A classroom is a place where individuals are prepared to be future’s great achievers. It is the responsibility of the teachers to exploit the potential of the students and shape their personality by giving them an effective learning environment. But the major challenge to an effective teaching experience is the disruptive behavior of students who not only by their actions and behavior hinder their own self learning experience but also of the whole class. Operant conditioning theory provides effective techniques to handle such behavior through the use of reinforcement and punishment. In the below described essay the focus is done on thesis statement, “Positive reinforcement is very important to encourage favorable classroom behavior through the use of verbal praising and rewards, but in certain context punishment been seen as the effective remedy to control negative classroom behavior”.
It is quite common for teachers to witness behavior in the class that may be challenging for them and can affect the learning environment. There are various kinds of challenging behavior identified among primary school students.
Withdrawn behavior: Withdrawn behavior refers to behavior among students to avoid involvement in the classroom activity. They either don’t want to participate in learning experience or they feel that they don’t belong here. There can be several reasons for such withdrawn behavior. The student is may be of shy in nature and isolates themselves from the rest of the class. Day dreaming is also a very common form of withdrawn behavior which though doesn’t affect class learning but self-learning. Another reason can be the student is school phobic or they have witnessed a traumatic experience in school which often results in absenteeism and coming late to in the class (Sun & Shek, 2012).
Disruptive behavior: The disruptive behavior in the class can be seen as one of the most common type of student behavior that affect the teacher’s ability to teach and student’s ability to learn. It directly results in loss of teaching time, poor academic performance of the students who cause disruptions and other students also. It also results into low motivation among students to learn and engage in classroom activity (Vanderbilt University, 2016). The behavior includes talking or being out of own desk without permission, screaming in the class or refusing to follow instructions of teachers in the class.
Violent and/or unsafe behavior: At times the behavior displayed by the students challenges the ability of the teachers to give the students a safe learning environment (University of Oregon, 2017). Their violent behavior often results into physical injuries to the other students. They not only harm the students but also can attack on the staff members. This type of generally includes verbal abusing, head banging, kicking, biting, involved in major fights with students , destroying school property or furniture’s etc.
Inappropriate social behaviors: Students in the primary classes are generally not aware about such kind of behavior. They don’t really bother the other class fellows but as a teacher it is very important to make students aware about such socially unacceptable behavior. It includes engaging in inappropriate conversation with other students, stealing in the class, being over affectionate or attractive to the opposite sex. The age of primary school students is very vulnerable; exploring individual’s sexuality is very common at this age. Children without realizing involved in touching each other’s private parts out of curiosity or masturbating. These issues should be handled by teachers carefully (Victoria State Government, 2016).
This kind of primary classroom behavior results into an ineffective teaching experience on the part of teachers and ineffective learning experience on the part of the students. Teachers play a very active role in shaping the behavior of each and every student present in the class room. In order to ensure the academic growth of student, it is very important that they ensure each and every individual present in the class should become an active learner and it can only be possible by discouraging such disruptive behaviors and encouraging healthy learning practices.
Operant conditioning theory also known as instrument conditioning was given by B.F. Skinner. It refers to a process of learning that focuses on modifying the behavior of individuals by the use of positive and negative reinforcement. The desirable behavior is rewarded and undesirable behavior is punished. There is a relationship forms between the behavior and consequences of individual’s behavior. The major components of this theory are Reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is mainly of two types: Positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement refers to praising or rewarding the individual’s positive or desired behavior. This strengthens the possibility of such behavior in an individual in the future. The other type of reinforcement is the negative reinforcement which means removal of something unwanted or unacceptable for an individual after a favorable behavior seen in an individual. The main aim of both the type of reinforcement is to encourage a favorable outcome or performance in an individual. The second component of this theory is Punishment. Like the reinforcement, it is also of two types: positive punishment and negative punishment. Positive punishments are given to discourage the unacceptable behavior or outcome of any individual’s actions. This usually includes negative or unfavorable situation for an individual. On the other hand negative reinforcement includes removal of something favorable for an individual after portrayal of unacceptable behavior of an individual (Stanic, 2015). The operand theory mainly works on a predefined notion that reinforcement given after the favorable outcomes will increase the possibility of occurrence of such behavior in the future. On the contrary punishing the actions and behavior of an individual will lower the probability of repeating such actions again in the future.
Skinner classified two different type of behavior seen in an individual. The first one being respondent behavior that is occurs automatically or out of individual’s reflex, they come naturally to an individual in certain situations (Domjan, 2003). The other behavior is operant behavior which is developed over a period of time and controlled and is directly related to an individual’s learning process. There are certain strengths and weakness of this theory.
Implementing operant conditioning in an education institution can prove to be very effective to encourage effective learning environment. By rewarding and appreciating students, teachers can ensure participation from students. The approach of reinforcement and punishment is very practical and effective. By rewarding an individual behavior will ensure that it will occur again in the future and they will try to perform will in order to earn positive reinforcement. People know the difference in acceptable and non-acceptable behavior.
The major weakness of this theory is that it only works in limited area or controlled environment. To discourage the unacceptable behavior punishment works as a demotivating factor and individual may repeat the action again. This theory does not take into account cognitive factors of an individual. Also in order to receive positive reinforcement, an individual may show temporary change in their behavior. Also, if an individual has been punished many times it will demotivate them. Skinner classified only good and bad behavior.
Though the theory has many weaknesses but it is best suitable for an educational institutions. The components can be used effectively in order to encourage favorable behavior among students and discourage behavior that causes disruptions in teaching and learning experience.
There other theories given by Kohlberg, Erikson, Piaget and Bandura. All these theories including the operant theory talks about the development of behavior in an individual. The operant theory believe that the an individual learns to adapt a behavior either through reinforcement or punishment but according to the theory given by Erikson in order to develop successfully an individual needs to go through the eight conflicts to receive a positive outcome (Fleming, 2004). Skinner’s theory focuses on changing the behavior of individual by reinforcements and punishment however Erikson believe that positive development behavior is done by passing through eight stages successfully. Another weakness of Skinner’s theory is the positive behavior is associated with reward, once the reward is gone in the above mentioned case the students may stop behaving in the desired manner. Theorist Bandura argued that an individual can learn a certain behavior even by observing others. Another weakness of Skinner’s theory has been highlighted. He believed that an individual can only learn behavior through reinforcement but Bandura said learning is a cognitive process (Bandura, 1974). Piaget’s theory also mentioned this fact that a child or an individual understanding of the environment on their own, by using their sensory and motor skills (Ojose, 2008). There is no intervention of the teachers and parents whereas in operant theory there is high dependency on rewards and punishment. Another theory of development which was given by Kohlberg states that a child behavior is developed by the fear of punishment or a selfish desire to avert punishment but on the contrary Skinner’s theory argued that a behavior of an individual is affected by reinforcement and punishment but the positive reinforcement has a favorable impact on developing positive child behavior (Fleming, 2005).
Teachers in order to maintain discipline of the class should only resort to giving punishment and they think that it is one of the most effective remedy too but it should not happen always. Operant conditioning theory encourages the use of reinforcement techniques to be applied in the classroom. The use of positive reinforcements in situations like when Jane is done with her teaching lessons, she can say “Thank you for the attention class”, in order to encourage the good listening skills among students and divert their attention from unproductive behavior. In case students ask any question, a teacher should encourage them by praising verbally (Walter & Frei, 2007). To discourage withdrawn behavior among student, Jane should try to engage them in learning experience by giving them prizes, smiley stickers and appreciating them in front of the whole class. To discourage disruptive behavior, Jane should put a behavior chart on the bulletin board which will include the name of every student and for every good act done by a student she should put a sticker in front of their name (Oliver, 2007). This will encourage good behavior in those student also who disturb the class. There are certain extreme cases when punishment is also important to maintain the discipline of the class. In case of violent behavior of students, Jane should use negative punishment (INTO, n.d.). She may retain those students who exhibit violent behavior at the end of the school and make them do some small chores like arranging desk, watering plants or arranging books etc. But the punishment should not be too harsh as it will frustrate the students and she may lose scope of improvements of those students. To discourage inappropriate social behavior it is very important to make them realize that they are doing wrong and after that use reinforcement techniques. The use of rewards should be less as it will create a situation of dependency among students rather Jane should encourage verbally (Harns & et al., 2014).
From the overall discussion carried out in the essay, it has been found that in order to maintain discipline in the class and cope up with the challenging classroom behavior so as to provide a fruitful teaching and learning experience, the use of positive reinforcement and punishment has been justified. The operand conditioning theory works well in the educational institutions and provides effective measures to deal with classroom behavior issues. However it should also be noted that primary class students are young and at are not aware about the consequences of their behavior on their future. Jane as a teacher holds a great responsibility of a teaching them the acceptable and non-acceptable behavior through the use of reinforcement and punishment but the thing that should be kept in mind is that rewards and punishment technique should not encourage a temporary change but rather a permanent learning behavior. The operant theory faces strong limitations from other theories given by Piaget, Erikson and Bandura but it covers the weaknesses of Kohlberg’s theory.
Bandura, A. (1974). Behavior theory and the models of man. Psychologist today. Retrieved from https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1974AP.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Domjan, M. (2003). The Principles of Learning and Behavior, Fifth Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Fleming, S.J. (2004). Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Stages. Retrieved from https://swppr.org/textbook/ch%209%20erikson.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Fleming, S.J. (2005). Piaget, Kohlberg, Gilligan, and Others on Moral Development. Retrieved from https://swppr.org/Textbook/Ch%207%20Morality.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Harms, T., Korpershoek, H., Boer, D.B., Kujik, V.M & Doolaard, S. (2014). Effective classroom management strategies and classroom management programs for educational practice. Retrieved from https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/files/15665813/PDF_GION_rapport_Effective_Classroom_Management.pdf on 14 March 2017.
INTO. (n.d.). Guidance on Managing Challenging Behaviour in Schools. Retrieved from https://www.into.ie/NI/INTOStudentCentre/StudentPublications/Guide_managing_challenging_behaviour.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Ojose, B. (2008). Applying Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development to Mathematics Instruction. The mathematician educator. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ841568.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Oliver, M.R. (2007). Effective classroom management: Teacher preparation and professional development. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543769.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Stanic, I. (2015). An introduction to operant conditioning. Retrieved from https://onlineacademiccommunity.uvic.ca/learningdesign/wp-content/uploads/sites/1178/2015/06/OperanteBook.pdf on 14 March 2017.
Sun, C.F.R. & Shek, L.T.D. (2012). Student Classroom Misbehavior: An Exploratory Study Based on Teachers' Perceptions. The Scientific World Journal. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2012/208907/ on 14 March 2017.
University of Oregon. (2017). Disruptive and Threatening Students. Retrieved from https://counseling.uoregon.edu/Topics-Resources/Faculty-Staff/Disruptive-Threatening-Students on 14 March 2017.
Vanderbilt University. (2016). Perspective and resources. Retrieved from https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/beh1/cresource/q1/p01/ on 14 March 2017.
Victoria State Government. (2016). Student Behaviour. Retrieved from https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/participation/Pages/studentbehaviour.aspx on 14 March 2017.
Walters, J. & Frei, S. (2007). Managing classroom behavior and discipline. Retrieved from https://www.peoriapublicschools.org/cms/lib2/IL01001530/Centricity/Domain/4528/Sample%203.pdf on 14 March 2017.
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