THE NEED FOR REINFORCEMENT OR PUNISHMENT
The need for motivation in schools and homes cannot be over-emphasized. To some, it is a vital instrument for the intellectual growth of learners/children, while others see it as not necessarily a determining factor for learning, as this group of people see motivation as internal rather than external. Students should self- motivate themselves rather than depending on some external reward/motivation or reinforcement.
However, whichever school of thought one may belong to, it suffice to add that the use of motivation in schools and homes is essential and should be utilized in appropriate situations.
Hence, reinforcement can be seen as a form of motivation or reward which is delivered to children/learners on the basis of merits. This is when such individual performs to expectation or is able to accomplish a task individually or with guidance of a facilitator. It should be added that when reinforcement is properly utilized at schools or home, students or children urge to repeat a desired behavior becomes spontaneous and readily available.
The prevailing circumstance that demands reinforcement and the type of reinforcement should however be identified. In most cases, the deliverer of the reinforcement may misuse it, or may not know when to utilize it, hence rewarding a student inappropriately.
Any form of reinforcement should be commensurate with the task given, and should be awarded at appropriate time intervals. In a school setting, reinforcement should be used to develop and encourage desired behaviors in learners. Hence, a teacher should know when and how to utilize reinforcement.
A key issue in reinforcement in schools exist when a teacher utilize a particular form of reinforcement regularly which in turn leads students to predicting his/her actions or form of reward. A commonly used form of reinforcement in most schools is clapping. However, when a teacher utilize clapping as a form of reward, it should be checked as smart students may easily predict the outcome of their involvement as “clap for him” which may make them uncomfortable and in turn deter them from active participation in classroom activities.
Hence, an attempt shall be made to discuss the types of reinforcement and punishment.
Reinforcement can exist in two basic forms according to the works of psychologists. It can either be positive or negative.
Positive reinforcement occurs when a teacher or a facilitator applies the use of positive reinforcers or rewards to students which make them want to elicit or repeat the action or task with a view of doing it even better. In other words, a positive reinforcer encourages the chance or the likelihood of re-occurrence of a desired behavior. Various forms of positive reinforcers exists, these include the use of rewards, praises, ranking, recognition etc. It is essential to add that the teacher or facilitator must always vary the form of positive reinforcement in use to avoid prediction and decline on the part of the students. Positive reinforcement helps to promote healthy competition in classes and thus assist students learn even better.
Negative reinforcement on the other hand occurs when a negative reinforcer is withdrawn upon the completion of a task. Negative reinforcers are best used for behavioral modification or corrective measures. An example can be seen in an instance where a teacher instructs the students to submit their notes before 8:00am or face the consequence for not submitting at that time. In such a situation, most students will be seen submitting their notes before 8:00am to avoid the consequence for not submitting at the stipulated time. If in such instance, all students submitted their note earlier than 8:00am, then the teacher has no other option than to withdraw his negative reinforcer. Hence, negative reinforcers helps check unwanted behaviors and correct excesses. Negative reinforcers may include; demotion, denial of privileges, grounding etc. it should be added that since students do not want to lose their positions or ranks, they tend to be careful with any activity they engage in.
Punishment can be seen as a consequence or penalty for doing something wrongly. It can also be seen as an instance of occurrence which exist when intended outcomes do not tally with the actual outcomes of behaviors. However, punishment can be physical or verbal.
Punishment is said to be physical when it is corporal, in other words, the physical application or afflictions of pain on the body of the student which in this case; a victim via the use of cane, extremely dangerous physical activities, assault, constitute corporal punishment. It may not necessary solve any problem or modify a behavior but exist to only create fear or withdrawal on the part of the recipient. However, if corporal punishment becomes regular, the victim may develop resistance to such and the intended aim which is corrective becomes defeated.
On the other hand lies verbal punishment which exists when students or victims are orally abused via the use of comments which do not necessarily depict the representation of the victims. In other words, the victims are described verbally without any iota of love. This exists not only to instigate threat, annoyance, or dejection on the victim but also exist to make the recipient of such feel inferior and unwanted. Thus, it leads to withdrawal as it tends to affect the internal or the emotional well being of the child.
From the fore-going, it is essential that teachers, instructors, facilitators, parents or anyone involved in child upbringing must be well versed in the concept of motivation, reinforcement and punishment, as it can make or mar the actual traits of a child. At homes, parents should avoid the use of verbal abuses, corporal punishments, but should rather resort to behavioral modification tendencies. Appropriate and desired actions or behaviors should be rewarded when necessary.
Similarly, at schools, teachers, educators and all involved in the formal education enterprise should be well versed in the concept of reinforcement and should avoid such acts that can impede the optimum growth and development of the students/learners. Thus, it is essential that periodic talks, seminars, programs etc. on rewards and reinforcement/ behavioral modification be organized to sensitize all on the need for appropriate utilization of rewards and reinforcement.