Effects of teacher reinforcement on student academic performance

 Effects of teacher reinforcement on student academic performance



 This research assesses the effects of teacher reinforcement on student academic performance in the Ilorin local government area of Kwara State. The study established four objectives and formulated corresponding research questions. Employing a descriptive survey design, the research sampled 130 respondents from five selected secondary schools using a simple random sampling technique. Data were collected through a structured questionnaire and analyzed using means and simple percentages, while the chi-square test at a 0.05 level of significance was applied to evaluate the hypotheses.

The findings indicate that reinforcement significantly enhances students' academic performance. Among various methods, verbal praise ("saying good") and the provision of tangible rewards (gifts) are particularly effective. Additionally, the practice of awarding marks during lessons was found to motivate students to strive for academic excellence. The study also confirmed that motivated students tend to perform better academically.

Based on these results, the study recommends that teachers across all educational levels should be trained in the use of positive reinforcement to boost student achievement. Furthermore, it suggests that state and federal educational authorities should facilitate teacher training on effective reinforcement strategies to maximize student benefits.




Background to the study

           In the educational sector, reinforcement stands as a pivotal behavior management strategy widely utilized by teachers. Positive reinforcement, an especially compelling technique, allows teachers to enhance the overall behavior of students through what can be termed "timely encouragement," which is both gentle and effective.

The influence of a teacher's words, actions, or even omissions can significantly impact a student's academic success. Positive reinforcement is essential for boosting student performance. Drawing from personal experience, the researcher, a high school teacher, encountered a student who was deeply affected by derogatory names called by his math teacher. This situation negatively impacted his performance across several subjects, including English, where he previously excelled. After a revealing conversation with the student, the researcher, also serving as an advisor, coordinated with the school principal to address this issue with the math teacher. A presentation on "Positive Reinforcement for Academic Improvement" was subsequently delivered at a staff meeting. Following these interventions, positive reinforcement became a guiding principle in the school, and a notable improvement in the student's performance was observed, underscoring the profound effects of a teacher's words.

The pursuit of high academic achievement is crucial for those who view education as a tool for transformation and societal development. Yet, many teachers continue to rely solely on traditional teaching methods, overlooking how positive reinforcement can significantly enhance students' academic outcomes.

Akinade (2012) describes positive reinforcement as the application of pleasant or desirable stimuli to encourage behavior. It follows that positive reinforcement occurs after desirable behavior, such as when a teacher rewards a student who submits a well-researched assignment on time with public praise, encouraging repetition of this behavior. Positive reinforcement is a straightforward method to foster responsibility and discipline in the classroom without exerting undue pressure on students. It may include verbal affirmations like praise, compliments, or encouragement, tangible rewards like gifts, or non-verbal gestures such as applause or a pat on the back, all aimed at promoting repeated positive behavior.

Iwundu (2019) defines academic achievement as the level of success achieved at the conclusion of an academic endeavor, while Lin in Buseri (2017) views academic success as the attainment of educational objectives. Although typically measured through exams or continuous assessments, there remains no consensus on the most effective assessment method or its relative importance.

Lannie and McCurdy (2020) highlight a common issue: many educators lack effective classroom management skills, which are crucial for both fostering an environment conducive to learning and enhancing student behavior. Strong management skills are fundamental to effective teaching, according to Lannie and McCurdy (2007).

Further supporting the efficacy of positive reinforcement, a study by Moore Partin, Robertson, Maggin, Oliver, and Wehby (2022) found that praising students for appropriate behavior not only reduces inappropriate actions but also increases suitable behaviors and enhances focus by minimizing classroom distractions. This study emphasizes the transformative potential of positive reinforcement in educational settings

In a study by Lannie and McCurdy (2007), positive reinforcement was structured as a game that rewarded instances of desired behaviors. Conducted in an urban primary school in a high-poverty area, this study involved 22 students from a general education classroom. Notably, some parents had previously requested transfers for their children due to the teacher's ineffective classroom management.

The research measured both the duration of students' engagement in tasks and the frequency of their disruptive behaviors. Initially, the teacher was trained on implementing a scientifically-backed behavior management plan known as the "good behavior game." During the academic period when the game was active, students were reminded of the expected behaviors and grouped into teams. The disruptive behaviors of each team were monitored, and teams that maintained disruptive behaviors below a set threshold received rewards.

The findings indicated a significant improvement: on-task student behavior increased by nearly 35%, and disruptive behaviors decreased by approximately 25%. These outcomes demonstrate that student behavior can be positively influenced through effective behavior management strategies that leverage positive reinforcement. The study also suggested that improvements in student behavior and task engagement could enhance both teaching effectiveness and overall student success, which are common goals in behavior management systems.

Statement of the Problem

In recent years, student academic achievement has been unsatisfactory across various educational levels, particularly in secondary education among public schools. Observations indicate that many students complete high school without proficient reading skills or mastery in other critical subjects. The potential of reinforcement is well-documented in academic literature, yet its implementation often challenges educators. Some teachers struggle with understanding and applying reinforcement effectively.

The central question, therefore, is whether positive reinforcement can enhance the academic performance of high school students in the Ilorin local government area of Kwara State, especially given its success in other regions and globally. The role of teacher interactions—through their words, actions, and inactions—in influencing student learning outcomes is critical. Could positive reinforcement be the key to boosting academic achievement in Kwara State? This research aims to explore the impact of reinforcement strategies on the academic achievements of senior secondary school students in Kwara State.

 Purpose of the Study

The primary aim of this study is to explore the impact of teacher reinforcement on student academic performance in the Ilorin West local government area of Kwara State.

Specific Objectives

  1. To identify reinforcement practices at the secondary school level in Ilorin Local Government Area.
  2. To compare reinforcement practices between public and private secondary schools.
  3. To investigate the perceived effects of reinforcement on students' academic achievement.
  4. To assess how tangible rewards influence the academic achievement of male and female senior secondary school students in Ilorin Local Government Area.

Research Questions

To guide this study, the following research questions were formulated:

  1. What types of positive and negative reinforcements are utilized at the secondary school level?
  2. Are there differences in reinforcement practices between public and private secondary schools?
  3. What are the effects of reinforcement on students’ academic achievement?
  4. To what extent do tangible rewards influence the academic achievement of secondary school students in Ilorin Local Government Area?


The following null hypotheses were tested at the 0.05 level of significance:

  1. H01H01​: There is no significant difference in reinforcement practices between public and private secondary schools.
  2. H02H02​: There is no significant difference between reinforcement and students' academic performance.
  3. H03H03​: There is no significant difference in how tangible rewards affect the academic achievement of male and female senior secondary school students in Ilorin Local Government Area.

Significance of the Study

This study is significant as it will help educators understand the effectiveness of different types of reinforcers in teaching and learning contexts. Additionally, it aims to illuminate the impact of both positive and negative reinforcement on student academic outcomes. The findings could offer valuable insights for educational stakeholders on enhancing reinforcement strategies, thereby improving student attitude and academic performance. Ultimately, the school system could benefit greatly from the adoption of robust positive reinforcement techniques.

Scope of the Study

The research is confined to ten selected secondary schools within the Ilorin Local Government area of Kwara State.


  Operational definition of terms


Achievement Test: A test that measures how much and well a person has learned over a given period of time.

Attitude: The tendency to respond favorably or unfavorably to someone or something .

Learning: A lasting change in behaviour due to repeated experiences.

Motivation: A strong inner motivation to achieve a specific goal.

Negative reinforcement: The removal of something desirable in order to make someone do what is considered undesirable.

Performance: The achievement of a person who can be monitored by another person.

Positive reinforcement: The addition of something desirable in order to make someone do what they consider undesirable.

Reinforcement: Anything that follows a behavior to maintain or increase it.

Reinforce: Something or someone that increases the occurrence rate of another when added or removed from it




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