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Is Positive Feedback a Forgotten Classroom Practice? Findings and Implications for At-Risk Students


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Although using higher rates of positive to negative feedback is one best practice often recommended to teachers, particularly when it comes to students experiencing behavioral problems in classroom settings, research on the use of positive feedback in classroom teaching practice has revealed inconsistent results. Research has documented fluctuations in trends of teachers’ use of positive feedback strategies, justifying further inquiry into the current state of classroom practice. This study aimed to examine the current state of classroom feedback practices among teachers of a district who were asked to rate their students' risk levels for developing emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). The researchers found that students identified as high risk and low risk for EBD received teacher feedback at a significantly different rate. Students identified as high risk for EBD received negative feedback at a higher rate than their same-setting peers. Implications for teachers on the use of feedback for students at-risk for EBD are presented.
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Is Positive Feedback a Forgotten Classroom Practice?
Findings and Implications for At-Risk Students
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA
The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA
Although using higher rates of positive to negative feedback is one best practice often recommended to teachers, particularly when it
comes to students experiencing behavioral problems in classroom settings, research on the use of positive feedback in classroom
teaching practice has revealed inconsistent results. Research has documented uctuations in trends of teachersuse of positive
feedback strategies, justifying further inquiry into the current state of classroom practice. This study aimed to examine the current
state of classroom feedback practices among teachers of a district who were asked to rate their studentsrisk levels for developing
emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). The researchers found that students identied as high risk and low risk for EBD received
teacher feedback at a signicantly different rate. Students identied as high risk for EBD received negative feedback at a higher rate
than their same-setting peers. Implications for teachers on the use of feedback for students at-risk for EBD are presented.
Keywords: at-risk, emotional and behavioral disorders, feedback, negative feedback, positive feedback
Students with challenging behavior often have educational
experiences that include ongoing problematic relationships
with peers and adults. The nature of the interaction between
a teacher and a student who is identied as being at risk for
emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) often results in
an over reliance on negative exchanges. As a means to further
examine these atypical experiences and provide recommenda-
tions for increasing positive behavior and interactions in the
classroom, this study examined a specic aspect of teachers
interactions with students who were rated as being at risk for
developing EBD through the analysis of feedback.
There has been considerable research dedicated to analyz-
ing delivery of approval and disapproval in teacherstudent
interactions. Often, studies have suggested that teachers gen-
erally rely on negative feedback strategies to convey disap-
proval of behavior specically to those students who exhibit
problem behaviors (Gunter & Coutinho, 1997; Kerr &
Nelson, 2006; Shores, Gunter, & Jack, 1993; Sutherland,
Lewis-Palmer, Stichter, & Morgan, 2008; Sutherland &
Wehby, 2001). Despite an abundance of research demonstrat-
ing evidence in favor of the use of positive reinforcement
strategies to teach and reinforce desired behaviors as an
instructional practice (Gable, Hendrickson, Young, Shores,
& Stowitschek, 1983; Keller, Brady, & Taylor, 2005; Myers,
Simonsen, & Sugai, 2011; Partin, Robertson, Maggin, Oliver,
& Wehby, 2009; Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland, 2000),
such strategies have still not become the norm in classrooms.
Feedback is a critical mechanism between a teacher and a
student for building understanding, promoting healthy inter-
actions, and fostering welcoming classroom climates (Jen-
nings & Greenberg, 2009). Kerr and Nelson (2006) claimed
feedback usually occurs in response to particular behaviors
and as a result, affects the recurrence of those behaviors.
Feedback can be categorized in the research literature as
being either positive (e.g., teacher delivery of approval or
praise for a desired behavior) or negative (e.g., teacher dis-
plays of disapproval for undesired behaviors). The student-
intrinsic factors that may affect teacher use of feedback along
these two dimensions, positive and negative, are a central
focus of this study.
Feedback can also be information given to a person to
scaffold learning experiences and evaluate performance suc-
cessively toward a goal. As mentioned earlier, categories of
feedback can vary qualitatively, with the two most broadly
used denitions being positive or negative. For the purposes
of this study, positive feedback is dened as verbal, nonver-
bal, or tangible feedback, which includes praise, behavior
points, awards, and/or positive acknowledgement of a
desired or appropriate behavior. For example, if a behavior
or task is demonstrated correctly, the delivery of positive
feedback may communicate the intent that a behavior should
continue. Positive feedback can be used to indicate that an
expected or desired behavior was demonstrated, or can be
used to reinforce successive steps toward a goal. In contrast,
the delivery of negative feedback suggests that a behavior or
task was not performed correctly, thus indicating that a
change of behavior is needed to demonstrate successive
behaviors toward a goal. Negative feedback in this study is
dened as the delivery of a verbal or nonverbal reprimand,
Address correspondences to Katie Sprouls, Division of Educa-
tional Leadership and Innovation, Arizona State University,
500 N. Bullard Avenue, Suite #27, Tempe, AZ 85338, USA.
Preventing School Failure, 0(0), 18, 2015
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1045-988X print / 1940-4387 online
DOI: 10.1080/1045988X.2013.876958
consequence, ultimatum, and/or leave request to indicate the
need to terminate a behavior (Nelson & Roberts, 2000).
Researchers have noted the ameliorative effects of positive
feedback in promoting appropriate classroom behaviors
(e.g., Beaman & Wheldall, 2000; Burnett, 2002; Hattie &
Timperley, 2007; Keller et al., 2005; Sutherland et al., 2000).
Accordingly, teachers have been encouraged to use strategies
which encourage and reinforce appropriate classroom behav-
ior and which may decrease problem behavior by focusing on
building these alternative, classroom-appropriate behaviors.
Positive feedback that specically identies the desired
behavior has been suggested to be exceptionally effective in
promoting appropriate behavior among school-age students
(Chalk & Bizo, 2004). Review of the literature on feedback
found this action to be among the strongest inuences on stu-
dent achievement, along with direct instruction, reciprocal
teaching, and activating prior knowledge, with the most
effective forms of feedback identied as those that were clear,
goal-directed, and accompanied by additional reinforcement
(Chalk & Bizo, 2004; Hattie & Timperley, 2007; Sutherland,
Research has suggested that teachers can initiate positive
exchanges by clearly communicating high expectations for
student success to all students, and providing frequent posi-
tive feedback to students, which allows them to recognize
their behavioral and academic success (George, Kincaid, &
Pollard-Sage, 2009; Sprick, Garrison, & Howard, 2002). Spe-
cically, researchers recommend teachers make every effort
to have their number of positive interactions exceed the num-
ber of negative interactions by a ratio of at least three to one
(Sprick, 1981, 2006). Despite the appeal of this recommenda-
tion, positive interactions with teachers are not as frequent
among students who demonstrate long-standing problematic
behaviors in the classroom (Henricsson & Rydell, 2004) and
negative studentteacher interactions have a strong associa-
tion with long-term academic and behavioral problems
(Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Pianta,
Hamre, & Allen, 2012).
Beaman and Wheldall (2000) analyzed trends of teachers
rates of delivering approval and disapproval feedback across
studies. These authors discussed the possibility of an increas-
ing trend in rates of teachersuse of approval over disap-
proval in the classroom from the mid-1980s to 2000. In their
review, they also noted that the approval statements were
delivered more frequently for academic behaviors than for
social behaviors (Beaman & Wheldall, 2000). These ndings
pinpoint a shortfall in the utility of positive feedback strate-
gies to increase desired behaviors and reduce problem behav-
ior. Thus, increasing teacher rates of positive feedback
statements to students who experience behavioral difculties
in the classroom may play a vital role in increasing prosocial
behavior and decreasing rates of school failure for those
Feedback and Students With EBD
The use of positive feedback is a validated universal strategy
for working with students, but more specically, its use has
been deemed particularly effective for students who are sus-
pected to have or are identied as having EBD. Sutherland
and colleagues (2000) examined the effects of increasing posi-
tive feedback within a classroom dedicated to educating stu-
dents with EBD. They used teacher feedback as an
intervention and discovered that increases in on-task behav-
ior for the target student and the class as a whole were con-
current with increases in rates of teachersuse of positive
feedback. Research on the use of feedback practices continu-
ally reveals that students with EBD learn to behave in
socially appropriate ways when effective feedback practices
are in place (Lingo, Jolivette, & Barton-Arwood, 2009).
Unfortunately, regardless of data that suggest positive
feedback strategies are tied to increases in desired classroom
behavior for students with or at risk for developing EBD, a
long history of studies suggests teachers may tend to react
selectively, or more reactively, toward students who demon-
strate challenging behaviors. Across studies, students who
exhibit problem behavior consistently receive disproportion-
ate amounts of disapproval-focused feedback than do their
peers, and many of the ndings suggest teacher rates of posi-
tive feedback strategies for students with behavioral difcul-
ties were consistently low and, in some cases, nonexistent
(Kerr & Nelson, 2006; Shores et al., 1993; Sutherland et al.,
2008; Sutherland & Wehby, 2001; Wehby, Symons, Canale,
& Go, 1998).
This study originated in the Southwestern United States,
in response to a school district request for more information
about its schoolsuse of Positive Behavior Intervention and
Support (PBIS) practices among classroom teachers. The dis-
trict administrator, who was part of the districts PBIS team,
asked one of the researchers to examine the actual teacher
use of positive feedback in eight elementary schools. The dis-
trict was in the process of training school-level faculty and
staff to implement classroom-level positive behavioral inter-
ventions and supports and was hearing from teachers that
they were currently already using positive feedback strategies
within recommended parameters. All eight building-level
administrators indicated interest in actual observations of the
use of this strategy. More specically, these administrators
were interested in measuring the extent of teachersuse of
positive and negative feedback between typically developing
students and those who were identied as being at risk for
developing EBD. In addition to examining classroom teach-
ersuse of positive and negative feedback toward students
who are identied as high-risk and low-risk for EBD, this
study also explored how closely current classroom teaching
practices reected the recommended ratio of three instances
of positive feedback to one instance of negative feedback
(Sprick, 1981, 2006).
The study was conducted in 56 classrooms among eight sub-
urban public K-5 elementary schools in a school district out-
side a large southwestern city. The average population of the
2Sprouls, Mathur, and Upreti
participating schools was 786 students. The student-teacher
ratio in classrooms was 21:1. Two schools in the sample qual-
ied as Title I status for federal funds. Schools varied in their
rates of free and reduced-price lunch (16% to 61%), with an
average of 35% of the population across the schools. The dis-
tricts ethnic student demographics were as follows: White,
77.1%; Hispanic, 24.9%; Black, 3.8%; Native American, .9%;
and other, 18.0%.
The English language learner population of the district
was 6.9% with Spanish as the primary home language for the
majority of English language learner students. There were
8.6% of students identied as having special needs. The sus-
pension rate of the participating schools was an average of
.04 suspensions per academic day, which was not dissimilar
to the average of the district at large. Demographics of the
district are reported in Table 1.
We recruited 56 teachers from the participating schools on
the basis of the following criteria: (a) teacher willingness to
provide class-wide behavioral screening data to systemati-
cally screen for behavioral and academic needs and (b) the
presence of two or more students in their classroom who
scored in the high- and low-risk range for EBD on the screen-
ing instrument. The majority of teachers were White women,
who earned a bachelors degree and held an elementary edu-
cation licensure. Demographics of the participating teachers
are reported in Table 2.
The Student Risk Screening Scale (SRSS; Drummond, 1994)
was the district-approved screening tool used to identify
high- and low-risk students in each teachers classroom.
Information derived from this tool was used by the district to
initiate the Behavior Support Process for students identied
as being at high risk for developing EBD. For this study, one
student from the high-risk pool and one student from the
low-risk pool were randomly selected as target students from
each participating teachers classroom, although teachers
were not informed about which student was chosen from
among the three they had nominated for each risk category.
Selection of one high-risk student and one low-risk student
from each classroom resulted in 112 total student participants
for the study. Demographics of the participating students are
reported in Table 3.
Student Risk Screening Scale
Each participating teacher provided their ratings on the
SRSS, a brief screening instrument designed to nd children
who are at risk for developing antisocial behaviors (Drum-
mond, 1994). The SRSS uses a 4-point Likert-type scale that
requires the classroom teacher to rate behaviors of each
Table 1. Characteristics of Participating Schools
Free and reduced-price
lunch eligible
(% of population)
Suspension and
(% of population)
Special education
(% of population)
Emotional behavioral
disorders rates (% of
special education
teacher ratio
Title 1
1 908 34.8 .04 7.8 .07 21.3 No
2 670 32.9 .02 8.6 .02 19.4 No
3 639 36.4 .00 10.2 .02 24.2 No
4 824 61.2 .05 10.9 .10 21.4 Yes
5 638 16.9 .04 6.4 .04 22.4 No
6 876 39.1 .09 7.9 .01 20.7 No
7 749 39.6 .07 10.6 .03 19.3 Yes
8 987 21.7 .01 6.5 .06 22.1 No
Table 2. Demographic Characteristics of Participating Teachers
Characteristics nPercentage of sample
Grade assigned
K 6 10.7
1 6 10.7
2 13 23.2
3 8 14.2
4 10 17.8
5 13 23.2
Teaching license type
Early childhood 5 8.9
Elementary education 51 91.1
Highest level of education
Bachelors degree 25 44.6
BachelorsC7 12.5
Masters degree 19 33.9
MastersC5 8.9
White 50 89.2
Black 1 1.7
Hispanic 3 5.4
Native American 2 3.5
Male 3 5.4
Female 53 94.6
Positive Feedback 3
student. Teachers assign a score (03) to each student in the
class relative to certain behavioral criteria. Total scores on
the SRSS range from 0 to 21. Scores of 9 to 21 indicate high
risk, 4 to 8 moderate risk, and 0 to 3 low risk. Validity and
reliability studies have yielded strong correlations (rD.79),
with the Aggressive Behavior subscale of the Child Behavior
Checklist (Achenbach, 1991) and the SRSS, along with other
commonly used and psychometrically sound instruments
(Lane, Parks, Robertson, Kalberg, & Carter, 2007).
Feedback Coding System
Teacher feedback was measured using an adapted version of
a student and teacher observation system created by Nelson
and Roberts (2000). The system was originally designed to
record ongoing reciprocal behaviors between a teacher and a
student in classroom settings. Teacher behavior codes were
solely selected and adapted to include a series of ve descrip-
tors of teachersactions, which were coded as positive or neg-
ative feedback during data collection. The descriptors
selected for data collection were reprimands,ultimatums,con-
sequences,leave requests, and approvals. Nelson and Roberts
(2000) provided operational denitions of the seven codes.
Reprimands were coded when the teacher asked the target
student to stop a problem behavior (e.g., Stop hittingor
Stop teasing). Ultimatums were coded when the teacher
provided the target student a verbal choice to stop a problem
behavior or the student would encounter a response cost
(e.g., If you dont stop, then I will...or I need you to be
quiet or...). Consequences were coded when the teacher
gave the target student a designated consequence for a prob-
lem behavior (e.g., loss of a privilege or points). A leave
request was coded when the teacher asked the target student
to leave the classroom due to problem behavior (e.g., requests
to go to the principalsofce or to the hall outside the class-
room). Approval was coded when the teacher used positive
actions to acknowledge the target students appropriate
behavior or reacted in a positive manner toward the target
students appropriate behavior (e.g., providing points for a
positive behavior program or tangible response such as a
sticker or points, social response such as a smile, Thank
you,”“I like your behavior when you...or Good job).
The coding system comprised of daily data collection
sheets with the positive and negative feedback descriptors on
rows and columns. Observers were trained in the denitions
and documentation of each descriptor. The data collection
sheets were used during every 20-min observation session.
The designated codes were placed into one of the two groups:
positive feedback toward target students and negative feed-
back toward target students. Approvals for positive actions
were counted as positive feedback; reprimands, ultimatums,
consequences, ad leave requests were added toward negative
feedback. Vibrating timers were used to alert the observers of
the end of each observation data collection session.
Description of Observers and Observer Training
Three graduate students, two school psychologists, and one
researcher with a doctoral degree in special education col-
lected data for the study. These six individuals constituted the
observer/research team. The observers received a 10-hr train-
ing on the modied version of the observational coding sys-
tem originally constructed by Nelson and Roberts (2000)
before data collection to establish interobserver reliability.
Observers worked on denitions and examples of positive
and negative feedback. Videotapes of actual and simulated
classroom situations, group discussions to clarify operational
denitions, and successful completion of mastery quizzes
were the main components of the training sessions. Observers
were required to demonstrate mastery of objectives by meet-
ing the criteria of 90% accuracy on three precoded instruc-
tional videos of classrooms. All observers reached the
mastery criterion after receiving training.
Interobserver Agreement
During the data collection phases, interobserver agreement
was calculated for 25% of all observation sessions. Agree-
ment for accurate observations of positive and negative feed-
back occurrences was calculated by taking the smaller
number of occurrences of each code and divided by the larger
number of occurrences of that code obtained by both observ-
ers then multiplied by 100. The principal researcher served as
an independent observer across all the observers and con-
ducted interrated reliability for 25% of the sessions. The inter-
observer agreement ranged from 90% to 100%, with an
average of 96%.
Table 3. Demographic Characteristics of Target Students (ND112)
Low risk (nD56) High risk (nD56)
Characteristic nPercentage of low-risk sample nPercentage of high-risk sample
White 33 58.9 33 58.9
Black 3 5.3 10 17.8
Hispanic 15 26.7 12 21.4
Other 5 8.9 1 1.8
Male 46 82.1 48 85.7
Female 10 17.8 8 14.3
4Sprouls, Mathur, and Upreti
Data Collection
Data were collected in two phases: In Phase 1, researchers
collected data on teachersnormative levels of feedback
toward all students in their general education classrooms;
and during Phase 2, researchers focused on collecting data on
teacherspositive and negative feedback toward the target
high- and low-risk students. Each participating teachers
classroom was observed 12 times during Fall 2011. The dura-
tion of each observation session lasted 20 min.
During Phase 1, every teacher was observed twice for
20 min per session. Each teachers normative use of positive
and negative feedback toward all students in the classroom
was coded. A teachers normative rate of feedback was
dened as the rate of teacher feedback in the general educa-
tion classroom regardless of the risk level of the student. The
data obtained during this phase provided an average of each
teachers use of positive and negative feedback toward any
student in the general education classroom regardless of stu-
dent risk level. Data from this phase were used to generate a
baseline level of teachersnormative, rather than targeted,
use of positive and negative feedback.
Phase 2 consisted of ten 20 minute observation sessions
during which delivery of positive and negative feedback
toward identied high- and low-risk students was noted.
Each teacher was observed for 200 min during this phase.
The data collectors were instructed to vary the days and times
of their observations to contribute to a more reliable estimate
of the overall feedback delivery. The observers revisited class-
rooms on another day if either target student was absent to
meet the required observations.
Baseline Feedback Data
Phase 1 data collection was conducted before the identica-
tion of target high- and low-risk students. During the two 20-
min observation sessions, baseline data were collected for
each participating teacher on their normative and typical use
of feedback with their classroom students. The results of the
baseline data collection revealed that for all participating
teachers, the average ratio of positive to negative feedback
was 1:1, one positive to one negative, across the students in
their classrooms.
Difference Between Feedback for High- and Low-Risk
Observers collected data for 10 observation sessions during
Phase 2, counting the occurrences of positive and negative
feedback delivered by the teacher directly toward each target
high- and low-risk student during the observation sessions
(see Table 4). Upon examination, data patterns revealed a
signicantly higher use of negative rather than positive feed-
back toward the high-risk students, which yielded an average
of two negative feedback to one positive feedback occurrence.
No signicant differences between the high- and low-risk
groups were observed with regard to positive feedback.
Ttest ndings exposed signicant differences in teachers
use of negative feedback between the target populations of
high- and low-risk students (p<.001). In terms of the deliv-
ery of negative feedback, the high-risk group received, on
average, eight negative feedback occurrences to four positive
occurrences during an observation session. A much more
restricted range was observed among teachersuse of positive
to negative feedback among the low-risk student group; for
every three positive feedback occurrences, there was one
instance of negative feedback. When compared with results
from Phase 1 data, which counted teacher feedback delivery
among the general student population, however, the low-risk
students received a signicantly higher ratio of positive feed-
back to negative feedback (3:1) than did the general student
Overall, among all the students in the study, those in the
high-risk group received signicantly more negative feedback
than positive feedback. Although the high-risk students over-
all also received more positive feedback (MD4.78) than did
the low-risk students (MD3.73), the average occurrence of
negative feedback for the high-risk group was higher (MD
8.71) than the baseline/normative rate (MD6.91) and signif-
icantly higher than the negative feedback rate for the low-risk
group (MD1.25), suggesting that although teachers may
have had more actual interactions with high-risk students,
the majority of these were negative.
Differential treatment of students at risk for EBD in educa-
tional settings has been related to a host of poor outcomes,
both academic and social. Students with EBD are more likely
to be placed in restrictive settings, experience a greater reoc-
currence of academic and social failure, and are more likely
to drop out of school (Center for Effective Collaboration and
Practice, 2001) than are students identied with any other
category of disability. It is important to examine the educa-
tional experience for these students to reduce factors that con-
tribute to these atypical experiences, and which could
potentially exacerbate existing problem behaviors in the
classroom. Thus, the present study investigated disparities in
teachersuse of positive and negative feedback among high-
and low-risk groups of students.
Table 4. Mean Occurrence of Positive and Negative Feedback,
by Risk Level and Reported Signicance Level
Low risk (nD56) High risk (nD56)
Positive feedback 3.73 4.20 4.78 5.63 .264
Negative feedback 1.25 1.56 8.71 8.40 .000*
Note. Mean represents average occurrence of feedback observed across ten
20-min observation sessions.
Positive Feedback 5
These ndings highlight the need for a critical analysis of
how well various behavior modication practices are able to
be implemented in the classroom. Despite the fact that posi-
tive feedback has been recommended as a very useful strategy
for all students, and even more specically with students at
risk for EBD (Fedor, Davis, Maslyn, & Mathison, 2001;
Hattie & Timperely, 2007; Sutherland et al., 2000), the pres-
ent study results reveal that teachers in this district were not
routinely relying on positive feedback in their classrooms to
recognize appropriate student academic and social behaviors.
The data reveal a pronounced overreliance on negative strate-
gies toward students identied as at-risk for EBD.
Educational theorists such as Sprick have recommended
that teachers strive for at least a 3:1 ratio in their use of posi-
tive to negative feedback. Students who receive positive feed-
back are more likely to be motivated and engaged, and to
experience academic success (Illies & Judge, 2005; Pintrich &
Schunk, 2002). This studysndings indicate that participat-
ing teachersnormative rate of positive feedback toward all
students is much lower in practice than the rate recommended
by the literature (Sprick, 1981, 2006; Sprick et al., 2002).
More importantly, there is a drastic disparity in the ratios of
positive to negative feedback for students in the at-risk popu-
lation. It is interesting that only the students in the low-risk
group received positive teacher feedback at the recommended
rate of 3:1 (Sprick, 1981, 2006). Feedback comparisons by
risk groups, baseline rates of feedback, and rates recom-
mended by the literature are presented in Figure 1. Because
these ndings are limited to the participating schools in this
study, it is important that more studies are conducted to
examine the actual rates of positive feedback delivered in
Prolonged overexposure to negative feedback from teach-
ers functions as part of a detrimental cycle that can result in
habitual negative interactions and relationships for students
at risk of developing EBD. Moreover, students who are sus-
pected to be at risk for EBD often have under-recognized bar-
riers embedded in their educational experience; more disputes
with peers and teachers, less supportive classrooms, and an
absence of positive feedback can all contribute to poor adap-
tive trajectories (Hamre & Pianta, 2001). The lasting effect of
these experiences on students has been related to lower
academic scores, decits in social skills, and high risk of
school failure and later adjustment problems (Kaufmann &
Landrum, 2009).
These ndings are consistent with the studies that have
suggested that teachers tend to have negative reactions
toward students demonstrating negative behaviors (Kerr &
Nelson, 2006; Shores et al., 1993; Sutherland et al., 2008;
Sutherland & Wehby, 2001), which could cause schools to
become an aversive environment for students already at high
risk for educational failure (McEvoy & Welker, 2000).
Although the high-risk group did receive more positive feed-
back than expected, on the basis of the research literature,
the occurrences of positive feedback were considerably lower
than those of negative feedback. Thus, it could be speculated
that the effects of the positive feedback, although more ele-
vated than that of their low-risk counterparts, might be nulli-
ed by the relatively high rates of negative feedback received.
Although the ndings were viewed relevant by the district in
realigning their efforts for establishing positive behavior sup-
ports, several limitations were noted within the study.
The student risk population was generated from a single
behavior screening measure (SRSS; Drummond, 1994).
Teacher reports are inevitably subject to rater bias, halo
effects, practice effects, and other problems associated with
rating scales (Abikoff, Courtney, Pelham, & Koplewica,
1993). Future research using multiple or comprehensive
measures of EBD risk might allay problems resulting from
the use of a single instrument.
The ability to generalize results is the cornerstone of every
research study. Given that this study used a convenience sam-
ple of teachers among schools already in the process of imple-
menting a schoolwide PBIS model, results remain limited in
their ability to generalize to trends of positive and negative
feedback among all teachers in all schools. Replication stud-
ies would benet the research and practice communities by
highlighting more trends in feedback and identify exemplary
positive teaching practices.
Implications for Practice
The results of this study may help to highlight a true discon-
nect between theory and practice in one Southwestern U.S.
school district, and emphasize the critical need for continuous
evaluation methods that educators can use to assess their own
classroom practices. Practitioners should be made aware of
how much positive feedback is used, and how often it is used
for select student populations; they should know whether
positive feedback is missing from their own repertoire of
In a follow-up session, researchers shared these ndings
with the participating schools and teachers and raised their
awareness about the need for positive feedback for high-risk
students. In the follow up sessions, the primary researcher
noted an increase in teacher awareness about positive feed-
back. Teachers in their conversations and anecdotal reports
Fig. 1. Differences between the rate of feedback recommended
by the literature and the averages of the observed rates of
6Sprouls, Mathur, and Upreti
indicated that awareness about feedback data helped them
understand the importance of reducing their reliance on nega-
tive feedback. The district administrator has used this infor-
mation to develop professional development opportunities
for establishing positive behavior supports in his district. In
more recent discussions with one of the principals of the par-
ticipating schools, the researchers found that teachers of this
school have been encouraged to use video samples to monitor
their own use of positive feedback with all students. Peer
coaching has also been identied as one of the strategies to
facilitate more positive use of feedback. The administrator
reported that greater awareness has contributed to greater
action on the part of teachers to improve their classroom
practice for all students and more importantly for those who
are at high risk of developing EBD.
Although practitioners may understand that positive feed-
back that identies the desired behavior has been shown to
be exceptionally effective in promoting appropriate behavior
(Chalk & Bizo, 2004), this study revealed that in practice,
some teachers may still tend to rely on the use of negative
feedback for all students in general, and for those students
who are identied to be at risk for developing EBD in partic-
ular. Teachers of students in the high-risk group not only
failed to deliver adequate ratios of positive to negative feed-
back when compared with feedback delivered to their low-
risk classmates, but teachers also delivered more negative
feedback to these students than they delivered to the entire
classroom population of students, and in both comparisons,
negative feedback exceeded literature-recommended rates.
Results of this study emphasize the importance of positive
feedback strategies to promote prosocial and appropriate
behaviors for the purposes of reducing educational failure,
and improving the outcomes for students who are already on
a trajectory to school failure (Center for Effective Collabora-
tion and Practice, 2001).
Author Notes
Katie Sprouls is the chief executive ofcer of Eleutheria Spe-
cial Education Services and PBIS Arizona. Her interests are
schoolwide positive behavior interventions and supports and
implementation of positive strategies for behavior
Sarup R. Mathur is an associate professor in the Division of
Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State
University. Her current research interests include emotional
and behavioral disorders, at-risk students, juvenile delin-
quency, and teacher education.
Gita Upreti is an assistant professor of special education at
The University of Texas at El Paso. Her interests are teacher
preparation, schoolwide positive behavior interventions and
supports and data-based decision making.
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8Sprouls, Mathur, and Upreti
... Eight studies reported the total number of students; the average was 75 students per study. Eight studies reported participant disability and risk information; three included only participants with or at risk for disabilities (Bani, 2011;Owens et al., 2018;Sprouls et al., 2015), and five studies reported a mix of participants (i.e., typically achieving, students with, or at-risk for a disability). ...
... However, across these three studies, a trend emerged related to the frequency of praise. The authors reported teachers using greater rates of praise with students who were at-risk for disabilities compared to typically achieving peers (Downs et al., 2019;Sprouls et al., 2015) as well as for students who received instruction in special education settings compared to general education settings (Floress, Beschta, et al., 2017). It is valuable to note the significant impact behavior-specific praise can have on students. ...
... As reported inTable 2, three studies reported the mean frequency of general praise that ranged between 3.73 and 84 praises per teacher, observation, lesson, or other unit of measure. For example,Sprouls et al. (2015) reported an average of 3.73 general praises per 10-20 min observations, whereas Yildiz and Pinar(2014)reported an average of 84 praises per teacher. ...
Previous research documents the positive impacts that teacher praise can have on students' behavior in the classroom; positive praise is a reinforcer that improves and maintains appropriate classroom behavior. Identifying current trends in natural rates of praise—praise that occurs in the absence of specific intervention or training—may help teachers become mindful of their own practices. The purpose of this systematic review was to investigate characteristics of published observational studies of teacher‐delivered praise and identify the rate at which teachers delivered praise. We conducted a systematic search of the literature, and included studies published after 2004; 14 studies met our inclusion criteria. The results of this study illustrate that researchers use several different measures to observe and report the frequency of teacher praise. Teachers also delivered general praise (range = 0.04 per min to 67.9 per hour) and behavior‐specific praise (range = 5.9–23.14 per hour) at widely variable rates. Teachers commonly used more general praise compared with behavior‐specific praise. Across studies, we also found inconsistent rates of teacher praise versus reprimands, with some studies reporting higher rates of praise while other studies reported higher rates of reprimands. We discuss implications for teachers and provide recommendations for future research.
... Opettajan tehtävä on auttaa heitä liittämään työskentelyprosessi odotettuihin tuloksiin (esim. Sprouls, Mathur & Upreti 2015). ...
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Atjonen, P., Oinas, S., & Ahtiainen, R. (2021). Palaute osana formatiivista arviointiprosessia: Vuorovaikutusta vai monologia? Kasvatus, 52(1), 37-50. Tässä tutkimuksessa tarkasteltiin perusopetuksen oppilaiden käsityksiä saamastaan palautteesta. Palaute käsitteellistettiin oppilaan ja opettajan vuorovaikutteiseksi prosessiksi, joka on vaikuttava osa formatiivista arviointia oppimisprosessien tukemisessa. Palaute jäsennettiin sen strategioiden, sisältöjen ja kohteiden avulla. Empiirisinä aineistoina olivat viides- ja kuudesluokkalaisten (N = 62) ryhmähaastattelut ja kuudesluokkalaisten (N = 1876) vastaukset avoimiin kysymyksiin. Tulosten mukaan palaute kohdistui usein itsesäätelyyn. Lisäksi palaute kohdistui varsin paljon oppilaaseen itseensä, vaikka minäpalautteen ei ole tutkitusti todettu edistävän oppimisprosesseja. Palaute oli yhteydessä oppimista koskevaan innostukseen ja siihen, miten tärkeäksi arviointi koettiin. Palautteen vuorovaikutteisuus ei etenkään digitaalisesti välitettynä toteutunut, vaan oppilas jäi palautteen passiiviseksi vastaanottajaksi. Tutkimus antaa tärkeää tietoa perusopetuksen ajankohtaiseen kansalliseen arvioinnin kehittämistyöhön.
... By contrast, when teachers gave public feedback on individual social behavior, they nearly always targeted incorrect social behavior, which is consistent with other study findings (Beaman & Wheldall, 2000;Sprouls, Mathur, & Upreti, 2015). In addition, this feedback was generally directed towards one fifth of the pupils in the classrooms. ...
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Teacher feedback behavior is a key determinant of the social referencing processes that influence the social acceptance of pupils. The present longitudinal study explores how teacher feedback on academic performance and social behavior is related to social acceptance during classroom activities and recess in the natural setting of inclusive classrooms. Data come from a study with 32 teachers and their 546 first to third grade pupils in Switzerland. Teacher feedback behavior was videotaped and peer nominations and ratings were used to assess social acceptance. Multilevel regression analyses showed that feedback on incorrect social behavior was negatively correlated with feedback on correct academic performance. Teacher feedback on incorrect social behavior and on correct and incorrect academic performance predicted how pupils were accepted by their peers during classroom activities. However, teacher feedback did not affect social acceptance during recess. The effect of teacher feedback behavior on social acceptance appears to depend on context. Social acceptance during classroom activities is influenced by teacher feedback whereas social acceptance at recess is not.
... Teachers in most schools experience challenges when they attempt to meet the needs of all students in situations where they must expend their energy inadvertently to a particular student who is acting out. In situations where teachers are confronted with students who demonstrate behavioral problems, they are more likely to respond by providing negative feedbacks (see Sprouls, Mathur, & Upreti, 2015). However, among the students who receive treatment at this facility, most have trauma histories and emotional/behavioral disturbances. ...
The purpose of the present study was to explore student and teachers’ perceptions of the academic environment in an urban residential treatment center school setting, which serves female students with myriad behavioral, social, emotional, and/or academic challenges, half of which have IEPs and the remainder of which are significantly at-risk and also receive individual learning plans. Using focus group interview methods provided important information from both students (n = 58) and teachers (n = 27) regarding specific areas in need of improvement. The research team identified four primary themes throughout the student data and four in the teacher data. Themes that emerged throughout the student data included need for least-intrusive behavioral management, preventative strategies for behavior, differentiated instruction, and recognition. Teacher data resulted in themes of lesson plan difficulties, academic versus social-emotional well-being, balancing academic and behavioral needs, and additional assistance within the classroom. Both students and teachers voiced a number of significant concerns and provided useful ideas that can enhance the preparation and supports for teachers in training and practice, most immediately the information informed teachers in this specific context. Implications for research and broader practice are also discussed.
... Positive feedback is used to indicate that an expected or desired behavior was demonstrated, or to reinforce successive steps toward a goal. Negative feedback indicates that a behavior or task was not performed correctly, thus indicating that a change of behavior is needed [4]. It has been found generally that those who receive positive feedback achieve greater success in subsequent performance while those who receive negative feedback perform worse [5]. ...
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Background: Feedback is an essential element in performance training. However, little effort has been made to measure the effects of positive and negative feedback on the ability of self-rated assessment, affective responses, and motivation to learn in healthcare education. Methods: This study was a quasi-experimental posttest design to examine the effects of an examiner's positive and negative verbal feedback on the accuracy of self-assessment, emotional responses, and self-efficacy. Second-year nursing students were recruited in a university in South Korea. A total of 110 participants were assigned randomly to a positive feedback (PF) group (n = 58) and a negative feedback (NF) group (n = 52). All participants completed the performance measure and then received a positive or negative feedback from an evaluator. After delivery of feedback, they assessed their own performance using the same sheet as the evaluator's and completed the survey for emotional response and self-efficacy. Chi-squared tests, Fisher's exact tests, independent sample Student's t tests, and Mann-Whitney nonparametric U tests, and Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) were used to compare the baseline measurements of the demographic characteristics and the dependent variables between the PF and NF groups. Results: The NF group demonstrated a more accurate self-rated assessment than the PF group (p < 0.001). While self-efficacy (p < 0.001) and positive emotions (p < 0.001) were significantly stronger in the PF group than in the NF group, negative emotions were significantly stronger in the NF group than in the PF group (p = 0.001). Conclusions: Evaluator's verbal feedback exerts a significant influence on the accuracy of self-assessment as well as emotions and self-efficacy. Instructors should pay attention to providing feedback to students, taking into account the impact of positive or negative feedback.
آموزش مبتنی بر نتیجه و شاگردمحور دو رویکرد آموزشی است که شاگردان را در مرکز روند یادگیری قرار میدهد. در آموزش مبتنی بر نتیجه، نتایج یادگیری از قبل تعریف و مشخص شده و همه فعالیت‌های یادگیری و ارزیابی در روشنایی آن‌ها و بخاطر دستیابی به آن‌ها روی دست گرفته می‌شوند. در رویکرد شاگردمحور، صلاحیت میان استاد و شاگرد تقسیم شده و محتوا نقش دوگانه را بازی می‌کند. برعلاوه، نقش استادان و شاگردان تغییر کرده و روندهای ارزیابی و اهداف آن‌ها بر یادگیری شاگردان تمرکز می‌کنند. استادان به‌عنوان تسهیل‌گران، نهایت تلاش خویش را می‌کنند تا یادگیری شاگردان را به حد اکثر رسانده و آن‌ها را برای زندگی بعد از فراغت آماده کنند.
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This study investigated effects of an audiotape self evaluation intervention on the instructional behavior of three student teacher interns in classrooms for students with various developmental disabilities. A multiple baseline design was used to evaluate of the intervention. Results indicated a positive effect on all interns ' use of specific social praise. Generalization probes indicated two of three interns increased their use of specific social praise in non-targeted content areas. Maintenance probes indicated all interns' average use of specific social praise was well above baseline. Implications for teacher educators and classroom teachers of students with developmental disabilities are discussed.
Researchers have long sought to identify teaching acts that have a predictable effect on learner performance. The contingent use of teacher praise is well documented for its positive influence on the social behavior of handicapped youngsters. However, results of the present study indicate that teachers of the mentally retarded, multihandicapped and learning disabled and/or behavior disordered make limited use of praise over criticism in managing classroom behavior. Even though the technology exists for training selected teacher competencies, e.g., use of contingent praise, it would appear that problems remain in connection with maintaining these skills in applied settings.
The purpose of this investigation was to explore the Patterson and Reid (1970) reciprocal/coercive interaction hypothesis as related to the classroom social interactions between teachers and students identified with severe behavior disorders. Additionally, four classroom behavior management strategies are identified as potential setting events for either coercive or positive reciprocal interactions between teachers and students. The literature reviewed indicates that teachers are more likely to attend to student inappropriate behavior (an indicator of coercive interactions) than they are to use positive verbal attention for appropriate behavior (an indicator of positive reciprocal interactions). From this perspective, the authors speculate that the management strategies of posting classroom rules, classroom arrangement, teacher movement in the classroom, and external reinforcement systems (e.g., token economies) may more likely be used as setting events to enhance the effects of teacher coercion rather than potential setting events to enhance positive reciprocal interactions. Recommendations are made for research concerning this hypothesis and for teachers' use of these strategies as setting events for positive reciprocal interactions.
SynonymsASEBA; CBCLDescriptionThe Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA) comprises a family of forms for rating behavioral/emotional problems and adaptive characteristics. For ages 1½ to 90+ years, developmentally appropriate forms are designed to be completed by collaterals who know the person who is being assessed. These forms include versions of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), completed by parent figures for 1½- to 5-year-olds and for 6- to 18-year-olds; the Caregiver-Teacher Report Form (C-TRF) for ages 1½–5, completed by daycare providers and preschool teachers; the Teacher’s Report Form (TRF) for ages 6–18, completed by teachers and other school personnel; the Adult Behavior Checklist (ABCL) for ages 18–59, completed by spouses, partners, family members, friends, therapists, and other collaterals; and the Older Adult Behavior Checklist (OABCL) for ages 60 and older, completed by caregivers as well as by collaterals.The ASEBA also includes ...
Classrooms are complex social systems, and student-teacher relationships and interactions are also complex, multicomponent systems. We posit that the nature and quality of relationship interactions between teachers and students are fundamental to understanding student engagement, can be assessed through standardized observation methods, and can be changed by providing teachers knowledge about developmental processes relevant for classroom interactions and personalized feedback/support about their interactive behaviors and cues. When these supports are provided to teachers’ interactions, student engagement increases. In this chapter, we focus on the theoretical and empirical links between interactions and engagement and present an approach to intervention designed to increase the quality of such interactions and, in turn, increase student engagement and, ultimately, learning and development. Recognizing general principles of development in complex systems, a theory of the classroom as a setting for development, and a theory of change specific to this social setting are the ultimate goals of this work. Engagement, in this context, is both an outcome in its own right and a mediator of impacts that teachers have on student outcomes through their interactions with children and youth. In light of this discussion, we offer suggestions or directions for further research in this area.
For the introductory, characteristics course in Behavior Disorders. This market-leading text provides a comprehensive, up-to-date, research- based introduction to emotional and behavioral disorders. It describes all major types of disorders across the age range of preschooler through adolescent and is organized around five basic concepts: the nature of disorders and the conceptual approaches to them; assessment; major casual factors; facets of disordered emotion and behavior; and a personal statement about teaching students with these disorders. It effectively links research in child development, psychology, and special education directly to the work of the classroom teacher.
For introductory courses in Behavioral and Emotional Disorders. The leader in special education for emotionally disturbed children and youth, this powerful text combines descriptions of emotional and behavioral disorders with discussion and interpretation of current research on their development. Material is organized around five basic concepts: the nature of disorders and conceptual approaches to them; methods and rationale for assessment; major casual factors; characteristics of disordered emotion and behavior; and a personal statement about teaching students who exhibit such disorders. An advocate for social learning principles, the author addresses the links between what happens in a real-life classroom and psychology, child development, and special education; and suggests ways in which emotional and behavioral development can be influenced for the better, particularly by educators.
This paper presents the negative reinforcement paradigm as a framework with potential to guide development of classroom interventions that increase desirable and decrease undesirable behaviors of students with disabilities. The paradigm (having been defined for some years) seems to be described rarely and is seldom presented in depth in teacher educating programs. Results of studies involving children with emotional and behavioral disorders are presented to convey the importance of teachers' awareness of the paradigm's usefulness. Recommendations are presented regarding content and delivery of training in pre-and inservice programs.
Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but this impact can be either positive or negative. Its power is frequently mentioned in articles about learning and teaching, but surprisingly few recent studies have systematically investigated its meaning. This article provides a conceptual analysis of feedback and reviews the evidence related to its impact on learning and achievement. This evidence shows that although feedback is among the major influences, the type of feedback and the way it is given can be differentially effective. A model of feedback is then proposed that identifies the particular properties and circumstances that make it effective, and some typically thorny issues are discussed, including the timing of feedback and the effects of positive and negative feedback. Finally, this analysis is used to suggest ways in which feedback can be used to enhance its effectiveness in classrooms.