A variation on ‘catch them out doing good’, ‘peer prompting’ is a 2-step process. First, a positive prompt is directed at a student who is doing something good. This form of positive support encourages desirable behaviours (Quinn, 2017). Research has also shown that teachers can expect better results by increasing praise while decreasing reprimands (Spilt et al., 2016). Second, the positive comment influences the behaviour of adjacent students who are the real targets of the teacher’s attention. These students observe and copy their compliant neighbour. Due to social pressure (peer-modelling) and the potential for reward (teacher praise), the target student makes voluntary adjustments to their behaviour.
Prompting peers is an indirect minimal response to low-key behavioural issues. It is not used for more serious issues. In fact, sometimes this technique doesn’t actually work. If this happens, a stern glare helps the offending student to make the connection. Ideally, students will not figure out that your praise had alternative motives. In other instances, you might need to be a bit more overt such as by saying, ‘nice work Ava – keep it up, who else is reading as well as Ava?’
Prompting peers is an indirect minimal response to low-key behavioural issues.
Here is another common example that many teachers will be able to relate to. Alika is slowly and begrudgingly unpacking her bag for the start of the lesson (a classic task-avoidance technique). The teacher notices Alika’s neighbour (Olivia) is sitting up straight with everything ready to go. The teacher says, ‘Olivia is ready, nice work Olivia – who else is ready? 10 seconds to go!’. In no time flat, Alika is sitting up straight awaiting similar recognition. The teacher praises Alika’s speedy recovery which encourages the desired behaviour. The teacher may say, ‘thank-you Alika, you were super-fast at the end like a cat chasing a mouse. Now I know you can do it quickly, I expect that every day’. Include a quick smile and Alika is more than happy to oblige from now on. A few more positive prompts and Alika’s new habit is fully formed.
Hint: Peer prompting is a form of positive prompting. The teacher finds something positive to say while ignoring any negative behaviour. For example, the teacher in the above example could have concentrated on Alika’s undesirable behaviour (slow to unpack) but instead chose to concentrate on what she did right (fast unpacking at the end). There was no need for any negativity to achieve the desired outcome and to increase the chance that the behaviour will be repeated. This method has been shown to increase on-task behaviour (Zakszeski et al., 2020).
Quinn, L. (2017). Teachers' Perspectives on Classroom Management: Confidence, Strategies and Professional Development. Kairaranga, 33(1), 40-46.
Spilt, J. L., Leflot, G., Onghena, P., & Colpin, H. (2016). Use of praise and reprimands as critical ingredients of teacher behavior management: Effects on children's development in the context of a teacher-mediated classroom intervention. Prevention Science, 17(6), 732-742. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-016-0667-y
Zakszeski, B., Thomas, L., & Erdy, L. (2020). Tier I implementation supports for classroom management: A pilot investigation targeting teachers' praise. School Psychology, 35(2), 111-117. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000354
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.
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