Friday, February 13, 2009

Introducing TAGteach to Fishermen Part 4

An ongoing account of TAGteach introductions, triumphs and tribulations!
Chapter 4
TAGteach, Parrots and the Men from the Bering Sea!

How Does One Reinforce for Learning to Reinforce Reinforcement?

Not a chair was left out of place, not a soda can or candy wrapper left on a table. This crew not only participated in every activity with great enthusiasm but now were seated and prepared for the second day even before the power point projector had even finished warming up.

OK, the guys were great, but what did we do to facilitate the process on day one?
We asked Amy and Tim “What do the guys really like?”.
"Well, they really like cigarette breaks but on the boat, once they start to work it’s hours and hours before they can even think about a break.
It is also difficult to eat while they are working."
Ok, Terry made sure there were frequent smoke breaks during the first day.
There was also a well stocked snack table close by for easy access.

Then there were the casino chips. They were handed out liberally during the first day for answering questions, asking questions or anything resembling active participation. After the completion of the first day the crew was driven out to a local casino, provided a great dinner and then allowed to gamble for several hours. Black Jack and roulette tables were well attended and I was told substantial sums were won by several of the guys.
Unfortunately, that did not include me as my limit of $20.00 was greedily gobbled by a five cent slot machine in under ten minutes…no reinforcement for me...I digress…

On the second day the chickens were tucked away for good and it was time to transfer the clicker training into a methodology that could be employed on a ship.

The first thing was to get the guys comfortable with giving and receiving positive reinforcement. Usually in a formal setting like this we rely on the leader to deliver praise or affirmation.
I wanted the guys to also get comfortable with saying to their peers or bosses, “yes”, “good job”, “I agree”, “I don’t agree but thanks for the input”.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
When was the last time you felt confident giving a coworker or your boss a literal or figurative slap on the back and a hearty verbal, “good job”?
In the beginning it can make you feel a bit vulnerable. It takes practice.

Since the guys enjoyed the games of chance, I designed a reinforcement system from a deck of cards and a chance to play a hand of poker.
Actually it was an adaptation of a brilliant reinforcement plan developed by a fellow TAGteacher, Kevin England. Each guy was given a hand full of playing cards. If they liked anything a fellow attendee did or said or thought, they could hand them a playing card.
At each break the guys would look through the cards they had, pick out the best 5 and see who had the best poker hand. The more cards given out the better chance they had of a having a winning hand. The best hand received a casino chip.

It took a while for the guys to understand that it was not only the leader in the group (myself) who could dole out the cards… they had just as much responsibility to encourage participation and acknowledge success as I did.
To reinforce what I wanted (for them to hand out cards to each other) I would hand out a card to anyone who handed out a card. Now the guys were reinforced for reinforcing….

Stay tuned for chapter 5

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