Frau's Blog

Behaviorist Thoery

Posted on: May 18, 2009

In our class text Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Pitter, Hubbel, Kuhn and Malenoski, a couple new strategies were discussed. First, teachers need to encourage strong student effort and a great way to enforce this strategy is to have students monitor their own effort and progress. Second, teachers should execute a homework policy, assign meaningful homework assignments and provide different types of feedback on the assignments.

These strategies are related to the behaviorist theory, mostly because both strategies require patterns and that is common in behaviorism. in regard to monitoring progress, the text suggests several ways for students to monitor and log their progress and efforts, including spreadsheets, bar graphs, surveys, and an effort rubric. As students complete and turn in assignments, they will record how much effort was put forth in the assignment. Upon receiving a grade on that assignment, they will also record that information. Hopefully the students will begin to notice a pattern. In theory, the assignments where more effort is exerted should yield a better grade. Students will then wish to provide more effort in order to continue getting higher scores. This is also a great form of positive reinforcement. Better grades should be a reward to a hardworking student, and earning these grades should encourage more positive behavior.

A homework policy that is strongly enforced can also be related to behavorist theory. Behaviorism relies on positive and negative reinforcement. Rewards for completing homework and punishment for not doing homework is exactly what behaviorism is about. A reward for doing homework could be a good grade, bonus points, or even a sticker or candy. Receiving these rewards will increase the chances that a student will do homework again for the next assignment. If a student does not do homework, a punishment could be a zero on the assignment and therefore a lower grade, or a lack of candy or stickers. The negative reinforcement should make the student want to complete the next homework assignment. The text also encourages students to monitor their homework progress and grades via word processor and spreadsheets and charts.

Although behaviorist learning theories do not seem to be in practice in classrooms as much as they used to, the basics of behaviorism can often be the basis of more complex teaching strategies. Homework is a very common part of teaching and there are roots strongly based on behaviorism there. Although I have never asked my students to monitor their progress in relation to their grades, I can see how this is a successful practice. Both are ideas that I would use in my classroom.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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