Concept Map chapter 3
Submitted by: J. Metz
From Chapter 3: Classic Theories of Learning and Cognition
Behaviorism is the scientific study of observable behavior and behaviorists hold the belief that behavior is learned (Bergin, 2012). Behaviorists use classical and operant conditioning by manipulating the environment to obtain desired results. Professionals in the school system and in the field of mental health frequently use operant conditioning to increase the likelihood that a desired behavior will occur.
Students respond to positive and negative reinforcement in the classroom setting. It is common to observe teachers using positive reinforcement with students to encourage a desired behavior. An example of positive reinforcers could include verbal and nonverbal praise or extra free time when an assignment has been completed. An example of a negative reinforcer would be allowing the student to leave to visit the nurse’s office to escape an undesirable academic task. Teachers need to be careful and pay close attention to the reinforcers each student is seeking throughout the day or unknowingly they could be reinforcing the wrong behaviors.
Punishment is often used in the school setting because it is fast and often easy to administer. Examples of punishment may include a detention for incomplete assignments or Saturday school for repeatedly breaking school rules. Although punishment reinforcers a change in the behavior of some students, it can be ineffective for students with chronic behavior problems. In fact, punishment can also begin to function as reinforcement (Bergin, 2012). For example, a student may view a 10 day suspension as a long awaited vacation from school.
Extinction is also used to eliminate or reduce a behavior by stopping the reinforcement (Bergin, 2012). Extinction works best when four conditions are met: Ignore with a purpose, Ignore with dignity, Time the inappropriate behavior (often you will see an increase in the behavior before it begins to decrease), and be alert for opportunities to acknowledge appropriate behavior. (Lathan, 2000). Extinction should not be used with behavior that is harmful or destructive in nature, as a person’s safety should not be put at risk.
Shaping is another form of reinforcement used to increase the likelihood of reaching a target behavior. Shaping reinforces behavior that is in the direction of the target behavior (Bergin, 2012). For example, a teacher may use a “work for” card and place tokens on the card as the student accomplishes steps towards a target behavior. Once the targeted number of tokens has been earned, the student would then turn in the tokens to receive a reinforcer of choice.
There are critics of using the behaviorist approach in the classroom setting. One concern of using the behaviorist approach is that the focus on changing the student’s behavior may lead the teacher to ignore other classroom factors or their own teaching methods as a cause of the misbehavior in the classroom (Jones 2004). Another concern is that by using a behaviorist approach, external rewards are being given for lower developmental expectations and after time, the students are not driven by an intrinsic need to meet or succeed expectations.
Bergin, C.C., Bergin, D.A. (2012) Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Jones, V., Jones L. (2004) Comprehensive Classroom Management. Boston, MA: Pearson.
The University of Kansas. (n.d.). Retrieved from Special Connections University of Kansas website: http://www.specialconnections.ku.edu
Lathan, G.L. (2000, January). The Utah Special Educator. Retrieved from http://www.iseesam.com/teachall/
1. Do you think using tangible rewards diminishes intrinsic motivation in students?
2. What behavior interventions have been effective in your classroom, at home, or other profession?
3. Some teachers believe that when reinforcers are used to recognize and reward expected behavior, the students comply and always seem to demonstrate the expected behavior, go unnoticed and eventually quit working as hard to succeed. How would you respond to teachers that hold this belief?