Oct 21, 2020

The Power of Positive Reinforcement 

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, KCRG aired an interview with Erin Welsh, a school psychologist at Grant Wood Area Education Agency. Erin revealed a research-based way to keep students engaged during virtual learning; positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is a means of responding to specific, identified behavior to increase the child’s interest in exhibiting a desired behavior. For example, giving verbal praise to a student who The Power of Positive Reinforcement Smilefollowed directions right away. It is important for parents to ask the student what they like or what would be incentivizing for them.

Does positive reinforcement replace discipline?

Teachers know that they’re striking a balance. The goal is to look for the positive first, and provide positive, immediate, frequent feedback to reinforce the good behaviors and help curtail the negative ones. “Parents should strive to give their children five positives for every one corrective feedback to ensure they’re coaching, not just criticizing their child.” Erin noted.

What are some behaviors parents might be seeing for the first time as they learn virtually from home?

Parents might see their child struggling to stay in their chair or learning area, choosing not to engage in classroom lessons, or not completing assignments. Teachers know that students need to understand what behavior is expected and/or should replace the inappropriate behavior. 

Erin gave the following tips to help address challenging behavior.

  • Identify the problem behavior and determine why it’s happening.
  • Note what type, when, and how often positive reinforcement will be given. (For example, get through xx periods then you get an iPad break for xx amount of time.)
  • Give this positive reinforcement immediately after displaying the behavior, and pair the reinforcement with specific language about why the reward was given.
  • Fade out a little bit: make it easy at first to earn the reward, then fade back to help students go longer without additional reinforcement. The goal is to encourage the new behavior in new settings and generalize it throughout their day.

Parents should clarify with the teachers about the expectations of the student and the classroom, and get information on how to better reinforce expected behaviors at home. “A teacher is still the most important person in your student’s learning environment.” reminded Erin. 

Erin ended the segment with the following advice, “Kids are resilient. We all adapt to our environments and we will improve, and our kids will improve. Teach them about other hard times when we persevere, it helps to build hope as we work together through today’s realities.”

For continued information, Erin recommends A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus from teachingtolerance.org

Erin's Interview was recorded and can be viewed on KCRG's website.