Behavioral Theory in Nursing

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According to the behavioral theory, learning involves alterations and modifications in behavior (Barrett, 2006). Behaviorists believe that what one learns is influenced by the environment instead of the student. The theory of behavioral learning also contends that reinforcement, whether positive or negative, are essential to the learning process (Smith, 2005). As a teacher one particular function, according to the behavioral learning theory, would be to make use of negative reinforcers to end unwanted behavior and positive reinforcers to strengthen wanted behavior. Reinforcers may also be used to teach new skills. This process is referred to as shaping. Teacher's who follow the behaviorists are also expected to use punishment and consequences to bring about a behavior change and facilitate learning (Slavin, 2003). The only thing required by students is the role of active responder. Students need to be able to respond to any reinforcement used by the teacher and willingly change their behavior to enable learning. Behavioral learning concepts can be used to assist in teaching nursing students about medications and their side effects. This can be done by using positive reinforcers to shape the way students learn the material. For example, the instructor could assign each student a specific medication and ask the students to prepare a creative presentation. The student that makes the most creative project gets extra points. The students may be more likely to work harder because they know they will receive a desired reward for their work. Instructors can also use drill and practice to increase the likelihood that the medication information in the unit will be retained. An example of negative reinforcement would be punishing a student, beyond just deducting points, for not being able to recall a specific medication and its side effects. I have used the behavior theory in my current practice in the form of positive reinforcement. A new...
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