Gentle Bamboo Solutions

Positive Reinforcement Training


A few years ago, I had a dog. I spent hours training him to sit, heel, play dead, jump, bark and fetch on command.

I learned about animal training with treats, cuddles, frisbee, and clicker. Basically, when the dog understands and/or follows a command, it’s rewarded with treats, cuddles, or a toy to play with. A clicker is a small instrument that helps in this.

This technique is called positive reinforcement training.

There’s another technique that works. It uses a newspaper rolled up to softly swat on the dog’s head as punishment when it does NOT understand/follow the command. That works well too. In fact, initially it works better than the positive reinforcement technique.

That’s because the mind wants to avoid pain more than it seeks pleasure. Most circus animals are taught with a negative reinforcement technique. Animal cruelty apart, let there be no doubt that it is very effective.

We can’t obviously give a treat for a right answer in a corporate training session, nor swat the learner with a newspaper for the wrong answer.

However, the awareness of how effective both these techniques are for learners is something that educators shouldn’t ignore.

Pick positive and negative consequences of learning, and utilize them to make your sessions more effective.

I’ll try and share some ideas in subsequent mails over the week.