Friday, November 9, 2012

Behaviorism in Practice

            Two of the instructional strategies that were discussed this week in the class that we are partaking in, “Reinforcing Effort” and “Homework and Practice” from the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, relate to Behaviorism by reinforcing what is learned in a classroom setting.  The strategies use technology as a means to make learning more interesting and hands on for students.  Examples could include online tutorials, charts, spreadsheet software, word processing applications, iPads or iPods, etc.  All of these tools are excellent resources in technology that can reinforce ideas in the classroom outside the classroom.
            The first strategy “Reinforcing Effort” uses graphs, charts, and other programs on the computer for teachers, students, and parents to use to track the effort that students make in order to measure their effort and achievement. By using these types of strategies it can develop an attitude seeing the progress that they are making in a class.  This way of showing progress can reinforce a student’s effort much in the ways that behaviorist ideas suggest.
            The second strategy is also a reinforcing Behaviorist idea “Homework and Practice”.  When a student practices and does homework they are in turn reinforcing what has been taught in the classroom.  Dr. Orey suggests that reinforcement is much more powerful then punishment and when something is reinforced it can show that a student is learning something.  In particular in my classroom I do not particularly have homework assignments, but often when students come to me and show me that they practice drawing skills outside of school I will reward them with a sketchbook of their own so that I will reinforce the effort of practice.  I have students tell me daily “I can’t draw” and my response is “do you practice” and I am still waiting for a student to tell me yes. It is because when you want to get great at something you have to practice, practice, practice and practice.  Practice is what makes the ideas of a the Behaviorist Theory of believing that desirable behaviors need to be reinforced. 
Laureate Education, Inc. (2010). Behaviorist learning theory. Baltimore, MD: Dr. Michael Orey. 
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. hi Amanda,

    Thank you for the post.

    One thing that you have written has struck a cord.
    Though I might have done so instinctively I have never considered or developed assessment data that is specific to review of reinforcement, (with the exception of home work)Sure there is behavioral documentation, and data collection for special needs, but the notion of tracking students and their tracking of success electronically, ... is new and opens my thoughts to a new set of possiblities.

  2. Amanda,

    Have you every heard of the Whole Brain Teaching theory? The district where I work uses it in all of their classrooms (to a degree...but the elementary schools exclusively use it fully). Anyway, it has a positive reinforcement method called the "Super Improvers Wall" where after 10 rewards (i.e., stickers), the student moves up an Improvement level towards this ultimate grand prize that is kept secret. I started a long term job this year teaching 3rd grade Math and Science and the students loved the Super Improvers wall! I got compliments on my outfits daily just because they were trying to earn a sticker! :)

    1. Cynthia,
      No, I have never heard of that theory. I'll have to look into it, but it sounds like you have students go out of their way to be nice and respectful. ( I could use that in my middle school! lol) Like Dr. Orey talked about in his video this week reinforcement is more powerful then punishment!

  3. Amanda,
    You wrote that the first strategy “Reinforcing Effort” uses graphs, charts, and other programs on the computer for teachers, students, and parents to use to track the effort that students make in order to measure their effort and achievement. I agree with the strategy but use it in a different way. As a wood working teacher, the graphs and other data measuring tools turn into physical projects. Students can measure their efforts and achievements by physicall building their project. Steady tips and positive feedback allows the students to a fun and safe learning experience.