Teachers and Positive Reinforcement

There are teachers, and then there are TEACHERS…

You have been watching Special Needs teacher Chris Ulmer talking to his students. He’s a man who knows the value of positive reinforcement in the classroom. He happens to be a Special Needs teacher but his message to the young should resonate with teachers of all genres, including language teachers of course.

You’ll probably agree that the human mind is rather vulnerable and quite malleable. If you tell a child they are stupid, the chances are they will believe what you say and suffer the consequences of that belief. For example, they may think: “I’m stupid and that means I’ll never be able to learn Spanish”. So the mere thought of ‘stupid’ is highly restrictive when it comes to achievement. How irresponsible to ever label a child as stupid!!

But why, you may ask, should a teacher tell a student how smart they are if the student isn’t smart at all compared with classmates whose exam results are more impressive.

A fair question perhaps, but it misses the point. The point is that positive reinforcement is win win, short term and long term. It generates an instant lift in the morale of the student and it sticks – just as negative reinforcement does – and because it sticks it fosters a long lasting feel-good factor which naturally spreads outwards. The proof of this can be seen in the short video, in which Ulmer states:

After a few weeks of this practice [his positive reinforcing messages] my students started complimenting one another consistently

By way of comparison, imagine the consequences of negative reinforcement. The messages would be similarly sticky and the results would be correspondingly negative. Instead of praising each other the students would be insulting each other (Ulmer makes it clear that after hearing his positive messages, his students never went on to make insults).

Any teacher wanting the best for their students would be wise to follow Chris Ulmer’s simple, highly effective teaching technique.

And any teacher who has followed the Speekee Scheme of Work with their students should know by now that positive reinforcement is a constant theme.

If the beauty in this approach is not at once evident, then ponder the research carried out by Dr. Masaru Emoto from Japan. His studies of water in frozen crystalline form suggest it’s not just humans that react in a special way to positive messages.

Are you a teacher? Would you like to share some examples in which positive reinforcement aimed at your students has had special results?

See you soon!


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…

You may also like...

%d bloggers like this: