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Bayan Jaber Alternative Reinforcement Strategies

Certified Behavior Analyst Explains Alt Reinforcement Strategies

When teaching and guiding children, the big question is how to encourage good behavior in them. Usually, teachers and therapists reward good behavior with things like stickers, toys, or treats.

But nowadays, experts in education and psychology are exploring new ways to motivate children that work better for each child's individual needs and preferences. This is especially important for kids who learn differently from others.

Understanding Reinforcement in Educational Contexts

Reinforcement is a fundamental concept in behavioral psychology that is pivotal for shaping and modifying behavior. It involves the introduction of a stimulus following a behavior that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.

While tangible rewards are straightforward and often effective, they may only sometimes be the most sustainable or individually motivating options for some children. This is particularly true for children who may not value the tangible reward or may become too dependent on such incentives for motivation.

The Shift Toward Intangible and Natural Reinforcers

Bayan Jaber, an Educational Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis expert from Summerville, South Carolina, emphasizes the significance of exploring various reinforcement strategies. With her extensive background, including a Master's degree in Education Psychology/BCBA from Wayne State University and a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Saint Elizabeth University, Jaber integrates a rich, multidisciplinary perspective into her practice. This perspective is crucial when identifying effective reinforcers that are more personalized and meaningful to each child.


Intangible reinforcers such as praise, recognition, and the opportunity to engage in preferred activities can be highly effective. These rewards tap into intrinsic motivations and can foster a more profound, more enduring commitment to the desired behaviors. For example, giving a child the opportunity to be a class helper can be a powerful motivator and provide the child with a sense of responsibility and belonging.


Social Reinforcers: Harnessing the Power of Interaction

Social reinforcers involve expressions of approval or acknowledgment from others, including peers, teachers, or parents. These can include verbal praise, smiles, thumbs up, or a pat on the back. The advantage of social reinforcers lies in their natural occurrence in daily interactions, making them easy to implement consistently and sustainably.


Activity-Based Reinforcement: Engagement and Enjoyment

Allowing children to choose their activities as a reward for positive behavior can also be highly motivating. This method respects individual preferences and promotes autonomy, which is especially important for children who may feel over-directed by adults in other areas of their lives. Whether it's extra time on the computer, a choice of books to read, or a chance to play a favorite game, activity-based reinforcement encourages children to associate positive behaviors with engaging and enjoyable outcomes.


Token Economies: Visual and Progressive Rewards

Another alternative strategy is using token economies, where children earn tokens for positive behaviors that they can later exchange for various rewards. This system reinforces good behavior and teaches valuable skills such as saving and planning.

Moreover, it allows for flexibility in catering to diverse needs and preferences, as the rewards can range from extra recess time to a preferred seating arrangement in the classroom.


Incorporating Technology in Reinforcement Strategies

Modern technology also offers new avenues for reinforcement. Educational apps and games that reward progress with virtual badges, advancement to new levels, or unlocking new features can appeal to children. These digital rewards can provide immediate feedback that is both reinforcing and engaging.


Key Takeaways

As educators and behavior analysts like Bayan Jaber advocate, understanding and implementing a diverse array of reinforcement strategies is crucial for addressing the unique needs of each child. Moving beyond tangible rewards to embrace intangible rewards, social recognition, activity choices, token economies, and technological enhancements can lead to more effective and personalized education strategies.

Such approaches not only foster positive behavior but also enhance the overall learning environment, making it more inclusive, motivating, and responsive to the diverse needs of students.

Natalie Nyugen

Natalie Nyugen / About Author

Research analyst and contributor on Company InFocus. B.A. in International Marketing from Rutgers Business School.