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Strategies for Student Success: Positive Reinforcement (Praise) in Academic Settings

Positive reinforcement is a behavior modification strategy in which the presentation of a stimulus immediately following a desired behavior increases the likelihood of that behavior in the future (Bernier, Simpson, & Rose, 2012). Examples include verbal praise (i.e., "Great job raising your hand, Johnny!"), nonverbal praise (thumbs up or smile), social attention (lunch with teacher), and tangible items (iPad time). Positive reinforcement is proactive, functioning to prevent problem behaviors before they occur. Negative reinforcement and punishment (strategies that are substantially less effective in reducing problem behaviors) are often considered reactive. Negative reinforcement is the removal of an unpleasant stimulus, such as extra assignments and homework, in response to a behavior (Bernier et al., 2012). Punishment is the infliction of a negative consequence (reprimand or time-out) in response to a behavior.

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