Reinforcement is a fundamental concept in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that increases the likelihood of a behavior happening in the future. While there are different types of reinforcement, Positive Reinforcement is often used in daily instruction in classrooms, clinics, and workplaces.
Reinforcement happens all around us every day. When we evoke any behavior (like placing a dollar bill in a soda machine), we receive reinforcement (in the form of a delicious soda)! Positive reinforcement is anything added to the environment to increase the likelihood of the behavior occurring again in the future.
Let’s say you ask a question in your classroom. One student raises their hand, and another shouts out the correct answer. If you were to acknowledge the correct answer immediately, your student who shouted out the answer would be reinforced by your response and will likely call out the correct answer again rather than raising their hand.
However, if you were to ignore the shouting out and ask for the answer from the student who raised their hand, hand-raising behavior would be reinforced and would likely increase in the future. Ignoring the behavior you do not want (e.g., shouting out) is called “extinction.”
There are two types of positive reinforcers – the primary (or “unconditioned”) and secondary (or “conditioned”).
A primary reinforcer is natural to survival and does not need to be taught – food, water, shelter, etc. On the contrary, a secondary reinforcer is a stimulus associated with a primary reinforcer to strengthen behaviors.
For example, a primary reinforcer is when someone is hungry and they are fed. The food serves as a reinforcer because it takes away the hunger they were feeling, and no learning had to happen to teach that food takes away hunger.
An example of a secondary reinforcer is a dollar bill. Because we have associated that money can allow us to access things we enjoy, including primary reinforcers like food and shelter, it is categorized as a secondary reinforcer.
How can you incorporate positive reinforcement into your learning environment?
At TeachTown, all of our education solutions for students with moderate to severe disabilities are based on the science of ABA, and our curriculum department is led by a team of BCBAs, PhDs, and an SLP who are experts in developing adapted curricula designed to produce positive learning outcomes for students with moderate to severe disabilities.
The evidence-based teaching procedures utilized in our solutions, which range in age appropriateness from PK-Transition, aim to measurably improve the academic, behavioral, and adaptive functioning of students with moderate to severe disabilities. Scripted lesson plans, including guided practice and independent practice technology lessons and manipulatives, make it easy to deliver these solutions with existing staff in any school or setting.
Take a peek at TeachTown’s solutions to see firsthand what kind of resources are available to you and the students you serve. When you’re ready, request a demo to see how the solutions work in real-time.