Behaviorist Learning Theory and Instructional Strategies for Achievement

Ponder:  How the instructional strategies described in the resources you explored this week correlate with the principles of behaviorist learning theory.

The behaviorist theory is the building blocks of our current educational system. When students do a task correctly teachers reward them with praise or a good grade. When students do a task incorrectly teachers redirect students to do the task again until it is done correctly or a lower grade is given. As teachers we want students to put forth effort in their school work and classroom participation. And more often than not, when more effort is given there is a result in better understanding of the course content, thus receiving better grades. This week’s reading correlates perfectly with this theory. In the book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works the authors explain that students need consistent and systematic exposure to teaching strategies to really grasp the impact that effort can have on their achievement (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). That students’ when paying attention to the learning expectations on the rubric they see a relationship between effort and achievement. As teachers, we need to be letting students know what we expect out of them before we give them a task, a goal or a target for which they can work to achieve. Once students are working towards their goals or targets a powerful way to convince students that effort truly ties to achievement is to show them data. Not just data on themselves, but groups they associate with, their peers. Students then begin to take more responsibility for their own success because they want to be more like their peers.

Homework is a great gage of effort from students and it also provides opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of the content and to gain proficiency with their skills. If teachers assign homework it should be commented on, they are doing their homework in effort to better understand the course materials and because it is easy for errors to slip in when students are practicing, teachers should give feedback as quickly as possible-ideally, early in the practice sessions before students internalize erroneous processes and knowledge (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).

In the elementary school setting that I work in I see several technology based assessment tools that my students currently use and could use to gage their effort levels and proficiency of content.  is a website that has students practice basic math skills using the drill and kill method. When students are done with the days drill they are given a data through a graph to see their growth or where they need to improve. The word processing tool that is described in the book is an excellent one for schools that have more student access to computers then mine. With one student computer for my whole class, I can see this tool not being as affective as all students working on it at the same time.  is a nice website that is built upon the behaviorist theory. When students get an answer that is correct they get instant praise and when they get it wrong they get instant feedback of what the correct answer was. I have used several websites like this with my students’ whole group and they love the interaction it brings.

Here is something for you to ponder today: What other technology tools besides the ones listed in our current course reading could aid elementary students with gaging their effort levels in a fun and exciting way, while learning?

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.   Chapter 8, “Reinforcing Effort”.  Chapter 10, “Homework and Practice”.


One thought on “Behaviorist Learning Theory and Instructional Strategies for Achievement

  1. I like your ideas on homework and that it can be a good indicator of understanding. I agree with you that homework can be useful for practice also. One of the problems I have with homework, though,is the fact that many of my socio-economically disadvantaged students are not capable of completing homework on a regular basis. I have found that I have to use homework sparingly and in the right situations. Otherwise, it may hurt some of my students who may understand, but may not have the opportunity or may be at a disadvantage in completing homework.

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