Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Do I Have to Give a Treat After Every Tag?

The short answer is no. You don't have to give an actual treat after each tag. However, the tag must be a conditioned reinforcer in order to work effectively. The tag sound (or touch, light, or other predetermined stimuli)  itself is initially meaningless. It begins to have reinforcing power only after it becomes associated with something that is already reinforcing to the learner.

With very young learners, reluctant learners or learners with cognitive delays, it may be initially necessary to follow the tag with a tangible reinforcer (a piece of popcorn, a sip of soda  a sticker or a bead etc.). With adult learners and teens or children who are motivated to learn because they wish to improve or to succeed at a chosen activity, it is not necessary to give a tangible reinforcer. The tag itself becomes conditioned as a reinforcer because it is associated with that most powerful motivator, success! The tag means success and it tells the learner "yes, that was right!".

TAGteaching is much more fluent and efficient once the tag becomes a conditioned reinforcer. Here is a video that illustrates the importance of the conditioned reinforcer in circumstances where a food treat may not work for the teacher or the student for any substantial length of time and is indeed distracting to the learning process. The tangible reinforcer as suggested by the learner in the video is a glazed donut.