Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Behaviorism in Practice

Behaviorists believe students learn as a result of positive and negative reinforcements and punishments. They believe that all behavior is a result of environmental stimuli. Some people believe this theory is outdated however most schools have adopted some form of behaviorism in their classrooms. Teachers use positive and negative responses within their classroom to obtain desired behavior from the students. Behavior is learned (Orey, 2001). However it can also be unlearned when undesired actions are responded to effectively, routinely and immediately and desired actions are rewarded. Some teachers implement behavior contracts (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). The response may be a positive or negative reinforcement where the students get rewarded for the desired behavior. This holds the students responsible for their behavior within the classroom which also teaches them a life skill that will make them responsible adults one day.
Strategy one discussed reinforcing effort. In this strategy students need to see the correlation between the amount of effort they put forth and their achievement. This is truly behaviorism because the students will see the more effort they put into an assignment or task the higher their score will generally be; positive behavior results in positive reactions. According to the reading, achievement is a direct result of effort (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). Some students may not easily see the relationship between the two; therefore creating a visual will help them realize the more effort they put forth, the higher their grades will be. The spreadsheet presented in the reading helped students see the relationship. This demonstrates the use of positive reinforcement in the classroom.
Strategy two, homework and practice, explains how students need to practice skills in order to achieve more success. According to Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski (2007) students need at least twenty-four practice periods with a new skill before achieving 80% proficiency. Practice can be accomplished in class or at home. When students are doing homework, it should be similar to the classwork where they can practice the learned skill with little or no assistance from guardians (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007). It is important to make sure students understand the skill being reinforced through homework and that it is addressed the next day in class to check for misconceptions. If students are allowed to continue to practice using an inappropriate method, it becomes more difficult to unlearn the skill. Repetition is important if learning is to take place. According to Smith (1999), a skill cannot be developed unless there is adequate practice.  Using computer programs is another way to have students practice skills. Many computer programs allow students to perform a task multiple times to get an answer with immediate feedback for accuracy. Some programs actually explain how to solve problems when students continually miss them. This feedback is a behaviorist response. When they get the correct answer, they are praised with applause, fireworks or other response. When it is incorrect, they get another chance, lose the game or may have the problem explained to them. Either way the student is building knowledge through the positive or negative response.
Behaviorism can be seen in today’s classroom’s Teachers may not always see how they are using it, but when they smile or complement a students for a job well done, they have given a positive reinforcement. When they give homework passes to students who continually turn in work on time, they are giving negative reinforcement because they have removed an assignment because of the desired behavior. Students today may learn differently because they need more hands-on, physical activities to stay motivated and attentive, but they still respond to the behaviorists’ theory.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom       instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Smith, K. (1999). The behaviorist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from

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