The latest episode of Hidden Brain, "When Everything Clicks", is simply incredible. Without a doubt my favorite thing I've heard from them.

The first part is about how Karen Pryor invented clicker training for training dolphins, and how it became widely adopted for training other animals. The second part is about how Dr. Martin Levy, after doing clicker training with his dog, started using the technique to teach people to throw frisbees better. The third part is about how Dr. Levy (yes, the same guy) started using clicker training at his day job to train orthopedic surgeons. It was one of those podcasts where, at the conclusion of each act, I was amazed that it had been even better than the act before.

Why use clicker training on humans? Firstly, it provides instantaneous feedback. Secondly, the feedback is unemotional. The learner can focus on mastering the skill, rather than earning the teacher's praise or scorn. As told in the episode:

The only feedback is the sound of the click.

The only reward for the student is the mastery of the skill.

I really liked this idea. I'm not much of a cheerleader, but in my experience with teaching, there've been times when I felt like I needed to force myself to act like one. But in the situations where I've taught (ESL and programming), the students were already motivated to learn. They didn't need a cheerleader; they needed scaffolding and feedback. Of course, with programming, the computer can often do much of the job of providing feedback, so you don't need a human operating a clicker. The teacher's job is to design the learning path for the student and to get them unstuck when they need it, not to tell them when they've done a good job.