Behaviorism

After exploring two different instructional strategies from Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, I was able to consider the connections with these strategies and the behaviorist learning theory and the course materials. The behaviorist learning theory, made popular by B. F. Skinner (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008) is based in the idea of behavior reinforcement. Dr. Orey discusses two parts of behaviorism which are of interest when analyzing how this theory relates to the instructional strategies reviewed. Dr. Orey describes Operant Conditioning which is when desirable behaviors are rewarded and undesirable behaviors are punished (Laureate Education, 2010). He also describes Programmed Instruction which is when a small amount of information is presented and a question may be asked requiring learner response, which will be deemed correct or incorrect. According to Lever-Duffy and McDonald (2008), this approach has made its way into educational technology by way of computers and student activities that create this type of interaction.

The two instructional strategies that have been analyzed and compared for its relation to behaviorism are “Reinforcing Effort” and “Homework and Practice” which are described in chapters 8 and 10 of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. The first strategy of Reinforcing Effort emphasizes the importance of student effort in helping students to achieve success. The chapter suggests many rubrics to use with students so that the students are able to rate separate areas of effort within the classroom. This data can be transferred into a spreadsheet using spreadsheet software or online program. Students can see and compare their effort scores and know what areas they may need to improve. This relates to Operant Conditioning in the theory of behaviorism because positive feedback can be given to students showing desirable behavior, which is high effort in the classroom. Likewise, negative feedback can motivate students showing undesirable behavior (low effort) to show more effort in the classroom. This chapter also suggests ways of reinforcing behavior by way of sharing success stories of students, showing students who have put in good effort, sharing surveys of how effort correlates to success, etc. This relates to behaviorism because as Dr. Orey mentions, reinforcing the desirable behavior is the most effective method of conditioning behavior (Laureate Education, 2010).

The second instructional strategy of Homework and Practice displays the need for resources to give students extra opportunities encounter what they have learned through different types of software, multimedia, and online resources. Some of these resources are similar to the idea of Programmed Instruction. Any of the software games or activities, or even online activities that may resemble a tutorial or give other small amounts of information will resemble the first part of Programmed Instruction. Some of the games or activities will finish with a quiz or have questions along the way which will often respond with feedback if the answers are correct or incorrect. This in very similar to the behaviorist view of Programmed Instruction.

The principles of behaviorist learning theory are connected to these instructional strategies, however, some of the information presented in the chapters seems to have taken these basic ideas and improved the basic principles of the behaviorist strategy. It is beneficial to see the connections which can help teachers apply these methods in the classroom with an understanding of the theories behind it.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology [Webcast]. Brain Research and Learning. Baltimore: Executive Producer.
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology With Classroom Instruction That Works. Denver, CO: ASCD

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About Nicole

Hello! My name is Nicole deMoll. I am a kindergarden teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. I started this blog as part of my graduate studies in education. I am dedicated to learning more about integrating technology into the classroom. I love teaching kindergarten and I hope to be able to share a lot throughout my adventures!
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4 Responses to Behaviorism

  1. Mike Ballard says:

    I understand the concept of operant conditioning, and I believe I made a similar comment about the connection between reinforcing effort and negative behaviors. I do not, however, see low effort being “punished” as a technique that works in classrooms today. I may have a somewhat skewed viewpoint from you own, as I am a high school teacher, but simply allowing students to see how low their effort actually is does not seem to motivate them. This requires a high level of internal motivation and students who have a low effort level usually require some sort of external motivation in order to succeed. They need to experience success before they can see that they are capable of achievement in the classroom.

    • Nicole says:

      I personally agree that students seeing low effort does not motivate students and is certainly not a technique that works in classrooms today. I was simply making the connection to behaviorism because that is a part of the behaviorist theory of operant conditioning. I wouldn’t reccommend this method, as you may recall that I did mention in my post that reinforcing the desirable behaviors are much more effective with students, no matter what age or grade level.

  2. Kelley Straight says:

    Hi Nicole,
    I like the connections you made between the behaviorist learning theory and the two instructional strategies. I agree that the positive results they will receive from their high effort should result in the desirable behaviors. You also made a great connection between homework and the behaviorist learning theory. Assigning homework with the involvement of technology is becoming very popular. Some of the computer programs are great exercises for reinforcing the concepts taught and also provide that immediate feedback.
    I enjoyed reading your post!!

  3. m says:

    Nicole,
    I agree with you that positive reinforcement seems to get the best results. I also believe that, for the right student, seeing negative results can be a motivator if that particular student is not used to seeing those results. Furthermore, I would argue that I have had students that started a marking period in middle school at a low level of effort, achieving low scores, and then a project comes along that hooks them, intrinsically motivates them. Once that student sees success, the correlation between effort and achievement, they generally continue to put forth that elevated effort for the following projects. I do not believe that reinforcing effort and achievement only works for the students that are already at the high end of the bell curve. Once my low achievers experience success and I can relate it to their diligence on a certain project, they, too, begin to raise the bar. Charting their progress, especially, would be a perfect visual to underscore the relationship between the two factors.

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