By Gerson Moreno-Riano, November 27, 2009 in Pedagogy and Teaching
This blog post is purely a funny anecdote. If you are looking for meaty intellectual substance, then you will have to read another post. I have decided that for this post I would re-tell one of my assessment experiences that has garnered laughs around the globe.
In my years as a faculty member, I have come across many students who have majored in elementary and secondary education. These students have often told me that one of the pedagogical techniques they have learned in their majors and which they have been taught to practice is that of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement comes in many shapes and sizes, but one common technique is that of giving candy to students to reward their good behaviors and positive contributions to the classroom.
I guess I don’t have too much of an issue with this technique if it is used modestly and solely at primary and elementary level of education. After all, very young children are delighted to be rewarded and do seem to learn certain behaviors through positive reinforcement (as do dogs but never cats!). But, I wondered, would this technique actually work with adults? And, I also wondered, had this technique ever been tried on adults? Frankly, I didn’t know and I certainly was not about to find out by trying it out on a group of college students or faculty colleagues.
So, imagine my horror when several years ago at an assessment meeting attended by twenty faculty, the lead assessor (this is the faculty member or administrator that is charged with directing assessment) came into the room with a basket of Hershey chocolate bars. And even more horrific was the fact that I was one of these twenty faculty members. I realized that this elementary technique of positive reinforcement, one that has been tried on little children and canine mutts everywhere, would be deployed on all of my colleagues and myself. I sat in complete horror and disbelief.
“What would happen next?” I wondered. How would this candy be given out? What were the rules of this game? I will tell you all. But you will have to wait until my next posting!