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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

School Psychology

First Advisor

Sara Whitcomb

Second Advisor

John Hintze

Third Advisor

Christopher Overtree

Subject Categories

Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Educational Psychology | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching


The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of a practical and feasible means of providing teacher consultation that can be used to improve class-wide behavior in a middle school setting. A multiple-baseline design across four teachers was utilized to evaluate the effects of an intervention involving training and ongoing performance feedback via email on a) teachers' use of behavior-specific praise (BSP), general praise (GP), and reprimands (R) in the classroom, and b) the incidence of problem behaviors in classes of middle school students. The study also assessed whether behavioral changes were sustained over time, as the frequency of emailed feedback was reduced and eventually terminated. As expected based on previous research, the intervention was effective in increasing use of behavior-specific praise (BSP) in the classroom across all four participating teachers. Overall ratios of positive (BSP and GP) to negative (R) statements used by teachers in the classroom increased post-intervention; however, the degree of this increase varied by teacher, with three out of four approaching or exceeding the commonly-recommended 4:1 ratio, while one teacher did not. Results on the observational measure of student behavior were mixed, with two out of four classes showing significant decreases in problem behavior, one with decreases which were non-significant, and the class in which the teacher showed the lowest use of BSP demonstrated no change in student behavior. Findings from the current study provide evidence that it is possible to successfully increase teachers' use of specific praise, thereby reducing class-wide rates of middle school student problem behavior, through a simple training and ongoing emailed performance feedback procedure. Limitations of the study and additional implications for future research and practice are discussed.