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John Downing, Tedd Keating, Carl Bennett


The ability to shape appropriate behavior while extinguishing misbehavior is critical to teaching and learning in physical education. The scientific principles that affect student learning in the gymnasium also apply to the methods teachers use to influence social behaviors. Research indicates that reinforcement strategies are more effective than punishing strategies for increasing and shaping positive behaviors in any learning environment, and that such strategies tend to positively affect task performance and intrinsic motivation. Exemplary teachers utilize a variety of social, activity and tangible forms of reinforcement in conjunction with one or two basic management strategies to manipulate and control their teaching-learning environments (Campbell & Pierce, 1996; Jones, 1992; Lund, 1992; Patrick, Ward, & Crouch, 1998; Tankersly, 1995; Vogler & French, 1983). This article will present a behavior management plan designed to decrease misbehaviors in elementary physical education classes, while, conversely, increasing available instructional time. The strategies presented include (1) situational reinforcement, which entails integrating reinforcement into daily teacher-student interactions both inside and outside the gymnasium. This approach utilizes spontaneous interactions, shaping techniques, and the presentation of periodic rewards for good behavior and/or skill improvement in the form of preferred activities or special awards, and (2) the use of a structured reinforcement system, which systematically defines and determines (a) acceptable behaviors, (b) what types or forms of reinforcement to use to change behavior, (c) the amount of change in behavior a student must demonstrate to earn the reinforcement, (d) how much reinforcement will follow a given change in student behavior, (e) whether to reinforce behavior continuously or intermittently, and (f) what modifications to integrate into the existing behavior management system when desired behaviors increase in occurrence.?

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