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Matthew Brue
EPSY 302- Educational Psychology
March 29, 2016
Behaviorism, or behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based on the
idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning, which was founded by
John Watson. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment.
Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shape our actions.
Watson believed that behaviors can be measured, trained, and changed.
Behaviorism can be best summed up by the following quote from Watson, who was
often referred to as the father of behaviorism:
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to
bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him
to become any type of specialist I might select -- doctor, lawyer, artist,
merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his
talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.
The specific quote from Watson suggests that strict behaviorists believe that any
person could potentially be trained to perform any task, regardless of things like
genetic background, personality traits, and internal thoughts. Watson believed that
any person, regardless of their background, could be trained to act in a particular
manner given the right conditioning. Behavior can be studied in a systematic and
observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. The theory
proposes that only observable behaviors should be considered since internal states
such as emotions and moods are too particular. (Cherry, What Is Behaviorism and
How Does It Work?)

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Behaviorism assumes that a learner is essentially passive, responding to
environment stimuli. The learner starts off as neutral and behavior is shaped
through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Both types of
reinforcements increase the probability that the antecedent behavior will happen
again. On the other hand, positive and negative punishment decreases the
likelihood that the antecedent behavior will happen again. Positive indicates the
application of a stimulus, where negative indicates that withholding of a stimulus.
Learning is therefore defined as a change in behavior of the learner. In earlier
times, behaviorists would work and experiment on animals, and then generalize
that to humans. (Behaviorism - Learning Theories.")
There are two major types of behavioral conditioning: classical conditioning
and operant conditioning. Ivan Pavlov provided one of the most famous examples
of classical conditioning. Pavlov was studying salvation with dogs in response to
being fed. He later noticed that his dogs would salivate when he entered the room,
even when he was not actually bringing them food. He then set up an experiment to
support his hypothesis, using a bell as a neutral stimulus. When he fed the dogs, he
would also ring this bell. After repeating this experiment several times, he then tried
the bell on its own, without the food. Just as he hypothesized, the bell caused an
increase in salivation. The dogs had learned to associate between the bell and the
food, and a new behavior had been learned. The neutral stimulus became a
conditioned stimulus that provoked a conditioned response (saliva). (Cherry,
Pavlovs Dogs)
Operant Conditioning is a form of learning described by many behaviorists,
and most notably by B.F. Skinner. It is a style of learning which occurs through
rewards and punishments for behavior. Through this, a relationship is made

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between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. According to our book,
the central principle of operant conditioning can be summed up as, A response that
is followed by a reinforcing stimulus is more likely to occur again (Ormrod 59). For
example, when a lab rat presses a green button, he receives cheese as a reward,
but when he presses the red button he receives an electric shock. As a result, he
learns to press the green button, but to avoid the red button. (Cherry, "Operant
Conditioning: What You Need to Know."
There are several ways that behaviorism can be applied in the
classroom setting to elicit and maintain desired student behavior. Examples of
behavior modification techniques include praise, reward systems, continual
feedback, positive reinforcement and discipline. Behavior is no less relevant today
than when it was first introduced into the schools in the 1950`s by B.F. Skinner. If
students are rewarded for doing extra work, they are more likely to repeat that
behavior, which is most often used in the classroom.
Incorporating behaviorism into your course design is important. Using
weighted grades for homework assignments, exams, and participation is effective
for behaviorism. If you were to assign more points for certain activities than others,
students are reinforced for putting their efforts into the correct priorities. An
example of this would be students knowing that you consider it to be more
important to do well on a group project that is worth 35 percent of their grade than
on quizzes that are only worth 10 percent of their grades. The students who plan
their time accordingly would most likely attain a higher grade.
Implementing a classroom reward system is essential for behaviorism, such
as a token economy. Students are explained how they can earn a token, such as

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staying on tasks, listening, and raising their hand. When tokens are accumulated,
students can then exchange their tokens for a reward that they choose individually.
For example, when a student is observed doing good deeds to their peers, their
teacher gives them a ticket that can then be exchanged into something they enjoy.
Applying behaviorism to classroom teaching and discipline may be the most
important aspect to implement into the classroom. You can use behaviorism to
increase learning and decrease distractive behavior from students. While writing
lesson plans, identify what knowledge and skills you want students to learn. You
should then decide how you will evaluate their performance, while also developing a
system to track their progress. It is important to use exams and grades to
encourage students to do their best on each assignment. For example, if you
suspect that students are not completing assigned reading, you could choose to
start giving them quizzes, which will ultimately motivate them to do their work,
which will reward those who do work hard with good grades. A way to control
disruptive behavior in an effective way is to praise positive behavior, ignore
negative behavior and consistently enforce consequences for breaking rules.
(Dowd, "How to Use Behaviorism in a Classroom.")
Negative reinforcement does not have to be a form of punishment, like many
people view it as. Rather, it is when you reward good behavior by taking away
something your students see as negative. For example, you have a class clown is
always making inappropriate comments during lessons and disrupts the class. He
also does not like writing book reports because he says writing is boring. Instead of
forcing him to write the report, you could offer to let him do the book report another
way, on the condition he behaves appropriately during lessons. By removing
something he sees as a negative, you have reinforced a separate, positive behavior.

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There are times when punishment is necessary to discourage undesirable
behavior, but you must be careful not to go too far by embarrassing your students.
Just as there are positive and negative reinforcement for good behavior, two
methods are appropriate for applying punishment. Presentation punishment would
be if a student misbehaves and you act by adding a punishment such as detention
or a time-out. Removal punishment is similar to negative reinforcement. It is
enforced by remove something the students see as good because they have
behaved badly. For example, if they refuse to stop encouraging your class clowns
inappropriate comments, you could threaten to cancel an upcoming class event or
party. (Cascio, "How Will I Apply Behaviorist Philosophy in the Classroom?")
Behaviorism is an important aspect of life, especially used in the classroom.
There are many ways it can be implemented into the classroom setting to
encourage good behavior, as well as turning it around from being a negative
punishment into a positive outlook for the student. The different types of
behaviorism all have their unique aspects, but ultimately they are all striving for the
same goal, to get good behavior out of the individual, or to get their behavior to

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Works Cited
"Behaviorism - Learning Theories." Learning Theories Behaviorism
Comments. N.p., 30 Jan. 2007. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.
Cascio, Christopher. "How Will I Apply Behaviorist Philosophy in the
Classroom?" Seattlepi.com. N.p., n.d. Web.
Cherry, Kendra. "Operant Conditioning: What You Need to Know." About.com
Health. N.p., 29 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.
Cherry, Kendra. "Pavlov's Dogs." About.com. N.p., 12 Jan. 2016. Web. 29 Mar.
Cherry, Kendra. "What Is Behaviorism and How Does It Work?" About.com
Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.
Dowd, Dr. Mary. "How to Use Behaviorism in a Classroom." Ehow.com. N.p.,
n.d. Web.
Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis. Essentials of Educational Psychology: Big Ideas to Guide
Effective Teaching. Boston: Pearson, 2012. 59.

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