Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Two Strategies that Support Behaviorist Theories in Learning through Technology

Recently, I looked at two strategies that support behaviorist learning theory in my master’s coursework. I am a visual arts elementary teacher earning a degree in Integrating Technology into my Classroom. A behaviorist learning theory supports that “a stimulus is the initial action directed to the organism, and a response is the organism’s reaction to that action” (Lever-Duffy, J. & McDonald, J., 2008). Teachers everywhere, everyday are using this approach in one form or another in their classrooms. Whether it be through reinforcing behavior to obtain classroom management or to instruct to meet certain curriculum goals, teachers are the stimuli that offer reinforcement to a learner’s reaction. Students can be stimulated through a series of steps when it comes to using technology in the classroom also.

Behaviorist theories such as reinforcing effort helps to form the student’s attitude towards his or her individual progress throughout the learning experience. Technology can be incorporated because it can “make it easier for students and teachers to track the effects of effort and facilitate more immediate feedback”(Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. 2007). This is effective because students can take more ownership over the outcome of his or her learning by seeing collective data overtime, much like a teacher would in a grade book. Once broken down into various areas, students can understand where they may be missing the mark. This idea of reinforcing effort provides a positive avenue for students to feel good about their accomplishments.

“Homework and practice” is another behaviorist notion that supports tutorial-type strategies for learning. “Having students practice a skill or concept enhances their ability to reach the expected level of proficiency” (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. 2007). As Dr. Orey acknowledges, this is more than drill and practice because after the concept is comprehended, higher level thinking can take place.

These two instructional strategies correlate with the principles established in behaviorist learning theories.

Laureate Education, Inc. (2009) Behaviorist Learning Theory [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.

Lever-Duffy, J. & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical Foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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


  1. Robyn-

    I am curious as to how you use the behavioral learning theory in your classes as a visual arts teacher. Do you think that this theory has a place in your field of study? I always felt that either you have creativity to create art or you don’t.


  2. Robyn,

    You stated, "This is effective because students can take more ownership over the outcome of his or her learning by seeing collective data overtime, much like a teacher would in a grade book." I like how you related students tracking their own grades to how we see their progress and effort in our gradebooks. Do you think that online gradebooks, where students and parents can see their grades throughout the semester, are beneficial to students? If linked with an effort rubric, would students be able to connect the cause and effect?


  3. Let's say that we teach students about effort leading to achievement, but there are still some students that do not care about this link. What strategy would you use to motivate them in their learning?

  4. Danielle,

    I do see behaviorists practices in what I do everyday. Art is more than just a freedom of expression, in many cases I must first teach the foundations of the media being used. For example (I spoke about this previously) before my children can sculpt with clay, they must first know how the clay itself works in relation to changing physical properties in a kiln, where it becomes pottery. This is simply alot of "drill and practice" as we manipulate it and make sure everyone if following proper procedures for the best end results.

  5. Jparker119,

    I believe that linking the progress to effort may be the missing component on my district's parent viewer program. I love that parents and students can log into their gradebook at any time and see how the student is doing, but it does not always allow for gray areas to be communicated, like effort.


  6. JLowe,

    That is extremely difficult. Some students will naturally succeed with little effort, others will fail with an abundance of effort. I don't have the answers, but would love other's viewpoints as well. What do you think?


  7. Robyn,

    I believe that all teachers stuggle with how to motivate the students that do not care about putting forth effort. I believe each teacher must find a strategy that works for them and sometimes we will just fail unfortunately. For me, extra computer time at the end of class works. However, this strategy may not work for someone else.