Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Behaviorist learning theories influence some instructional strategies in the classroom. Behaviorist theory states that "all behavior is learned habits" and "all behaviors can also be unlearned" (Standridge 2008).  This theory believes that teachers need to reward desired responses for learning to take place. Behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated. 

With that in mind, several instructional strategies can be related to behaviorism. First of all, students can be shown the effect of their own efforts in the classroom. As teachers, we want students to demonstrate effort; therefore, we need to reinforce effort. To do this, we can have students track the effort they put into assignments, and then look at their corresponding scores. We can comment positively when their effort results in desired outcomes. When there is a lack of effort and students are not as successful as we would like, we can withhold positive feedback. Instead, students receive negative feedback, such as a poor grade. (Pitler 2007).

A second instructional strategy that relates to behaviorism is homework. Homework gives students additional practice with data, and allows teachers to provide additional feedback. This feedback can help students make improvements within the classroom. Not all homework is the same, however. Traditionally, teachers will grade homework and write comments on it to encourage students and elicit the response desired. With modern technology, though, homework can include multi-media projects and assignments that may provide immediate feedback to encourage students. (Pitler 2007).

Programmed instruction, such as websites and power point games, present small amounts of information, asks questions, and then allows students to receive answers. (Laureate Education 2009). Receiving immediate feedback encourages students to continue working with effort. 

There are many ways behaviorism is still at work within classrooms. Behavior management and instructional strategies are influenced by behaviorism. 

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Program four. Behaviorist Learning Theory [Motion picture]. Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology. Baltimore: Author.

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

Smith, M. K. (1999) 'The behaviourist orientation to learning',the encyclopedia of informal, Last update: May 11, 2009


  1. Ginger

    The effort we love to see in our students should also be modeled by us. Along with tracking the effort-achievement relationship of our students, perhaps as teachers we could also use the technology tools available to correlate how our efforts have affected the achievements of our students. In work and school situations, I have always felt more motivated when my boss or instructor gave as much as they asked me to give. In this way, we are reinforcing each other and showing approval of appropriate behavior.

    Also, homework is often an integral part of our classes and to make it more welcomed by our students it needs to be authentic. What we ask our students to work on at home should have meaning and relevance and not just be a time filler. There should also be some sort of assessment or feedback of the homework. As you said, this is where technology unites with behaviorism and offers both meaningful work and immediate responses.

  2. Homework is one way all sutdents can practice what they have learned in class. However many times we do not give enough feedback on homework and therefore loose the effectiveness of the homework. If students are not receiving feedback on the homework they are doing, many times I have seen them start to make only half-hearted efforts in doing it. If they are not truly practicing their homework, behaviorist theory shows that their negative effort will result in not learning the concept. As technology becomes more available to do homework and respond quickly, the positive reinforcement will bring about the learning the teacher desires.

  3. Mrs. H,

    I feel that when you reinforce effort you create a self efficacy in your students. There are two things that I like about the idea of reinforcing effort and the first one is that it "enhances students' understanding of the relationship between effort and achievement by addressing their attitudes and beliefs about learning"(Pitler,Hubbell,Kuhn,and Malenoski, 2007, p.155). The second thing that I like about reinforcing effort is our ability to provide immediate feedback using technology such as Microsoft Excel and our classroom blog. We can make a spreadsheet of their effort grades and post it to a blog. This will provide immediate feedback to the students and help them realize how important their effort in the class matters.


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

  4. Bryan,
    One advantage to technology is that it becomes possible to provide more immediate feedback. My high school students use Buzzword, which is a free online Word tool. They are able to post their writing assignments there and send them to me as they finish. I can log on and make comments on the assignments and return them via the internet. It is beneficial when students are working from home on homework and can receive feedback. I advise them that I will check at certain times for completed work and they have my assurance that they will receive feedback with 36 hours. Most of my students send me their written work two or three times before the actual due date to receive as much feedback as possible before turning in a final project. They like receiving my comments, and because they are in writing and private, they are more likely to follow my advice or ask specific questions to aid in their learning.