The theory of behaviorism states that we can look at people’s actions and work on modifying behaviors by ignoring them so they are extinguished, punishing them so they happen less frequently or rewarding them so they happen more frequently. While reading through and cataloging the strategies suggested in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works I found that some strategies fit into this theory and some did not. Some of the technology suggested to support the strategies correlates well, and some did not.
A strategy that was suggested to support student achievement was to show students the relationship between effort expended and achievement using data collection, spreadsheets, charts and graphs. In my mind this fits into the theory. The authors suggest that once students have been given explicit guidance about what it means to expend effort they will be able to keep track of their effort and achievement. (Pitler, Hubbel & Kuhn, 2012 ) They can observe their behavior and using the reward of achievement can increase the action (effort) that brings about the reward (achievement). The technology suggested, spreadsheet software that has the capability to produce charts and graphs, correlates very well with this strategy and supports it.
Providing recognition for specific behaviors also fits the behaviorist theory. In fact, it is almost purely a behaviorist strategy. The teacher defines a desired behavior and rewards it through recognition or reward. Using technology to supply the reward in the form of badges, or feedback points as in ClassDojo is an excellent correlation. Providing reward in the form of recognition for exemplary products is not purely a behaviorist action. The actions or behaviors used to create the product are what should be rewarded. However, rewarding excellence can increase the possibility that excellence will occur again. For students who don’t achieve, rewarding behaviors that can lead to excellence will be more effective. The technology suggested to support this strategy: web showcases, blog polls, online picture galleries, tools that allow communication via audio or video to provide recognition correlate fairly well.
The next chapter talks about homework and practice. The only part of the homework portion that fit into the behaviorist theory in my mind was providing feedback for homework completed and using drill and practice software or websites to extend learning beyond the classroom. Feedback could be construed as a reward or punishment (depending on the feedback) and would then have the possibility of changing behavior. However, I think the only behavior it might be able to change is whether homework is completed or turned in or not. Using drill and practice software or websites can fit into this theory because generally desired behaviors (those that lead to correct answers) are rewarded and undesirable behaviors (those that lead to incorrect answers) are not, so they should decrease.
Using Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) software is one of the technologies to support practice. There are most certainly aspects of the behaviorist theory that are included in CAI software, in the immediate feedback and rewarding correct behaviors to increase their frequency. Most of the other strategies suggested for practice fall into other theories of learning. Based on these readings, it is obvious that there it a time and a place for using strategies that fit into behaviorism. However it is also clear that there are many successful strategies that do not.
Pitler, H., Hubbel, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria: ASCD