Teacher perceptions of positive reinforcement procedures for students with emotional/behavioral disorders
Hendley, Sarah Louise
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Students diagnosed with emotional/behavioral disorders (E/BD) often exhibit inappropriate behaviors which limit them from establishing appropriate social relationships at home, at school, and in the community. These inappropriate classroom behaviors may also present obstacles to academic achievement. In order to teach and promote desired behavior in students diagnosed with E/BD, educators are encouraged to incorporate proactive behavior management interventions in the classroom setting. However, although positive reinforcement procedures have been shown to support desired behavior changes in students many researchers and educators argue against the use of positive reinforcers to motivate and teach students appropriate behaviors. <br><br> The current study examined the use of positive reinforcement procedures in two self-contained social adjustment elementary classrooms for students diagnosed with E/BD. This research investigated how two teachers utilized positive reinforcement procedures with students in two social adjustment elementary classrooms. Specifically, the researcher examined how the teachers felt about positive reinforcement procedures and the primary and secondary reinforcers they incorporated in an established token economy system. The results of this study contributed to research investigating the use of positive reinforcement procedures and token reinforcers as a means to promote positive, long-term behavior changes in students with E/BD. <br><br> This qualitative case study was conducted over an eight week time period. The study was guided by three main research questions: (1) How do teachers of students with E/BD feel about positive reinforcement procedures?; (2) What process do teachers follow when delivering positive reinforcers in a self-contained classroom for students with E/BD?, and (3) How do teachers of students with E/BD deliver token reinforcers to students with E/BD? The researcher utilized participant observation, interviewing, and teacher journals as a means to collect data from the two participating special education teachers. <br><br> An analysis of data led the researcher to identify insightful information related to how each of the participating teachers perceived positive reinforcement procedures. In addition, findings indicated teacher self-awareness of daily use of these methods may be related to the perception or understanding of the elements incorporated in the actual delivery of positive reinforcement procedures. The interpretation of data generated practical implications and recommendations for teachers to consider when establishing a token economy system in classrooms for students with E/BD.