Using Behavioral Learning Theory to Create a Learning Environment

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  • 0:04 Behavioral Learning Theory
  • 1:31 The Teacher's Role
  • 4:43 Behaviorist Model's Focus
  • 5:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

According to behavioral learning theory, results are what matter: good grades, good behavior and good test scores. Anything that produces positive results is a good approach. In this lesson, we explore the behaviorist learning environment.

Behavioral Learning Theory

Mrs. Pierce practices behavioral learning theory in her classroom. She doesn't put a lot of emphasis on how students feel about her teaching, but she she cares a lot about the results of her teaching. Are the students getting the right answers? Are they behaving in class? Are they getting good grades? To this teacher, behavioral results mean everything.

Behavioral learning theory is concerned with observable results. It does not take into account student thoughts or feelings. Instead, it relies on stimuli, things that provoke reactions, and responses, the reaction to stimuli. Behavioral learning theory assumes that if students are given the right stimulus, then the students will give you the response you want. The approach is simple.

1. Present the desired behavior or response.

Examples of this might include a method for solving a problem or the proper way to sit in a chair.

2. Reinforce the behavior or response.

Reinforcement is the consequence of a behavior that either encourages or discourages that particular behavior. Every time the student performs the desired behavior, the teacher should positively reinforce the behavior by rewarding the student. Conversely, a teacher may reinforce undesirable behaviors by punishing the student.

3. Provide new goals.

A teacher should create incremental growth by constantly setting new behavioral goals and then continuing to reward the appropriate behaviors.

4. Be consistent.

Teachers should provide positive reinforcement every time the students exhibit desired behavior.

The Teacher's Role

A teacher in a behavior-based classroom presents the appropriate behavioral response that is desired from a student. The teacher provides reinforcement for behaviors. When the students respond to stimuli in the way the teacher desires them to, the teacher will provide a reward. This teacher is not as concerned with how the students feel and more concerned with what they do in response to stimuli.

Let's look at an example where you are the teacher. You walk into your classroom on a bright Monday morning after the bell has rung. You notice that many of the students are moving around and causing minor disruptions. However, two young ladies, Susan and Sharon, are sitting where they're supposed to be sitting and doing what they're supposed to be doing.

You say, ''Good morning, students, you need to get to your seats now. I expect the classroom to be orderly when I come in, so let's try to do it right next time. Susan, Sharon, you were exactly where you were supposed to be, and I'm impressed. You each have one favor available to you today, to be used whenever you wish.''

Notice that in this example, Susan and Sharon demonstrated desired behavior, so they were rewarded accordingly.

The behavioral learning approach can also be used to teach specific subject matter in addition to its use in classroom management. Let's look at another example where you are the teacher, explaining some concepts in mathematics. You're writing the problems on the board and presenting the steps to use in solving those problems. The behavior that you want from the students is for them to to use the steps you've given them to reach correct solutions. Thus, you present and then reinforce that behavior.

''All right everyone, today we will practice the FOIL method for multiplying two binomials. I want you to follow the steps, in order, and notice how they always bring you to the right answer. If you do not follow the steps, you will not get credit for your answer, so make sure you follow each step correctly. Okay, here goes!''

As you monitor each student's progress, you watch for the behavior you want and provide positive feedback each time you see the correct behavior:

''That's great, John! You did the 'F' step perfectly! You multiplied the first term in each binomial together, and that produced a correct result for your problem. I want everyone to pause in their work, and check to see if they have done the 'F' step correctly. I will come around to check.''

In this example, John was rewarded with praise for exhibiting the desired behavior.

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