M4U5A1 Applying Positive and Negative Consequences in the Classroom

Blog on Applying Classroom Rules and Procedures

As humans, we naturally seek approval by others.  Not receiving this approval can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem and lead to depression, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, demotivation, ill health and an assortment of other physical and mental issues.  In other words, receiving approval or validation by others is not only desired, it is necessary for a normal healthy life.  This does not mean that everyone need approve our actions, however, we do need to feel that certain key persons in our life appreciate us and love us.  For in truth, approval and validation are just simplified forms of love.  Science has proven that love is a non-negotiable human need[1].  Hence positive feedback is essential in all areas of life.  On the other hand, negative feedback, though not desired, has its place.  Negative feedback allows one to continue to receive positive feedback: envisage it as simply as a course-correction.  Once someone is back on course, more positive feedback will be available to them.  To have the desired outcome of behavior modification, negative feedback must be given in a loving way, i.e. it must be clear that the person is not being criticized, simply that their actions were unacceptable.  Understanding this philosophy can assist teachers in providing both positive and negative feedback effectively – i.e. to give feedback in ways that will incite behavior modification for the better.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can be provided in many ways.  Typical formats of positive reinforcement used in a classroom setting are praise, recognition or call outs (i.e. drawing public attention to student’s good behavior (in the moment or afterwards)), merit certificates, gifts, gift certificates, notes (to the child and or to the parents), e-mails to the parents, and phone calls to parents.  E.g. In episode 1 of the video series Tough Young Teachers we saw that Nicholas rewarded students’ excellence in their work by bringing in the head teacher to commend them and read out some of their work.  His students were visibly thrilled and it was obvious they all wanted to continue to excel to receive further recognition in future.  This is the power of positive reinforcement in the form of public recognition.  I definitely intend to incorporate such recognition and the other standard formats mentioned above into my teaching.

In addition, I would incorporate The Five Love Languages into my reward system for positive behavior.  The Five Love Languages is a method of demonstrating love and caring developed by psychologist and reverend Gary Chapman detailed in his book of the same title.  Through his experience and research counselling couples, Dr. Gary Chapman discovered that every human being (a) has a love tank that needs to be filled before you can reach them, and (b) can communicate love in different ways, but most importantly desires to receive love in specific ways.  There are five different ways in which people can communicate and receive love: (1) words of affirmation, (2) acts of service, (3) receiving gifts, (4) quality time, and (5) physical touch.  The way in which a person prefers to receive love is their love language.  Nearly everyone has a single dominant love language, though some may have a secondary love language that also rates highly for them.  I am one of those people: my main love language is (1) words of affirmation, but (4) quality time also rates highly for me.

The love languages expressed in the standard educational reward formats above concentrate mainly on (1) words of affirmation – viz. praise, recognition, merit certificates, notes, e-mails, phone calls, and 3) receiving gifts – viz. gifts, gift certificates.  This communicates love in only two love languages.  This means that only those whose love language is (1) words of affirmation or (3) receiving gifts will actually feel rewarded.  Students whose love language is (2) acts of service, (4) quality time, or (5) physical touch will still feel neglected and unrewarded no matter how much (1) words of affirmation or (3) gifts they are given.  The notions of a love tank and of demonstrating love in someone’s love language are very important and powerful concepts to understand and apply in society.  A simple questionnaire can reveal a person’s love language.  It may be a little more challenging to come up with and apply rewards in the other love languages, but I am convinced it will be absolutely worth the effort!  Therefore, as I teacher I will demonstrate love to my students in the way they would like to receive love, i.e. in their love language, and in so doing I will fill their love tank and inspire them to want to cooperate with me and please me.  For example, a reward for a student whose love language is (2) acts of service could be that I clean up their desk after art class.  For a student whose love language is (4) quality time, I could invite them to tea with me one break time in the staff lounge.  For a student whose love language is (5) physical touch, their reward will be a hug, a high five or a pat on the shoulder.  To be fair, and to connect the positive reinforcement to the behavior I desire in my classroom, I will make reward certificates with one or two in each love languages category.  I could even have students choose their own reward from my prepared reward certificates – which will surely reveal to me their love language.

Negative Reinforcement

The standard formats of negative reinforcement in schools are: reprimands, time-outs, detentions, overcorrection, punishments, sending the child to the principal’s office, notes to parents, e-mails to parents, phone calls to parents, and suspensions.  I intend to apply all these chastisements on a graduated scale with students who are misbehaving.  Please refer to the flow chart below for more details and to see how these will be applied.  In addition, I will have posters (possibly infographics) of rules and procedures posted to the walls of my classroom so that I can refer to them as a reminder and as a justification for castigation.  Furthermore, for the most part, the punishments I use will be based upon The Five Love Languages concept.  E.g. The punishment for a student whose love language is (2) acts of service could be that they have to rearrange or organize the bookshelf.  For a student whose love language is (4) quality time, their punishment could be to forfeit time with their friends and instead do homework during that time.  For a student whose love language is (5) physical touch, their punishment could be no physical contact with anyone in class for the rest of the day.

Of course, as I learn more about being a teacher and gain more experience I will discover which rewards and punishments are practical and which are the most effective.  Nevertheless, the gist of The Five Love Languages principle is that each person must be treated as an individual.  It is essential that the teacher find out the likes and dislikes of each student and know what really makes a student feel loved and what hurts them the most.  This knowledge can also be shared with students so that they too can have a greater understanding of themselves and others.  It will help students to rationalize how they are feeling and to give less weight to the actions of others when they hurt them, i.e. they will take more control of and responsibility for their emotions.  E.g. A (4) quality time love language student will feel especially hurt if their friend who is (2) acts of service does not spend time with them.  The friend may feel that they have already shown they care by helping them with their classwork earlier, so there is no need to also visit them at their house to play.  If they both understand their reactions and the effect of their actions, then both can work harder not to hurt their friend’s feelings and they can also weaken the effect their friend’s comportment has had on them because they will know that the friend did not intend to hurt them, thus avoiding misunderstandings.


[1] Source: Raghunathan, Raj (Ph.D.).  (Jan 08, 2014).  The Need to Love.  Psychology Today.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sapient-nature/201401/the-need-love


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