Better Behavior Through Precorrection, Prompts, and Specific Praise

By Denyse Doerries, Ph.D.

November/December 2012


Implementation of evidence-based behavior strategies positively impacts outcomes for students with disabilities (SWD) (Simonsen, Myers, & Deluca, 2010). However, complex strategies are often difficult to implement with fidelity and can be time consuming. An evidence-based strategy, precorrection, provides a critical support for student success and requires minimal time to implement.

Precorrection employs specific behavioral prompts that remind students of the actions they are expected to take to avoid making errors (Walker, Ramsey, & Gresham, 2001). Prompts are easily implemented and are highly effective if paired with another evidence-based strategy, specific verbal feedback or specific praise statements (Lampi, Fenty, & Beaunae, 2005).

What Is Prompting?

Prompting assists students in successfully using a specific skill such as transitioning to a new activity. The prompt is provided before or right as the student is about to perform a specific skill in order to prevent student error. For example, the teacher might model what the transition from one task to another looks like before she gives the direction to change activities. Prompts can be used to teach a variety of behavioral as well as academic skills (Neitzel & Wolery, 2010).

Types of Prompts

  • Gesture – includes making a physical gesture. such as pointing to the hooks to hang a backpack.l
  • Verbal – includes verbal clues, rule statements, questions, and hints, such as naming items to put in a backpack.
  • Visual – includes providing pictures, written instructions, and objects such as using a checklist of items to go in back pack.
  • Model – includes partially or fully showing the expected behaviors. such as demonstrating how to fill a backpack.
  • Physical – includes actually helping the student hand-over-hand to exhibit a given behavior, such as assisting a student in filling his backpack (Neitzel & Wolery, 2010).

What Does Prompting Look Like?

When prompting, the teacher reminds students of clearly defined expectations prior to activities in which they students typically experience difficulties. The teacher might say, “When we walk in the hall, we stay to the right and keep our hands to ourselves.”  Such statements or gestures are best delivered immediately before a given behavior is expected, and provides students with a reminder to increase the probability of success.

To facilitate rapid acquisition, consider starting with a prompt that is as minimal as possible and be prepared to increase the intensity of the prompt if the minimal one is not effective (Libby, Weiss, Bancroft, & Ahearn, 2008).  A more intense prompt might be pairing a verbal statement with a student modeling the expected behavior.

What Does a Specific Praise Statement Look Like?

To make the prompt more effective, give the student positive reinforcement immediately after she has demonstrated the desired behavior. This involves giving specific feedback about the observed student behavior by telling the students exactly what she did correctly and praising her success. For example, the teacher might say, “Great, you remembered to raise your hand,” rather than simply making the more general statement, “Good job.” This helps the student to discriminate correct versus incorrect responses and understand how to behave successfully in the future (Simonsen et al., 2010).

Steps for Prompting Behavior

  1. Select the target behavior.
  2. Select the appropriate positive reinforcer.
  3. Determine what form and level of intensity of the prompt to use. For example, the teacher might raise her hand, modeling the behavior, before giving the direction, ”Raise your hand to respond to questions.” Or, if the student requires a more intensive prompt, the teacher might physically raise the student’s hand before giving the verbal direction, and then have the student practice raising her hand in response to a question.  
  4. Specifically reinforce the desired behavior immediately after it occurs in order to call attention to the behavior and provide positive feedback (Neitzel & Wolery, 2010).

When coupled with specific contingent praise statements and increased supervision of students, prompting greatly reduces inappropriate behavior and increases appropriate behaviors (Simonsen et al., 2010). For examples, view Terri Scott’s videos demonstrating prompts, precorrects, and specific contingent praise at


Lampi, A. R., Fenty, N. S., & Beaunae, V. (2005). Making the three P’s easier: Praise, proximity, and precorrection. Beyond Behavior, 15, 8-12.

Libby, M. E., Weiss, J. S., Bancroft, S., & Ahearn, W. H. (2008). A comparison of most-to-least and least-to-most prompting on the acquisition of solitary play skills. Behavior Analysis Practice, 1(1), 37-43.

Neitzel, J., & Wolery, M. (2010). Prompting for children and youth with autism spectrum disorders: Online training module. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, National Professional Development Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.) Autism Internet Modules at Columbus, OH; OCALI.

Simonsen, B., Myers, D., & DeLuca, C. (2010). Teaching teachers to use prompts, opportunities to respond, and specific praise. Teacher Education and Special Education, 33, 300-318.

Walker, H. M., Ramsey, E., & Gresham, F. M. (2003). Antisocial behavior in school: Evidenced-based practices (2nd ed.). Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.