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“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own
specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any
one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I
might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even
beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants,
tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors .”
--John Watson, Behaviorism, 1930 (Cherry,2012)
 Behaviorism is a theory of learning that regards all
actions, feelings, and thoughts as behaviors that can
be measured, trained and changed. (Cherry, 2012)
 It’s philosophy is primarily based on stimulus-response
Ivan Pavlov
John Watson
B.F. Skinner
(Woods, 2008)
Classical Conditioning:
John Watson presented a 9 month old boy
with two rats, one white and one black.
Whenever the white rat was presented he
banged loudly on a large pan, making the
boy exhibit signs of fear. Soon, the boy
would cry, flinch, etc. whenever the white rat
was presented. The behavior is an automatic
or involuntary, but the response is
Cherry, (2012)
Operant Conditioning:
A “skinner box” is coined after B.F.
Skinner, in which a rat is placed into a
cage. This cage has a button in which
the rat would eventually bump into while
randomly running around and in turn
release a food pellet. The “buttonpressing” behavior then increases due to
the positive reinforcer (the food pellet).
The purposefully ’operated’ behavior is a
planned or voluntary response.
How has impacted our education system?
1. Classroom management techniques are based on
consistent reinforcers and consequences:
2. US system promotes outcomes not processes:
3. Assessments (including SBA’s) are almost always
considered to be from a behaviorist philosophy,
even if the type of question or response varies:
 Strengths:
 It works. All at least at some point in everyone’s life and in
some manner have been impacted. (my speculation)
 It provides focus, which helps improve efficiency.
Written goals or job descriptions are considered
stimuli, which improves production, skill, etc. (the
desired response).
 The largest strength! Motivation, motivation,
 Weaknesses
 Sometimes it doesn’t work (for more developed
learners, those with internal motivation or strong
willed individuals).
 Doesn’t allow for differences (learning styles, multiple
intelligences, etc.), so it may limit the progress of some
(less flexibility).
 May limit creativity because it doesn’t allow for
differences. (animal training is prescriptive compared to
human ‘training’).
 Leaves out the important fact that humans are
meant to be relational (those soft skills) e.g. my
college professor.
 It may give ‘false hopes’ and ‘waste time’, as in Cathy’s
Importance for us as administrators:
 Employees need rewards (whether they are extrinsic or
intrinsic), which can be very motivating.
 While trying to ‘change’ behavior in employees, we need
to remember to consider the ‘mind, body and soul’, which
we’re not to consider if you are truly acting as a
behaviorist. If we reward only in behaviorist mode, we
will be viewed as patronizing.
 The same goes for students, as it does for adults – we need
consider the ‘whole’ student.
 Learning frequently occurs in incremental steps and as it
was pointed out this summer in our study of Marzano,
celebrating incremental successes is an important skills for
Work Cited:
Cherry, K. (2012) What is Behaviorism? Retrieved August 25th at
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2012, September). Behaviorism at Retrieved September 15th, 2012 from
http:/ behaviorism.html
Woods, C. (2008, Spring) Group 1 Behaviorism at Learning
Theories Wikispace. Retrieved September 5th, 2012 from