Modeling Behavior and Positive Reinforcement in the Classroom
Consciously exhibiting specific behavior in the hope that it will be imitated is referred to as modeling. Certain behaviors can be strengthened, maintained, or weakened by the modeling of others when their actions are imitated. Modeling does not necessarily involve direct instruction but is a type of vicarious learning that can be very useful in promoting positive behavior from students within a classroom. It must be remembered that negative behavior can also be modeled so a teacher must have good self-reflection and self-awareness capabilities, self-discipline, patience, and tenacity.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Gwen S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Unsurprisingly classroom control/discipline has been rated by teachers among the top four challenges faced in public schools and rated as the top challenge by the general public for both public and private schools. Whilst there are many conflicting theories on how to manage student behavior all discipline techniques are more effective when based on the positive modeling of behavior.
Planning and modelling challenging situations
A teacher should take time to plan the strategies they will use to encourage positive classroom behavior and to solidify within themselves what positive modeling they will need to consistently exhibit. A good teacher will avoid giving negative behavior their attention when possible but when doing so they must keep their emotions in check so that disruptive students do not feel rewarded by the teacher's attention but are rather simply reminded of what is expected of them. Emotional responses should be reserved for reinforcing positive behaviors.
A teacher must believably and consistently model the types of behavior they desire from their students by treating their students with respect, obeying the same rules they require their students to observe, by, for example, keeping their desk clean, tidy and organized, not interrupting other adults or students except to deal with negative behaviors, freely admitting ignorance when asked for information that is not known and finding out the answer as soon as possible to provide to their students, apologizing when they have made a mistake, use 'I' statements instead of “you” when addressing negative behaviors and to always behave positively towards their students even when they may feel barraged by negative behaviors or feel they are being personally attacked or targeted by particular students.
It has been well established that positive reinforcement has a greater effect than negative reinforcement so it is more important to use the 'carrot' rather than the 'stick' whenever possible.
On its positive modeling is not a successful reinforcement so it must be paired with other techniques such as token economies as rewards for good behavior, cooperative learning, cutting, shaping, clear expectations, involving children in the formation of class rules, visually displaying rules within the classroom as a reminder, regular encouragement, and praise, etc.
Whichever techniques you choose to pair with positive modeling stick to them consistently but review regularly to gauge their effectiveness and change if necessary making sure the children are included and informed of the coming changes ahead of time.
Regardless of changes, you may make to class rules and disciplinary techniques an effective teacher must always model positive behavior. As an adult and staff member within the school, the example set can be more powerful than other examples in the general community so constant positive modeling should always be adhered to. At times a teacher may find their patience tested, their energy flagging, or their emotions triggered but self-discipline must win out and a convincing performance given at all times when around students as children copy what they see.
Children will pay attention to how a teacher behaves when under stress as much as at any other time so a teacher must be keenly self-aware and in control of their emotions as the daily and hourly stresses mount.
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Some further examples of positive modeling include: greeting the students by standing at the door or just inside it with a welcoming smile and attitude; respecting and trusting your students by leading them rather than standing over them and directing; suppressing emotional responses; using changes in the volume, pace and tone of your voice to encourage, discourage or excite; use non-verbal cues rather than excessive verbal instruction; as much as possible assume a similar eye level when communicating with individuals; become adept at feigning excitement, approval, and disappointment without becoming emotionally invested.
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