Marzano’s The Art and Science of Teaching says “both positive and negative consequences must be used in appropriate ways … Most techniques can be used to enhance student learning when used appropriately. When used inappropriately, they can be detrimental to learning.”
Luckily, in my classroom, I do not have many behavior management problems. However, I realize that this obviously will be something that I need to be accustomed to facing in future years. There are many ways to deal with students who do not follow classroom rules and procedures. Likewise, knowing when to use positive reinforcement can be an intelligently deployed strategy as well since too much positive reinforcement can create an unhealthy atmosphere in the classroom.
Using Positive Reinforcement
For some, positive reinforcement is a crutch to dealing with poor behavior in the classroom. There are obviously many different styles of teaching and the use of too much positive reinforcement, at times, can lead teachers down a road to disaster. Knowing just when to deploy positive reinforcement and the best ways to do so is vital in maintaining a classroom that provides a positive environment for learning, yet is still bound by specific rules, procedures, and (most importantly) consequences.
One easy way that I give positive reinforcement in the classroom is through verbal and nonverbal acknowledgement. This is referenced by Marzano and is an easy way to deploy positivity quickly and effectively, especially in a physical education classroom. An example of this could be during an outdoor soccer lesson where the teacher is on the sideline watching students play the game. When full participation is an issue, a simple “thumbs up” or smile at a student as they run by can tell them they are executing what was taught in class correctly. Likewise, chatting with a substitute on the sidelines and reviewing with them some skills they have performed well throughout the class is another simple technique. Instead of directly addressing the student’s level of participation, the teacher can talk around the idea but still let them know that because they are involved in the activity, what they are doing is impressive.
Dealing With Those Who Do Not Follow Classroom Rules and Procedures
Just as important, teachers must learn how to properly handle students who tend to disobey the rules and procedures laid out in the classroom. There are infinite ways to do this, but it is important to be consistent and have a plan in mind before this happens rather than trying to “wing it” once a student does break the rules. One rule that I have in class is for students to always bring the school-issued PE uniform to class (changing everyday is compulsory). If a student shows up to class without their PE uniform, then they know to come to me and ask for a Student Pass to go back to their dormitory, where they can collect their uniform and return to class. The catch? It is impossible for the student to get back to class on time due to the distance between the gym and the dorm. So, students know that if they forget their PE uniform in the dorm, they automatically receive a tardy for class that day. This tardy is reflected on the online portal seen by parents and too many can result in behavioral meetings with the Dean of Students, Principal, or other powerful folks within the school.
As Athletic Director, another strategy for dealing with students who do not follow the rules and procedures is to hold everyone accountable through group contingency. I have talked with coaches before about being more strict with rules and procedures. One issue we have is students turning up to morning practices late. A suggestion that I gave coaches was not to punish the individual student who was late, but hold the entire team accountable for his/her actions. Therefore, if the athlete was five minutes late for practice, the coach was to stop practice, acknowledge the tardiness, and immediately discipline the entire group for the one student’s misbehavior. If used consistently, the group quickly learns to make sure that everyone is at practice on time.
Click Here to see an example Discipline Reference Chart (created with Gliffy)
Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/platform-user-content/prod-copy/get_help_resources/activity_resources/module4/The_Art_and_Science_of_Teaching.pdf