How positive reinforcement creates a happy learning environment

How positive reinforcement creates a happy learning environment

Positive reinforcement was first introduced into the psychological realm as a part of B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. Skinner devised his theory after laboratory experiments made him aware of the association between particular types of behaviour and the consequences of these actions.

Skinner concluded that when behaviour is followed by a reward that is pleasant, it often leads to said behaviour being repeated. A part of the behaviourist movement, Skinner noticed parallels between his laboratory experiments and the way people react to a stimulus in the form of a reward, and ultimately devised a new theory about how the same techniques could be used in conditioning people to respond to this rewards-based way of doing things.

Skinner’s simple experiment gave rise to an array of new ideas about how learning takes place, and also gave us the concept of positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement as a part of effective classroom management

Positive reinforcement has been used as an effective classroom management strategy since the old approach to managing a classroom – stern punishments and harsh reprimands – became a thing of the past.

By consistently and timeously rewarding good behaviour in a way that is age-appropriate and genuine, educators are able to essentially “train” students to recognise certain types of behaviour as appropriate, and to work hard in order to achieve the desired outcomes in the classroom.

How positive reinforcement leads to happy learners

Positive reinforcement may be included in classroom management in a number of different ways.

Educators may reward good behaviour or success in achieving outcomes by using activity reinforcers (like allowing students to take part in special or preferred activities when they behave in a certain way or meet certain outcomes), tangible reinforcers (like stickers, balloons, sweets or other awards), token reinforcers (like using a points or tokens system to reward learners) and social reinforcers (like expressing praise for appropriate behaviour).

The type of positive reinforcement an educator incorporates in their classroom will depend on the teacher, the learners and the general teaching environment.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way in creating a happy classroom environment for educators and learners alike, and the advantages of adopting positive reinforcement are vast:

• Positive reinforcement allows learners to use the social cues of their teachers as indicators of what type of behaviour is appropriate. When an educator, for example, rewards a specific learner for good behaviour or the achievement of outcomes, their peers also learn to mimic this behaviour in order to receive the same rewards.
• Positive reinforcement motivates learners to strive toward academic goals.
• Positive reinforcement leads to a greater sense of community in the classroom, and allows accomplishments to be celebrated as a class.
• Positive reinforcement leads to greater enthusiasm among learners in the classroom.
• Positive reinforcement encourages students to actively enjoy being present and learning in the classroom environment.

Sparrow Schools believes in the value that positive reinforcement adds to the learning experience, and we actively try to incorporate it as a part of not only efficient classroom management, but also as a way to keep our students happy, involved and learning to the best of their abilities.


The history of the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust

The history of the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust

Planting small seeds for a bright and successful future

Established in 1989, the mission of Sparrow Schools has always been to provide quality, holistic education to differently-abled youth. Despite Sparrow’s humble beginnings as a Saturday morning school with just four learners, operating from a church hall in Joubert Park, it had already cemented its place on Juta Street, Braamfontein by 1992, growing into a home for 550 learners and 20 teachers.

The unprecedented growth of the school necessitated the need to register the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust as a non-profit organisation, which would enable founder Jackie Gallagher to set up a board of trustees, assisting the school in growth mindset-based educational projects, and securing funding for the enrolment of learners in the future.

With the board and management at the helm, Sparrow Schools developed into a bridging school, catering for grades 1 to 9. The accelerated teaching methodologies used throughout Sparrow Schools’ history, and still being incorporated into the school’s educational approach today, empowers learners to realistically compete in mainstream schools, and plants the seeds of success for their future.

Fundraising for the future

Now comprising three different, fully-equipped campuses, relentless fundraising was undertaken in order to upgrade and convert the school, and to equip it with desks, chairs and blackboards. Small state grants, after the school was registered with the Department of Education in 1993, further ensured the upkeep of the school, its facilities and its resources.

The support Sparrow now receives, both locally and internationally, has allowed Sparrow Schools to not only refurbish the buildings of the school and train its teachers, but to pay it forward by extending this support to Lerajabetsie Primary School in Sweetwaters – along with a number of other schools in informal settlements – since as early as 1991.

Sparrow School’s vision of endowing South African youth with educational resources to access future employment still forms the basis of our educational approach, and as the school continues to expand, we are reminded of the ways in which we have met, and will need to carry on meeting the needs of the communities in which we work, ultimately filling a much-needed gap for the education of learners with special needs and limited means.






The Sparrow Foundation School

The Sparrow Foundation School

Sparrow Foundation School was founded in 1992 in order to address the need for specialised, learner-centred education. As a part of the Sparrow Educational Trust, the Foundation School is an independent primary school, focusing on learners with special educational needs (LSEN). Sparrow Foundation School offers an adapted CAPS curriculum to learners from grade 1 to grade 7. The school is accredited with Umalusi and ISASA, and is also a member of the Anglican Board of Education.

Holistic education that values learners’ academic and emotional development

The rising cost of educational organisations that offer remedial teaching and learning facilities excludes many differently-abled learners from accessing specialised educational services. Sparrow Foundation School bridges this gap with special needs education that is of exceptional quality, while not compromising on affordability.

In order to address the varied needs of learners, a group of experts across a range of remedial, therapeutic and educational fields work with the educators at Sparrow Foundation School to provide an educational approach that values emotional growth just as much as academic development.

Employing a holistic teaching and learning environment that makes learners feel grounded and supported, the growth mindset of learners is developed in order to enable them to become well-rounded members of society, equipped with skills that will benefit them on their educational and professional journeys later in life.

Principal: Leona Krishna – 011 482 3520


8 career quotes to live by

Embarking on the establishment of a career is a seminal experience. This is an exciting time for anyone just starting out on their career path, but while it may be exciting at first, it is normal to lose a bit of the initial exhilaration.

Here are eight quotes about careers to remember for those days when work just feels too much like work.

Imagine what you want from life. Now, make it happen.

Staying present puts life into your day.

Confucius’s quote is probably one of the most enduring quotes in history about work. It still rings as true now as it did thousands of years ago.

Realising that our work should fulfil us more than simply in monetary terms is key to career happiness.

Imagination is one of the most valuable skills in any career.

Failure is never forever.

No one person can do everything.

Becoming successful in one’s chosen career is a lifetime of trial, error and learning.



5 TED talks that will inspire you before an interview

5 TED talks that will inspire you before an interview

Interviewing for a job is a necessary step in the process of securing employment. Very few people would cite an interview as one of the most exciting way to spend their time, but most people would agree that walking into an interview with confidence goes a long way in making it a more pleasant and successful experience.

Confidence is key in conveying that you are enthusiastic and excited about the prospect of getting the job you’re interviewing for. A lot has been said about building confidence, and some esteemed TED speakers have some great tips to inspire your self-confidence before your next interview.

Brittany Packnett : How to build your confidence – and spark it in others

What TED says: “Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows,” says educator and activist Brittany Packnett. In an inspiring talk, she shares three ways to crack the code of confidence – and her dream for a world where revolutionary confidence helps turn our most ambitious dreams into reality.

It is possible to unlock confidence, even when we seem to have lost the key. This inspirational talk by Brittany Packnett will teach you how.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language may shape who you are

What TED says: Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success.

The secrets of body language aren’t really secrets at all in this insightful talk by Amy Cuddy.

Regina Hartley: Why the best hire may not have the perfect resume

What TED says: Given the choice between a job candidate with a perfect resume and one who has fought through difficulty, human resources executive Regina Hartley always gives the “Scrapper” a chance. As someone who grew up with adversity, Hartley knows that those who flourish in the darkest of spaces are empowered with the grit to persist in an ever-changing workplace. “Choose the underestimated contender, whose secret weapons are passion and purpose,” she says. “Hire the Scrapper.”

Yes, you will be vying for a position among many other people, but what makes you stand out? Is it genuine passion?

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

What TED says: Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening? Here’s Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to’s of powerful speaking – from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, according to the adage. Julian Treasure gives some helpful tips.

Daniel Levitin: How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed

What TED says: You’re not at your best when you’re stressed. In fact, your brain has evolved over millennia to release cortisol in stressful situations, inhibiting rational, logical thinking but potentially helping you survive, say, being attacked by a lion. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin thinks there’s a way to avoid making critical mistakes in stressful situations, when your thinking becomes clouded – the pre-mortem. “We all are going to fail now and then,” he says. “The idea is to think ahead to what those failures might be.”

Don’t let stress get the better of you the next time you go for an interview. Daniel Leveiting has guidelines.


4 time-management apps that can help you make the most of your day

4 time-management apps that can help you make the most of your day


Whether you are still completing your studies, or are about to start your first job, time management will always be of the essence.

As we increasingly use our smartphones to help us coordinate our days, here are four apps that can help you make the most of your time, whether it be for studying or for tasks that need to be completed at work.

1. RescueTime

At its core, time management requires a thorough assessment of how we spending our hours to begin with. This app helps you to see what things you may be wasting time on, so you can increase your everyday productivity. It allows you to record the websites you visit, the apps you use, and the breaks you take between tasks. RescueTime will block apps and websites that distract you while you’re working, and will take specific productivity goals – like not spending too much time browsing social media feeds – into account, as it helps you to structure your days for optimum efficiency.

2. Trello

If you prefer organising your time on your mobile phone instead of planning your day using traditional pen-and-paper methods, Trello is the virtual bulletin board you’ve been looking for. Use “do”, “doing” and “done” boards to keep track of tasks, or use one of the handy kanban board to brainstorm your next big idea or plan for the future. Download Trello for Android or iOS.

3. Toggl

Toggl is an app that helps to track the time you spend on specific projects or tasks. A built-in Pomodoro timer lets you allocate specific amounts of time for specific tasks. Toggl is available for iOS and Android.

4. Todoist

You probably already have a fitness tracker on your mobile device – think of Todoist as a fitness tracker for productivity. It gives you a summary of how productive your day has been and even features a personal Todoist Karma score, which encourages you to push higher and become more productive. Download Todoist for iOS and Android, and watch your productivity improve every day.


5 unusual ways to beat interview nerves

5 unusual ways to beat interview nerves

Interviews are perhaps among the most stressful activities any of us have to undertake in our lives. Putting yourself in a vulnerable position and trying to highlight all of your skills while potential employers scrutinise your CV isn’t exactly a fun day at the races.

Don’t fret: there are some unusual ways to prevent interview nerves from getting the best of you. Sure, these methods are not traditional, but using them the next time you apply for a job could help to make you feel calmer and more at ease during the interview process.

1. Stand up and wait in the boardroom

When you are shown into the boardroom where your interview will be conducted, you might be shown a seat to wait for the panel that will be interviewing you. Don’t take it – you will seem more confident when you meet the interview panel standing up at the same level as they are.

2. Be careful of speaking too quickly

When we’re nervous, we tend to speak faster. To stop this from happening, breathe in through your nose, hold it for three counts, then breathe out through your nose for another three counts. Do this three times while waiting for your interview. Breathing slowly helps to slow down your heart rate and calm your nerves.

3. Show your hands

Some research has shown that you are more likely to get the job when your hands are visible on the table in front of you. This is because showing your hands is a sign of honesty.

4. Take care of the pre-interview jitters

If you are wary of showing your hands because they are shaking, one rather unusual technique can help to stop this from happening. When you clench your buttocks and thigh muscles, it helps to prevent your hands from shaking. Don’t worry about people noticing – proper interview attire will prevent anyone from seeing what you’re doing.

5. Stop your voice from quivering

Before your interview, open your mouth and stick your tongue out as far as you can, and then try to recite the entire Humpty Dumpty rhyme. As ridiculous as this sounds, doing this helps to open your throat, helping you to sound more confident.

These interview tips might sound quite weird, but trying to incorporate these little tricks will help you to walk into your next interview feeling confident about the prospect of showing your interviewers exactly why you are the very best candidate for the job.


The cost of neglecting education in South Africa


The cost of neglecting education in South Africa

With Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga recently announcing that government would start implementing plans that allow learners to leave school at the end of Grade 9 with an alternative set of qualifications, among these the so-called General Education Certificate, the conversation about education about education in South Africa has once again been ignited.

Despite its high spending, which is comparable with much richer countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South African learners and teachers rank around the bottom in comparative international benchmarking tests. Last year’s matric results revealed that only 48.1% of learners that were enrolled in grade 10 in 2016 actually wrote matric in 2018.

Whichever way you look at it, basic educational qualifications matter in the real world. Statistics in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter of 2018 showed that of the 6.1 million unemployed persons, about 57.1% had an education level below matric, while those who did have matric made up 34.2% of unemployed people. Contrarily, graduates made up just 1.7% of unemployed people, and those with some form of tertiary qualification only formed 6.3% of the unemployed population.

The stats are clear: education is a key and driving factor of ultimately gaining employment and being able to become self-sufficient.

At Sparrow FET College, the work we do is twofold: aside from providing training and skills development to learners, the College also addresses critical needs shortages across various sectors.

Sparrow FET graduates get their training in a simulated work environment and continue their comprehensive training with an industry placement, that also very often leads to employment after they’ve graduated from Sparrow.

We believe in the empowerment of the youth through skills training and development that aid learners in finding employment. Because their progress is continuously tracked and monitored, with job coaches that continue monitoring the placement of Sparrow graduates during their job placements, we ensure that the young people who leave our campus are ready and fully equipped to play their part in building the South African economy.


5 unusual networking tips to help you land career contacts

5 unusual networking tips to help you land career contacts

Networking and other corporate events and expos are great places to start networking and build a list of career contacts. These types of events are a goldmine for people who are just starting to climb the corporate ladder.

By its nature, networking is a practice that is used to meet new people who may be useful business or personal contacts in the future. The blind dates of the corporate world, these events provide an opportunity for connection, as long as the participants are sincere in their pursuit of it.

Here are 5 unusual tips to try the next time you are networking at an event.

1. Choose where you stand wisely

Contrary to popular belief, you won’t necessarily meet more people if you stand at the entrance of the venue where the networking event is being held. Even if it has been proven that we forge better connections when we break bread with someone else, having to manoeuvre a plate while trying to shake someone else’s hand can prove a challenge.

One of the best spots to stand when you are looking to meet new people is where people exit after they’ve gotten a drink at the bar. It creates a comfortable atmosphere when people meet with their beverage in hand, ready to make casual conversation.

2. Pay attention to your body language

Meeting people for the first time can be awkward, and making small talk isn’t always the easiest thing. However, you can use your body language to convey that you are truly listening to what the other person is saying.

Being attentive when meeting new people creates a sense of shared experience and connection, and you can easily show that you are paying attention by tilting your head slightly as you listen. Try to keep your posture relaxed and don’t tense up, even if you are feeling nervous. This will put the person you are talking to at ease, too.

3. Have a system for business cards

Remember to take along some business cards that you can give to the people you network with so they can make contact again after the event. To reduce the time you take looking for a business card, start using a system.

Save your right jacket pocket (or a separate area in your purse) for your own business cards, and leave your left pocket (or another space in your purse) for the business cards of people you meet at the event. That way, you won’t have to rummage around as you greet your new contacts.

4. Master the perfect handshake

First impressions last, and an impressive handshake is the first way to cement yourself into someone else’s memory. Have a look at what behavioural scientist and author Vanessa Van Edwards advises as you practice this professional greeting.

5. Smile!

As uncomfortable as many people may feel about meeting strange new people for the first time, a warm demeanour is your best ally when you attend events where you will be networking. The easiest way to create a welcoming atmosphere is to smile to people as you meet them. They’ll perceive you as warm, and will remember you for it.


How to talk to potential employers about your work experience

How to talk to potential employers about your work experience

With a strong focus on skills development, Sparrow FET College aims to equip our students with all the practical, real-life tools that they’ll need in particular fields of the job market. We have no doubt that the students who complete any of our accredited training programmes leave with a theoretical, real-life and practical background that will drive their careers and make them an asset to any organisation they ultimately join.

What sets Sparrow FET College apart from similar FET colleges is our placement of students with companies and organisations that equip them with work experience that is invaluable in the job market.

This is how Sparrow FET graduates should communicate their extensive job experience to potential employers when they start seeking full-time employment.

Highlight working examples that can benefit the company you’re applying to

When going for a job interview, applicants often try and highlight those skills they think will put the focus on how their skills may make them useful to the organisation they are applying to. Of course, it is important to mention the skills they acquired during in-service training, but backing that up with real-life working examples of how they actually used those skills in their jobs makes the interview – and the candidate – significantly more memorable to potential employers.

Let’s say you completed in-service training at a restaurant. It is definitely important to mention the practical skills that you used in your job, but talking about actual examples of how you utilised those skills to make yourself indispensable shows potential employers that you have the ability to take initiative.

For example, it might be useful to mention the time you decided to streamline the kitchen in order to lessen food waste, or the time you used leftover vegetable to make a soup that could be sold the next day. Any practical examples of skills that were put to work in a way that was useful to the organisation you did training with is worth a mention.

Mention repeated work experience

Whether it was a part of your in-service training or perhaps a job that you had previously, it is always good to mention repeated work experience to potential employers.

If you were invited back for a second placement at a particular organisation, it tells potential employers that other people had confidence in your abilities to such an extent that they wanted you to come and work there again. This makes you an attractive candidate for the position they are looking to fill.

Don’t only mention relevant work experience

Yes, you should definitely mention positions you may have held that were similar to the job you are applying for, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that is the only experience you should talk about. You may have held a position within an organisation that didn’t necessarily tie in with the position you are applying for now, but still highlights your problem-solving skills, abilities and talents.

In this regard, you can even go as far as mentioning leadership positions or extracurricular activities that you took part in when you were in school. You can try to make this experience relevant by hooking it onto other skills that are relevant in the job you are applying for, even though they are not explicitly related to similar positions.

For most students leaving Sparrow FET College, work experience is an added bonus they take into the job market. However, the extensive work experience we offer as a part of our programmes is often not the only work-related experience our students have.

Making use of real-life examples when discussing previous employment and experience makes potential employers remember you, because they remember the story of how your keen mind and problem-solving skills were used to benefit the organisation you were working for.

When they can see how you were indispensable to previous employers, potential employers can envision how you may be indispensable to them, and that goes a long way in securing good full-time employment that further broadens the realm of experience you have to present to whichever organisation you join next.