Describe the locations where you conducted observations and how much time was spent observing at each site: who was there, what were they doing, when and where did you observe, how was it being conducted. Briefly describe the people and setting at each site.
I conducted my observations in three different places. Given that most public places are closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging America, it was difficult to find young children in public for long. I, therefore, decided to do most of the observation in my neighborhood. The first location was in my sister’s house, where a private tutor, Miss Kathy, was home schooling my 7-year-old nephew, Ian. I joined them in the morning in the study where the lesson was taking place and observed them for one hour. During that period, the tutor was using pebbles to teach about addition and subtraction. Miss Kathy started by reviewing Ian’s homework and showing him how to solve the questions that he had failed.
The second observation was outside in the swimming pool in the afternoon. It was a lovely sunny day, perfect for the activity. The instructor, Bill, was teaching Ian how to do backstroke swimming by demonstrating the movements and then ask him to repeat until he got it right. As an observer, I stayed on the lounges taking note of whatever they were doing and saying. Bill would tell Ian how many wraps to swim and time him. Whenever Ian beat the target, the instructor would applaud, give a high five, and encourage him to do better in the next round. I observed them for 45 minutes.
The next location of my observation was in a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon for 30 minutes. Since February, most of the eateries have been operating on takeaway terms only, but I was lucky to find one that allowed people to dine inside under strict restrictions. A woman and a 10-year-old girl having a meal allowed me to observe them. I sat on a table about two meters away, having an iced tea and taking notes. Both were having chicken, pasta, and vegetables. As they ate, they talked about various things, including the food, family, friends, and their next vacation when the pandemic ends. The pair shared each other’s food, laughed, and touched each other fondly.
What are social reinforcers? Define the concept. Then, describe two specific examples of social reinforcers that you observed, and describe how the recipient responded to the social reinforcement.
Social reinforcers are the most powerful tools to encourage positive behavior in children. They include any kind of social acknowledgment to approve behavior, such as appropriate physical contact, praise, nod, smile, wink, and affirmations (Sidman, 2006). For instance, the tutor would smile and tell Ian ‘very good’ whenever he got solved a question correctly. The boy would always smile proudly and proceed to tackle the next questions with renewed enthusiasm. During swimming, the instructor also used social reinforcers. He would yell to Ian ‘you did great’ and give him a high five when he finished on time. The boy would then smile, do a happy dance in the water and swim faster and better in the next wrap.
What are activity reinforcers? Define the concept. Then, describe at least one specific example of an activity reinforcer you observed and describe how the recipient responded to the activity reinforcer.
Activity reinforcers allow children to participate in preferred activities for behaving well. According to Sidman (2006), giving privileges like free time and watching television is effective in modifying behavior. The mother, in my last observation, used this kind of reinforcement. The girl complained that her plate had too many tasteless vegetables and said she would not eat them. I heard her mother tell her that she could go for a sleepover at her best friend’s place if she ate all the vegetables. As a result, the girl squealed excitedly and hurriedly ate all of them.
What are tangible reinforcers? Define the concept. Next, describe at least one specific example of a tangible reinforcer that you observed and describe how the recipient responded to the tangible reinforcement.
Tangible reinforcers are objects that a grownup can give to a child to encourage good behavior. This kind of reinforcement includes giving children something they like and accompanying it with positive feedback to show them why they earned it. By giving a physical reward, the likelihood of repeating that behavior increases. The tutor, in my first observation, rewarded Ian with gummy bears for every five questions got right. Whenever he received these treats, he would squeal and pop them in the mouth immediately. The boy would then concentrate more and try harder to get the correct answers.
Reflect on and describe your reactions to this observation experience. How did you feel or react to the use of reinforcement in these settings? Value the experience for you: was it a meaningful, helpful, relevant experience for you or not? Please explain and support your value judgment with examples that you observed.
I learned a lot from this experience. It was exciting to see the children’s responses to reinforcements. They seemed extremely happy, proud of their accomplishments, and eager to do better next time. The first time I observed the effects gummy bears had on Ian’s ability to solve mathematical problems. I said, ‘wow’ aloud. I was amazed that something simple like that could have such a significant impact. This experience was meaningful, as it made me realize the power of using reinforcement in children. Among all three, the first observation is the most relevant to me, as I am interested in teaching small children. I learned how to encourage concentration and good grades using simple tactics, which I will use with my future students. The experience was also helpful in showing me how to encourage appropriate behavior in my nephew, Ian.
Analyze the event. Based on your observations, what type of reinforcement seemed to be most effective? Use academic language from the lesson and provide examples from your observation that support your analysis.
Positive reinforcement is crucial to encourage desirable behavior in children. According to Brown (1971), effectiveness depends on the context. Social reinforcement is the most effective type based on my observation. I saw how positive feedback through words or body language inspired confidence, energy, and enthusiasm in the young ones. When Ian was unsure about how he was solving a particular question, he would look up to his tutor. A simple nod would tell him that he was doing the right thing, which would reinstate his confidence in his abilities, and he would finish the question within no time. Gummy bears also had significant effects on his behavior during the lesson. However, I think that such kind of reinforcement is short-lived as it only applies when the child can see or touch the reward. Positive affirmations, whether spoken or expresses through body language, tend to have a long-term impact on a person. It is easier to forget for a little boy to forget a teacher giving him gummy bears than telling him, ‘you are a bright boy’ Brown (1971).
Reflect on the event. Think back on your own experience growing up…and even now! What types of reinforcers worked best to shape your behavior and habits? Which types of reinforcers did not work for you? Share a specific example and be sure to use academic language. Social reinforcement
Tangible reinforcement helped shape my behavior while growing up. My mother would give me cookies or ice cream if I maintained good habits such as taking the trash out, cleaning my room, and doing my homework on time. However, its effects dwindled when I grew older. Social reinforcement has remained the most effective type throughout my life. Receiving positive affirmation contributed significantly to my self-esteem and confidence. One time in high school, when I was helping my sister with her homework, my father told me, ‘you are an excellent teacher.’ I have never forgotten these words in my entire life, and they are the reason I am training to become a teacher. That affirmation showed me that someone believed in me, which in turn made me believe in myself.
Brown, R. A. (1971). Interaction effects of social and tangible reinforcement. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 12(3), 289-303. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022096571900269
Sidman, M. (2006). The distinction between positive and negative reinforcement: Some additional considerations. The Behavior Analyst, 29(1), 135. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2223177/
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