Helping Children Understand COVID-19
Find the downloadable book and choose which of 21 languages you would like it in. The creator recommends printing it so kids can write and color in the exercises. www.mindheart.co/descargables
Parenting, Race, and Family Research Lab – COVID-19 Resources
Parenting_Race_and_Family_Research_Lab_COVID-resources, including strategies, comics, videos, apps of various topics. This list includes how to discuss COVID-19 to children, teaching healthy habits, educational resources for education at home, parenting children at home, and recreational activities for families.
Supporting Positive Behaviors at Home
This is a stressful and disruptive time for many of us. Finding ways to support your children during this time at home can be critical for mental health and family functioning. One research-based approach that is often used in schools is Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. This model can be adapted for use in homes. Here are 5 ways to support positive behaviors in the home.
Specific Resources for Gifted Children
These resources have come from the Australian Association for the education of the Gifted and Talented (AAEGT) primarily in response to the severe brush fires they experienced. They do however apply to the impact of COVID-19 here in the U.S.
- Natural Disasters: Supporting Gifted Children During Difficult Times
- Gifted Awareness Week: Wellbeing site
- Gifted Awareness Week: Video
Continuing to Educate and Engage Young Learners
Learning doesn’t have to stop when school is out, and the realities of our “new normal” might even provide new interesting opportunities to engage children in meaningful, helpful and fun learning.
- Reading, Writing, and Making at Home with Kids
- Literacy Activities
- Guided reading is a popular approach to teaching reading in today’s schools. This article offers teachers targeted behavior management tips to use before, during, and after more-focused reading instruction and can be useful for parents helping children at home.
- Supporting Students’ Science Learning
- Game Based Learning (video)
This article written by dean Nancy Marchand-Martella, Ph.D., BCBA-D and professor Ronald C. Martella, Ph.D., BCBA-D, looks at motivating students through positive reinforcement to decrease unwanted behaviors and make it easier to learn. Read the full article (show/hide)
Student misbehavior continues to be the main concern of teachers (Dunlap, Iovannone, Wilson, Kincaid, & Strain, 2010; Martella, Nelson, Marchand-Martella, & O’Reilly, 2012; Westling, 2010). Misbehavior such as noncompliance, aggression, talking out, and out of seat, to name a few, often challenge teachers and hinder the success of students who exhibit these misbehaviors as well as their classmates. We know crucial instructional time is sacrificed when students misbehave (Musti-Rao & Haydon, 2011; Reinke, Herman, & Stormont, 2013), and that low achievement and increased referrals for special education services often result for those who are the most at risk (Oliver & Reschly, 2007). When new or urban teachers are asked why they left the profession within the first 5 years of their career, about half note challenges related to classroom management (Crothers & Kolbert, 2008; McKinney, Campbell-Whately, & Kea, 2005; Reinke et al., 2013).
Despite the importance of managing student behavior, teachers often cite a lack of knowledge related to classroom management (Briere, Simonsen, Sugai, & Myers, 2015; Oliver & Reschly, 2007; Parsonson, 2012; Simonsen, Myers, & DeLuca, 2010). Consider that many teacher preparation programs include only one course related to this area of study. Thus, it is not surprising that teachers say they do not believe their training adequately prepared them to address behavior management issues in an effective manner (Briesch, Briesch, & Chafouleas, 2015; Reinke et al., 2013). We have to do more in the area of classroom management as we prepare today’s preservice and inservice teachers.
Negative and Positive Reinforcement
A critical aspect of classroom management that is often ignored in teacher preparation programs is reinforcement (i.e., negative and positive). Negative reinforcement relates to the occurrence of “a response that produces the removal, termination, reduction, or postponement of a stimulus, which leads to an increase in the future occurrence of that response” (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007, p. 292). On the other hand, positive reinforcement has occurred when “a response is followed immediately by the presentation of a stimulus and, as a result, similar responses occur more frequently in the future” (Cooper et al., 2007, p. 258). Both types of reinforcement produce an increase in responding; however, with negative reinforcement, an aversive stimulus is ongoing and is subsequently removed, terminated, reduced, or postponed based on the behavior. According to Catania (1984), “Positive and negative reinforcement are therefore distinguished by whether a response produces or removes a stimulus” (p. 93). Note that negative reinforcement is not the opposite of positive reinforcement and is not the same as punishment; punishment produces a decrease in behavior not an increase in that behavior as is produced by negative reinforcement.
Understanding the distinction between negative and positive reinforcement is important because they affect student motivation in different ways. First, students can be motivated by the removal or delay of a particular event when they demonstrate the desired behavior (negative reinforcement). Say a teacher warns her students that they will likely fail a test if they do not study hard; the result is that her students study hard for the test to avoid failing. Say another teacher warns his students that if they continue to be disruptive, they will be sent to time out; the result is that his students begin to behave appropriately to avoid time out. In these two examples, teachers are using negative reinforcement (also a form of coercive control) (see Sidman, 2000 for details on coercion).
Second, students can be motivated by the presentation of a particular event when they demonstrate the desired behavior (positive reinforcement). Say a teacher tells her students that they will do very well on a test if they study hard; the result is that her students study hard for the test to do well. Say another teacher provides attention to his students when they are displaying appropriate behavior (i.e., “catches them being good”); the result is that his students continue to behave appropriately. In these two examples, teachers are using positive reinforcement.
Side Effects of Negative Reinforcement
There are two primary side effects when teachers use negative reinforcement in the classroom. These include making it more difficult for students to learn and increasing unwanted behaviors.
More difficult to learn. According to Catania (1984), it is more difficult to teach or motivate students through the use of negative reinforcement than through positive reinforcement. The reason for this difference is shown in Figure 1 (see attached PDF below). The top section of the figure shows negative reinforcement. The box represents the ongoing aversive stimulus (negative reinforcer) with its termination occurring at the instance of the target behavior (bold vertical line). The vertical lines within the box represent the possible competing behaviors that occur before the aversive stimulus is terminated. The flat line represents a lack of behavior. [With negative reinforcement competing] behaviors occur before the target behavior. With positive reinforcement, the competing behaviors occur after the target behavior.
Consider the following example. Suppose a child enters a dark room and turns on the light; is the child negatively reinforced by the removal of darkness or positively reinforced by the presentation of light? A way to determine the answer to this question is to observe if, and when, any interfering behaviors occur. Consider two children entering the dark room, one who has a phobia of the dark and one who does not. The child who has a phobia will likely emit behaviors that compete with finding the light switch such as frantically running around the room, feeling all over the wall, or simply freezing in place. These behaviors will make it harder to locate the light switch to remove the darkness (negative reinforcement). A child who has no such phobia may wait a short time for his or her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but will likely, and calmly, walk to where the light switch is and turn it on. These behaviors will not compete with turning on the light (positive reinforcement). If any competing behaviors do occur (e.g., taking time to read what is posted on the walls), they occur after turning on the light, not before.
When the discrimination between the two is especially important is in the classroom. If we tell a student that the upcoming test is especially difficult and he or she will fail unless a great deal of effort is put into studying (negative reinforcement), the student may exhibit behaviors that compete with doing well on the test (e.g., emotional responses such as fear, “mind going blank,” not showing up for the test). On the other hand, telling a student that he or she will do well on the test if effort is put into studying and making sure the student is prepared (positive reinforcement), such competing behaviors are less likely to occur. If any competing behaviors do occur (e.g., taking time off from studying), they occur after the test, not before or when taking it. In other words, using negative reinforcement (coercion) to motivate students may result in exactly what we do not want—poorer learning and failure.
Increase unwanted behaviors. Another side effect when using negative reinforcement is that improvement in behavior may not occur and may actually worsen (Martin et al., 2010). For example, exposure to coercive control has not been shown to improve school outcomes; such control is associated with higher rates of school dropout (Ekstrom, Goertz, Pollack, & Rock, 1986; Skiba, Peterson, & Williams, 1997; Sprick, Borgmeier, & Nolet, 2002; Wehlage & Rutter, 1986). Also, when teachers use threats and warnings, behavior problems tend to escalate (Nelson, 1996) — students are more likely to become aggressive. “The use of threats and warnings along with a lack of reinforcement of appropriate behaviors may seriously compromise” behavior management in the classroom (Martella et al., 2012, p. 11). Say a teacher warns that if a student does not stop bothering his neighbor, he will go to time out. A result could be the student challenges the teacher in front of the other students. Other problems related to the use of negative reinforcement or coercive control include aggression, a dislike for school, and imitation of behaviors we do not want students to exhibit. Unfortunately, the use of negative reinforcement or coercion is all too common in schools.
Much of the reinforcement used by teachers with students with emotional or behavioral disorders represents negative reinforcement (Gunter & Coutinho, 1997; Sutherland & Singh, 2004). According to several researchers (e.g., Moore Partin, Robertson, Maggin, Oliver, & Wehby, 2010; Sutherland & Singh, 2004; Tillery, Varjas, Meyers, & Collins, 2010), there are high rates of negative interactions between teachers and students who exhibit behavior problems. As stated by Latham (1992a) more than 20 years ago, teachers allow over 90% of all appropriate behavior to go unrecognized and are two to five times more likely to recognize inappropriate behavior than they are to recognize appropriate behavior. This same problem exists today. The ratio of positive to negative interactions ranges from 1 positive to every 2 to 4 negative interactions for teachers who work with students with behavior issues (Rathel, Drasgow, Brown, & Marshall, 2014).
The side effects of such negative interactions are significant for teachers. Teachers who report using harsher responses to student discipline problems and lower rates of positives to negatives also report higher levels of emotional exhaustion (Reinke et al., 2013).
Although the use of such coercive control techniques is common in schools, the situation can be improved in three primary ways. These include the use of appropriate motivational techniques, increase positives to negatives, and inservice training and monitoring.
Use of appropriate motivational techniques.
Teachers should focus on motivating academic performance and classroom behavior through positive reinforcement approaches versus negative reinforcement. This focus also includes using appropriate error correction techniques (i.e., a model of the correct response and student guidance) versus a negatively based error correction (e.g., no, that’s not right, you can do better than that, you’re just guessing).
Increase positives to negatives.
Teachers need to become more positive than negative with students by engaging in positive scanning as opposed to negative scanning that occurs in most classrooms. Teachers should “catch students being good.” A goal to becoming more positive is to achieve a ratio of at least 3 to 4 (Gunter, Coutinho, & Cade, 2002; Rathel et al., 2014; Stichter et al., 2009) or 5 or more positive interactions (Latham, 1992b; Martella et al., 2012; Schneider, 2012; Sugai & Horner, 2002) to every 1 negative interaction. Achieving such ratios improves relationships with students. These positive relationships cannot be understated. In a meta-analysis of the research literature, Marzano and Marzano (2003) concluded that establishing such positive relationships with students can lead to a 31% decrease in classroom behavior problems. Inservice training and monitoring. Ongoing inservice training and monitoring of teacher management methods must occur. Skill atrophy is always possible; it is easy for us to fall back to what we already know. For example, in an investigation by Reinke et al. (2013), even teachers who had received training in a school-wide positive behavior support program achieved an average ratio of only 1.2 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction. More concerning, in their sample of 33 teachers, only one teacher had a ratio of 4 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction.
The need for effective behavior management techniques is critical for all teachers. Those teachers who do not use effective techniques tend to have lower job satisfaction and a shorter professional life. Their students may find it more difficult to learn and/or may exhibit an increase in unwanted behavior. An important step in achieving a more manageable classroom is to reduce the use of negative reinforcement motivational techniques in our interactions with students. A related step is establishing a positive relationship with our students.