The very next time you are standing in the playground discussing the eleven plus you must bring up the name `Skinner’. In case you are asked any questions a little background about him may be useful.
Skinner was a psychologist who lived many years ago in America. One of his ideas was about the need for some types of learning to be broken down into small steps.
On some verbal reasoning papers, for example, we are given a set of instructions, an example and then a number of questions. If we work through the questions and answers with our children we hope that they will remember how to do similar questions in the examination.
One of the important things we have to do is deliver some form of continuous reinforcement. In eleven plus terms this means that every time your child given the correct answer you must give some form of reward. Traditionally the reward is offered by providing a tick beside the answer. The problem is that if you walk away to do something else then the continuous element suffers and the effects of the reward decrease. (Being a parent is not easy!)
The next type of reinforcement is when you set an interval before you mark and work though the answers. In simple terms it means that your child knows that you will return at 5.15 to mark the work. In other words the reward is offered at preset times – and your child becomes conditioned to expecting you to walk in with a smile to go over the work that has been done.
The third type Skinner talked about was when a ratio of reinforcement is set up. This is where your child will have a set amount of work to be completed before there is any reinforcement. (If you do the first part of this paper we will go to the cinema.)
So in any one eleven plus session you may be exposing your child to at least three different types of reinforcement. We see examples of different kinds of conditioning in many films to day, especially in the `good cop bad cop’ variety. The `bad cop’ wears the suspect down through negative reinforcement then the `good cop’ offers a solution – and the case is solved.
Naturally you want to offer positive reinforcement to your child when ever possible. You do not want to have to go back into the `eleven plus’ room at 5.15 and find that only two questions have been answered – when you were expecting at least 20. Then you could potentially change from a: `good mum to a bad mum’.
It is perfectly possible to say:” Well let us leave the marking of this until dad gets home.” The continuous element of the reinforcement may need to be abandoned until a different solution can be offered.
So the goal now is personalized and positive reinforcement. When you stand at the entrance to the ball dressed in all your finery – long dress, hair done and wearing your best jewels you hope for some positive reinforcement.
“Oh, you do look good.”
“You really do scrub up very well.”
“That outfit has taken years off your age.”
Any one of the above will do as long as you feel the remark is personalized and positive.
Your eleven plus child doing an eleven plus verbal reasoning paper will wish for much of the same.