Behaviorism and Technology in the Modern Classroom

            Behaviorist learning theory, a philosophy that believes a well-rounded understanding of the relationship between stimulus and response can promote desired behaviors within an individual (Standridge, 2002) has become more controversial as educators throughout the country attempt to adapt to the needs of a 21st century learner. The inclusion of behaviorist teaching techniques has become more complex through the addition of various technological advances in the classroom. This week, I read a portion of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Pitler, et al that describes two ways in which educators can incorporate technology in the classroom to promote stronger work ethic as well as superior homework completion. The authors describe how various technologies, such as spreadsheets, word processing software, and interactive web-based practice programs can be used to promote more desirable academic behaviors from students. After reading about these various instructional strategies and looking back at the overall purpose of behaviorism (to promote desired behaviors within individuals), I find that the incorporation of new technologies, such as those listed above, can impact student academic behavior and promote student success through behaviorist techniques.

            The authors describe many scenarios where student assessment data, as well as data logging how often the student performs tasks in and out of class (taking notes, reading, reviewing, etc) is gathered, correlated, and displayed in various different graphical mediums to illustrate, to the student, a correlation between diligent work study habits and desirable achievement on assignments. This sharing of data with students can cause behavioral change, particular regarding behavior during class times as well as work study habits outside of the classroom that can cause a desired effects on the students overall grade. The use of technology, such as spreadsheets, graphical representations of data, and correlation of data for large groups (8th graders, 5th period, etc) allows students to quickly and easily understand the data being present and effect behavioral change much more quickly than if the student did not have the data presented in different media. Using technology to give students individualized and group data about their performance is an example of a stimulus (as described by B.F Skinner) that can provide the desired response of student who is more dedicated during class and more willing to study outside of class.

            Later in the text, the authors describe how technological advancements in the classroom can be used to promote more cohesive homework assignments that allow students to practice, “…specific skills of a complex process” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In particular, electronic drill and practice resources are highlighted as positive, outside the classroom, additions to a student’s nightly homework regiment as they can practice skills and techniques necessary to achieve class objectives. Many of these electronic resources are constructed on a foundation of behaviorism as the students are challenged to complete a problem, place a word in the correct section of a chart, or define a section of a sentence, and if they do not immediately respond correctly they receive a feedback and are given the opportunity to attempt the problem once again. Beyond these simple drill/skill programs, I had visited many other educational websites, Prentice Hall in particular, that move steps further and give students the opportunity to review the skill, practice the skill and then apply that skill in a dynamic, interesting setting to promote student engagement. Websites such as these rely upon behaviorist philosophy as they design appropriate feedback to allow the student to better comprehend any misunderstanding of the information and encourage students to continue working at the problem until a solution is reached. Although some may challenge that drill/skill instructional strategies such as these only assist in helping students develop skills usable on an assessment and are immediately forgotten, particularly in the English classroom, these types of programs can assist students in better understanding how to develop complete sentences or use conjunctions properly, which can both be assessed on a test as well as through the student’s own writings. When the appropriate skill is displayed on the test or writing, the student receives positive feedback from the teacher which further reinforces that the knowledge will continue to be used throughout the year and beyond.

            Overall, Behaviorism, although controversial in the modern academic setting, continues to remain a tool at every educator’s disposal to construct foundations for lessons and help students to succeed. The incorporation of current and burgeoning technologies will further fuel the debate regarding the use of behaviorist instructional/behavior modification strategies, however, these same technologies can help even the most struggling student to succeed and thrive in their educational career.

 

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

 

Standridge, M.. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 7/6/2009, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

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2 Responses to “Behaviorism and Technology in the Modern Classroom”

  1. Behaviorism is controversial on whether it is in the classroom today or not. I see it throughout many areas of the classroom. I agree that the various technologies presented by Pitler et al do go hand in hand with behaviorist learning theory. I think that the theory is also present today in classrooms and will be throughout time because of the reinforcement issue that is necessary in all areas of the classroom for every single student. These programs that are being invented and tried in classrooms are great for the reinforcement part of behaviorism and they also give immediate feedback which allows the student to see where they are doing well and what they need to work on.

  2. Deborah H Says:

    Derrick,

    The behavior theory is still seen in many classrooms. Teachers need to learn how to use this theory to bring out positive changes and not just look at the negative. Students need to track their progress, they need to be made responsible for their actions. By teaching our students how to use the different technologies, excel spread sheet, graphing, etc this will make them see their own progress and become a more responsible student. I believe that we also need to involve parents and even the child care providers in the process. With everyone understanding what needs to be done, we will all be able to applaud the student for their success and encourage them when the going gets tough.
    Educating the parents and child care providers in the many different web sites that are available for our students to do the drill and practice will also benefit everyone involved. Teachers need to take a stand and teach all who are involved with these students what kind of things they can do to reinforce the learning that is taking place in the classroom.

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