Educational Theories

Topics: Behaviorism, Psychology, Classical conditioning Pages: 6 (2042 words) Published: April 3, 2014
The Role of Learning
There are a myriad of methods teachers have in their toolbox to pique the interest of their students. With the research of Piaget, Vygotsky, Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner, at their disposal, teachers should be able to develop lesson plans which enthrall students and help them process information at a deeper level. With a learning perspective in mind, teacher’s can utilize the theories of social constructivism, individual constructivism, and behaviorism to enhance learning in the classroom. Upon observing the different methods of constructivism and behaviorism, notable differences are revealed. For example, one theory holds cognitive structures in high esteem, while the other disregards their importance completely. It appears that there are more differences than similarities between the three theories, and it bodes well for teachers to employ the most useful aspects of them to create a valuable learning atmosphere for their students.

To begin, behaviorism is understood as the study of learning in humans and animals through the analysis of behavior, as opposed to their thoughts, feelings, and emotions (Martinez 2010). From the behaviorist perspective, to learn is to be conditioned, and according to Martinez, conditioning is defined as a change in behavior (Martinez 2010). There are two kinds of behaviorism in existence, classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Pavlov’s classical conditioning demonstrates how an unconditioned stimulus, a trigger which elicits a natural response, produces an unconditioned response, or an unlearned response, such as smelling one’s favorite food and then becoming hungry. He demonstrated this by conditioning dogs to salivate to a conditioned stimulus, which was the ringing of a bell. John B. Watson furthered this theory by conditioning a baby named Albert to fear white rats, and then extending that fear to other white objects such as fur coats and rabbits (Martinez 2010). On the other side of behaviorism, B.F. Skinner introduced an idea, operant conditioning, maintaining that operant’s are emitted behaviors and recurring behavior is determined by reinforcing factors. Whereas classical conditioning reflects simple behavior, operant conditioning is claimed to explain all behavior, including complex behavior. Skinner demonstrated that it is possible to make a behavior reoccur by rewarding it using reinforcement. For example, if an employee receives praise or a promotion after finishing a job, he is more likely to repeat the behavior in anticipation of receiving more praise in the future. This method can also be used to diminish a behavior. If a student in the classroom is talking out of hand, taking away one of his privileges may reinforce the behavior that he will stay quiet.

With behaviorism in mind, it is worthy to note a major difference it has in relation to the other two theories. Behaviorists believe that behavior explains everything and that cognition such as emotions, feelings, problem solving and beliefs, hold no importance to learning. According to behaviorists, freedom is an illusion because the environment determines behavior. This notion is useful for teachers because they can use the idea to create a positive atmosphere in their classroom. In a study completed by Peklaj et al., research demonstrates that the environment a teacher creates in her classroom can either enhance or diminish motivation in students. The study demonstrates that a teacher’s inclination toward teaching math with mastery goals in mind enforces the children to learn with mastery goals in mind and results in a positive outcome for grades and learning (Peklaj et al. 2012). Mastery goals are defined as goals a student has to become knowledgeable in a topic in relation to his or her own ability, as opposed to performance goals which include more shallow learning goals for the purpose of getting good grades and other extrinsic rewards. Additionally, it is evident...

References: Martinez, Michael E. (2010). Learning and cognition: the design of the mind. Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Peklaj, C., Kalin, J., Pecjak, S., Valencic Zuljan, M., & Puklek Levpuscek, M. (2012). Perceptions of teachers’ goals in classroom, students’ motivation and their maladaptive behavior as predictors of high school math achievement. Studia Psychologica, 54(4), 329-344.
Powell, K.C., & Kalina, C. J. (2009). Cognitive and social constructivism: developing tools for am effective classroom. Education. 130(2). 241-250.
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