Last Updated 03 Aug 2020

Application of behaviorism in Education

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Applying Behaviorist Theory in the Classroom - Application behaviorism in Education


Effective teaching starts with effective classroom management. In order to ensure meeting target goals, teachers should apply the most appropriate approach in motivating interest, managing behavior, and keeping order in the classroom. Behaviorists offer a classroom management style that ensures meeting these objectives, while preparing students to overcome future challenges at the same time.

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Behaviorist approaches to learning originate from the minds of John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. With his stimulus-response model, Watson claims that “specific stimuli evoke observable responses in human behavior.” Meanwhile, Skinner’s Operant Conditioning argues that pleasant things have energizing effect on people’s behavior, thus we repeat behaviors that are desirable and get rid of undesirable ones. Applying these in the classroom, a teacher may find it easier to understand enormity of student behavior, and encourage them to perform to the best of their abilities.

In “Building an Educational Philosophy (Introduction to Foundations of American Education Website), educators emphasize the importance of preparing students’ environment to achieve learning goals. The environment of a child serves as a crucial factor in developing interest towards study. It includes both physical and non-physical aspects. The physical aspect requires order and creativity, while the non-physical emphasizes developing positive behavior and interest. An organized learning environment contributes to easy learning, and conditions students to perform at their best. Considering this, the physical environment of the classroom should be well-organized and free from obstruction to allow organized flow of the learning process.

In an ideal classroom, all things should have their proper places. For example, books, coloring materials, charts, etc. should be neatly arranged in their appropriate places. This way, students can move with ease inside the classroom, and would know how to organize things themselves when at home or other places. Also, with an orderly environment, students’ mind will be more focused on the instruction, thus this would promote better learning pace. Likewise, a well-organized classroom provides a comfortable space conducive to learning.

An example of behaviorism in the classroom is when teachers reward their class or certain students with a party or special treat at the end of the week for good behavior throughout the week. The same concept is used with punishments. The teacher can take away certain privileges if the student misbehaves.

To maintain orderliness, learning materials should be neatly arranged in cabinets, shelves, etc., and they should be labeled or color coded for easy access and stacking. During time of use, not all students should be allowed access; instead, there should be assigned leaders or representatives to obtain the materials. Training students in an orderly manner will teach them to be orderly in the same way. Bulletin boards should contain displays relevant to the present topics for instruction. Students’ best output may also be displayed to motivate students to perform well in every activity.

Questions and Answers about Behaviorism in education

What is behaviorism in education?

Behaviorism in education is a learning theory that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors and discounts any independent activities of the mind. Behavior theorists define learning as nothing more than the acquisition of new behavior based on environmental conditions.

Behaviorism educational philosophy


Behaviorism as a Philosophy of Education Behaviorism is a branch of psychology that, when applied to a classroom setting, focuses on conditioning student behavior with various types of behavior reinforcements and consequences called operant conditioning. ... It has increasingly become part of the educational process.
What are behaviorism and social learning theory?

Bandura's Social Learning Theory posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation.

What is Cognitivist theory of learning?

Cognitivism is "the psychology of learning which emphasizes human cognition or intelligence as a special endowment enabling man to form hypotheses and develop intellectually" (Cognitivism) and is also known as cognitive development. The underlying concepts of cognitivism involve how we think and gain knowledge.

What is the study of behaviorism?

Psychology should be seen as a science, to be studied in a scientific manner.Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable behavior, as opposed to internal events like thinking.

Behaviorist Techniques

Classical (Pavlovian) Conditioning

In classical conditioning, you start with an automatic reflex. For Pavlov, this was his dogs salivating when they tasted food. Then you pair that with a meaningless stimulus. Pavlov used a bell in one of his conditions. So every time dogs got the food, they also heard a bell. Over time, the dogs anticipated the food and started salivating to a delicious sounding bell. This happens all the time in your life, too. Marketers love classical conditioning.

 Operant Conditioning

Classical conditioning is fairly limited when it comes to shaping behavior, primarily because an automatic response must already exist. BF Skinner (a radical behavorist, famous for his assertion that there is no such thing as free will) pioneered research on a different form of learning - operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, the organism behaves in order to elicit a reward (reinforcement) or stops behaving to avoid a punishment. There are four different possible consequences to behavior in operant conditioning. The behavior can be rewarded (causing it to be repeated) or punished (making it less likely to be repeated). We can either give something to the organism (called "positive" because we are adding a stimulus) or we can take something away (called "negative" because we are subtracting a stimulus). Thus, our four consequences are positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment.

Radical Behaviorism

Developed by BF Skinner, Radical Behaviorism describes a particular school that emerged during the reign of behaviorism. It is distinct from other schools of behaviorism, with major differences in the acceptance of mediating structures, the role of emotions, etc.

Behaviorism supports shaping desirable behavior through modeling.

In line with this, teachers should establish routines and practices in order to promote mastery of desirable behaviors. For example, when entering the room, students should greet the teacher and their classmates. This would promote respect among them, and build camaraderie and harmony in the class. When leaving or going out, they should be taught to ask permission. Not only will this develop good habits but likewise ensure safety.

Moreover, routines will help develop mastery of everyday behaviorism activities in the classroom. During the first week, the teacher trains students on these routines, and designates leaders to act as models to other students. Assigning students as leaders will also make them responsible not only in the classroom but also outside. This maximizes their leadership potential, and facilitates the flow of activities.

In addition to routines, positive behavior can be developed by teaching students some expressions they can use during classroom activities. These include expressions when taking turns during recitation, asking for help, expressing thanks, borrowing, etc. These expressions are the same ones they will use in their everyday life outside the classroom. Students who receive this kind of training will eventually grow up with respect for others through their speech.

To reinforce positive behavior, students who act as good leaders should be rewarded. Reward and recognition serve as motivation for students to develop good study habits and desirable traits. By using rewards, students’ mind will be conditioned to do more what is positive. Rewards could be in the form of verbal positive feedback, tokens, promotion, or simple handclap. Rewarding students for their positive performance will make them value achievement, and strive to do better in school.

Motivating students using the behaviorist approach entails laying out objectives at the beginning of every period (The Office for Teaching and Learning Newsletter 2002). Each day, before the teacher begins with the lesson, s/he discusses the learning objectives to the students. This routine focuses the students towards attaining goals. It also prepares them for activities designed for the day, and gives them a detail of desired performances in advance. At the end of the day, a short evaluation should be conducted by the class. This guides students to determine for themselves if they have accomplished the goals, and likewise informs the teacher of the need to reinforce skills with follow-up activities.

With its use of modeling, positive rewards, and learning objectives, the behaviorist approach develops positive skills and behaviors that could result in good performance among students especially those in the basic education level where basic training is crucial. In contrast to this approach, the Constructivist theory which promotes experiential learning is an option some teachers choose. However, employing the constructivist approach in classroom management may not be applicable especially to students in the basic education level. This approach which allows students to explore different techniques in learning through various activities may affect students’ behavior towards studies. While it may motivate students with strong personality to learn and discover things their own way, it can hamper learning among average and slow learners who need ample guidance and modeling from the teacher.

Moreover, a constructivist classroom does not specify boundaries to student learning (Gray n.d.). On the one hand, it can promote discovery and critical thinking if students identify on their own the learning outcomes they reach after each lesson. On the other hand, this approach could likewise mislead students, making them unable to attain learning goals set for a specific instruction. As such, the behaviorist approach that sets out learning objectives at the beginning of each lesson is more ideal for the benefit of all students regardless of their level.


Application of behaviorism in Education essay

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