How have Behaviorist approaches impacted teaching and learning and what is their significance?
Behaviorism is the belief that instruction is achieved by observable, measurable, and controllable objectives set by the instructor and met by the learners who elicit a specific set of responses based upon a controlled set of stimuli. Behaviorism operates on the principle of stimulus-response and that negative and positive reinforcement increases the probability of behavior/learning. Theorists such as Pavlov, Skinner, and Thorndike are proponents of behaviorism.
Behaviorism does not concern itself with the learner’s internal mental states, constructs, and symbols that cognitivism considers in its focus on learning schemas. With cognitivism, the focus of research is on how the brain receives, internalizes, and recalls information. Behaviorism is not interested in internal mental states, but only in external outputs, learning products, and behavioral change. Behaviorism is not concerned with the willfulness, creativity, and autonomy of the learners that constructivism considers in its focus on the learning process. With constructivism, the focus of research is on how to help learners construct, rather than be controlled by the learning experience. Behaviorism is not interested in any behavior from the students that is not predicted beforehand by the learning objectives and demonstrated by the behavioral outcomes. Unlike humanism, behaviorism is not interested in the self-direction or self-actualization of the learner. It is not concerned about whether individual or social human needs arc met through the educational process, as is humanism. Behaviorism is concerned with learning outputs, with a set of single events controlled by the stimulus-response mechanism versus the learning and thinking that is the focus of humanism. Nevertheless, despite its detractors and opposing schools of learning (cognitivism, constructivism, and humanism), behaviorism is still a powerful force in how children and adults are taught nearly seventy years after Skinner began his research with animals.
- What is learning?
- How have Behaviorist approaches impacted teaching and learning and what is their significance?
- In what ways do this week’s readings connect with your experiences of teaching and learning?
Before attending to this week’s readings, think about the questions above. Much like you would do a K-W-L Chart with your students; determine what you KNOW about the topic and what you WANT to KNOW about the topic. Your R2R Post will indicate what you LEARNED about this week’s content. Refer to the R2R details and the success criteria outlined in the Syllabus.
- Hattie & Donoghue: Chapter 7
- Phllips & Soltis: Chapters 2 & 3
- Schunk: Chapter 3
- Complete Assigned Readings
- Post R2R#3
- Comment on at least 3 of your classmates’ posts
- Classmate 1
This weeks reading focused on classical theories of learning, including behaviorism and the model of learning. Learning can be defined as knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study; and also as modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (such as exposure to conditioning).
While reading this week, I stumbled across this quote, “It is most effective to present material in a way that is both interesting and understandable to those who are to learn it.” Phillips, D.C., & Soltis, J.F. (2009). Perspectives on Learning (5th ed.). New York: Teachers College Press. Page 9. There are many things that need to be in place in order to make learning happen. We have been taught that in order for learning to happen students need to have their basic needs met, interested in the topic, material is relevant, demonstrates confidence, and has the skills necessary to learn; these are only a few examples.
The model of learning is made up of 3 components; learner inputs, learning agents, and learning outcomes. Learner inputs are skill (knowledge and ability), will (dispositions that affect learning), and thrill (motivations, emotions, and enjoyment of learning). “The inputs develop into the outcomes in achievement (skill) is as valuable as enhancing the dispositions towards learning (will) and as valuable as inviting students to reinvest more into their mastery of learning (thrill or motivations.” The learning agents are success criteria, environment, and learning strategies. Hattie, John & Donoghue, Greg. (2016). Learning Strategies: A Synthesis and conceptual model. npj Science of Learning. 1. 16013. 10.1038/npjscilearn.2016.13. Page 101.
Behaviorism is the “theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior patterns.” Locke along with other behaviorists assumed that humans were biologically “wired” or equipped so that they could interact with the environment, and profit from this interaction. Behaviorism is the belief that conditioning is the single most thing that is responsible for producing learning, throughout the whole kingdom. Rewarding desirable behavior, and extinguishing (or even punishing) poor behavior is one of the techniques. Behavior is something that is learned; good or bad, and is always communication. Behaviorist approaches have impacted teaching and learning, it has changed what we teach and how we teach, and also how the students learn. Every student is different, and has their way of learning. Using the behavioral approach and paying attention to your students really helps when assessing if they are learning as you intended.
This weeks reading definitely connect with my experiences teaching AND learning. I am a teacher of students with autism. After reading this week I have seen that I see behaviorism in my classroom daily. Behaviors are a huge part of autism and I have learned so much about my students through their behaviors. I have absolutely rewarded students for positive behaviors, and have used planned ignoring in attempt to extinguish poor behaviors. Behavior is communication, we have all heard that probably a million times. My experiences have proven that to be true, my non-verbal students communicate through their behaviors, and my verbal students also communicate through behaviors. Knowing this allows me to plan better and how to respond to them.
I enjoyed this weeks reading, and look forward to reading everyone’s posts.
How have Behaviorist approaches impacted teaching and learning and what is their significance?
Learning is taking something you already know through experience and building from it to form a new understanding. It is important to me that learning starts with prior knowledge. Thorndike and Plato, also believed that prior knowledge was a reality and important for learning to take place. Whenever I teach a new subject I find that students more times than not have prior knowledge of a subject or knowledge that puts them in a position to understand a topic. I activate prior knowledge with a journal where students with no real support from me have to answer certain questions. It kind of freaks them out sometimes if I ask them a question and they are unsure of the answer because they want to get the right answer. What I try to convey to them is they usually have some part of an answer and they just need assistance from myself or other students to develop the best understanding.
When it comes to developing that best understanding what is important is the teacher understanding how learning best occurs. Hattie and Donoghue lay out for us, their model of learning. With in their model is what they have coined “Skill, will, and thrill.”
“The model starts with three inputs, the thrill, skill, and will….Each of these inputs and more desirably the outputs…are open to being influenced by teaching both directly and indirectly, both intentionally and unintentionally.” I have never heard a teacher or administrator use thrill, skill or will or reference this work, it is kind of new but it is a reflection of most advice given to teachers. Teachers that want to succeed have to try and understand their students in order for them to learn. If you do not understand the skills they already have, their determination to accomplish a task, or the enjoyment they may get out of certain learning over others or what gives them that enjoyment then your practice will not stick with the kids the ways in which you would want.
Behaviorists know the importance of at least part of the skill, thrill, and will. They want to achieve the right outputs from students yes but they primarily focus on the stimuli they provide and not external factors outside of their control. Behaviorism is rooted in psychology and when psychology was trying to gain legitimacy by conducting experiments that were very scientific in nature. This reminded me when I worked in an elementary school and we used Classroom Dojo. Dojo is an application or website that assigns students an avatar and they can receive or lose points. I used this system for a year before I noticed and other teachers told me that I have to make sure the sound of my phone is on. Students gaining points and losing points have different tones. Regardless if students know if they are giving points or not the tone can cause them to change their behavior. Learning that and practicing it made me feel uneasy because I felt like I was treating them like Pavlo’s dog.
I enjoyed the work of Thorndike because he really believes in making sure students need to understand the purpose of their learning. Phillips and Soltis also support the importance of students being able to see how their skills work together. I always believed English and Social Studies worked well and supported one another. In my classroom students recently completed a unit that allowed them to explore different aspects of identity and how they impact people and their perspectives. It allowed students to make connections with yes historical…