Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Behaviorism in Practice

Pitler et. al. clearly define manners of incorporating technology in the classroom with hopes of using the benefits of technology to influence student learning and learning behaviors. The two main components of technological incorporation highlighted in the book cover using technology resources to define the relationship between effort and results and using technology as a dynamic learning tool (Pitler, et. al., 2007). Each of these objectives is related to the behaviorist theories of learning and instruction and can make positive changes on student learning and the classroom environment.

The correlation between effort and performance is nearly always positive; in our classrooms, we see hard work pay off every day. Pitler et. al. suggest the use of data tracking software or even simple spreadsheet programs for students to quantify their efforts and qualify their outcomes (2007). The use of accepted classroom constructs such as rubrics and self-evaluation tools used to determine an effort scale that is then compared to assessment performance (Pitler et. al., 2007) provides students with a sense of ownership while still embodying the action/response relationship of behaviorist theories. Students should be able to see that their increased efforts result in improved performance and attribute certain studying methods with success. Additionally, students will be able to determine which study methods and activities are most impactful and focus on the effective study skills when approaching new tasks. Behaviorism is only concerned with observable and measurable behavior (Orey, 2001) (Smith, 1999), and this method of technological incorporation takes a seemingly indefinable construct such as effort and describes it in a manner that allows for feedback and a stepping off point for reflection.

Beyond tracking performance and effort, technology has many applications in practicing and learning that act in accordance with behaviorist theories. Dr. Orey spoke of B. F. Skinner’s notion of “programmed instruction” to teach students, in which information is presented, a question is posed, and feedback follows (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Technology has the capacity to make this type of instruction exciting and the feedback rewarding. Online resources such as those listed in “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” can provide enjoyment while teaching skills and content. I regularly assign homework in my sixth grade mathematics class and believe that the practice it supplies is worthwhile when trying to reinforce and establish mastery of a skill. Many websites can provide the same opportunities to practice with the added benefits of links, virtual manipulatives, illustrative videos, and endless examples. Sites like Stellarium bring dynamicism to simple lessons and encourage student effort. Simple, rote learning becomes more stimulating via technological resources and thus students are willing to invest more time in their learning.


(Screenshots from

Behaviorist learning theories have a strong history in effective educational practices. Positive reinforcement builds student confidence and strengthens associations within the curriculum content. Technological resources provide novel ways to implement these classical conditioning methods in a manner that students find more exciting and worthwhile. 


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer).
 (2009). Program 4. Behaviorist Learning Theory. [Educational video]. 
Baltimore: Author.

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

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

Smith, M. K. (1999). The Behaviorist Orientation to Learning. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education. Retrieved on March 8th, 2010 from (last update September 03, 2009.)


  1. Nancy, I agree that technology is a great way to implement behaviorism that students find more exciting. Just looking at the screenshots of Stellarium wish that I could have learned using this site. School would have seemed much more exciting and would have learned without even knowing it. As teachers, we need to take advantage of sites like this and our students technological capabilities.


  2. Response to Nancy,

    You made some great points about manipulatives, links, and videos that are available online. There are many resources readily available to teachers online, however it does take time to search and find good quality resources. To be quality it needs a few criteria. Firs the site needs to be accessible to anyone, appropriate, and free. Second, I do not like the game or site to have any advertisements. Lastly it needs to integrate well into the curriculum. One resource I keep hearing about are virtual field trips. I have not found a quality virtual field trip yet. This is a simply one that kind fits into our science second grade curriculum ( If anyone knows of a great site please let me know because I am very interested in them.

    -Nick Renninger

  3. Craig,

    I agree that we really need to take full advantage of the resources available to us! I am sometimes overwhelmed by the vast resources on the web and try to find sites, games and videos that supplement my curriculum. Though I just started my classroom blog this year, I look forward to creating a resource that logs all of my finds and I can call upon. When I watch the discovery network or history channel on TV, I often think, "why didn't I enjoy this when I was in school?" and I think that programs are much more interesting and dynamic nowadays. We can use this to our advantage; the internet and it's resources can supplement our teaching in fun and exciting ways!



    I agree that we must wade through the detritus to find the gems online. I have found some of the best content via teacher blogs, some of which I discovered during previous Walden coursework. Forming a network of trusted resources online has afforded me many opportunities to bring dynamic instruction and practice to my classroom. I have not used virtual field trips as of yet, but do look forward to our exploration next week and learning ways to incorporate this learning method in my classroom.


  4. I agree that technology is a great way to catch students attention while practicing needed skills. Online manipulatives, videos, and games are great resources to provide rote practice while engaging the students. Stellarium looks like a wonderful program that would capture the students attention.

  5. Lindsey,

    Yes. There are many resources that can help to supplement class instruction and provide additional review/information even when the teacher is not present. Science especially has wonderful sites and videos, i.e. virtual dissections and videos of chemical interactions and the like. My colleagues and I in the math department get very jealous!