10 Examples of Behaviorism in the Classroom

The behaviorism or behaviorism (from the English behavior) is a psychological current that addresses individuals from manifest and observable behavior, understood as the relationship between a set of stimuli and another of responses.

In this approach, behaviorists oppose the traditional currents of psychology, focused on the analysis of consciousness, since they consider them a model of introspective analysis and therefore little experimental and unscientific.

It is possible to identify more than 10 currents of behaviorism, each one supported by the investigations of a theoretician in the area, such as Tollman, Hull and Skinner, JR Kantor and others.

Classical and operant conditioning

Behaviorism is based mainly on two forms of learning or conditioning, namely:

  • Classical conditioning. Learning method in which an initial stimulus triggers a regular and constant response in the body, through its association with a “neutral” event that did not cause the same response before conditioning. A clear example of this is the case of Pavlov’s dog, to whom a bell was rung before feeding. Over time, the mere sound of the bell caused the dog to salivate in anticipation of the food, even if it was not delivered immediately.
  • Operant conditioning. In this case, learning occurs through a double conditioning of punishment and reward, that is, a pleasant and positive stimulus to reinforce a certain desired behavior and a negative and unpleasant one to weaken an unwanted behavior. An example of this would be if we gave the same dog a cookie when looking for the ball, but a hit when it made dirt on the carpet. The first is called positive reinforcement, the second negative reinforcement.

Advantages and disadvantages of behaviorism in the classroom

Many are the behavioral techniques used, knowingly or unknowingly, in the educational method as such. The idea of ​​stimulating study, effort and passion for learning and negatively reinforcing contrary behaviors is at the heart of classroom interaction. For this, various factors are used, such as grades, disciplinary sanctions and the student-teacher interaction or between students. For example: reward the intervention, subtract and add points, arrival routines.

However, it must be said that many of the postulates of the educational behaviorism They are nowadays surpassed or in the process of overcoming, since they assume the student from a passive perspective, in which all are equal and must learn equally, and which reduces their role only to being modeled.

A common criticism is that behaviorism assesses the educational process from the products and not from the learning processes themselves. Many specialists argue that other doctrines of the study of learning propose more proactive and less police methods of teaching that, in the long run, yield better results.

Examples of behaviorism in the classroom

  1. Reward the intervention. Many teachers give kids who intervene in class or do their homework well a sticker or a sticker, as a public recognition of their good performance. In this way, this behavior is stimulated and the opposite is discouraged in others, by contrasting valuations.
  2. Punish bad behavior. At the same time that good students are encouraged to continue being good students, anarchic or annoying behavior should be weakened, for example, of a boy who does not let the class progress or exhibits a disrespectful attitude. This negative reinforcement would consist of exemplary public reprimands and punishments, to associate the feeling of shame with the initial behavior that you want to modify. The effect would be greater if accompanied by positive reinforcement when the child is willing to cooperate, rather than resorting to humiliation and derision as social punishments.
  3. Subtract and add points. In certain situations of behavior or academic performance, the teacher may subtract points from one or more students as negative reinforcement, since they will associate the final result of their subject with the present behavior. The same is done with additional points, which are added to students who make an unexpected effort (as positive reinforcement) or who begin to show better behavior.
  4. Get up when the teacher enters. Many teachers used to require students to get up when the teacher entered the classroom, as a sign of respect. This method sought to associate the formality of the act of getting up with the presence of the teachers and thus reinforce a bond of respect and protocol in the students. The counterpart of this method is to sing a song when the teacher enters the classroom, as a form of welcome that reinforces a similar principle in the students but through less military methods.
  5. Severely penalize copying. It is often recommended to harshly punish copying and plagiarism, to weaken these cheating and easy-going behaviors in students. The idea is to impose the criterion that the effort pays off and plagiarism does not, so the exam is often withdrawn and the plagiarist student and his accomplices are given the lowest possible grade, if any (negative reinforcement). This method, however, is somewhat police.
  6. Reinforce academic interest. Although each student will have their particular interests and abilities, the teacher will positively reinforce the student who shows a growth in interest in the topics covered in class, through public or private recognition and better grades. In this way the student will associate interest in the subject with better performance and that is the basic principle of all learning. This, of course, requires that the teacher pay special attention to the academic journey of each individual in the classroom.
  7. Investigation as punishment. This is a critical point around behavioral mechanisms, which alerts teachers to the use of research as exemplary punishment: the student who does not pay attention in class is forced to investigate something about the subject and expose it in class . Although this method can guarantee a negative reinforcement of unwanted behavior, the relationship between reprimand and study is also associated with the student, negatively feeding back their interest in reading and research.
  8. The sound of the doorbell. Since the bell precedes recess and the end of class, students will inevitably associate this sound with the end of the learning period, thus they will stop paying attention even though the teacher is still speaking or explaining something important.
  9. Arrival routines. Especially in the case of nursery or primary classrooms, the use of arrival routines is recommended to help calm students’ anxiety about entering the classroom, for which they are conditioned to, for example, keep their coat, take off shoes, sitting in one place, etc. In this way, discipline and order are reinforced and, in theory, anxiety is weakened.
  10. Expel from classes. Group ostracism can be a popular discipline technique and one that allows the class to move forward without recurring annoyance on the part of a student. On the one hand, a negative reinforcement is carried out in the behavior, which is exemplary in the group, but unless said expulsion translates into something other than freedom gained through bad behavior, the opposite of what is being reinforced in the student will be reinforced. that is desired.