Behaviorism in Today’s Classroom
In my opinion, the behaviorist learning theory is not only alive in the today’s classroom, but it is thriving in today’s classroom. Looking at my own classroom and my own school as an example, the use of reinforcement, punishment and motivators are a key part in shaping both the behaviors of the students, but also their assessment outcomes. In my own class, we have a classroom economy where the students receive Peterson Money for behaviors and assessment/practice outcomes on a daily basis. If a student gets an answer right, does well on a test, cleans up after themselves, etc., they receive classroom money. If students are behaving poorly, making bad choices, not staying on task, they will be fined money. Each quarter the money is used in a class auction for items purchased at the dollar store. The kids have complete buy in with this behaviorist method of learning.
With the use of iPads, I implement numerous learning apps daily where they receive immediate feedback for their actions in the learning game or concept app. In certain apps, they can create avatars after they receive a certain amount of points or coins. They respond very well to this type of reinforcement and it keeps them both interested and engaged in their learning.
After reading Chapter 7 out of the resource for the class. Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works (Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn, 2012), the remarks made about homework really made me question some of the homework practices I have in place. I immediately went through my nightly and weekly homework and asked myself the questions from the chapter including the degree of parental involvement, homework quality, student’s learning preferences, the structure and monitoring of each assignment, and the students home environments. Each assignment I send home is now screened using these questions. I have found some things to be “fluff” assignments and have cut them out. But most are found to be important and meet the valid criteria to be sent home. One main assignment, that they have the entire week to complete, is a reading one through Edmodo.com. I create an assignment with a news article from the current TIme for Kids Classroom magazine and the students must read and reply to the article. This reply includes a summary, questions, schema connections, and a critique. I have had wonderful buy-in from parents and students and have great success with this medium for the past 3 years. Students without the means to complete this at home will receive a paper version of the article, make notes accordingly, and complete the assignment in class throughout the week on the iPAds or computers. This is another avenue where the students receive timely feedback and reinforcements or critiques for their work. They earn badges for completing a certain number and I can respond to their assignment with emoticons as well as other feedback.
In the 2nd Chapter of the class book, I found the idea of effort being explicitly taught to be fascinating. Recognizing that effort is the most important factor in achievement just makes sense. I see this everyday when my wife comes home from teaching high school math and speaks about the amount of students who are so smart and could be achieving so much more than they are, but they lack the effort. The praise piece of this chapter was also intriguing in how we as educators need to use praise cautiously. For the mere fact that each student is different and has a different background that could cause them to misinterpret the praise as a negative instead of a positive was a new concept for me. I am much more careful in the way in which I praise now, using concrete symbols of recognition and specific and aligned praise to their expected behavior and performance.
This weeks reading was a real eye opener for me and I am definitely looking more carefully at the things I do in the classroom. Ensuring that what I assign and say is in line with doing what is best for the students.
Thanks for Reading!!!!
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.