A basic concept in eleven plus learning is that of reinforcement. Every eleven plus child will easily recognise the relationship between the words `reinforcement’ and `reward’.
“If you work hard towards the eleven plus you will get your reward. You know you want a place in your grammar school.”
Common sense, however, tells us that reinforcement is a matter of continual progress – whereas the concept of a reward being a grammar school place is more abstract. Parents will try to make a place at the grammar school the long term reward – and can try to reinforce the position by driving past the grammar school every day. Walking through the doors of the grammar school on the front day is a reward – but there will need to have been many steps in between.
Positive eleven plus reinforcement can be any stimulus that will encourage a child to work towards the examination. Negative reinforcement can be the thousand and one little niggles along the way that can turn a child off learning and studying.
A parent can start, for example, with the best of intentions by offering three pounds for every completed eleven plus paper. After the child has accumulated twenty odd pounds, he or she may begin to weigh up the effort of `slaving’ for another three pounds against the prospect of earning a bit more money. Some children may be prepared to work for nothing – while others may possible call for an increase in payment.
If the money is only supplied on an irregular basis – then again the prospect of adding to the piggy bank may appear to be too remote to be of interest. If, however, your child has had some positive reinforcement over the past hundred eleven plus exercise – it is likely that you will have built up a reservoir good will – and this should act as a positive bridging agent.
Just because your eleven plus child does not perform well on a paper does not mean that your child is not learning properly. It could mean that the paper is not testing what has been taught or learnt. Eleven plus children must wish, sometimes, that he or she is tested on what a has been learnt rather than establish what has not yet been learnt.
Parents check, and reinforce, what has been learnt by trying to repeat similar exercises. The reward is then the satisfaction of being able to do the exercise, or the pat on the shoulder or the extra trip to the cinema.
Parents will earn their reward from that carelessly thrown `thanks’.