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Utilizing Positive Reinforcement in the Classroom
  • expert-advice
Reinforcement is critical for everyone: students, teachers, and parents. It can provide motivation to strengthen learning and increase student progress. For students who do not yet have intrinsic motivation, a systematic reinforcement plan is an important part of student success. Here are a variety of suggestions and examples to get you started!

Tips For Implementation

1. Vary the reinforcers you use

If one reinforcer is being overly used, a student may become satiated with that item. By varying the items/opportunities used, you can ensure that your items maintain their value.

2. Make reinforcement contingent

Reinforcement should not be given randomly or simply because a student has been working for a while and needs a break. Reinforcement should be contingent on behavior or performance. If a student is allowed access to items/opportunities without contingency, they will not understand the value and the reinforcer will lose its motivational power.

3. Make reinforcement frequent

Initially, reinforcement should be given immediately and often to help students realize that they are capable of receiving reinforcers, promoting feelings of motivation. A plan to fade the frequency of reinforcement can be implemented over time as the student’s appropriate behavior increases.

4. Make reinforcement personal

Sometimes items we feel should be reinforcing are not reinforcing to our students. If the student is old enough, you can ask for their input in developing choices that will motivate them. Reinforcement surveys, allowing free access to items, observing student sensory/self-stimulatory behaviors to identify reinforcers that can provide similar input, and introducing new or novel items are also great ways to discover what your student would enjoy.

5. Label the behavior being reinforced

Be specific and label the appropriate behavior or skill that is being reinforced. The idea behind positive reinforcement is to “catch kids being good." Look for opportunities to point out appropriate behavior or effort.

6. Give students choices

Giving students choices can be effective in developing reinforcement. A choice between two items can be far more reinforcing than offering a known preferred item.

7. Vary the type of reinforcement you use

Reinforcement can come in many forms: specific praise or social recognition, opportunities or privileges, and tangible items. Successful reinforcement programs use a variety of approaches to keep students motivated and engaged.

8. Make reinforcement age-appropriate

Be sure to use reinforcers that are age-appropriate. If a student is not motivated by age-appropriate items, try pairing age-appropriate items with established reinforcers to build interest.