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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Behavioural approaches to Learning

Behavioural theories of educational psychology focus on learning via behavioural changes, and as a person learn, he/she alter the way they perceive their environment. Which helps them process new information. Behavioural studies focus on two main areas when it comes to education psychology. 1. Classical conditioning founded by John B Watson, and the 2. Operant conditioning founded by B.F Skinner. Classical conditioning concepts are not widely used in classroom environments therefore, I will be focusing more on operant conditioning concepts and how it can be used for educational purposes to motivate students and excel their capabilities to the maximum capacity.

Operant Conditioning used as a teaching technique

Discipline is the key to success of child’s development and learning and one of the most popular approach of disciplining a child by the use of Operant conditioning. Operant conditioning was invented by B. F skinner which is also known as instrumental learning. This is a method of learning via reward and punishment methodologies. Operant condition can be used to reward the good behaviour by reinforcement and minimize bad behaviour by punishments. In operant conditioning if an action is followed by a reinforcement (either positive or negative) it’s mostly likely to occur again in the future. For example if a student in the class clean the classroom on time and you have given him a gold star (a token as a positive reinforcement) the student will likely to clean the classroom again in order to get praised from the teacher. Conversely if an action has bad consequences and result in punishments this has a likelihood of weaken the action. For example if a student does not do his/her homework and if you give them extra hours of school (positive punishment) it;s more likely that student will do his/her homework on time next time in order to avoid punishment. This way you can motivate your students for better behaviour in classrooms using operant conditioning.

Here are some behaviours which can be improved by re enforcement 

Behavior Consequences Future Behavior
Positive Reinforcement
Student ask a good questions
Teacher Praise the student
Students will continue asking more questions
Student does homework on time
Teacher gives a gold star
Student will always do the home work on time
Negative Reinforcement
When the student write a good report
Teacher gives less homework
Student will continue writing good reports
When the student come to the classroom on time
Teacher finish the lesson early
Students will continue to come to class on time

Here are some students behaviours that can be decreased by punishments

Behavior Consequences Future Behavior
Positive Punishment
Student interrupts at class
Teacher yells at the student
Student will minimize interruptions
Student gives a bad report
Teacher gives a black star
student will try to do a better report next time
Negative punishment
When student is late for class
Teacher take his play time for classroom work
Student will try to come to class on time
When student text during the class
Teacher takes away his mobile phone
Student will not use his mobile at class

Those are some of the common uses of operant conditioning at classroom, however, when applying theory of B.F skinner its important to consider the age level of the student when rewarding/punishment student’s behaviour. And there are various different types of reinforcers/punishments can be used increase or decreased the behaviour according to the desired behaviour of the teacher in a classroom setting. They can be appear in different forms such as 1. Consumable (ie Candy) 2. Social (ie praise/yelling) 3. Activity (More time on the playground) 4, Exchangeables (tokens/stars) and 5. Tangible (getting the best seat). Among these components most educational valuable and relevant can activity as they can be done with educational value such as doing an educational game or watching an educational video. However, no matter what the method is, its important to give the consequences right after the behaviour.

There are various types of reinforcement schedules can be used at classrooms, namely fixed ratio, fixed interval, variable ratio and variable interval. In an educational setting the two variable schedules are the best to maintain the desired behaviour as they are very unpredictable. For example if a students were given the chance to watch an educational movie after handing their assignments on time, they would be more motivated to do it if the outcome is always not the same (variable ratio) or the time during which they hand over the assignment and the reward has unpredictable gaps (variable interval).

Advantages of using operant conditioning in classroom
  • When a child is rewarded for his/her good behaviour the child will get motivated and keep on doing that behaviour and he/she will eventually absorbed good behaviour 
  • When the child is punished for his bad behaviour he/she will stop doing it. 
  • It will be effective when it comes to shaping and discipline preschool and kindergarten children 
  • Internal reinforcement benefits students with self satisfaction, when doing a math problem right will motivate them to do more and more maths and eventually the student will be a pro at it (provide students an incentive to learn) 
  • Deliberate use by teachers provides students with the ability to respond to antecedents without fully realising it is influencing their behaviour. 
  • Can be easily used as a tool for kids with disabilities such as ADHD/Autism/Conduct disorder to discipline and get attention
Disadvantages of using operant conditioning in classrooms
  • It will decrease child’s creativity and to think from his own as he/she will be scared of punishment 
  • It will not work for for everyone, and some children might take punishment as a reinforcement (ie a student who does not get enough attention will do bad things to get attention from the teacher and will enjoy getting punished) 
  • The student can pretend to stop the behaviour just to get the reward or avoid the punishment. Once the reward is given they could go back to bad behaviour 
  • If rewards or punishments are misused it would give bad outcomes 
  • Operant conditioning does not take cognitive factors into account 

In conclusion operant conditioning is a very effective tool for teachers, specially when it comes to shaping the children for good behaviour and also to help them learn. This can also be used for kids with disabilities such as autism or ADHD to discipline them in order to get their attention. However, it must be used cautiously and consistently. Since behaviour management will be different for different students, punishment and rewarding must be done at individual level at individual circumstances.

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