Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Coach Carter?

I would be a teacher in the future and I plan to get into the most challenging schools to make a difference. Hence, I am prepared to deal with difficult classes and deviant children. I have done one month stints in one such school over the last 2 summers and have learnt and used many techniques. If you have caught the movie “Coach Carter”, you would also have seen many techniques which the inspirational coach used to motivate his difficult players to achieve the best they can. Looking back, those techniques were rooted in APA principles- punishment and positive reinforcement.

One common punishment I used with my students was time out- either standing at a corner of a class or leaving the floorball rink for a few minutes (I taught in class and coached floorball as well). All along, I have understood that the rationale of time out was for them to cool down and think about what they had just done (shouted out or not following instructions). Hence, it was really interesting to see that time out was more broadly defined in the literature- it includes isolation of the child in a specific area devoid of persons and/or reinforcing objects (Resick, Forehand & McWhorter, 1976),  the withdrawal of stimulus materials (Barton, Guess, Garcia, & Baer, 1970) and ignoring of the person (Forehand, 1973).

After punishing them with a time-out, I always make it a point to ask them if they understood why I chose to punish them. This was because I believe firmly that punishment should always be reasonable and the student should always have the right understanding about why they were punished. Without doing so, it can run the risk of a poor teacher student relationship as the student will start to see the teacher as an unreasonable dictator. Hence, I was really pleased to know that I have been backed up by research. Resick et al. (1976) pointed out that providing an explanation for the punishment is one of the important parameters to ensure that time-out works effectively. Other important parameters include level of isolation and consistency of use (Hobbs & Forehand, 1977).

Apart from punishment, I tend to single out students for praise when they have performed or behaved well. However, I admit that I tend to use more punishment than positive reinforcement. This is probably because deviant behaviours tend to attract more of my attention and I mete out punishment more frequently. After reading the literature, I am more determined to make it a point to use more positive reinforcement.  One of the studies which stood out was by Morgan (2006), who demonstrated that frequent reprimands and infrequent praise often are not effective and results in students showing challenging behaviour. This is definitely not something I want to end up with. 

Barton E. S.. Guess D., Garcia E. and Baer D. M. (1970) Improvements of retardates’ mealtime behaviors by timeout procedures using multiple baseline techniques, J. appl. Behav. Anal. 3.17-84.

Forehand R. (1973) Teacher recording of deviant behavior: A stimulus for behavior change, J. Behav. Ther. & Exp. Psychiaf. 4.39-40.

Hobbs, S. A., & Forehand, R. (1977). Important parameters in the use of timeout with children: A re-examination. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 8(4), 365-370.

Morgan, P. L. (2006). Increasing Task Engagement Using Preference or Choice-Making Some Behavioral and Methodological Factors Affecting Their Efficacy as Classroom Interventions. Remedial and Special Education, 27(3), 176-187.

Resick P. A., Forehand R. and McWhorter A. Q. (1976) The effect of parental treatment of one child on an untreated sibling, Behav. Therapy 7.544-548 

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