I observed that they did well for a while until they stopped buying into it, then their behavior took a turn for the worse. On interviewing the student I discovered that the rewards were meaningless to them, the student viewed the system as “for a one year old”. When I surveyed the student on what was interesting or meaningful for them they told me that they wanted to earn quality time with their teacher and E.A. as an alternate to items. This student was looking for interaction, opportunities to learn, and feel good about himself, buying trinkets from the treasure box at the end of the week just didn’t cut it for him. I mentioned that praise is one of the tools we can use to develop growth in our students, the above example shows not only how ineffective a reward system can be if you do not know what motivates the individual but also the value of consciously adding praise to such a program. As the parent of this individual student I was proud to see that human interaction was my sons main motivator.
- I have worked in situations where the staff working with extremely behavioral individuals wore buzzers that went off every five minutes, for example, to remind the staff to praise that individual. It is my understanding that it is best to praise for the correct behavior in ABA. However, their is another element to this whole behavior modification phenomenon, one that is often overlooked in the sciences, a human element being that in this example the staff were required to interact with those individuals in a positive way. They were all on a program where they were responsible for filling their clients emotional tanks on the basis that this would have a positive effect on their overall behavior. Pretty simple!
- I find the amount of consideration and intentionality with which we need to oversee our classrooms incredible. Many times now we have all heard that more than half of the emotional battle for teachers is classroom management, and such skills are valued highly by employers.
- In addition to the above, I want to mention that the praise guidelines on p.208 make a lot of sense. Specifically, praise needs to be given appropriately--not sporadically. To add to this, I would assert that there also needs to be consideration for individual student personalities. For example, in my years of piano teaching I have noticed that while all students require at least some amount of praise, there are some students (usually those who are especially gifted) for whom there sometimes comes a point when praise can actually become detrimental. Such kids are typically praised by their parents and circle of peers 24/7 and have completely lost their sense of humility within their area of giftedness--an effect I have seen as the catalyst to the complete atrophy of a students' motivation and ability to function independently.
- This dangerous consequence of indiscriminate praise is also known as performance addiction--a state in which students' self-esteem is linked to the tone of feedback they receive from those in positions of authority over them. Those of us who followed the music path (and also those who didn't, I am sure), know full well the danger of this mindset, and many of us (including myself) have had to break free of it in order to gain an independent, healthy self-motivation with which to fuel our development as artists (or still have yet to break free of it!)
- Of course, when it comes to teaching teenagers the arts--people whose identities are still very liminal--we can only praise and hope to encourage them into the kind of rigorous pursuit that one day might enable them to transcend that issue. Ahhhh the joy of music for its own sake!!! I think that only in that place have we truly reached freedom, and the fullest expression of our artistry.
- Like many others, I have difficulty with the concept of a token reinforcement system, as I worry about the fact that many students will place emphasis on the reward and not the task itself. One possible solution to this problem was mentioned briefly in the text book on page 210, “The best way to determine appropriate reinforcers for your students may be to watch what they do in their free time.” This seems almost deceptively simple and, depending the approach, does have the potential to degenerate into a simple material reward system. However, it holds great promise because it provides the teacher with the opportunity to “reward” students with classroom-based, learning focused activities.
- This idea works very well with the Premack principle, wherein low-frequency behaviours must precede those of high-frequency. As a gymnastics coach, this is something I use fairly frequently. There are some skills (or even apparatuses) on which my students are hesitant to work – for a number of reasons, and others that my students favour and consistently request. I often let my students know that while we will begin with one of the less-preferred activities, once this has been accomplished we can move on to some of their favourite things to do. I find this strategy extremely effective and students seem to respond fairly positively – if only because the “end is in sight”. The thing I most appreciate about this approach is the fact that it demonstrates recognition of the students needs and desires on the part of the teacher. I know that, though they may be unhappy with the order in which I have assigned the tasks, my students appreciate the fact that I am aware of and acknowledge their preferences.
- Additionally, if the teacher is able to observe the students preferences – without his/her students articulating them at all – students may also, though likely not consciously, be appreciative of the fact that the teacher knows and understands them as individuals. Furthermore, students may also enjoy having input and control over their own learning.
- --Ayanda (talk) 04:03, 31 January 2008 (UTC)
- At the risk of sounding repetitive, I agree with a lot of what's been said here, including the principles for Using Praise Appropriately. In general, I believe praise, appropriately used, is a great way to build a positive self-image and positive experience in general for students. Yet, I'd like to echo Jonathan's point about praise sometimes being detrimental to certain students, and add to it that sometimes while it's not detrimental, it doesn't seem to make a difference. I'm thinking of my practicum when I would praise certain a high-achieving student and she seemed rather indifferent to it. I kind of got the impression that she received a lot of praise and that although she wasn't being smug or anything about it, it seemed like it didn't make that much of a difference to her.
- I think ultimately, you just have to know how to give praise to certain students--some students will thrive with even a minimal amount, while other students don't even seem to notice it (I should stress that "seem" is key here--I'm not suggesting you stop giving praise to these students). As another example, there was another student--a student my AT had mentioned to me as having a few academic/engagement issues--who I gave some praise to early on and I found that I had no problems at all with her. I should mention the context of the praise: I was distributing a handout in the middle of a class when I noticed that all the "writing" she'd been doing was actually an illustration that had nothing to do with my lesson. When I saw it, I instantly told her how cool I thought it was; when she looked up, she seemed pleasantly surprised and said "thanks." I asked her about the drawing after class and spoke with her briefly about her drawing skills and that type of thing. At the end of the conversation, I politley mentioned that as cool as it was, I'd still like her to at least TRY to pay attention to the lessons. She smiled and said "ok," and I never had any problems with her after that. I think there were two things going on here: 1) I opened up our relationship with praise (my comment about her illustration was the first thing I'd ever said to her). By simply praising her genuinely (I truly was impressed by the drawing) and unconditionally (I made no mention of the fact that she shouldn't be ignoring the lesson or whatever) I think I created a positive space for us, so that when it came time to discuss that she needed to pay attention to the lessons, there was little resistance; and 2) I think there was some of what Ayanda mentioned above about taking an interest in their lives outside the classroom (or at least the course content).
- I also use the Premack Principle in structuring my private music lessons: I almost always do the "not-so-fun" stuff first, and finish with the "fun" stuff. I find that when if I finish with something "dry" like some kind of intense theory stuff, or something really difficult (learning bar chords for beginner students) the students become quite disengaged. Eventually I took this a step further and began telling the students the format of the lesson at the outset and this helped--once they knew that whatever difficult task was over, they could enjoy or sail through the rest of the lesson.
- The notion of shaping (or successive approximations) struck me as particularly relevant to students of the arts. Woolfolk et al describe shaping as a method of reinforcing progress through the successful attainment of smaller goals in order to achieve some larger goal (211). Student scan often become frustrated because they do not receive any reinforcement from their efforts because the end goal is not yet within reach.
- Task analysis (the system of breaking down skill hierarchically into sub-skills) would seem to be particularly relevant in artistic areas that are governed by the reproduction/creation of repertoire and specific techniques. My experience as a music student and teacher has shown me the benefits of using shaping as a strategy to employ positive reinforcement. Perhaps because music practice is readily dissectable across a multitude of planes (temporally, vertically through pitch/harmony, spatially through a performer’s location in the ensemble), it seems to yield itself intuitively to an array of shaping strategies. Musicians are often isolating smaller sections of a piece, or groups of instruments within a larger band, in order to master an isolated element of a piece before moving on to its larger elements.
- More difficult are the individual problems that occur with students that do not yield themselves as obviously to task analysis. Let’s take ear training as an example. How do you help the student who is having trouble identifying or singing various intervals? Or perhaps a student might be having trouble with a rhythmic passage because their counting gets mixed up. In some cases, the overall goal does not necessarily yield itself to hierarchical sub-division. What then? In music, we often call on additional types of exercises that isolate and strengthen a skill. For example, if you having trouble singing a major 6th, try ‘hearing’ a perfect 5th first, and then moving up a tone to the major 6th. After some practice, one eventually begins to hear the 6th without having to go the 5th first.
- I don’t think this is necessarily at odds with what is being suggested by task analysis. It would be a misnomer to equate task analysis directly with ‘chunking.’ Often the identification of the sub-skills entails understanding the skill set in a more abstract manner.
Behavioural Approaches to Teaching and Management (pp. 214-219)
- The section offers a variety of methods for encouraging good behaviour, aimed at controlling and changing behaviour by offering a reward of some sort. Two methods with which I have come into contact are the group consequences and the token reinforcement program. First, I volunteered in a math classroom where the teacher was attempting to curb lateness by offering 5 bonus marks if all students were in class on time for the term. Any student who came to class late resulted in a half-mark being deducted for the entire class. Though this program seemed to motivate students to arrive in class ontime, often students who were always on time were made to lose marks because of their punctuality challenged peers. Naturally, this frustrated students who made greater effort to follow the rules. As well, some students, fearing the annoyance of their classmates did not bother coming to class at all if they were running late. This is an example of Woolfolk et al.'s warning that group consequences should not be used when students do not have influence of the group. Perhaps this idea could be tweaked slightly, so that each student was responsible for their own bonus marks, which would only be deducted if they were late. This way students who used the bonus marks as extrinsic motivation would continue to be motivated to be on time, even when their peers were late.
- I introduced a form of the token reinforcement while running a reading program last year. I learned that the children in the program were often extremely reluctant to read and that their behaviour was difficult to control. In hopes of rewarding the behaviour of those who read more, I set up a program so every student who read 5 books got a small prize. If they got to 10 or 15 books they got a bigger prize. This definately motivated them to read, however, I soon discovered that students were often choosing short books below their reading level or adding false entries to their log sheets to get prizes. After having read this section of the book, I realized my experience was a very good example of this type of system's strengths and weaknesses. First, since the group I was working with was difficult to control, unmotivated and were not making progress in school the token system gave them a reason to change their behaviour and set reading goals. Secondly, after a few months, and far too many prizes, I recognized that I needed to offer the rewards less frequently, so I required students to read more books before receiving any prizes. (I wish I had read that sooner!) Though this system worked for me, it would not work in every situation.
- Does anyone have an example of times when behaviour incentive programs were not successful and why?
- I have always been hesitant of using obvious forms of reward or punishment with my students because I worry that it could inhibit the development of intrinsic motivation by taking the students attention away from the importance of the task itself. I find the approach that works best is to assume that all students want to do well and find ways to help them do that. This involves what our text refers to as cueing, prompting, applied behaviour analysis and praise (206-8). Firstly, the teacher needs to clearly set up the expectations and then using cueing (and prompting and feedback) to assist students in developing an understanding of how to implement the expectations. In my mind, feedback is the essential aspect of applied behaviour analysis or any learning goal for that matter. Students need to have a clear idea of what they are doing right and how they can improve. Providing students will clear feedback gives them the impression that you care about their success and that whatever criticism you give them is for their benefit and whatever praise you give them is genuine.
- I think that in most cases it is better to avoid obvious positive or negative reinforcements with secondary students. If you set things up so that you are helping them to achieve the high level of learning (which they will likely see in terms of the highest possible mark), they already have a reward to work toward. Even in situations where students are having behavioural issues, I think encouraging students to develop metacognitive skills by having them reflect on their behaviour and giving them feedback is more effective. For example, if a student is often late to class, assume they would rather be on time. Talk to them about what cause them to be late, have them write ways to avoid this, and then give them encouraging feedback on their plan. I use a considerable amount of praise in my teacher because I think it is more useful for students to start from what they are doing right and work toward improvement. I do agree however, that there are risks with overusing praise and I think the Guidelines for Using Praise Appropriate in the text are useful (15). Teachers need to be careful that students do not get the impression that the teacher is just “being nice.” Giving empty praise could undermine the encouragement you have given students in previous experiences.
Recent Approaches: Self-Regulation and Cognitive Behaviour Modification (pp. 219-224)
- As I see it, the central problem with the behavioural approach to learning is one of oversimplification. In its understanding of pedagogical dynamics, teacher and learner are reduced to the roles of controller and controlled, with learning and the pursuit of knowledge a secondary concern. Chomsky has critiqued Skinner as a reductive empiricist because his theoretical framework is limited to "observables." In other words, he ignores the complex inner processes of the the human psyche, instead reducing them to their lowest common denominator -- that which can be addressed (figuratively speaking) by a pat on the head or a slap on the wrist.
- This section of the book would seem to validate the above critique. Its point that "students taught with classic behavioral methods seldom generalized their learning to new situations"(218) is highly relevant, especially in today's classroom where the notion of transferable skills and lifelong learning are becoming more and more pertinent. Clearly we must do more than encourage students to exhibit "good" behavior through a system of rewards and punishments. Students need to learn how to manage their own behavior. What interests me about the "cognitive behavior modification" approach is its potential ability to give students the tools by which they can adjust and improve their behavior, and through this their academic performance. This is done through a partnership model, so both teacher and student are in a position of control. And, as we learned in Chapter 10, when students feel that they are in control they are more likely to be motivated to succeed.
- Unfortunately, the text doesn't give many concrete examples of this in action in a secondary school context, and I have had no first hand exposure to it as a methodology in the classroom (although it's pretty amazing to watch my 5-year old "self-talk" himself out of an emotional melt-down.) I can envision integrating various goal-setting mechanisms into a future classroom, as well as guiding students individually or as a class to self-generate various checklists. Any other ideas? Has anyone seen "cognitive behavior modification" in action?
The idea of cognitive behaviour modification is very intriguing, especially since it allows the student to actively monitor or coach their behaviour by themselves. I can imagine a teacher using this strategy when it comes to independent lessons, and self-instruction can be encouraged in the way that lessons or assignments are delivered. They work especially well when creating rubrics that are formulated as questions. For example, you can create a checklist as part of the rubric or lesson; here are some sample questions: “Is my spelling and grammar correct?”, “Have I re-read this assignment?”, “Does my argument hold up against opposing viewpoints?”, etc. Having the students ask themselves these types of questions on their own helps them put themselves in the teacher mindset during the process of an assignment or lesson. --Irenedongas (talk) 19:50, 2 February 2008 (UTC)
The Difficulty of knowing WHEN to use Punishments
- I have a strong belief that one of the hardest things to deal with as a teacher regardless of how many years experience you have is the choices you have to make in regards to punishment. Page 215 of the Educational Psychology textbook illustrates the complexity of the use of punishment within the classroom. It illustrates how complicated the understanding and use of punishments are. What was interesting to me was how many things a teacher can do to avoid punishing a student by provide the student with options. Many of these things are things we learn about when dealing with children of any age but for me I never really think about it when I am doing it. When I am dealing with a student and they are doing something that I do not really like I usually provide that student with options in order to avoid "punishment." According to the textbook I now know that what I am doing is called negative reinforcement. When the student does not accept one of the options provided and I need to enforce some form of punishment, the hardest things that I find I have to deal with is keeping with the punishment and not being persuaded to change the punishment. Maybe I am being stereotypic by saying that perhaps what I am doing in terms of not sticking to the punishment is something a lot of women teachers tend to do. One thing I have learned this year is how to evaluate a situation and when to step in. As we have always heard, when a situations comes up in our classroom we have to think to our selves "does this behaviour disrupt the other students ability to learn or does it prevent me from teaching." I think this is really key but so hard to learn because every situation we are presented with is different and as a result the reaction you have to the situation will be different. For me even though I do think about the misbehaviour and how it affects the students or my ability to teach I still find it really hard to determine the response to the infraction.
- I agree with the above comment that dealing with punishment is one the hardest things for a teacher. I find that teachers, especially beginning teachers or teachers that are beginning to burn out, have difficulty in knowing if they are inadvertantly reinforcing the misbehaviour and also with maintaining the consistency. This will especially become the case during very stressful times of the year when both the teacher and the students become very busy with school assignments and activities. When I was a kindergarten teacher at a very small private school, I noticed a real lack of consistency in punishment between the different teachers at the school and also a lack of follow through with threatened punishments. The teachers spent most of the time threatened the students rather than teaching because the students knew that the threats were empty and continued to misbehave. As a result, the teachers at the school were becoming very tired and stressed and making escalated the nature of their threats in an attempt to scare the students. A colleague and I attempted to implement a new school wide system of punishment that all teachers were required to follow. This system meant that all classes faced the same punishments and rewards for the same behaviours in every class with every teacher. It was an uphill battle, for the students did not like that the punishments were actually being issued and became worse in their behaviour for a period of time, but evetually the students began to change their behaviour and in the end became more happy and productive. There were teachers that wished to quit the new system during the beginning stages due to the escalation of bad behaviour, but after sticking with it they did see the improvement in the students. This just shows that punishment must be thought about and planned prior to beginning a class and not something to dole out randomly as the class progresses.
Problems and Issues (pp. 224-229)
"What do you think about using rewards and punishments in teaching?" (pg.225)
- I had some concerns regarding the overuse of rewards in the classroom. We hear quite a lot about not being overly critical of students so as not to damage their fragile sense of self. While I think this has merit, I also think that students will quickly see the diminishing value of reward or praise that is handed out too frequently. It is often the case, especially in the arts, where students would rather hear an honest opinion about their work rather than empty praise that does not help them learn or improve in the least. Woolfolk, Winne and Perry substantiate my concerns by stating, "some psychologists fear that rewarding students for all learning will cause them to lose interest in learning for its own sake. Studies have suggested that using reward programs with students who are already interested in the subject matter may, in fact, cause students to be less interested int the subject when the reward program ends..." (pg. 221, 1st Ed.).
- 1. Rewards can be used to celebrate student achievement or to motivate students to aim for higher goals. However, it is problematic when the reward becomes the purpose of learning.
- Few years ago, I got a beginner Grade 1 boy as a private piano student. The boy was pushed by his mother to learn piano, and I had to find some way to engage him into music. Then I started to use sticker as reward - giving one sticker after completing one piece. Giving sticker seemed like a successful attempt at the first few weeks. After a month, I realized that the boy was spending more time on choosing sticker from my sticker book rather than playing piano. He wanted to play piece through once and move onto another piece in order to get more sticker when there were much more music elements that had to be polished in the piece.
- 2. Teachers must be careful about what to use as rewards.
- The example of exempting students from homework as a reward (pg. 225) is a bad example of choosing the right rewards. By making homework exemption as a reward, the teacher implies that homework is a punishment rather than a learning practice. A teacher must consider the implication of the reward before presenting it to the class.
- 3. Punishment should be used carefully.
- Classroom should be an enjoyable place with quality learning experiences for the students. Therefore, a teacher must be aware of the negative emotional reactions that punishment might bring. The teacher should start from positive approaches to more complicated procedures (pg. 227). Firm punishment should be used only in the situation with the issues that cannot be tolerated.
- 4. Give constructive feedback to students.
- I totally agree with Eli's idea of giving 'an honest opinion about student work rather than empty praise'. If reward encourages certain behaviours and punishment suppresses, constructive feedback should be used effectively to guide students into the right direction which helps them to higher achievement.
The use of rewards in any teaching strategy often has a tricky catch to it at the end of the day. The ultimate reward one would assume a teacher hopes to inspire in his or her students is that of knowing one’s stuff and being able to use the information wisely. It may sound redundant, but usually the only reward students are looking for in a secondary situation is the marks and the break. No matter what kind of other incentive the students are given (i.e. free resin for your violin, gift certificates, food, paint brushes, tickets, etc.), if the marks don’t follow up, your reward will seem like a gimmick and will fall flat if attempted again. As a teacher who likely will enjoy the material he or she is teaching, especially since we have our respective teachable subjects in the secondary program, there will likely be no need for any reward other than the student’s success at completing the task. Only as an act of desperation to try and hook the students to do an assignment would rewards help. The students will likely see this, however, and will get the impression that the lesson itself is not good enough to stand on its own. At the end of the day, perhaps rewards work as unexpected perks, but should not carry the lesson.
- Rewards and punishments come in all shapes and sizes. As a teacher it isn't our job to decide whether or not we need to give rewards or punishments, but mearly when and how we should do it. In my opinion a reward can be broken down to positive reinforcement. A positive response to a positive behaviour is the basic idea of a reward. On the other hand, a punishment is the exact opposite. A negative behavior should be met with negative reinforment, or in other words a clear response to that behavior, that pin points it as being unacceptable. The decision lies in the "size and shape" of the reward or punishment.
- The simplest reward in education is a good mark for the effort of studying and applying that knowledge to a test or assignment. Is this enough? If the expectation is that the students should be doing this then that should be reward enough to motivate the students to continue that behavior. The difficulty presents itself when a student exceeds expectations. In this case it is questionable whether or not a reward will be necessary for that behavior to continue. It seems to follow that it will lead to future expectations being exceeded if this type of behavior is reinforced in a positive way.
- The reason I think this topic is vital in today's classrooms is because of the ever increasing move towards the need for youth to have immediate gratification. It isn't enough to have a reward, it needs to be given right away. That is why connections to future rewards should be an emphasis on a consistent basis. As with the example of a student that exceeds expectations they will most probably be rewarded in the future with a better job, a schlarship, etc. Rewards and punishiments therefore need not be something physical and immediate, but instead can be in the form of a reminder that rewards come with hard work and patients.
- In the case of punishment the same idea can be applied. If a student can be taught to appreciate what will happen if a negative behavior continues they will actually be pushed in the direction of positive behavior. It becomes a case of knowing the consequences and being able to understand how those consequences will come about. Anti-smoking advertising is a great example of this. These types of commercials focus on what will happen if the behaviour continues and have been known to be effective, even though in the short run it is extremely difficult to quit smoking.
- It is important to remember that a reward or punishment need not be big, extravegant, or extreme. A positive word and a smile can go along way. In turn, a frown and a word of disappointment can have a lasting effect as well.
- I think that conditioning comes into play in classrooms in many different ways. In both of my practica, the teachers had different cues that they used to maintain their classroom management. One of my ATs kept the classroom set up almost like a stage, which gave him physical prominence in the classroom, and gave the students the impression that they were there to observe him.
- My other AT showed me his conditioning of his students that they were trained to recognize signals when he wanted attention. He uses several cues that clearly re-enforce his position of authority in the classroom, but don’t CLEARLY say “hey students, I’m the boss here.” When he wanted the students’ attention, he would stop talking. By not overusing this technique, and only using it when he was telling them important information, the students realized that it was a cue that he was telling them something important and they needed to listen. Also, to get students’ attention, he would clap his hands in a rhythm, which the students would echo. There are a lot of benefits to this method of conditioning – it illustrates a hierarchy to students without having to spend time dictating it. It’s a little sneaky, but perfectly effective, I’d say.
- And it was interesting in both practica, coming into a class where they had been conditioned to certain behaviours as signals for “please listen.” Both times, I realized very quickly that it was important for me to work within the conditioning of the students that I’d been given, especially because it’d been built up for a long time before I started teaching at the school, and it’s hard to break conditioning like that. When I tried to do a drama activity with the English class, I had them move their desks the clear a space for the activity, and naturally, after that, chaos held sway. I wonder how much of that came from breaking their classroom conditioning?