We are all influenced by those around us in many different and powerful ways. There is no escaping the fact that people are social creatures. Social reinforcement is a technique that harnesses the power of social persuasion. It takes advantage of a person’s natural inclination to want to impress others, to empathise and sympathise with another person, to form relationships, or to be part of a group. Using a first-person singular pronoun helps to achieve this – this means using ‘I’ statements. For example, the teacher may say, ‘I like the way you did that!’ or ‘I’m very happy that you figured it out’.
In terms of behaviour management, personal ‘I’ statements that explain your thoughts and feelings are very powerful. Students see them as honest and tend to respect the fact that you are speaking to them with a level of respect and trustworthiness. ‘I am feeling a little sick today Michael so can you face this way please’ or ‘I feel like you are trying to upset me’ are possible options. Even more pressure can be applied with phrases such as ‘I am disappointed…’ or ‘I’m a little stressed/worried/confused…’ There are many other ‘I’ statements that teachers can use to express their thoughts, feelings or moods in order to influence behaviour. While this technique (like any) won’t work on every student, it’s effortless to implement and certainly does have a noticeable impact. In addition, the more rapport that you have with a student, the bigger the impact of social prompts such as ‘I’ statements.
Hint: Should a student wish to continue with their behaviour (e.g. task-avoidance) after the teacher has been so personable, his or her follow-up resistance or defiance will be a disproportionate escalation (i.e. be several levels above the teacher’s caring, polite approach). Being socially conscious of what others think of them, few students will see this as a viable option because they risk being seen as volatile, insensitive or even socially awkward.
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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