Positive vs. Corrective feedback

Here’s a little task for you – think of several different types of occasions when your child is in your care:
               1. A learning situation – either homework or play based
               2. A fun child centered activity
               3. A time when your child engages in high rates of challenging behaviour (for most parents this happens when they are busy doing some sort of household task such as laundry, making dinner or even talking on the phone).
The next time that each situation arises take some data on your own behaviour.  Keep track of the number of both the corrective and positive statements that you make.  Corrective feedback refers to times where you request that your child modify their behaviour.  Examples include: cross your legs, sit on the chair, no, not that way – do it like this, look when you say hi, smile at Grandma, stand still, try that again, that’s not very nice etc. Examples of corrective feedback are endless.  Positive feedback includes: Great job, you did it, nice one, you got it, good for you, well done etc.  Again these are endless.
Stop here.  Don’t read and further.  Take some time to do your homework.  Be honest in your data collection so that you get an accurate representation.  Take an accurate recording for each occasion and then come back.
Now – here’s a number for you:  There are guidelines for providing feedback, recommending that the number of positive to corrective feedback should be 4:1.  How did you do?  Give yourself a pat on the back if your numbers were close but, there are many many times where this is not the case.  If you didn’t achieve these numbers it’s okay – but now it’s time to modify your behaviour.
Reasons for positive feedback:
  • It can (though does not always) serve as reinforcement, thus increasing the future rate of behaviour that you are commenting on.
  • It helps to build and maintain a positive rapport between you and your learner.
  • A history of positive feedback can generate motivation to engage in behaviour that has contacted positive feedback in the past.
  • It can lead to an increase in receptivity to future feedback (both positive and corrective).
  • It can promote self awareness, self confidence and performance with in certain situations
There are times where providing positive feedback is quite easy, your child is being compliant and responding appropriately to an ongoing situation.  The key here is to remember to offer high rates of feedback.  Sometimes our thinking is: if it’s going well then leave it alone – ignore that advice and continue to offer your praises.
It is when there are high rates or intensity of challenging behaviour that this becomes more difficult.  Finding a way to deliver positive feedback in light of a problem behaviour is not easy.  Monitor the situation carefully, following the behaviour, provide praise for small steps.  Catch your child being good often, even if good is not as good as usual take the best they can do right now.
Over time offering frequent and balanced feedback becomes second nature.
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