Archive for the 'Press' Category

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Not my GBG

Over on eHow, contributor Greg Stone noted that B. F. Skinner’s studies in the 1950s helped educators develop ways to use positive reinforcement in classrooms. Apart from the mysterious date reference, so far, so good. Mr. Stone continued, “Positive reinforcement helps reinforce and shape behavior in the classroom. Games teach children proper behavior in a fun and memorable way.”

Mr. Stone’s first example is “The Good Behavior Game.” Yea! But, that’s where it goes a bit awry.

This game can be played both in the classroom and at home. For school, make a chart with all the behaviors you expect from your students. The list can include working quietly, helping other students and finishing homework. Each day, let the students put stickers on the chart for activities they’ve completed. Set up a reward plan based on the number of stickers received for each week.

Now, mayhaps this really would be an effective game. Maybe it would promote appropriate behavior. I’ve not seen studies of the procedure he described. If any readers have, please drop the references in the comments. If not, perhaps some enterprising teacher could run a quick AB comparison or a couple of grad students could collaborate with some teachers and run a tidy multiple baseline test. Y’all could get the ball rolling….

But what Mr. Stone describes surely isn’t the Good Behavior Game that many of us know and admire. I wonder whether he has read about it. I shall write to him and ask. It’s obvious he’s talking about something different than the Good Behavior Game developed by Barrish, Saunders, and Wolf (1969) and then tested by many others.

Here’s the link for Mr. Stone’s “Behavior Modification Games.”
Given my string of recent posts about mistaken uses of behavioral terminology, one might just as well sign my posts with “Grumpy.”

Mayhaps I shouldn’t reward it with a reference? As folks alert to the trends in the techie world know, eHow is among the Internet resources that is dogged by accusations of generating headlines and creating content to suit visitors and boost positions in search rankings (see Claire Miller’s report, “Seeking to Weed Out Drivel, Google Adjusts Search Engine,” in the NY Times).

Barrish, H. H., Saunders, M., & Wolf, M. M. (1969). Good behavior game: Effects of individual contingencies for group consequences on disruptive behavior in a classroom. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2, 119-124. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1969.2-119

Wrong about negative reinforcement

I was happy to note that several students in the first meeting of my introductory class this term knew that negative reinforcement does not mean punishment. Sadly, I happened to come across another example of folks perpetuating that very misinformation.

Over on wiseGEEK, a relatively long-standing Internet source that provides answers to questions, there is an article that addresses the question, “What is behavior management?” Hey, it caught my eye!

Behavior management is a type of behavior therapy that aims to control negative actions by preserving a level of order and direction. This approach to dealing with behavior change is largely practiced by those working in the field of education, specifically those who work with special needs children. Behavior management is employed to better help individuals or groups make positive, healthy behavioral choices.

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Mandeville High teaches good behavior

According to Kenneth Mathews of, Mandeville High School and other schools in the St. Tammany Parish local education agency in Louisiana (US) are using positive behavior intervention and support (PBIS) procedures to teach students appropriate school behaviors. In an article under the headline “Positive Behavior takes hold at Mandeville, other schools,” that appeard 19 November 2010, Mr. Mathews described multiple situations that might seem out of the ordinary but that were actually examples of students benefitting from their own successes as a part of the PBIS programs employed in their schools.

On any given day at Mandeville High School, a ninth-grader might be seen walking confidently to the front of the senior lunch line, cutting in front of the upperclassmen and receiving his lunch first without the slightest complaint from the seniors. The next day, that same ninth-grader might be given a free lunch and the grace to make up a missed homework assignment.

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Precision Teaching conference pending

The 2010 International Precision Teaching Conference will be held in Seattle (WA, US) 4-6 November 2010. Sponsored by the Standard Celeration Society, a group that promotes the use of systematic data collection procedures and objective analysis of instructional practices, the conference promises to have lots of reports that will appeal to readers of Behavior Mod. There will be special rates for students, excellent presentations, lots of chances for interaction with knowledgable folks. Check it out!

Where: Holiday Inn, 211 Dexter Ave. North, Seattle, WA 98109—Hotel Front Desk: 1-206-728-8123 | Hotel Fax: 1-206-728-2779 (Group Reservation Code: Morningside
When: 4-6 November 2010
Registration: See the page pointing to the Paypal form for the registration link!

Fryer’s incentives study

Under the title “Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School?” Amanda Ripley of Time Magazine reported about the outcomes of the large-scale study led by Roland Fryer Jr. that tested whether incentive systems affected students’ achievement. Professor Fryer, who collaborated with many others on this ambitious project (> 270 schools), found that rewards for outcomes (e.g., grades and test scores) were less effective than rewards for what he calls “educational production functions” (activities, such as reading and participating, that led to better learning).

Here is how Ms. Ripley characterizes the outcomes:
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Why animal research matters

In “Like a Rat: Animal research and your child’s behavior” that they penned for Slate, Alan Kazdin and Carlo Rotella explain why it is sensible to infer methods for modifying human behavior from research on rats, pigeons, and monkeys. They quite clearly show how what we know from systematic research on infra-human organisms applies to us, the magnificently complicated, subtle, and rational organisms—at least as we seem to see ourselves.

Psychologists who work with children and families tend to avoid mentioning to parents that the treatments they use are often based on research done on animals. It’s no secret that the widely used technique of the timeout was developed in studies on rats or that important early research leading to treatments for anxiety in humans was done on dogs, cats, and other species—but the subject doesn’t come up a lot in conversation. We will confess to doing our bit to perpetuate this professional shyness about animal research by tiptoeing around it….

If you, dear reader, have ever wondered why research about pressing levers or pecking disks matters for changing human behavior or have had someone ask you a question about the connection between research conducted in a laboratory with animals and learner performance, you should read Professors Kazdin’s and Rotella’s “Like a Rat: Animal research and your child’s behavior.”

By the by, it’s just one of many excellent pieces that they’ve published on Slate.

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