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Unformatted text preview: nt will be available during operant conditioning (Morse & Dews,
2002; Ferster, 2002; Ferster & Skinner, 1957; Skinner, 1938, 1953). If
reinforcement is available for every occurrence of a behavior, then reinforcement
is being administered on a continuous schedule. Continuous schedules are very
useful for establishing new behaviors, because new behaviors are more likely to
be established quickly when they are reinforced every time they occur (Alberto &
Troutman, 1999). Generally, if a new academic or classroom behavior is being
established, it is helpful to provide students with frequent opportunities for
With an intermittent schedule, only some occurrences of a behavior are
reinforced (Martin & Pear, 1996). The ratio and interval schedules are the two
types of intermittent reinforcement schedules.
A ratio schedule is keyed to the number of responses that must occur for
reinforcement to be earned. With a fixed ratio schedule, every nth response is
reinforced. For example, a student may have to turn in five homework
assignments before reinforcement is available, or a student may be reinforced
every third time she participates appropriately in class. With a variable ratio 28 schedule, the actual number of responses required for reinforcement will vary, but
on average reinforcement is provided for the nth response. A student might be
reinforced the first time he does something. The next reinforcement, however,
may not occur until three responses have occurred, and then maybe only after six
responses have occurred.
The focus with an interval schedule is on elapsed time. If the desired
behavior occurs after a certain amount of time has elapsed, then the student is
reinforced. With a fixed interval schedule, the required time interval is constant.
For example, a teacher may observe a student at ten-minute intervals and if the
student is behaving appropriately at that time, reinforcement is provided. With a
variable interval schedule, the time interval varies. The student may be observed
after one minute for the first interval, but the second interval might be two
(Insert Margin Note 2.16 By The Previous Paragraph.)
The overall benefit of intermittent reinforcement is that behaviors become
more permanent when they are reinforced intermittently (Alberto & Troutman,
1999). Also, when variable intermittent schedules are used, high rates of response
or consistent rates of response are obtained. To see an example of this principle,
go watch gamblers play slot machines in a casino.
In general, the information on schedules of reinforcement suggests that
reinforcement be administered according to the following principle; reinforce 29 frequently at first, and less frequently later on. This combination will help build a
behavior quickly, while also helping make the behavior more resistant to
extinction. This is how Marge Stuart arranges her second grade class to
implement the basic idea of schedules of reinforcement when she is teachin...
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- Spring '08