Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

The Effects of an Interdependent Group Oriented Contingency and Performance Feedback on the Praise Statements of Pre-Service Teachers during a Summer Day-Camp for Children with Disabilities

Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

The Effects of an Interdependent Group Oriented Contingency and Performance Feedback on the Praise Statements of Pre-Service Teachers during a Summer Day-Camp for Children with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Teacher praise is an instructional behavior that is an essential element of effective instruction (Emmer, 1988; Heward, 2003; Sutherland, Wehby, & Yoder, 2002). Praise has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on student behavior in a variety of research studies (e.g., Kirby & Shields, 1972; Lannie & McCurdy, 2007; Sutherland et al., 2002; Sutherland & Wehby, 2001; Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland, 2000). Teacher praise not only helps to increase pro-social behaviors, but high levels of praise have also been shown to decrease in anti-social behavior (Madsen, Becker, & Thomas, 1968; Espin & Yell, 1994; Thomas, Nielson, Kuypers, & Becker, 1968). Thus, developing and utilizing methods to systematically increase praise statements by those working with children with disabilities is an important goal.

Effective teacher praise contains several key characteristics. First, praise should be descriptive and should describe the behavior and not be an evaluative statement of the behavior (Brophy, 1981; Kohn, 1993; Paine, Radicchi, Rosellini, Deutchman, & Darch, 1983). Descriptive praise should describe what the student is actually doing. Descriptive praise conveys to the students what is expected of them. Second, the student's name should be used in the praise statement (Paine et al., 1983; Thomas, 1991). However, teachers may want to share praise privately in some cases with some students to avoid teasing by their peers, especially in older students. Ward (1976) noted that praise given in the presence of a peer group may be punishing to a student. Third, the praise statements should be varied (Kohn, 1993; Thomas, 1991). Praise should be given for different students and different activities. Teachers should make sure that their praise statements are not repetitious and monotonous. Fourth, praise should be given contingently (O'Leary & O'Leary, 1977). The praise must be contingent on the performance of the behavior to be reinforced. Fifth, praise should be used convincingly (Paine et al., 1983). The person giving the praise should show they mean what they say by using enthusiastic and expressive language and not monotonous phrases. Sixth, praise is non-disruptive (Paine et al., 1983). The praise statements should not disrupt the academic learning environment. Finally, praise should be immediate. Praise should follow within one to two seconds after the appropriate behavior occurs. Teachers should follow the "if-then" rule. This rule means that if the student is doing something that you want to encourage, then the student should receive praise for that behavior (Paine et al., 1983).

However, researchers have noted that teacher praise is used infrequently and ineffectively in classrooms (Sutherland et al., 2000; Alber & Heward, 2001; Alber, Heward, & Hippler, 1998; Kohn, 1993; Brophy, 1981). Studies have shown that teachers provide an extremely low rate of praise to students in the general and special education classrooms (Brady & Taylor, 1989; Gable, Hendrickson, Young, Shores, & Stowitschek, 1983). One reason for the low rates of praise in the classroom may be that teachers are resistant to using praise as a reward and/or reinforcer because praise may be harmful to children (Skinner, Williams, & Neddenriep, 2004; Lepper, Keavney, & Drake, 1996; Ryan & Deci, 1996; Kohn, 1993). A second reason for low rates of praise by teachers is that the classroom is an extremely busy place where praiseworthy efforts by students often go unnoticed by the teacher (Craft, Alber, & Heward, 1998). Another reason for low rates of praise is that teachers give more disapproval statements rather than approval statements. White (1975) found that the rates of teacher approval was relatively high during first and second grades, but the rates dropped with each grade level and continued throughout high school. He found that the number of teacher disapproval statements increased every grade after second grade. …

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