Punishment and Behavioral Modification Within the Classroom
Should teachers punish students for bad behavior? In my psychology class at university, we learned that there are many ways to curve or modify behavior, one method involves 2 different types of punishment. When we think of punishment in a classroom we typically think back to corporal punishment, which would be classified as Positive Punishment (when something is added to diminish behavior). This is quite frankly unacceptable in a classroom. This can have a great and direct psychological effect on the student's motivation to learn a language. Even if the behavior is not related to language learning, a student might subconsciously relate the punishment with learning English. There are far better ways to improve behavior in a classroom other than punishment, one method that I would prefer to use would be Positive Reinforcement (when something is added to encourage good behavior). There can be Negative Reinforcement as well, but I feel like it would be more difficult to create a Negative Reinforcement in a class (taking something away to encourage good behavior, something annoying or as a hindrance). A very good way could be to praise or give encouragement to students who show good behavior to show that good behavior is noticed and rewarded.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Ryan Van H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Ways to correct troubled behavior
If the bad behavior continues, there are many other ways to deal with the behavior without insulting or causing harm to the student. This can be done briefly after class, one on one with the student and teacher. The teacher should focus on the problem being the bad behavior and not the student, and that the student and teacher can work together to modify the behavior. The teacher should go into a setting like this with an open heart, being willing to try to understand why there is bad behavior, basically to understand the situation from the student's perspective. Afterward, the teacher needs to show that they genuinely care for the student and encourage him or her, further showing that good behavior is noticed and appreciated, even if it is small. I am strongly against any form of punishment that would put the student down or discourage them in any way.
A teacher can ask for advice from other teachers as well to see what has been done in the past as well as to just get some ideas. In short, punishments may have a time and a place to help modify bad behavior but it needs to be carefully done, well thought out, and executed well. A punishment can easily lead to more problems and therefore should be avoided if possible, but keeping in mind when it is necessary it should be done correctly. This way the student can continue to learn English, the classmates can continue to learn English without distractions, and the teacher can help all students improve their English and education.
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A teacher should expand the different ways to encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior to find what would be most effective for their students. Different students will need different methods and so carefully choosing what to do and when to do it will be necessary, but it will be rewarding when each student is succeeding in learning English.
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