B.F. Skinner’s theories on discipline in the classroom have helped to mold the way teachers instill discipline in their students for decades. His theories were not directed at classroom behavior, but his findings have influenced and led the way in many classroom discipline methods since the 1960s (Charles & Senter, 2004). This essay will discuss the impact of B.F. Skinner’s theories on discipline in the classroom. Behavior Modification
Skinner wrote many articles and essays on “how our voluntary actions are influenced by what happens to us immediately after we perform a given act” (Charles & Senter, 2004, pp. 33). These papers led to the theory of behavior modification which is used everywhere in the educational field. Behavior modification refers to the use of reinforcement in order to shape the behavior of a student. Constant Reinforcement
Skinner noted in many of his works that “much if not most of our voluntary behavior is shaped as we receive reinforcement immediately after we perform an act” ( Charles & Senter, 2004, pp. 45). This theory led teachers to use constant reinforcement as a form of discipline in the classroom. This type of reinforcement allowed students to learn new desired ideas, rules, and skills. This type of discipline must be done every time a student does something correct (Charles & Senter, 2004). Intermittent Reinforcement
After rules and skills are established a teacher will then need to rely on intermittent reinforcement in order to remain a level of discipline in the classroom. Since the behavior is established the need for reinforcement lessens. The use of reinforcing stimuli is only needed for discipline occassionally (Charles & Senter, 2004). Reinforcing Stimuli
In order to maintain discipline in the classroom according to Skinner’s findings the use of reinforcing stimuli is necessary. Some examples of this type of reinforcement “knowledge of results, peer approval, awards and free time, and smiles, nods, and praise from the teacher” (Charles & Skinner, 2004, pp. 34). This type of positive reinforcement has been used for decades in the classroom as a form of rewards for discipline. Conclusion
Skinner’s theories on how humans react to reinforcing stimuli has played a large role in the education and discipline of students in the classroom. Although Skinner had no intentions on having an impact on education his theories have been popular and utilized for many years. Reinforcement is a positive way to discipline students, and it is a helpful tool in the goal of classroom discipline. Reference:
Charles, C. M., & Senter, G. W. (2004). Building Classroom Discipline (8th Edition) (8 ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
“Johnny, stop hitting your brother.”
“Johnny, don’t throw the toys!”
“Johnny, put your dirty socks in the laundry.”
Sigh… I can’t stand any more of this bad behavior!
Does this sound like you?
All parents struggle and get stressed out because of their children’s behavior at times. They give time outs and punish, they give stern lectures and yell… and the behavior doesn’t always get better. In the great behavioral studies done in years past, two distinct methods of changing behavior were used: negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement means that, when an unwanted behavior occurred, something bad would happen. The rabbit that nibbles the apple gets an electric shock. The child steals a toy from his sister is sent to his room. Positive reinforcement means that when a desired behavior occurs, something good happens. The rabbit that chooses the carrot gets two carrots instead. The child who shares a toy with his sister gets praise and appreciation. In studies, and in personal experience, positive reinforcement works much better at changing behaviors in children than negative reinforcement. With negative reinforcement, a child simply learns not to do that specific action again.
He does not learn what to do, or how to act. There is a common phrase in parenting websites and magazines: “Catch your child being good.” If you see your child exhibiting a behavior that you would like them to do again: share with a sibling, use good manners at the table, do their homework without whining, praise them, and offer a rewards system. A rewards system can consist of a behavior chart, or token box. Each time a child exhibits good behavior, they will earn a sticker on the chart or a token in the box. Come up with a system by which so many stickers or tokens equal a small prize or special privilege. Perhaps the most important reason to use positive reinforcement is to reduce overall stress in the family.
A parent who is focused on seeing the good in a child, and praising them for it, will have a happier frame of mind, and will not have to resort to yelling, threats, or punishments. The child, in turn, will not be fearful of a parental outburst. The child’s self-esteem is also bolstered with positive reinforcement. If they are constantly told not to do something, say something, or act in a certain way, they may begin to realize that they cannot please their parent, or that they themselves, instead of the actions, are bad. Speaking enthusiastically about your child’s positive behavior choices will make them feel good about themselves and you.