|Behaviorism-Learning is a change in Behavior
|PIDP 3100 Learning Theory Essay
|School of Instructor Education, Vancouver Community College
Behaviorism – Learning is a Change in Behavior
The theory of Behaviorism was founded by Watson in the 1920s, “behaviorists believe that human behavior is the result of the arrangement of particular stimuli in the environment. If this behavior is reinforced or rewarded, it is likely to continue; if it is not reinforced it is likely to disappear” ( Merriam, Bierema, 2014, p. 26).
This paper will summarize Behaviorism learning theory highlighting key concepts and why I selected it as my topic. I will then discuss how this theory views the role of the learner and how this theory views the role of the instructor. I will also give three examples of what this learning theory would look like in my Kal Tire classroom.
Learning Theory Highlights
Behaviorism is more concerned with behaviors than with thinking, feeling or knowing. Behaviorist theories all focus on a stimulus equals response form of learning. Behaviorism was first originated from the work of John Watson, an American phycologist in the 1920s. Watsons view on psychology was that it should only be concerned with the study of behaviors and not concerned with the mind or human consciousness, he felt that humans should be studied objectively like rats and apes. (Lefrancois, 1972) Watsons work followed a famous Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with feeding dogs and ringing a bell at the same time. In doing so the dogs would salivate because every time they were feed he would ring the bell and eventually just ringing the bell would make the dogs salivate. This was labelled classical conditioning. ” ( Merriam, Bierema, 2014, p. 26).
Behaviorism in more modern times is more associated with B.F Skinner who took Watsons theory and tested it in the laboratory. Skinner rejected Watsons theory that people learn primarily on conditioning alone and his research concluded that people respond to their environment and if the learned behavior is reinforced positively it will be reinforced or negatively it will disappear. Skinner also found that observable behavior not mental processes or emotional feelings determine whether learning has occurred. Skinner designed a theory called Operant Conditioning a theory that we act the way we do because of certain conditioning from behavior in past experiences. ( Lafrancious, 1972 )
Why I chose Behaviorism
I see many similarities in how I teach and how students learn and behaviorism in my classroom and with how we run our Kal Tire business. Kal Tire rewards its employees with a profit sharing program where 50% of the profits made in the stores go back to the employees each year. How you behave and how you are rewarded go hand in hand. If we give our customers great service we will be rewarded with return business and they will tell their friends and families to deal with Kal Tire and we will be rewarded with more sales and more profit to share. I also see great reference to this learning theory in how we motivate and reward or team members based on performance reviews where you have roles and responsibilities that you are judged on a standard of how well you perform these duties. You are judged and of course what gets rewarded gets repeated so there is great motivation based on more money and recognition tied to your training. These appraisals we do are yearly and goals are set and reviewed every 3 months and feedback is given as to staying on track with the steps to achieve your goals.
Being a father of two children one 13 and one 5 years old I also wanted to choose this learning theory based on how I have seen and am seeing my kids learn from their environment based on being rewarded for or being punished for their behavior. If my sons graded are good on his report card he is rewarded ie yesterday he got a new pair of the trendiest running shoes because his report card was very good for his year-end report card. Earlier in the year I remember his teacher saying he was not prepared well enough for his science test so of course he was not allowed to spend as much time on his Xbox playing games and had to make sure his homework is done.
Role of the learner with Behaviorism Theory
One of the courses I teach at Kal Tire is for brand new team members who come from our store division all across Canada and partake in 6 days of training in Vernon BC where I work. The students are shown many different tasks that are new to them. We first do a demonstration of, for example changing a tire on a tire machine. The students then have to demonstrate the proper techniques a certain amount of times before getting signed off on being competent enough to perform the task on their own upon returning to their stores they work at. The student’s role is to learn the correct tasks based on feedback from the facilitator and to correct the wrong behaviors and they are rewarded for the correct behaviors. The work is very dangerous because the risk is high with the tires filled with air pressure so it is very important to work safely and the students role is to know the consequences of unsafe procedures so they are rewarded for safe work and there is corrective action for unsafe behavior which of course is consistent with conditioning theory of Behaviorism. The role of the learner is to complete the task enough time so that it becomes second nature and is repeated the same way each time and is done safely and quickly.
Role of the Instructor with Behaviorism Theory
The role of the teacher when it comes to this theory is that you are shaping learning behaviors based on rewarding and punishing behaviors to achieve learning in the classroom. A teacher must have clear learning objectives so that there can be a way to measure the amount the student has learned. If the teacher focuses on rewarding the positive learning that the student is doing the student will stay engaged and want to learn because of the recognition. Certainly I do believe that the adult student has to want to learn the task and see benefit in the learning of it for this transaction of learning to happen. I am really fortunate to be teaching for Kal Tire because the student’s career and future development is on the line so there is full engagement in the learning process. I do believe the theory of what gets rewarded gets repeated and as a teacher I try to reward the students as much as possible. When the teacher has a lot of experience it is easy to jump in and show the students the proper technique when completing a task, and hold them accountable to change the behavior for a positive result.
Examples of what the learning theory looks like in my classroom.
The first example that I want to share and continue in the classroom is role playing. I use role playing and it is consistent with the Behaviorism Theory because it puts into practice what you have learned in the lesson and allows you to practice what you have learned and also gives you feedback as to how you performed in the role play. After the role play we debrief it in a certain way to promote learning, first the student who performed the role play talks about how they feel they did in the role play, second the customer talks about how the student performed the task with some positive and corrective feedback and thirdly there is an observer whom observed the role play and they give their feedback as to how it went. After this they switch roles and they perform this three different times so they get to put into practice what they learned during the role play and the feedback. As the teacher I go from group to group and observe and make sure they are going in the right order for their feedback as well as give some feedback of my own to change the behavior to accomplish the objectives.
The second example that I will use and will keep using in my classroom is how we demonstrate the procedure with our best practices and then allow the students to practice the task under supervision over and over again until they have reached the Kal Tire standard and then sign them off on the task. One of the biggest issues of quality and safety that we are having at Kal Tire is wheels coming loose on the vehicle after we have worked on them. We have a procedure that we teach that demonstrates the safest way to install a wheel onto the vehicle, first I demonstrate it in depth and talk about the consequences of not using the correct steps and then the students practice the steps over and over again until it becomes a habit the happens every time.
My third example is some training that I am working on some curriculum for. I am helping design training for some of the most dangerous types of tires we are having to repair and replace at Kal Tire. I am using the Behaviorist theory in this training as it will be based on demonstrating the correct procedures after being shown how to perform the task. The reward will be based on the wage progression which is attached to more money you will make when you successfully demonstrate the task unsupervised. I am working on how many times you will have to repeat it until you will be signed off. Because of how dangerous the work is it we be highly supervised and there will be no room for error so the students will be changing their behavior immediately if they are not on task.
I choose Behaviorism as my learning theory because of how it relates to my career and how my career has evolved with Kal Tire from a Sales and Service team member to a Manager and now as a Corporate Trainer. I see the principles of Behaviorism in all aspects of a career at Kal Tire where you are rewarded for positive behavior and punished for negative behavior. Of course the reward comes from being promoted in your career with higher positions which also comes with more money. The punishment is corrective action until you show the ability and if you don’t correct the action you can lose your career opportunity. When I am teaching the new team members in my classroom I use rewards like a compliment when a student reaches the correct procedure and I give corrective feedback as well to improve upon the task at hand. I know there are many different learning theories and I have appreciated the experience of having to research one learning theory and how it pertains to adult learning. I found it difficult to just choose one theory because I appreciate all the theories and how each of them relate differently to how adults learn. It’s funny because I am coaching my sons 12 and 13 year old baseball team right now and our learning theory is demonstrating the skill and practicing it over and over again. The reward is great in a game for the kids when they make a play but I can’t believe how hard on themselves they are when they make a mistake. They actually come off the field in tears, or at the plate after a strike out they come back to the dugout in tears because they want to be perfect on every play. We as coaches are encouraging them that mistakes are okay and that is how you learn and grow into a great ball player by going back out there and trying again.
DeMar, G. (n.d.). Behaviorism.Retrieved September 19, 2003, from http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0497_DeMar_-_Behaviorism.html
Sharan B. Merriam & Laura L. Bierema , 2014 Adult Learning Linking Theory and Practice