Thursday, March 11, 2010

Behaviorism in Practice

The behaviorist learning theory is based on B.F. Skinner's operant conditioning. There are two main parts to this theory. Reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement being the most powerful tool. It has been stated that it only takes 21 days of a repeatitive motion to make something become a habit. So, is Skinner right that behavior can be reinforced and good or bad behavior be made into a habit. I would have to agree wtih this.

I think the same rules apply when you are teaching. If you have a student that is constantly missing the concept of a new skill or a reviewed skill, then as an educator it is our job to reprogram (or punish) that incorrect pattern. Now wait, before you think I am saying punish the student, that is NOT at all what I am saying. I am simply saying that the incorrectly learned material has to be replaced with the correct material and a habit has to be set with reinforcements.

During this weeks reading, I see how instructional strategies and behaviorist learning theories correlate. It is very apparent that they are both striving for a similar goal.


  1. Stephanie,

    When I first studied behaviorism during my undergraduate studies, I was confused with the idea of "punishment." I always viewed punishment as being a negative thing but in reality, it's only "reprogramming" a student's brain in order to end an incorrect pattern. It does not necessarily mean that we are being stern and strict in ceasing an unwanted behavior.

    What are your thoughts on integrating technology into the behaviorist theory? In our learning resources this week, Dr. Michael Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) maintained that teachers must be careful to not turn technology into constant drill and practice activities as the passion for learning can be lost. What are your views or experiences with this idea?


    Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program 4. Behaviorist Learning Theory. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.

  2. I am all for integrating technology, I have to agree with Dr Orey, it is very important not to make it become an unwanted task. I think technology should be a welcomed advantage to supplement or enrich a task that would otherwise be difficult to get across or teach.

    What are your view?

  3. I think that a lot of us, when we hear to word "punishment", we think of corporal punishment. With the use of an online educational game, the punishment can be as simple as getting a message such as "try again", or simply having to repeat a level. This type of punishment does not encourage retaliation unlike yelling at a child which would. In this manner, punishment is a tool to help students achieve a goal.


  4. I agree that the behavioristic approach can be effective but only with observable behaviors. It can help motivate a student to try harder or behave in class, but this is deficient in other ways. It doesn't help with things that aren't directly observable, like critical thinking.