Positive Reinforcement As A Tool For Behaviour Change, An Assessment

When I worked in education the prevailing ideology was positive reinforcement, i.e. not telling the kids that anything was not good enough, not up to scratch, less than their capabilities or god forbid, wrong! but searching out the good things and praising them for these.
So when the kid who has spent all lesson texting under the desk on his mobile and consequently hasn’t got a clue how to set out his addition sums in columns, hundreds, tens and units; instead of explaining to the child that he needs to listen otherwise he is never going to understand anything, teacher has to look for something good to say e.g.
“Well, it’s good that you have started writing today at the front of the book:”

or “You’ve written your nines beautifully!”

or “This is a really good sentence, you’ve used a capital letter! We were doing maths, sorry!!!! numeracy, but I have to say that is a really good sentence.”

And of course this positive reinforcement applies particularly to behavioural issues. So the kids who come along to school, hang their coats up, put their lunchboxes in the proper place, come into the classroom and settle down relatively quickly get a word of praise from the teacher.

Meanwhile the naughty kids, sorreeeee! the kids who sometimes do naughty things, always label the action never the child: run into the cloakroom, pull somebody else’s coat off the peg and put it in the boy’s urinal, leave their own coat on the floor, get the fizzy drink out of their lunchbox and then proceed to hit the little girl with rampant eczema with the lunchbox, charge into the classroom and clamber over the tables to get to their place, shaking their fizzy drink as they go, start an argument with the clever but sensitive boy about the chair he is sitting on, before opening the fizzy drink so that it sprays all over the hapless child and then start shouting that the teacher hasn’t called thier name out on the register, get hauled out to the front of the class, presented with an “I Did Good” sticker and told how much better they were than yesterday. At this point, objective achieved; getting a sticker, because at the end of term the kids with the most stickers get taken for a treat, the local bowling alley for instance; the child reverts to his/her normal pattern of behaviour.

In all the school’s I taught in, over all those years, I only ever witnessed one child whose behaviour improved through positive reinforcement, and I first encountered him in nursery, so it could conceivably have just been an age thing or perhaps a more settled home life that caused the change from disruptive, foul mouthed little bastard to quiet, polite eight year old.

I’m sure that as they got older some children will have changed, indeed my daughter now knocks about with a young man I taught several years ago who had the most volatile temper and would kick off about almost anything but who now apparently is really nice and has learned that when he feels he is losing his temper the best thing to do is get away from other people and simmer down in private.

Well surely I can’t be the only person in education who noted this, can I?

And you’d think that the powers that be would have had oodles of professional think tank people saying that the only way people change permanently is if they want to change, no amount of bribery will do it on a permanent basis if the will isn’t there.

So now we have the latest Government scheme to reduce obesity. Lardarses are going to be given supermarket vouchers and gym membership to encourage them to exercise and eat healthily. Meanwhile those of us that do eat reasonably healthily, I may live in South Yorkshire but Jamie Oliver would be right at home in my kitchen, and take regular exercise will just be left to our own devices, no help with my gym club membership which I have solely for the opportunity to plough up and down the swimming pool two or three times a week without encountering dippy old bats standing in the middle having a long chinwag with the person they haven’t seen for, oh, twenty minutes.

Nor will they be stumping up a proportion of the annual golf and tennis club subs.

But if I stop doing the exercise, and start having five pieces of chocolate and crisps everyday, topped off with a couple of litres of cider, then once I hit the magic 15 stone official obese line I should be quids in, literally.

There is another fatal flaw in the government’s cunning plan, once the fatties start shedding the pounds the incentives will stop, as if they think well these people are discovering the joys of walking up five flights of stairs instead of taking the lift, whilst weak with hunger, so they will just carry on doing it without any incentive.

This Governmnet is bloody bonkers!

Child protection – more politically correct mayhem
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/13/child-protection-social-care?commentpage=2&commentposted=1

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4 thoughts on “Positive Reinforcement As A Tool For Behaviour Change, An Assessment

  1. Shouldn’t that positively reinforcing sticker have read “I done good,” after all we all want to know the boy done good and using correct grammer and syntax is classist and demeaning to the educationally disadvantaged.

    It’s the same kind of politically correct thinking that got a man whose experience as a “community organiser” (i.e. rabble rouser) and “civil rights campaigner” (i.e. rabble rouser) elected as the most powerful terrorist sympathiser in the world.

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  2. The bottom-line is…

    How are you going to keep them in schools if you don’t butter their parsnips ?

    Schools (or referral units if they’re well shite) …

    I think the system has to be a lot more robust and Education Authorities ‘passing the buck’ isn’t an option…

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    • Nobody buttered my parsnip until some time after I had left school. Back in those days they won the battle for hearts and minds by nailing our feet to the classroom floor.

      The threat of physical violence is a wonderful tool to help focus the mind.

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  3. Yes it’s amazing how the bravado crumbles faced with the headmaster’s cane.
    The other positive was whilst the naughty kids were lined up outside the head’s office waiting for their six-of-the-best the teacher could actually do some teaching to those who wished to learn, with or without their feet nailed to the floor.
    I bet a well aimed wooden board duster would cut out the mobile phone usage in classrooms too.

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