Learning Reinforcement for Learning to Effectively Take Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Learning Reinforcement

For learning to effectively take place, a number of concepts must be brought together and these include but are not in any way limited to environmental, emotional as well as cognitive influences. One of the most prominent learning theories is the social learning theory whose fronting was most prominently done by Albert Bandura amongst others.

The Social Learning Theory

The social learning theory is founded on the view that most learning is undertaken within the social context. However, according to Ronald L. Akers, the social learning theory must not only be taken to be a theory of peer influence.

With that in mind, the key concepts in this case include; modeling, imitation as well as observational learning. The social learning theory has four basic principles with the first principle stating that most of the learning is informed by an observation of behavior. Here, the reasoning is that the learning process is triggered when individuals evaluate other people's behaviors as well as the outcomes of such behaviors. The second principle states that learning can take place chiefly by observation and without a significant behavioral change. This seems to be in conflict with the opinion of behaviorists that for learning to take place, there has to be a behavioral change which is relatively permanent. The third principle states that the role cognition plays in learning cannot be overstated. Lastly, we have the fourth principle which states that the social learning theory can be taken to be the link between cognitive learning theories and behaviorist learning theories.

Self-Management Strategies: Enhancing Self-Efficacy and the Feeling of Self-Control

When it comes to self-management strategies, it is important to note that they can come in handy to enhance not only the worker's feeling of self-control but also his or her self-efficacy. According to Edward Sarafino, self-management strategies are critical when it comes to the reduction of stress levels. Indeed, Sarafino notes that the application of self-management techniques enhances an individual's self-efficacy and reinforces his or her locus of control (internal).

For instance, enhancing the abilities of workers to handle stress could empower them to effectively control not only their desires but also their emotions. This could be taken to be a significant step towards the enhancement of their self-control. Another example is organizing seminars designed to enhance workers' personal confidence as well as self-esteem. This could make workers believe more in their capabilities and hence upgrade their performance levels both in the production process and in the handling of clients. This is the right step towards self-efficacy.

Skill-Based Pay and Gain-Sharing Plans

Skill-based pay seeks to set the worker's pay levels based on the amount of skills such workers possess or the amount of responsibilities and jobs they can handle. On the other hand, gain sharing plan seeks to ensure that employees share in the profitability of the firm based on its level of performance. As compensation plans, both skill-based pay and gain-sharing-plans can be used as rewards to reinforce behavior. For example, when it comes to gain-sharing-plan, a company is able to stimulate the participation of its workers by allocating to workers a certain percentage of revenues raked in. The prospect of bonus earnings goes a long way to motivate a worker and this could be reflected in their improved performance as well as involvement. A company on the other hand could also use skill-based pay as a reward to reinforce behavior. For instance, by virtue of subjecting employees to constant training, their skills as far as the performance of tasks concerned is enhanced and in this regard, they tend to be motivated to work harder and more consistently.

Organizational Behavior Modification

Ricky Griffin simply defines organizational behavior modification as "the application of reinforcement theory to people in the organizational setting."

Over time, executives have used the concept of organizational behavior modification for a number of purposes including but not limited to the enhancement of performance as well as motivation. Further, the approach has also been utilized in bringing down high employee turnover rates as well as the promotion of behaviors that are desirable e.g. workplace safety, client courtesy as well as increasing sales levels. According to the reinforcement theory, when positive consequences are linked with desirable behaviors, the frequency of such behaviors tends to increase. On the other hand, when negative consequences are linked with undesirable behaviors, then the frequency of such behaviors goes down. With that in mind, it is possible to encourage desirable behaviors in individuals be they employees or otherwise by invoking positive reinforcement. This is the gist of organizational behavior modification. A good example of this in a workplace scenario is organizing annual award ceremonies for employees who demonstrate exceptional performance throughout the year be it in sales or otherwise. In this scenario, the desired behavior is represented by the enhanced performance e.g. increased sales while on the other hand; the positive reinforcement is represented by the annual award ceremonies. Hence by linking awards to improved performance, employees will be more encouraged to enhance their level of performance in their respective departments.

When it comes to reinforcement strategies, the two main types of these include positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. It is important to note that as one of the motivational theories, reinforcement theory basically states that behaviors that are reinforced have a high probability of being repeated while behaviors that are not reinforced have a low likelihood of being repeated. In the case of an employee who is consistently late for work, a number of reinforcement strategies can be used. When it comes to positive reinforcement, the company could adopt a gain-sharing plan where a portion of the company's gains are allocated to workers. This should go a long way to motivate the worker as his early arrival at the workplace shall go a long way to contribute towards a 'fatter' paycheck at the end of the month. Hence in this regard, the prospect of making more by arriving early for work is the appetitive stimulus. Another positive reinforcement approach which can be used to deal with an employee who is consistently late for work is the promise of an early release from work if he or she is no longer late for the work. The assumption in this case is that the worker could be late because of a number of personal obligations or commitment i.e. familial responsibilities. The appetitive stimulus in this case is the early release which can be used utilized by the employee to attend to a number of pressing issues. It is also important to note that whenever the worker arrives early for work, his immediate supervisor can take it upon himself to praise him (the worker). This is another positive reinforcement strategy where the behavior of early arrival is reinforced by an act of praise.

However, it is important to note that negative reinforcement can also be used to deal with an employee who is consistently late for work despite his high productivity when he is at work. Here, the worker can be reprimanded every time he or she arrives late for work. The expected behavior or response in this case is early arrival while the aversive stimulus can be taken to be the reprimand.

The Difference between Negative Reinforcement and Punishment

Though both negative reinforcement and positive reinforcement are taken to be consequences of behavior, they have a number of differences and should not hence be used interchangeably. To bring out the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment, we must first understand the actual meaning of negative reinforcement. When it comes to negative reinforcement, we are essentially rewarding the subject by eliminating the stimulus which is adverse. When it comes to punishment, the discouragement of a given behavior is done by the introduction of a stimulus which can be taken…

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