'Punishment' is a technical term that describes any action that stops or reduces a behaviour. Sometimes, we can accidently 'punish' a skill or behaviour that we would like to see more of rather than less. A simple example of this could be that a student who calls out in class gets attention, but the student who puts their hand up to answer a question may not. This might inadvertently punish the student with the appropriate behaviour (they get less attention from the teacher) and make it less likely that they will use the appropriate behaviour next time. Removal of Punishment refers to removing actions that inadvertently punish appropriate behaviours.
Using the strategy
This is a general strategy that requires teachers to be aware of any factors that may be limiting or discouraging a student from using the appropriate behaviour or new skill. Steps include the following.
- Identify the appropriate behaviour that is decreasing or not being maintained in the classroom situation.
- Carefully look at all factors around the behaviour. This might include
- sensory issues – carefully consider whether an aversive sight, sound or other sensation happens after an appropriate behaviour e.g. a teacher may inadvertently ‘punish’ an appropriate behaviour by cheering or clapping when the student does the right thing – this may be startling, frightening or even distressing for a student with sound sensitivity
- social issues – does the student receive too much or too little attention after an appropriate behaviour
- access to items or activities – does using an appropriate behaviour e.g. sitting quietly or waiting mean that the student misses out on preferred items or activities.
- Take steps to remove the ‘punishing’ factor once it is known. This might involve finding alternatives to praise, attention or rewards.
- Trial alternative responses next time the appropriate behaviour occurs. Reinforce the behaviour with preferred reinforcing items (see Reinforcement factsheet for more information).
This is appropriate for the following age groups, with accommodations and adjustments for age and ability:
- high school.