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Vol. 67, No. 2, pp.173-1 .
©2001The CouncilforExceptionalChildren.

Rewarded by Punishment:
Reflections on the Disuse
of Positive Reinforcement
in Schools
University ofNebraska-Lincoln

ABSTRACT: Most approachesfor dealing with student disruptions involve the use of various
forms of_punishment such as removals from the classroom, fines, restitutionalactivities, in-
school and out-of-school suspensions, and expulsions. Although some of these approaches may
make schools safer by removing the offending students, they have little effect on encouraging
students to perform socially appropriate behaviors. There are many reasons why educators
find punishment a more acceptable approdch for managing students' challenging behaviors
than positive reinforcement. This article delineates these reasons and arguesfor educators to
plan the occurrence of_positive reinforcement to increase appropriatebehaviors rather than
runningthe risk of it haphazardlypromoting inappropriatebehaviors.

P h erhaps no other discipline has
received as much criticism
control group that does not receive education.
Sagan (1996) cogently pointed out how asser-
from various factions of soci- tions that cannot be tested and are immune to
ety as has public education. disproof are fimctionally useless regardless of the
This statement should come as degree of popular support they may enjoy.
no surprise because public education has always Other more specific criticisms of public educa-
been a convenient political whipping post for tion such as declining achievement test scores,
some fanatical ideologues to explain a variety of unresponsive schools, and bloated or top-heavy
social ills (Reid, 1997). Criticisms often resonate administrations are outright false (Berliner &
with the public because many of them cannot be Biddle, 1995).
disproven. For example, there is no way to re- There are, of course, some negative social
fute the contention that "education has failed" conunentaries on public education that may be
because it is inconceivable to experimentally test justified. For example, fimding for public educa-
this belief by forming two groups of children-a tion has been inequitable and the infrastructure
treatment group that receives education and a of many cities has been crumbling, which fur-

Exceptional Cirildren 173

rod's (1996) recommendations even though ciple that is in effect regardless of the age. An. are socially un- of operant learning theory. notions about school discipline. or disability of a child had a tremendous impact on managing students' (Wielkiewicz. Punished by Rewards A further important criticism central to this ar. Novel applications of positive reinforce. 100 square chart. expressed mostly vo. and struck a cations-especially given the inclusion chord that continues to resonate throughout ed- Zeitgeist-is the inadequate way teachers are ucation and society. emerging areas of acceptability. principles threaten special interest groups. (1993). and to employ Jenson. acceptable. to take advantage of opportunities in tors. 1991). Sputnik in 1957. ideas such as Kohn's have found an consistently mentioned by teachers as an area in apparently wide and receptive audience. 1995). which cul- minated after the launch of the first Russian beenz consiutmitl meniionJ by. to practitioners. This criticism resulted in the an a'rea in. MY . . contra- since Skinner's (1953) seminal work in develop. acceptability because they are time-intensive. was introduced into the schools without any discernible theory of how change was to be effected nor criteria by which Probably more than any other recent pub- its effects were to be evaluated (Sarason. Axelrod later ented contingencies-have been well developed suggested more optimistically in the same article and empirically validated (Maag & Kotlash. his conclusions ignored signif- school. behavior management has been theless. mystery motiva. based on positive reinforcement. culture. tively managing students' behaviors has existed offer little compensation for educators. punishment-also a behavioral technique-is forcement-such as applications of token widely accepted because it agrees with popular economies. challenging behaviors. crystallized the rejection of techniques ticle and with wide-reaching educational impli.m cally by university teacher educators. Why. techniques based on positive reinforcement are dures that often amount to nothing more than routinely rejected.teachers as. they embrace 174 Winter 2001 . 1995. techniques based on positive reinforcement have gender. lication. . 1982).whic they woudlike more wholesale implementation of (then) "new math" training: which. Students' behaviors become challenging icant bodies of literature that provided more when traditional approaches to manage them support for behavioral procedures than he ac- have failed. predictably. ing. Kohn's book. Although Kohn's arguments prepared for managing the increasingly chal. teacher training programs? A more perplexing other legitimate criticism of public education is question may be why behavior management that it precipitously adopts policies and proce. Instead. Educators do not readily welcome Axel- Positive reinforcement is a universal prin. and the compliance matrix (see Rhode. come. and even abhorred. for a description of language and procedures that are more pleasing these novel techniques based on positive rein. The most tors and the general public? obvious example was the dissatisfaction with the teaching of mathematics. This omission is amazing considering tive reinforcement lack popular and professional that the technology for proactively and posi. forcement has generated is for professionals to ment include the use of chart moves. and group-ori. then. and demean humans. behavioral contracts. Since that time. knowledged (Cameron & Pierce. by educa- empirically groundless passing fads. (1996) believed that techniques based on posi- 1999). is it infre. 1994).g~ . techniques based on positive rein. and elucidating upon the use of. & Reavis. Axelrod which they would like more training (Maag. that the remedy for the criticisms positive rein- 1994). dict popular views of developmental psychology. lotteries continue to work in areas in which they are wel- and raffles. Ironically. Never- Ironically. have been well received by much of the educa- lenging behaviors of students that attend public tional profession. ther detracts from the prospect of sending quently incorporated into college and university money to inner-city schools (Kozol. forcement).

tion of living in a society in which individuals sal principle that occurs naturally in every class. although Explanations for this misunderstanding may be contrary to the beliefs of many educators and grounded in a basic cultural ethos: The percep- Kohn (1993). managing students' behaviors. researchers. decreases the probability that the behavior it fol- However. AND MISUNDERSTOOD Three propositions are put forth to sup- port these assumptions. and the general public can behaviors. The salient those teachers who have found the use of pun. pun- is intended for both special and general educa. point here is that positive reinforcement has ishment ineffective for managing challenging been erroneously viewed as being externally ap- behaviors of students. ing the effectiveness of techniques based on pos- itive reinforcement. ishment. understood. ers may see as many as 180 to 200 students Positive reinforcement increases the probability across six to seven periods a day. problem behavior. the punishment paradigm that positive reinforcement is a common. Conversely. sider why educators find punishment to be a more acceptable approach for managing stu- dents' behaviors than positive reinforcement and WHY POSITIVE to argue that the latter is much more effective REINFORCEMENT IS IGNORED than the former. are free to do as they wish-as long as they do room. definitions of both terms are deceptively simple. and continue to be. secondary teach. threaten individuals' autonomy-people believe tive reinforcement because they often interact they are free to choose to behave in responsible with the same set of 25 to 30 students for most ways to avoid punishment (Maag. ignored and mis- strong cultural ethos that encourages punish.punishment because it is easy to administer. Punishment may add greater difficulties and complexities. Techniques based on positive reinforcement ment is ignored and misunderstood because of a have been. the three plied. cious. Disavowing the effectiveness of ment. Wzored and indertood FREEDOM VERSUS COERCION Techniques based on positive reinforcement are often perceived to threaten individuals' freedom The information presented in this article as autonomous human beings. coercion is simply the rather than running the risk of it haphazardly absence of external pressure-being internally promoting inappropriate behaviors. thereby intimating those individuals have propositions described in this article lead to spe. Second. albeit falla- permeates education distorts teachers' knowl. In this context. behaved in certain ways not because they were Exceptional Childrent 17S . works for many students without challenging parents. Ironically. Third. Therefore. havior rather than reacting to the occurrence of Therefore. cific implications for practice that educators. which is the opposite of positive rein- tion teachers at the elementary and secondary forcement. and cntinue to bei. This societal value contributes to the widespread acceptance of a punishment mentality that ignores data indicat- Tehiues based on positive reinforce. way to avoid critically analyzing its appli- edge of several important terms associated with cations and contributions to education. ment have been. appears much more acceptable levels. This actuality that the behavior it follows recurs. positive reinforcement is a univer. The deceptive nature no greater than those currently encountered by of these terms is described shortly. educators should plan its so in a socially appropriate manner-without occurrence to increase appropriate behaviors coercion. use to plan for the occurrence of appropriate be- tian history that dominates much of our society. and has been part of the Judeo-Chris. The of the school day. 1996). positive reinforce. motivated to behave well. the difficulties and complexities are lows recurs in the future. the purpose of this article is to con. In addition. Elementary teachers may appear to have because of the perception that it does not an advantage in using techniques based on posi. First.

and their effect when any behavior (e. dom and dignity. a vicious cycle is perpetuated: for good reasons. skillful controllers). sending a student children" (p.. Punishment often can produce a lowing perspective: rapid-although often temporary-suppression in most students' inappropriate behaviors The trouble is that when we punish a person (Maag. 1999). The need for punishment seems The property of punishment that teachers to have the support of history.between parents and children. People quickly become skillful pun. This principle is in you their blood. For example." Besides having history on its side. Technically. 62) ruptions. the room) leads to a related. the behavior that terminated an the civilized world. increases the use of ishers (if not. Skinner further noted: out of the room) results in the removal of an aversion (e. sending the student out of the room because 1935) when he discussed the attributes of con." Patterson (1975) coined this term to ex- This well-ingrained historical and cultural plain coercive relationships that sometime evolve ethos has resulted in a kind of paradigmparaly. (p. sending a student out of practices threaten the cherished valued of free. the teacher has been reinforced for several centuries ago by Machiavelli (1903.internally motivated but because they were the simple reason that punishing students has being coerced (Maag. we leave it up to him to ment techniques may be quickly and easily ad- discover how to behave well. performing the stipulated assignment or found it boring. a stu- based on positive reinforcement and acknowl.. 1999). for they are entirely yours. and undesirable. Furthermore. easily learned. they offer been negatively reinforced. punishment is also or principal's office may be punishing if the stu- viewed as a highly effective way for society to dent finds exclusion from others aversive. In the previous example. in turn. thereby. which then reinforces teachers for whereas alternative positive measures are not using it. although its sis-"a condition of terminal certainty"-that emergence can also be observed between teach- prevents people from understanding techniques ers and students. punishment. teachers the child. desirable to suppress a variety of classroom dis- have well only because they are good. and been mance of obnoxious behaviors because these advocated for.that act terminated the unpleasantness of the trolling men: "it is much safer to be feared than student's behavior. their goods.behaviors terminated the perceived unpleasant- flected in the proverb "spare the rod and spoil ness of the assignment. The paralysis has engaging in behaviors the teacher found obnox- completely fortified the punishment mentality ious. Men are to be. At issue is an attribute of autonomous man.. their life.g. If we no longer resort to torture in what we call Consequently. placed punishment and motivation in the fol.dent was removed from the classroom for edging their effectiveness. Skinner (1971) traditionally been highly reinforcing to teachers. and alternative find reinforcing (e. because punish- for behaving badly. a student's obnoxious behavior). students which. the teacher has loved . As well as being perceived as less coercive than Being sent out of the classroom to sit in the hall positive reinforcement. 90).. 75) phenomenon called the "negative reinforcement trap. Nature if not God has created Teachers are negatively reinforced for punishing man in such a way that he can be controlled punitively. a teacher may find a stu- dent's "obnoxious" behaviors to be aversive. (p. Consequently. 1999).. And apparently punishment.g. and he can then ministered.. Con- control its members.g.. This view was expressed sequently. since biblical times and is re. a and students have often been caught in a trap in punishment mentality has been perpetuated for which both individuals were negatively rein- 176 Winter 2001 . then being removed from the class- THE PUNISHMENT PARADIGM room negatively reinforced the student's perfor- A punishment paradigm has evolved.. If the student lacked the necessary skills for that permeates education and much of society. In the case of domestic and foreign relations. we nevertheless stiU make aversion is more likely to be performed in the extensive use of punitive techniques in both future (Axelrod & Hall. teachers have found them quite get credit for behaving well .

Kavale & Forness. this phenomenon can also be observed that do not respond to traditional forms of pun. In forms of punishment work for most students. such as the use of verbal repri. General Accounting Office. In extreme cases. the Gresham and MacMillan (1998) in their review problem is presumed to have been addressed by of the study published by Lovaas (1987) con- the consequence. chemistry. a point that is elu. 1994. iors.. empirical data has little effect be- There is another very powerful reason why cause people often only see that for which they punishment continues to be used-it works for are looking. 5).g. over the past 20 years (Martin & Pear. modality-based instruction and facilitated com- ceeds in the following manner: Because mild munication (Bilken. model. most they distorted the data until they fit their para- students attending public schools nevertheless digm rather than acknowledging them as an ex- behave fairly well.. plines such as biology. both instances. it would be used less The solution to this problem may not be rather than more frequently. discovered that scientists were physiologically in- mands. Another telling ick. spreading flour on the well documented in various journals and books floor cannot capture its footprints. play the most challenging behaviors (i. "more of the same" and seldom works. Unfortunately. 1996). However. or occasional removals from the capable of perceiving unexpected data-for all classroom. they lent and challenging for teachers to manage simply ignored unexpected data. if and analysis of the data" (p. Kuhn (1970) found about 95% of students attending public schools that scientists had considerable difficulty per- (Maag. Other times. intents and purposes the data were invisible. results in inquiry have proven otherwise (e. Sagan (1996) clearly ex- tactic worked. But what if the student misbe. At worst. Despite the fact that students' be. plained this propensity by using the analogy of ment would have already enjoyed much more someone purporting to have a dragon in his widespread acceptance and implementation be. typically control most students' be. 1987). For example. & Fisch. For example. 1990). even though well-accepted empirical methods of This reaction. There- effectiveness of this body of research has been fore it cannot be seen. Consequently. education literature come immediately to mind: The paradigm paralysis mentality pro. proponents have had a vested in- then the solution for teachers with the 5% of terest in perpetuating their use and have tena- students with the most challenging behaviors is ciously clung to the belief that they are effective to simply punish them severely and more often. educational. (e. in other fields. 1974). if a example can be found in the following quote by student stays after school for misbehaving. haviors. At data to convince people of the effectiveness of a best. those However. ceiving data that did not match the expectations haviors have recently become increasingly vio. 1992.e. cerning the efficacy of his Early Intervention haves again? The linear solution would be to Project (EIP) for children with autism: "The keep the student after school for 2 days. Green. mild forms of ception to the rules. or approach. and if the dragon is invisible. EIP authors seem unwilling to admit any and so forth. Weakland. In fact. the application of linearinterventions (Watzlaw. although easily foreseen. Dunn. then 3. 1997). to keep trying to inculcate teachers with data cidated upon shortly. teachers will reject it even IGNORING DATA more because techniques based on positive rein- Researchers have typically relied on empirical forcement do not match their paradigms. 1999). fines. If this cannot be disproved. In some cases. applications of positive reinforce. This type of solution is simply methodological flaws in the sampling. Kuhn punishments. Two examples from the special ishment). The breathes heatless fire. punishment were effective. real-life applications are truly remarkable. created by their paradigms. and is incorporeal. garage: It is difficult to disprove this assumption cause the successful clinical.g.. and physics. an infrared Exceptional Children 177 . these types of consequences Kuhn (1970) studied scientists in disci- are ineffective for about 5% of students who dis.forced for engaging in counterproductive behav. design. they will simply say that its effectiveness particular technique. floats in the air. supporting the effectiveness of positive rein- forcement.

yet plausi. Positive reinforcement is often misunderstood Nevertheless. dent's inappropriate behavior may be suppressed cause its existence cannot be disproved. that positive reinforcement and punishment are stead. restitution. punishment are not things but rather effects. The point PETUATE MISUNDERSTANDING of this discussion is to help teachers refocus on a goal of education: to help students acquire Neale and Liebert (1973) ended their textbook knowledge and skills. tically" with the student. and paint will versely. . fines. punishment. As a consequence.sensor cannot monitor the fire. and re. reinforcement. expulsion. by definition. it is any discipline. fined previously." is oxymoronic because. the use of pun- sent techniques as easy to apply. discipline refers to "training following examples may help clarify the distinc- that is expected to produce a specific character tion between things and effects. 1997). the disciplinary practices appearing in the poli. when adults evoke punishment with the phrase "I'm going to teach you a lesson. ." Con. Therefore. many teachers continue to believe because it is rarely associated with discipline.. the word in this definition is improvement that teacher spends a few minutes talking "therapeu- means "to increase. a quick glance at . (1978) stated that in many cases. on research methods by saying how faith is read- ily confused with evidence.en . and POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AND it doesn't work.. "I've tried positive reinforcement. ior.e. Their cogent observations apply to In order to understand discipline better. X i j. The misleading. For example. . conveying warmth and 178 Winter 2001 . suppressing or eliminating behavior. perhaps helpful to examine the concepts of positive rein- in no area as much as behavior management has forcement and punishment more thoroughly.der.. punishment. Rutherford and Neel notions about behavior management and pre.. detention. The tant terms associated with students' behavior: effects are to either increase or decrease a behav- discipline.. not DISTORTING REALITY TO PER.F. and even corporal punishment in some states. e. thing-decreases behavior.par't wongl suete em ds: school suspension. or enhance. The itage Dictionary. . stood becauseXit is r. There is a perverse irony section of this article. it been evident that teachers have lacked a solid Positive reinforcement and punishment were de- working knowledge.el soitdwt cies and procedures handbook of any public ci~ Inre nynl tckers and school in this country would reveal an exclusive focus on punishment: in-school and out-of." Teaching in- PUNISHMENT PARADIGM: volves giving children skills and knowledge. In. if a consequence did not function to in- crease behavior then it was not a reinforcer. things that are either received or removed. or pattern of behavior... with punishment does not guarantee that the the solution is to describe positive reinforcement student knows what appropriate behavior should in a way that is congruent with teachers' existing be performed in its place. the statement made by some wards (Maag. teachers. In the field of education. Simply because a stu- ble. ishment leaves the development of desirable be- mendations for doing so are described in the last haviors to chance.." A key classroom excessively. by defi- DISCIPLINE nition. does one not stick to its skin.f. many teachers and parents wrongly as- sume the terms "discipline" and "punishment" are synonymous. Instead. . develop.s. Yet according to the American Her. conclusion is that the dragon "exists" be. The paradigm of punish. The key consideration in the ment tends to distort reality and perpetuates definitions is that positive reinforcement and misunderstanding of four common and impor.. and misunderstanding is easily PUNISHMENT: FUNCTION OVER FORM perpetuated. especially training that A student is yelling and running around a produces moral or mental improvement. evidence is freely POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AND misunderstood. Specific recom.

Here is a telling because of the colloquial way in which punish.ably view this consequence as a kind of punish- ishment were effective. simply because "verbal ing. empathic understanding. the teacher's atten. fused the children and distracted them from per- forming the desired behavior.occurred unless the behavior it followed in- forcing than the pain the slap inflicted is punish. In the last example. it would be used less ment. punishment and positive reinforcement func. The distinction between form and func- tionally. assumption was that student was required to write 100 times.attention. is a powerful re- sequence for a child placing his hand too close to inforcer-especially for students with the most a hot burner. even. and consequently ignore them when they tion was a punisher because it had the effect of do so. a parent may say a stern "No" and challenging behaviors who typically receive very slap the back of the child's hand. the the faulty. because researchers are often viewed as positive reinforcement because the behavior in. even if it is negative.the myth to teachers that positive reinforcement dren. They reported that verbal reinforce- Adultattention." Ryder. praise" sounds like a reinforcer in an everyday The two previous examples were meant to sense does not automatically mean it functions as illustrate that their effects on behavior define a reinforcer. What adults their assertions. are sent out of the classroom. if pun." their misunderstanding perpetuates creased. Ward (1995) correctly pointed often fail to understand is that the attention a out how reinforcement cannot be said to have child receives from the parent may be more rein. A teacher ment is viewed as unpleasant things done to was disturbed that a student frequently did not people who behave poorly. The oppo. Adults sometimes look upon these chil. yet common.the student in this example was embarrassed Exceptional Children 179 . Unfortu- then the slap was not punishment but rather nately. 1996). Adult site effect can also occur." Most teachers would prob- physical slap-not its effect. Teachers expect students to behave and running. Alberto and Troutman (1995) pointed tion is similarly not well understood when ap- out how this definition is often misunderstood plied to the use of punishment. may create pain and even temporary reddening Many researchers also experience difficulty of the skin.example encountered by the author. Davey. even after presumably receiving "punishment. As a result. as a con. Biederman. counterproductive results. As a result of attention is better than no attention" certainly this communication. They further speculated that the reinforcement-rewarding iors who receive very little comments such as "good job"-may have con- Positiveatten . but usually give them negative attention decreasing the untoward behaviors. and uncondi. Therefore. who seem to continue behaving poorly does not work. if the child repeatedly places his understanding the functional definition of posi- hand by the burner for several ensuing days. Yet what behavior is the teacher trying to rather then more frequently with a particular decrease-remembering the book? This unfortu- student because the desired effect would be to nate case illustrates how punishment is often reduce the inappropriate behavior.sions are not being punished: They are instead tional positive self-regard for the precipitating being positively reinforced."experts.well. For example. stu. Not coincidentally. Yet. This action litde positive attention.caring. tive reinforcement and punishment. However. bring his reading book to class. is a ment detracted from the performance of chil- powerful reinforcer-eSpeciallyfor dren with developmental delays during the students with the amost challenging behav. For example. "I will punishment was the "thing" administered-the remember my book.misunderstood and can be misapplied with dents who repeatedly receive verbal reprimands. By definition. and Franchi (1994) conducted a study on the effects of interactive modeling versus passive observation. Ironically.creased.when they behave poorly (Maag. The adage "negative circumstances in the student's life. the student stops yelling applies here. In his response to as disordered or even masochistic. or receive suspen.ifit isnegative.interactive modeling condition.

The point of the examples of the student & McConnell. will cause the same problem. if a behavior decreased. in turn hits the ball back to comprehend because they challenge popular (responds). but rather that misapplications and misunder- a thing given to acknowledge an accomplish. their ability to managing stu- THE CONTRADICTION OF dents' challenging behaviors will increase dra- REINFORCEMENT AND REWARDS matically. The answer has nothing to do with motivation. Social reci- in the next Olympiad. something does not consequently abolish its ex- the "reward" (i. and quells in. but not punishment stifle internal motivation? rectly equate the terms reward and reinforce. an athlete may begin training to compete in the discus throw several years before the summer Olympics begin. Other words for reward are "merit" or condoning punishment and eschewing reinforce- "prize. if one player does not hit 180 Winter 2001 ." Just because someone may not like prior to competing in the Olympics. Social interaction can be running and yelling in the classroom. undermines students' qualms that administering external punishment abilities to become self-directed. gold medal) functioned as istence. There is an irony in the belief that Kohn lative tool created to coerce students into behav. If a behavior hand. standings are perpetuated by a cultural ethos ment. For example. 1984). issue of external reinforcement stifling motiva- ment frequently does not help some teachers get tion. cause punishment certainly must be something rassed in front of his peers when asked to read unpleasant. Some teachers have said. Therefore. exchanges between individuals (Strain. views of reinforcement and punishment. in fact. ment. However. past the stereotypical notion that it is a manipu. then the con- throwing the discus to compete more effectively sequence functioned as a punisher. then his poor showing procity provides an example of reinforcement functioned as reinforcement because it had the naturally occurring." A reward may or may not function as a ment. and the One player hits the ball (initiates a conversation) Olympic athlete the teachers find very difficult to another player who. THE NATURALLY OCCURRING ing this time.about his learning disability in reading. that reinforcement and punishment are effects rather than things. However. "I don't believe in cides to retire from competition. "forgetting" to bring the book to class teachers are puzzled as to how talking nicely to a served the function for him to avoid what he student. The problem why would externally applying reinforcement with this assertion is that many teachers incor. then the consequence functioned as a and subsequently spends more time practicing reinforcer. used to describe mutually reinforcing interactive ior. Consequently. reinforcer. Social reciprocity is a term effect of increasing later discus-throwing behav. In other words. Consequently. reinforcement external reinforcement will stifle children's inter- continues to be viewed by some educators as nal motivation: These individuals often have few tantamount to bribery. if the athlete places a disappointing 10th increased. 1993). it is important to address the The functional definition of positive reinforce. The subse. for example. On the other followed by certain consequences. urally occurring phenomena-all behaviors are ture discus-throwing behavior. once teachers understand -than having to repeatedly write sentences. Many fore." This statement is as logi- quent frequency of discus-throwing behavior cally absurd as saying. the child conceptualized. There. as a tennis match: who places his hand by the hot burner. could be punishment be- considered to be more aversive-being embar. using reinforcement. analogously. Odom. "I don't believe in grav- certainly would decrease over the level displayed ity. But first. Unlike reinforcement.. ternal motivation (Kohn. he wins the gold medal-certainly the ultimate reward-and de.e. Reinforcement and punishment are nat- punishment because its effect was to decrease fu. his discus-throwing behavior PHENOMENA OF POSITIVE REIN- would occur at a high rate as part of his training FORCEMENT AND PUNISHMENT regime. a reward is. (1993) and many teachers hold that providing ing appropriately. Dur.

Furthermore. and none of which asks someone a question and that person re. why have students' behaviors become occurring phenomenon. and monitoring repatterning. they con. If. 1995). This irrational belief havior management is much more-analyzing may prompt some teachers to abandon empiri. opponents of reinforcement empirical literature. To ignore this ecologically spend more time in school than in most struc- important aspect of behavior management is to tured environments outside the home and have allow reinforcement to occur randomly and run their most consistent and extensive contact with the risk of it increasing students' inappropriate teachers who can scrutinize their behaviors on behaviors. dren display problem behavior to such a serious and chronic degree that their independence in THE PROPRIETY OF REINFORCEMENT society is limited. 1997. 1999). nevertheless. abuse. to name only a few. Nevertheless. It is easy to find abundant examples of children sponds negatively. and less su- gravity is good or bad-both are naturally oc. This percep. schedules of reinforcement. This position on re. behavior. still believe that techniques based on positive re- tion makes it easy for people to fall into inforcement consist of nothing more than pro- dichotomous thinking-techniques based on viding students with M&M candies or stickers positive reinforcement either work perfectly or when they are "being good" (Maag. empirical support (Kauff- sponds positively. reinforced and the interaction will continue. then question asking has been who display inappropriate behavior. they are often implemented perception that they either require too much ef.the ball back (fails to respond). In spite of their empirical support. this position hours to make ends meet. Some chil- punished and the interaction will terminate. behavioral procedures are can sometimes be convinced that it is a naturally effective. part of the problem may have resulted objection is usually to its planned use to elicit from an ever-changing society in which children certain behaviors in others. then the volley (EEG) biofeedback. as indicated throughout the With great effort. approach to managing students' behavior (Maag. Part of the problem may be have in understanding and correctly using tech. There are also a host takes teachers' foci away from the meaningful of factors-homelessness. facilitated communication. using by the latest educational fads such as neuro. progress-not to mention the plethora of tech- megavitamin therapy. free access to the Internet. Many teachers fort or do not work well enough. Their specific Granted. provides the opportunity for teachers to apply a forcement have been tried and have failed. that when techniques based on positive rein- niques based on positive reinforcement is the forcement are used. niques based on positive reinforcement are sel- Perhaps part of the problem educators dom used correctly. youngsters student behaviors. collecting in- cally-tested techniques and be easily bamboozled formation on the behaviors of concern. tech- 1999). student characteristics or home situations forcement have rarely represented a dominant (Wielkiewicz. The structure of the classroom to believe that techniques based on positive rein. This variety of techniques based on positive reinforce- belief is not only a self-contradiction but also ment that have empirical support regardless of fallacious. haphazardly and inappropriately. Techniques based on positive rein. Nevertheless. On GOOD IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH the other hand. if a person ing. Be- they do not work at all. if a person asks someone a ques- tion and that person either walks away or re. 1997). pervision from parents who are working long curring phenomena. and optometric vision train- (interaction) ends. enjoy much. electroencephalogram niques based on positive reinforcement that run Exceptional Children lei . are increasingly impacted by sex and violence on inforcement is as ridiculous as arguing whether television. In other words. deciding what to change. sexual and physical task of analyzing interaction patterns and rein. many teachers continue an ongoing basis. Mercer. increasingly challenging in recent years? tinue to argue with its propriety. and substance abuse-that place forcement contingencies that exist in classrooms children at risk for displaying a wide range of in order to restructure them to increase desirable challenging behaviors. then question asking has been man. if any. divorce.

the literature is replete with studies lenging behaviors effectively will continue to be documenting very low. nonexistent. or appropriately. place themselves in the role of student. primarily when students misbehave. and monitor effec- and decides if the incident need go on? The tive behavioral interventions for managing student does. is doing the learning? students' challenging behaviors. looks for responses. Even more disturbing. veloped elaborate management plans to control teachers are likely to believe techniques based on students' challenging behaviors. However. spend as much time developing positive. have de. when the real problem is and places teachers in a reactive. many teachers inaccurately It is equally disappointing that teachers believe the correction of challenging behaviors is fail to see the powerfully reinforcing value in tantamount to effective instruction. Ironically. then. Ironi- not to "punish" or decrease division behavior. the goal is inappropriate behaviors (Maag. For exam. who schedules the time of to those that are student-directed.. is have no difficulty "reacting" to students when proactive. instead of that they have not been properly implemented proactive. evaluates the response. and even entire schools. Although such natural human behaviors as eye contact. cally. All too often teachers justify not Correction occurs after an incident and. "expect" students to behave well. tion is so effective. The irony is that because teacher atten- logic should apply to students' challenging be. 1999). be punished (Maag & Webber. proac- haviors and to control (i. good news is that the technology has long ex- provides the materials. When a behavior problem occurs. instruction. Teachers should responsibility is to teach students academic be. teachers will continue to experi- There is a prevailing view that teachers' primary ence failure and frustration. Unfortunately. is reactive. position when managing students' consciously. and in many instances a frustrating endeavor until teachers view misbe. 1994). they tion is a planned event and. using positive reinforcement by stating that they quently. rates of positive teacher statements havior as an opportunity for increasing positive directed to students when they perform desir- social interaction rather than being something to able behavior (see Mastropieri & Scruggs. The same 1999). therefore. they are not synonymous. conse. procedures are implemented to provide among one of the most empirically sound students with the correct strategy and practice to teacher competencies (Maag & Katsiyannis. a role ment is that many do not believe it is their job that they are not used to and often find uncom- to manage students' behavior. Furthermore. teacher praise has been supported as Rather. example. physical proximity. most teachers would readily agree that when give students attention only when they perform students make mistakes in division. makes the pre- Managing students' challenging behaviors sentation. academic instruc. The bad news is (p. As long as the management of students' challenging behaviors focuses solely on correc- THE WAY THINGS ARE AND COULD BE tion techniques.e. One of the major impediments in having Neel contended that managing students' chal- educators put forth the effort to develop and im. cial interaction. In eschewing this last recommendation. managing challenging behaviors may be a pre. isted to develop. implement. This "control positive reinforcement simply do not work well mentality" is pervasive throughout education enough. and so- cursor to instruction. it nevertheless is being used haviors. developing instructional lesson plans. kind words. bring into align. increase their competence in division. For challenging behaviors. selects the material. simply having example using reading: the expectation that students "should" behave 182 Winter 2001 . and then pro- effectively is a "good news-bad news" story. or not at all. Some teachers. 1995). fortable. tive behavior management plans as they spend ment) their socially inappropriate behaviors. Managing students' chal. Neel (1988) provided the following they behave poorly. smiles. The vides correction? The teacher does. lenging behaviors is difficult because teachers plement techniques based on positive reinforce. Who. consistently.the gamut from those that are teacher-directed In a reading lesson. teachers typically ple. who schedules it. 26) that this process takes considerable time and ef- fort.

if a student is the side. First. For example. Have a Grouip Management Plan. only give them attention for tensive individual positive reinforcement in- displaying inappropriate behaviors. and mystery motivators. eliminated. effort: observing a student occasionally to tempt to change events to a more desirable out. 1998). It is tention from teachers is to misbehave. students pose such behavioral chal- goals can be addressed when teachers prioritize lenges that teachers frame the problem as a their values. However. which. easier. approach is the Good Behavior Game." some teachers have to students with challeng- ing behaviors: They expect students with challenging behaviors to behave better than IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE students without behavioral challenges (Maag. There are them are presented here. at least during the time content knowl. These tervention once a classwide management plan students have learned very early in their is in place. to make improvements in the desired direc- senting easy-to-use techniques is simpler. activity disorder (ADHD) to sit quietly and in turn. Think Small. believe students "should" behave well and. of irrational belief: demandingness (Ellis. requires that they understand how posi. It mittent reinforcement that maintains high is not used more often because many teachers levels of appropriate behavior (Maag. what takes less time and Demandingness is a magical and ineffective at. 1999). Changing should be reinforced when he makes it teachers' values is the most difficult aspect be. behaviors (Alberto & Troutman. There tion. through the door in 5 min. punishment is most effective example of teachers engaging in a common type when it is delivered continuously (Schmidt. and unlike punishment. pay attention longer than students without tive reinforcement is congruent with their values this disorder (Reid & Maag. compliance ma- Ironically. then teach. most effective ways for dealing with students group management plans make use of inter- with challenging behaviors (Maag. As -a beyond the scope of this article to describe general rule. proaches: 100 square chart. 1985). The use of the word "should" is a dassic the other hand. the second time a teacher gives a each in detail. positively reinforce him or observing the stu- come without engaging in any behavior other dent continuously to punish him? than saying either the word "expect" or 2. future behavior changes become much are a variety of easy-to-implement recommenda. There is an interesting reaction "should. Once he begins cause they have become well-ingrained-pre. 1982). Was not helping children acquire laundry list of misbehaviors that must be knowledge and skills not a main goal for becom. Rhode et al. Catching stu. cific students with challenging behaviors dents being good is one of the easiest and when the entire class is well behaved. For example. 2000).well. it is easier to implement a more in- consequently. Second. Catch Stuidents Being Good. implement a group management plan. teachers trix. An additional only have to catch students being good occa. In other and that the techniques are easy to apply. Therefore. especially those with the most challenging maintain high rates of students' appropriate behaviors. small goals for students and then reinforce ers will find it easier to place other goals (such as successive approximations of behaviors to- the student completing work independently) to ward that goal. The solution is for teachers to set ing a teacher? If this is a major goal. There are several novel ways to school career that the only way they get at. These instances. Several of 3. 1995). On tration. tions for using positive reinforcement. is a prescription for failure and frus. (1995) student a verbal warning should be a cue for presented a detailed description of three ap- that teacher to catch the student being good. chronically late to class by 10 min or more he edge and skills are being taught. 1999). some teachers Effectively changing students' behaviors requires expect students with attention-deficit hyper- teachers to also change their behaviors. Three sionally. Intermittent reinforcement can appropriate behaviors are listed on the chalk- Exceptional Children 183 . two reasons why it is easier to manage spe- 1.

Exceptional Children. and the attack on America's tively is to implement a group management public schools. When a ricular. either positive skills. R. Prevent Behavior Problems. the Merrill. C. Punishment is even-handed.. V. or is otherwise reinforcing. (1996).J.. teachers they manage behavior. 60. S. rather than as a watch- than to try to reestablish control. teachers should use peer influence in a so- cially constructive manner. D. (1995). G. also sparingly use reprimands and only in an 4. Ryder. Prerecorded random tones are played quently. analysis? JournalofBehavioralEducation. Columbus. 1995). 458-465. & Hall. cur- on a tape recorder during a lesson. Behavior modifca- The punishment must be severe to override tion: Basicprinciples. conse. ued. Students with chal. task. Davey. Fourth. whom they want to be around. What's wrong with behavior peers in the form of smiles. 247-256.. class- Friday) if the jar is filled with marbles by the room routines. comments. B. The negative effects of positive reinforce- teachers who acknowledge that reinforcement ment in teaching children with developmental delay.g. Therefore.. or negative. or subtle gestures (Rhode et al. Peer influence ior management with small case loads and exists in every classroom. S. use positive reinforcement techniques effectively gaged. A. (1999). Alberto. classroom climate for both students with and Perhaps there are not more teachers who without challenging behaviors (Rhode et al. C. matter-of-fact tone. (1995). Biederman. Austin. ers. Reading. and instructional variables to promote tone sounds. movie or popcorn on interfere with other students' learning. The manufac- most effective way to use peer influence posi. Use Peer bInfuence Favorably. teachers should spend with the most challenging behaviors. Applied be- ample. board. V A. teachers should not let may be punished: Administrators may see them students with challenging behaviors sit next as the likely candidates to deal with students to each other. It is easier to prevent behavior problems enjoy interacting with. Second.. is to misbehave. teachers who voted to students being academically en. & Troutman.).* technique such as one described previously. 6. a teacher may punish a student for havior analysisfor teachers (4th ed. dog to be feared because of the punishment they ing strategies work to enhance a positive may dole out. B. teachers should establish class. may be to punish good behavior management est way to get peer attention. The follow. paraeducator assistance. However. and the positive reinforcement students earn Their workloads are not based on how effective for performing them.. Teachers are paid whether room rules that specify appropriate behaviors or not students display appropriate behaviors. More conceivably. & Biddle.* the reinforcing value of peer attention. and punishment occur naturally and. TX: Pro-Ed. Students view less likely to be used when teachers anticipate these teachers as people whose attention is val- and prevent behavior problems from occur. The unintended result lenging behaviors have learned that the easi.A. The class havior and ignore misbehavior when it does not earns a reinforcer (e.. fraud. even for special educators trained in behav- 5. analyze and modify environmental. The Berliner. tured crisis: Myths. or on how much their should strive to have 70% of their day de. First. engage in these activities because they are not re- 1995).. REFERENCES take some teachers make is to override the influence of peers with punishment. in turn. Axelrod. the teacher places three marbles appropriate behavior. C.. & Franchi. MA: Addison-Wesley. A common mis. inforced for doing so. students learn. (1994). OH: making animal noises in class. The most effective behavior managers are D. They end of the week (Maag.* student may be receiving reinforcement from Axelrod. For ex. may receive the preponderance classroom to monitor students' behaviors and of these students and that represents a daunting subtly reinforce them. P. These teachers work hard in a jar if everyone in class is engaging in one to positively reinforce appropriate student be- of the three appropriate behaviors. Third. snick. 184 Winter 2001 . 1999). These as much time as possible walking around the teachers. whom they ring.

131-140.). Savage inequalities: Children in cial learning to family life. Maag (Eds.Bilken. 11. J. NewYork: Plenum.. Exceptional Children 1 25 . (First edition. Exceptional Children. K. R. Families:Applications of so- Kozol. Re.* strategies. Early TX: Pro-Ed. M. (1997). J. (1978). 25-31). Rhode. Facilitatedcommunication: The clini. Autism orthodoxy versus free Maag. L. & Katsiyannis. G..7. San cationalReview. D. B. 62. 14. In H.24. disorders of children and youth (Vol. The role Making problem behavior work for you.. 1903).* Patterson. S. based instruction. (1996). T. (ERIC Document Repro. R. (1992). Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. 9-42.* Kuhn. R.443-469. (1997). Maag.* Cameron. (1995). Reid. (1997). (1987). Journal of Consulting and Clinical ADHD. W. pp. M. S. S. C. W.* Maag. 242-256. oretical imp!ications to practical applications. and intrinsic motivation: A meta-analysis. Jenson. Students with learningdisabili- and its effects replicated? JournalofAAutism andDevel- ties (5th ed.. River.. (1985).. Promoting chil- General Accounting Office. Exceptional Children. (1997). Chicago: University of Chicago nalofBehavioralEducation.* instructionfor special education (2nd ed. 228-239. Behavior modification: Green. J. R.Longmont. (1999). Parenting without punishment: Rutherford. I. E. 13-19. & Kotlash. G. behavior disorders of children and youth (Vol. (1975).J. B. J. Reforming educational reform. Behavioral analysis of Kavale and Forness' report on modality. Reading 6 Writing Quarterly. CO: Sopris West. D.).).3-9. OH: Merrill. Reinforcement. The quality of the evidence. Review of stress in- Ellis.. J. Effective CA: Singular. 18. Severe ioralProblems. 1. Behavior Modification. (1994). & Forness. (1987). Maag.363-423. Columbus. Jr. D. Expanding the ABCs of rational.* Maag. Preventing School Failure. (1995). Mahoney & A. 55. view ofEducationalResearch. HarvardEdu. J. Behavior management:From the- speech: A reply to Cummins and Prior. & Liebert. W.28. GAO Report to Congressional Requesters. Champaign. 64. 54. (Eds. (1935). In R. A's. Disorders. A. & A. (1991).. B. (1994). Parenting without punishment. Press. Upper Saddle C. Neale. Functional assess- Lovaas. M. G. R.* Neel. A. S. In R. Psycbology. 56.. 39(3). 0. W. J. Teacher Dunn. New York: Pen- Washington. duction Service No. praise. (1990). Cognition and psychotherapy (pp. W. Prieto (Eds. & MacMillan. Substance teacher's guide to teaching social competency. R. & Scruggs. Safe and drug-free dren's social development in general education class- schools: Balancing accountability with state and local rooms.). R. Intervention reward.). A. Engle- and behavioral disorders of children and youth (6th wood Cliffs. The tough kid book: Practicalclassroom management Philadelphia: The Charles Press. T. W. Classroom conversion kit: A Kavale. The prince.6(3).* opmentalDisorders. incentive plans. Maag. M. (1994). Maag. 157-225). & Webber. NJ: Prentice Hall. The structuire of scientific revolu. W. K. (1996).* ed. (1988). (1997)... Behavioral treatment and nor.. VA: Council for Children with Behavioral with gold stars. J. Austin. R. Punished by rewards: The trouble Reston. & Neel. Freeman sues and recommendations.). 5-13.* intervention project: Can its claims be'substantiated Mercer.). N. H.. Bias over substance: A critical preparation in E/BD: A national survey. 189-196. J. (1973). & Pear. pp. Mastropieri. San Diego. 176-179. Managing resistance. 313-323).). OH: Merrill. Machiavelli. (1993). What it is and how to do it (5th ed. R. NewYork: HarperPerennial. 352-356. J. J. 1-12. Shane (Ed. over style: Assessing the efficacy of modality testing Rutherford. oculation training with children and adolescents: Is- emotive therapy. (1994). G. W. (1998). & Pierce. G. D.* Reid. W. Kohn. Gresham. (1999). Severe behavior and teaching. IL: Research America's schools. & Reavis. In M. J. Jr. (1970).. & Maag. J. Jr. J.ment: A method for developing classroom-based ac- mal educational and intellectual functioning in young commodations and interventions for children with autistic children. Children and Youth: Jotcrnalof EmotionalandBehav. E M. W. Science and be- Kauffman. DC: Author. in School and Clinic.* cal and socialphenomenon (pp. & J. bribes. Jour- tions (2nd ed. 35. flexibility. Reclaiming of punishment with behaviorally disordered children. Characteristicsof emotional havior:An introduction to methods of research.* Press. R.). Diego: Singular. ED 414 643) Martin. A. Rutherford. A. and other Disorders. guin. W.. (1998). NJ: Prentice-Hall. (2000). Columbus.

(1984). 21. Joseph Institute for the Deaf. Skinner. Use Visa. them on the Web at http://www. Discover.. NJ 07740.* b1o1w Strain. resolution. Students with an undergraduate degree indeaf education. has 40 years of experience indeaf education. Director Deaf Education Program Fontbonne College 6800 Wydown Blvd. special education or speech language pathology may apply. (1982). fects of positive reinforcement in teaching children M/ Education andDevelopment. Professor. Reston.889. St.69-76). J. MO 63105-3098 314. S. J. P. problem of change (2nd ed. (1982).).htm. C. P. Science and human behavior.). B. order + $4.* partment of Special Education and Communca- Sarason. 61. or visit Kristen Paterson Photography 186 uu2. The college. 21-28. E (1953). Apply by February 1. L. Skinner. M. E (1971). (1996). C. NewYork: Norton. R. VA: Council for Children with Behav- ioral Disorders.u0u Wi. New York: Ballantine. target behavior selection..* Correspondence concerning this article should Schmidt. The demon-haunted world: Science JOHN W. & McConnell. (1995).* April Children. Fontbonne College seeks full-time graduate students for Summer.50 each add'l item) to: 489-492." Exceptional Children. Beyondfreedom and dignity. 5(1). 400 Morris Avenue. 1-732-728-1040 or FAX-1-732-728- Change: Principles ofproblem formation andproblem 7080. 43-48.. Full-tuition scholarships are available. S.D. MAAG (CEC #588). Odom. Behavior management in the schools: Principles and procedures (2nd ed. NewYork: Bantam. Long Branch. 2001. Understanding punishment and be sent to John W.2001: Susan Lenihan. (1995). (1974). or send check or money with developmental delays. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. early childhood education.1407 sienihan2fontbonne.Books- Ward. De- as a candle in the dark. Journalof Humanistic jmaagl@unl. Remedial and SpecialEducation.nter 186 WEnter 2001 . Promoting social reciprocity of exceptional children: please call 24 hrs/365 days: 1-800-BOOKS- Identification. inpartnership with St. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. accepted NewYork: Macmillan. S.. Weakland. AMEX. Ph. B.* Early Intervention in Deaf Education Fonibonne College Department of Communication Disorders and Deaf Education presents an interdisciplinary graduate program in Early Intervention in Deaf Education With mandatory newbom screening and early identification of hearing loss inchildren. Watzlawick. skilled professionals are needed to work with young children and their families. & Fisch. Clicksmart. J.95 S&H ($2. Manuscript received December 1999. Maag at e-mail: encouraging positive discipline. R. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sagan. x To order books referenced in this journal. NOW (266-5766) or 1-732-728-1040. A response to "The negative ef. S. P.* Wielkiewicz.. Louis. Now. and interven. The culture of the school and the tion Disorders. B.

Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. Copyright 1982-2001 The H.W. .COPYRIGHT INFORMATION TITLE: Rewarded by punishment: reflections on the disuse of positive reinforcement in schools SOURCE: Exceptional Children 67 no2 Wint 2001 WN: 0134903306003 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Wilson Company. All rights reserved.