Behaviourism is something all the time inn my classroom. Not primarily as a technique for learning but a technique to set up my classroom and modify behaviour during the beginning of the school year. At this time it is important to establish routines and get students to “act” the way you want in order to ensure a proper atmosphere in class which would be conducive for to learning to take place. I am typically strict with my students and tend to fight battles with some of the “harder headed” students, but in a junior high classroom I feel this is critical. The students need to know that you, the teacher, is in charge of the classroom and there are basic rules that need to be followed in order for learning to take place. I see teachers, every year, trying to be best friends with their students and let them get away with behaviours that need to be corrected. Once you lose a group of grade 8’s or 9’s, it’s hard to get them back. I work towards what I consider a good working climate where students are respectful to their teacher and peers. So the techniques I would use would be simply correcting poor behavior immediately when it occurs and this generally involves taking a student into the hallway for an unpleasant chat. That would be some good old negative reinforcement but it tends to be very effective, especially in the short term. I would also reward, with kind words when students put up their hands and politely wait to enter a class discussion. One of the most successful uses of behaviourism that I use early in the year to encourage students to have their books out, open and ready to work is to simply praise the students who are prepared. This causes most other students to scramble to get themselves ready, Or give the students who are prepared a reward like candy on occasion when they are prepared and ready to go, this works like a charm. Of course a lot of these techniques shouldn’t be overused because their effectiveness will diminish.
What are the potential pros and cons of online teaching and learning practices that are grounded in Behaviourism?
Some potential pros of online learning practice grounded in behaviourism are how the instructor gives feedback and reinforcement for work that has been completed. This would be especially important to younger learners where positive feedback and rewards for accomplishing work goals are important. A con for an online learning practice grounded in behavioursism is the that it would be hard for the instructor to know if “real” learning has taken place or has the student just checked the proper boxes or put in the correct responses through prompting, and the student hasn’t really learned anything. I taught a math course one year using a program called TLE (The Learning Equation) and this is what I was up against. Students did an entire chapters of online work and learned little about the concept when they were finished because the program would prompt them towards the answer. If they gave the wrong answer three times in a row it would simply give them the correct response. Many students started to not read anything and just put random answers in 3 times in a row just to get the correct answer. No learning was happening.
What online teaching and learning situations do you think might benefit from a Behaviourist approach?
A behaviourist approach might be beneficial to something like teaching students their times tables. There are many programs that use this approach. Many are set up like games and students are rewarded for correct answers. If used properly students will be more successful with recall of these facts, however, they may not understand what it means to multiply and it’s connections to other operations.