Positive and Negative Reinforcement

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Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement is an essential part in identifying and encouraging a certain behavior. In the most classic definition, positive reinforcement is a method of identifying to children which behaviors are acceptable and appropriate and which are not (Sigler, E. & Aamidor, S, 2005). Reinforcement is often given as praise for doing a certain task. As educators, saying “great job” or a simple word like “fantastic” are expressed towards students as praise. However, when a student is struggling and praise is given such as “you are doing so well”, the negative aspects of praise present themselves. The child is aware of the empty praise therefore it may work against the teacher if it is taken as a false praise. So, as educators, we must determine what reinforcements will work with each individual child through experimentation. Also, building a relationship with not just the child, but the parents and all those involved with the child will be instrumental in developing the proper use of reinforcements and can be helpful in gaining knowledge of certain behaviors. The stronger reinforcements for most children are usually food, candy, or drinks. The durability and effectiveness of a reinforcer can usually be determined best by reinforcing the behavior intermittently or by providing a strong alternative which could interfere with the behavior in question (Ferster, C, 1961). Positive reinforcement is not just about the behaviors of the child but the reaction of the teacher and the adults to certain behaviors. Although a child may attempt to test the boundaries of one’s attention, positive attention does not make a child behave inappropriately (Sigler & Aamidor, 2005). The reinforcing comes from the teacher or adults actions and words. For example, Joshua is an eight-year-old autistic boy who begins to whine and cry every single time the teacher tries to get him to begin a task that he dislikes. Most of the time Josh only



References: Dad, H.; Ali, R.; Qadeer Janjua, M.; Shazad, S.; Khan, M. (2010). Comparison of the Frequency and effectiveness of positive and negative reinforcement practices in schools. Contemporary Issues In Education Research. 3(1), 127-135. Ferster, C.B.(1961). Positive reinforcement and behavioral deficits of autistic children. Child Development. 32(2), 437. Sigler, E; Aamidor, S.(2005). From positive reinforcement to positive behaviors: an everyday guide for the practioner. Early Childhood Education Journal. 32(4), 249-253.

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