This week I explored the role of behaviorism in modern education and how it relates to current instructional practices and technology tools. In particular, I research the role behaviorism plays in the reinforcement of behavior and completion and monitoring of homework. Although behaviorism principles are perceived to not be widely used in school, in reality they play a critical role in many intervention programs, behavior modification systems, and general instructional techniques. Initially developed by theorists such as Pavlov, Skinner and Watson, behaviorism can be defined as a developmental theory that measures observable behaviors produced by a learner’s response to stimuli (Standridge, 2002). Specific behaviors responses to stimuli can either be reinforced or extinguished depending on the feedback the learner receives. As a result, behaviorism can play a vital role developing basic skills and foundations of understanding in all subject areas and in classroom management.
As mentioned, behavior can be shaped depending on the positive or negative reinforcement one receives. The concept and application though of positive reinforcement is often a contentious debate amongst educators. For many educators, the act of positively reinforcing behaviors students should automatically be demonstrating, constitutes as form of bribery. What we need to realize is that reinforcement is a natural motivator within of our lives. We would not invest in work, obey laws, or engage with others socially if we did not received some sort of reinforcement whether that is intrinsic or extrinsic (Kansas, 2012). According to John Hattie (2008), reinforcement “was among the most powerful influences on achievement, acknowledges that he has "struggled to understand the concept" (p. 173).
Recently, though the term reinforcement has been replaced with the concept of feedback. Both of these principles are rooted in the idea that in order to positively impact student behavior and performance, students must receive timely and meaningful responses from adults. (Wiggins, 2012, p. 10). In order though for feedback to be considered meaningful one should: name only behaviors that have actually occurred, say what you see, not how you feel, and avoid naming some students as examples for others (p. 10). To accomplish this within a classroom setting teachers can utilize a number of technology tools. According to Pitler, H., Hubbard, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K, (2007) spreadsheets, word documents and electronic rubrics can assist teachers in communicating and reinforcement student behavior and effort. Electronic rubrics assist in defining a set of behaviors and proficiency levels that a teacher expects from a student or group of students. Utilizing word documents, teachers can generate point sheets, behavior plans and contracts, and reward tickets. This information can then be recorded and displayed using a spreadsheet which can graph the data in a variety of ways (Pitler, et al, 2007). By graphing data and recording information, it allows students to have a visual indicator of progress which can subsequently result in internalization and reflection on ones skill and behavior. When you use these three tools in conjunction with one another, it allows a teacher to engage in an open, constructive, and purposeful dialog with students.
According to Robert Marzano, research has shown that homework is one of the least effective instruction tools within a teacher’s tool box (Marzano, 2001). Even though homework may not be the best approach to instruct students on new skills, it does help in support the drilling of mastered skills to ensure that they are maintained. This concept of drilling skills through repetitive practice aligns with a number of behaviorism principals. Similar to feedback, homework provides teachers with a wonderful opportunity to incorporate technology resources. Teachers again can utilize spreadsheets in order to record and track student progress (Pitler, et al, 2007). When presented as a visual within the classroom, students receive immediate feedback and can gage what areas they need to improve upon. The internet is another resource teachers can incorporate to assign homework. Through blogs, wikis, podcasts and web quests, teachers can create an interactive learning environment that challenges students to apply critical thinking skills and 21st century learning. Teachers can also use websites that will drill students on fact families, phonemic skills, comprehension skills, and a multitude of academic areas. Through expanding ones definition of homework, teachers are able to create a learning environment that extends beyond the brick and mortar setting.
Hattie, J. (2012, September). Know thy impact. Educational Leadership, 70(), 18-23. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Know-Thy-Impact.aspx
Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
Marzano, R., Norford, J., Paynter, D., Pickering, D., & Gabby, B. (2001). A handbook for classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pitler, H., Hubbard, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Work. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved on September 9, 2012 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/
University of Kansas. (2012). Positive reinforcement. Retrieved from http://www.specialconnections.ku.edu/?q=behavior_plans/classroom_and_group_support/teacher_tools/positive_reinforcement
Wiggins, G. (2012, September). Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(), 10-16. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx