Positive Reinforcement Produces Better Results

Eastside SpeechGeneral

Positive Reinforcement Produces Better Results | Eastside Speech

Our families at Eastside tell us that Speech Therapy is something their children look forward to each week. Their enjoyment in learning new skills and improving their communication is likely due to a multitude of factors. Fun, meaningful activities appealing to their interests are important. Another important factor is that children are given positive feedback to encourage them to improve.

It is not surprising then that in a University of Sydney study reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (2/1/22), researchers “found students who were given encouraging feedback when they made errors in a test, rather than simply being told they were wrong, put the setback behind them more quickly and achieved better results”.

The researchers said that instead of feedback just indicating that their responses were incorrect, children responded better when they were encouraged to look ahead to the next question (eg. “close”, “keep going”). Researcher Chris Duncan said that children give up because they can’t bear the emotion associated with failure.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) to analyse brain waves of children sitting a year nine NAPLAN mathematics paper, 49 students were immediately told if their responses were wrong. The students were divided into 2 groups, one was shown the word “incorrect” on a blank screen, and the other was shown phrases such as “close”, “keep trying”, and “don’t give up” against an image of the countryside. Those receiving the more positive/encouraging feedback showed detectable improvements in the test, compared to the other group.

A key component in children’s learning is their ability to persist and keep on “having a go” even if they don’t get tasks correct all of the time. This is important in learning any new task, after all, very few of us are able to do new tasks absolutely correctly. It is only after practice and persistence that we are able to master new things. Everything we can do as speech pathologists, parents and educators to maximise children’s ability to persist will help them to master new skills.

Click here to find more information about speech therapy for children.