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Education majors present research at the Capitol

Haven Ackerman and Emily Ward and pictured with Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero.

Two Georgia Southern University College of Education students were selected from the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference (GURC) to present at the Georgia State Capitol on March 20.

B.S.Ed. Special Education seniors Haven Ackerman and Emily Ward were selected as some of the top researchers from institutions of higher education across the state to present their posters at the Georgia State Capitol. Their research, titled “The Effects of Behavior-Specific Praise on Students who Receive Special Education Services,” evaluated the effectiveness of behavior-specific praise (BSP), or the individualized use of positive statements towards a desired behavior to encourage the continued engagement of the behavior. 

“We give this praise to students who exhibit behaviors that are attention seeking or for task avoidance in hopes that removing the function of the behavior would enhance and encourage participation and positive communication,” explained Ward. “For this research, we used our behavior specific praises with one student and kept track of his enhanced motivation, how long it lasted, and found an upward positive effect.”

The student was observed in three different middle school classroom settings over time to monitor the response of the student to behavior specific praises. Over time, Ackerman and Ward noted that specific interventions that worked best for the student included eye contact, consistent praise, subject specific engagement and individualized praise. 

“When the focus student was provided with BSP, the student’s continued engagement in the classroom was extended both towards task completion and attention to instruction,” said Ackerman. “The student did not respond well when praised in a group setting. When the teacher praised the student one-on-one, the student’s motivation was significantly increased.”

Associate Professor of Special Education Kymberly Harris served as the students’ faculty mentor.

“I cannot express how proud I am of Emily and Haven for their hard work and dedication to the field of special education,” said Harris. “These two young ladies were the only education presentations selected to present at the Capitol, and it is important we share the work our students are doing to continue evaluating and improving classroom behavior management for our students with disabilities.”

GURC is the region’s premiere undergraduate research and creative endeavors conference. The annual conference promotes the dissemination of original student scholarship conducted in partnership with a faculty or staff member.


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