Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Academic achievement; Reinforcement (Psychology); Students--Attitudes; Teacher-student relationships; Teaching;


This study examined the effects of teacher reinforcement on both reading achievement and students' attitudes toward school. It was hypothesized that students of high reinforcing teachers would achieve greater reading gains and would exhibit more positive attitudes toward school than students of lower reinforcing teachers.

Eight classrooms of second and third-grade students (N=139) and their teachers from a rural school district were involved in this study. The students were administered the reading section of the Metropolitan Achievement Test and the "Describe Your School" questionnaire during the fall of 1975. subsequent to this pre-assessment, the eight teachers were observed by independent observers using the "Reinforcement Response Category System" (RRCS), which is an objective, low inference checklist which categorizes teacher responses to student behavior into one of twelve approval or disapproval categories. Based upon natural "gaps" in the teachers' ratio of reinforcing responses to non-reinforcing responses, the teachers were designated as high, medium, or low reinforcing teachers. The students were given a post-assessment during the spring of 1976 using the same measures utilized for the pre-test . Gains in reading and attitudes toward school were analyzed to determine the effects of teacher reinforcement. In addition, group IQ scores of the students were analyzed to control for intelligence differences among the classes of students.

Results indicate that a significant inverse relationship exists between the degree of teacher reinforcement and reading gains of their students. No significant effects for teacher reinforcement were observed on student attitudes toward school. Intelligence scores did not significantly differ among classes. Thus, reading gains could not be attributed to differences in intelligence.

An inter-observer reliability coefficient of .96 was obtained on the RRCS, suggesting an objective, low inference measure of teacher responses to student behavior.

Results suggest that verbal reinforcement patterns exhibited by teachers may not play as positive a role in academic learning as commonly believed. It was hypothesized that the children's need for this type of reinforcement may need to be considered as an important factor; most children may have internalized the need for verbal praise by the time they reach school, and thus are operating on more intrinsic motivational factors. In addition, the socio-economic class of the population studied must be considered, as prior research has shown verbal praise to be ineffective with middle-class students. Further research with other populations is required to assess the degree to which present results might be generalized to the typical classroom setting.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Specialist in Education


Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations, and Leadership Studies


Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

First Advisor

Barry J. Wilson


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Date Original


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