The Application of Operant Conditioning Techniques in a Secondary Classroom

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Thomas Spadafora
Psy 121

The Application Of Operant Conditioning Techniques In A Secondary Classroom


A plethora of Studies have reported the effectiveness of operant conditioning techniques in altering the behavior of children in a number of different situations. There has been many studies in which teacher-supplied consequences have had effects on preschool and elementary school children in a regular classroom, but almost none in the secondary schooling classrooms. The results of these studies were that in smaller classrooms, students’ behavior improved with consequences given by the teacher. McAllister, Stachowiak, Baer, and Conderman now take a look at the effects of these consequences on a larger scale. This study sought to take an entire class of secondary school students and apply teacher-supplied consequences for misbehavior to discover if the behavior of the students improved.


The subjects consisted of 51 students ranging in age from 16-19 years, who all had similar I.Q.s and economic backgrounds. The experimental group consisted of 25 students (12 boys and 13 girls), Where as the control group consisted of 26 students (13 boys and 13 girls). Also, The experimental class was 70 minutes long and the control class was 60 minutes long. The teacher was a 23-year-old female who held a bachelors degree in education. She had one year’s experience in teaching secondary level English. The basic design of the experiment was a pretest-posttest control group design combined with the use of a multiple baseline technique in the experimental class. The behaviors chosen to be targeted were Inappropriate talking and turning around due to the fact that these behaviors had a high rate of occurrence. Inappropriate talking was classified as any vocal behavior portrayed by a student without the teacher’s permission. Also, any vocal behavior required that the student raise his or her hand before speaking, unless engaged in a group discussion. Inappropriate turning around was classified as any turning-around behavior in which the student turned more than 90 degrees away from the front of the room. An exception to this was when a student was required to turn around to distribute papers to their classmates as directed by the teacher. The observations were recorded for the experimental class using a sequentially numbered, 70-box table for each behavior. The observations of the control class were recorded using a similar, 60-box table. If either of the target behaviors occurred during any minute interval of time, it was recorded by placing a check mark in the corresponding box for that interval. Any further occurrences of the target behavior during the same time interval were not recorded. Thus, each time interval represented whether or not the behavior had occurred during the time interval opposed to the number of occurrences. A daily quantified measurement of each behavior was obtained by dividing the number of checked time intervals by the total number of intervals in that class period, which gave us a percentage of intervals in which the behavior occurred at least once. The baseline condition lasted for 28 days in which the teacher was asked to behave in her usual manner. The Average reliability for talking behavior was 90.49% in the experimental class, and 89.49% in the control class. Average reliability for turning behavior was 94.27% in the experimental class and 90.98 in the control class. Also, two aspects of the teacher’s behavior were recorded. The average reliability for teacher reprimand behavior was 92.78% in the experimental class and 94.84% in the control class. Average reliability for teacher praise behavior was 98.85% in the experimental class and 97.65% in the control class. The first experimental condition began in the experimental class on the 28th day. The teacher was to attempt to disapprove of all instances of inappropriate talking behavior whenever they occurred in a...
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