Thursday, August 1, 2019

Applying Marzano to Teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

In the last two posts, I covered aspects of Marzano's nine essential aspects of effective teaching, including "Identifying Similarities and Differences" and "Summarizing and Note-Taking." In this post, I'll explore the third of the nine - "Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition."

This one is especially interesting to me because of my background in psychology. Reinforcement (aka a "reward") is a topic we talk about all the time in my psychology classes. Personally, I use reinforcement all the time in the classroom, when teaching on the mats, and in my day-to-day life. It's a wonderfully-effective tool for getting people to repeat a behavior.

The goal of using this strategy is two-fold. First, it motivates people to keep training. In jiu jitsu, the time you spend on the mat matters. A lot. After all, a black belt really is nothing more than a white belt who never stopped training. Both the reinforcement of effort and providing recognition for achieving a particular standard (like promotions) help keep people coming back.

Second, this strategy provides feedback so the students know they're on the right track. As more experienced practitioners, we sometimes forget our students don't automatically possess the wisdom we've collected by OUR time on the mat that tells us we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. Simply rewarding the students for the kind of effort that will make them better, and recognizing when they do something right, provides a powerful guide that will keep their learning on the right track.

Of Marzano's nine, this one is also probably the one most used by jiu jitsu instructors now. Every jiu jitsu instructor I've ever trained under has used reinforcement to encourage effort AND has provided recognition for accomplishments. Unfortunately, HOW these are applied sometimes goes off the rails a bit.

So... here are some tips from your friendly neighborhood psychology teacher:

1. Reinforce EFFORT more (work hard), outcomes less (focus on winning.) Reinforcers increase behaviors. We want our students to work hard, so we reinforce effort. Winning is a natural outgrowth of effort. Or, more accurately, the probability of winning increases as a function of effort. But "winning" is out of an individual's direct control. No matter how much I practice, I ain't beating Mike Jordan in a game of one-on-one.
2. Make sure the reinforcer you're using is actually a reinforcer for that individual. Not everyone wants a candy bar for cleaning the toilets. Reinforcers are personal. What motivates ME does not necessarily motivate YOU. As a jiu jitsu instructor, you have to figure out what motivates each of your students.
3. Make sure the reinforcer is clearly contingent on the desired behavior.  The student absolutely has to understand their "reward" is being given because they engaged in a specific behavior. While this seems pretty logical, if the teacher isn't explicit, the student may think they were rewarded for a different behavior, which they will then repeat.
4. Recognition may be public or private. Some people like to be recognized in front of peers that matter to them. Others prefer to be recognized in private. Most people have a preference; it's up to you to figure out which one is better for each student. 
5. Reinforcement and recognition must be immediate. Or, the sooner either is given after the desired behavior or outcome, the more effective it is. If a student hits that arm bar from guard, recognize it right then. Don't wait until next Tuesday. 
6. Use reinforcement and punishment at a 4:1 ratio. Admittedly, this one's getting a little geeky, but track your use of rewards and punishments. Research indicates this ratio maximizes learning.

Start using reinforcement and praise in your jiu jitsu instruction, and follow the rules above. Let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below!



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