Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behaviorism in Practice

Behaviorism in schools today has been widely used as a behavioral modification tool. A major part of behavioral modification is giving good students positive reinforcement while giving students who need to learn the appropriate behavior for class, negative reinforcement (Standridge, M., 2002).  Another part of behaviorism used in classrooms today is the practice of frequent repetition, generalization and discrimination (Smith, M. K., 1999). Many teachers use homework and rote memorization as ways to repeat concepts. With the advent of technology in schools and at home, students and teachers can practice frequent repetition in new and exciting ways.
Teachers can use technology to track students’ effort against student grades  (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 155). Among the different computer programs that will enable teachers and students to track effort are, spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel and data collection tools like Survey Monkey (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, pp. 156-164). The educational behaviorist belief is that students will be able to correlate the amount of effort they have put into their homework and classwork, compare that effort to the outcome in their quiz and test grades. Once students see the outcomes, they will continue to put more effort into their work to achieve those higher assessment grades. In addition to effort, technology also allows students to complete homework and practice assessments using collaborative and creative methods.
Many teachers assign homework for students to practice what they learned in class at home. “Technology facilitates homework and practice by providing a wealth of resources for learning outside of the classroom, making it easy for students to work on collaborative homework assignments and providing ‘drill and practice’ resources that help students refine their skills (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, p. 189). Among the technology programs that help with homework for the elementary school student as well as the high school student are, word processing applications, spreadsheet software, multimedia applications, web resources, and communication software (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007, pp. 189-201). In my classes, I hold a review session before each unit test set up similar to a game of Jeopardy. My students set up a Facebook page where they quiz each other at night in preparation for the test the next day.  They took the initiative to set up that page on their own and to peer review the materials I went over during the day in class. All of the participants on the Facebook page have seen their test grades improve and students not already part of that page; have put in requests to join the group for nighttime reviews. My students review page is an excellent example of student effort at work improving grades while working collaboratively with peer-reviewed materials. This is a wonderful mesh of learning theories, behaviorism and constructivism, in one classroom.

  Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Denver, Colorado: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL).

 Smith, M. K. (1999). “The behaviourist orientation to learning”. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from

Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from


  1. I agree that technology provides a plethora of resources in a variety of formats to enhance student participation and learning that goes beyond classroom instruction. May I commend you on your inclusion of social media to do just that. Redefining the context of how Facebook is consumed by today’s students is a great way to have students collaborate on homework or projects without making it seem like work. Intrinsic motivation is built into an assignment such as this due to the already high level of interest (and know-how) that students possess. Additionally, it initiates our student population to the innate possibilities that this type of technology and connectedness can offer.

    1. Thank you for the positive feedback. Perhaps one day we will be able to use Facebook in school and that will once again change how my students peer-review.

  2. Deborah,

    Thank you for your posting! I really like the idea of your students having a Facebook page they can use to practice and study the material you would like them to learn. It definitely goes along with the behaviorist idea strategy of homework and practice that I think will remain a part of education for many years to come. I also use Facebook as a means of communication with students and parents, although this tends to follow a more social constructivism type of approach. Nonetheless, I think that it is a great idea, as you mentioned, to have students look at the relationship between effort and results of their scores. If more students would pay attention to this, then their behaviors regarding effort may change and schools could potentially get a better reputation for being places of learning once again. Thanks again for your post, it is great to hear from a fellow Social Studies colleague!


  3. It's interesting that your students use facebook to review together. I admit, I'm in the dark on the uses for a lot of social media because of the scrutiny teachers face with certain sites and postings. We've actually had some problems with our fifth grade students posting on each other's pages that have carried over into school, so I have avoided creating my own pages in this way.