Decades of research in both laboratory and real-life applications have proven the value of positive reinforcement in directing behavior. Among the everyday scenarios where positive reinforcement has proven particularly successful is the classroom.
Put simply, pedagogical research shows that students learn better when they are rewarded for classroom participation and subsequently demonstrating proficiency. In ideal circumstances, positive reinforcement sees its best results when applied immediately after the desired behavior takes place. If that behavior is repeated, then it’s understood that the reinforcement worked. If not, the reinforcement wasn’t effective.
While this seems, in theory, like it would be easy to translate into the adult training environment, it’s not as simple as providing a hearty, “Good job,” or a smiley-face sticker.
Because adult learners are more sophisticated and often will already have some experience with the subject matter, positive reinforcement becomes a more complex task that requires giving them more subtle cues that they’re progressing as they should. In a traditional classroom or training environment, this type of active learning would require verbal interaction from the trainer to individual trainees.
Frequently this technique is both cumbersome and inefficient. Not only does it run the risk of singling out individuals who understand the material while leaving behind those who do not (or who are unwilling to admit it), in larger training venues a trainer is simply incapable of acknowledging individual understanding or proficiency.
Fortunately, there are more efficient ways to incorporate positive reinforcement into the adult learning and corporate training setting. Audience response technology, which allows trainees to remotely respond to questions, quizzes and polls from the instructor, provides real-time results that the instructor can immediately display to the whole training group. Participants can see right away whether their response was correct, providing a clear form of positive reinforcement.