According to behaviorists the learner develops behaviors and skills in response to rewards and punishments. In other words, by reinforcing desirable behaviors, the behavior will increase. By punishing undesirable behaviors, the behavior will decrease.
In this week’s resources, we were asked how reinforcing effort correlates with the behaviorist theory. One of the first steps in enforcing effort is to explicitly teach why effort is important. Research tells us that not all students recognize the correlation between effort and achievement. However, students can change their beliefs and make the connection. This follows the behaviorists’ theory that if you can learn a behavior you can unlearn it. If you don’t believe effort and achievement go hand-in-hand, you can change your beliefs.
The way to change a behavior or student effort is by showing the students the consequences of their actions. When a student behaves well, they get praise or a reward. Some schools have tickets students receive or a bulletin board with their name on it. Students make the connection that their positive behavior equals a reward. To reinforce effort, teachers must help students make the same connection. According to Using Technology with Classroom Instruction, using a spreadsheet to chart effort is a great demonstration. Students rate their effort in multiple categories and then record their grade. Students will hopefully see that more effort equals better grades.
Poor grades frequently reflect a student not turning in homework. Homework is a hot debate in many schools. Students that are up for retention are often students that just refuse to turn in work. Homework can be seen from a behaviorist standpoint. The “drill and practice” is often just repetition.
In conclusion, the behaviorist learning theory is looked upon negatively these days. Many associate behaviorism with the “drill and practice” method. Society is pushing for more real-world applications, cooperative learning, and critical thinking. These do not seem to coincide with the behaviorist learning theory.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD