Behaviour Management

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This essay will compare and contrast two theories of behaviour management by Carl Rogers and BF Skinner and argue ways in which one of these theories could be implemented for a particular context and practice. Roger’s theory is based on a humanistic approach, while Skinner’s theory takes a behaviourist approach; each theory has both benefits and shortcomings. Their views form opposite ends of the learning spectrum. These theories will be examined as their respective works address the underlying issue of how children learn to behave.

This essay will also discuss the advantages of teachers creating a positive and happy learning environment in the classroom. Teachers need to carefully plan a behaviour management theory/model that closely reflects their personal philosophy and ultimately, assists them to engage and achieve learning outcomes for their cohort of students.

Behaviour management skills are essential for pre-service teachers and teachers. Establishing yourself confidently with your class - whichever theory/theories of behaviour management you prescribe to – is an important first step when teaching a new class. Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu (2003, pg.255) comment: “Many students will no longer respect the teacher solely because he or she is the teacher. They will try out the beginning teacher to see whether they are worthy of respect and trust.” I believe creating a positive learning environment will help students to gain that respect and trust. Ewing, Lowrie & Higgs (2010) state that establishing a sense of community in the classroom is an important initial step in creating a positive learning environment.

Rogers proposes a person-centred approach in his humanistic theory. Consequently, there is significant freedom for students. Students need to decide what type of behaviour is suitable for them, while having respect for others. Edwards & Watts (2008, pg. 28) explain:

“Carl Rogers is the most popular proponent of the child development group of theories. In the school setting, he advocates considerable freedom for children.” Humanists believe it is fairer to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place than dealing with it as it unfolds. The central theme of their philosophy is prevention is better than cure. Further, democratic discipline hopes to achieve educational goals: teaching self-discipline, co-operative learning in groups and fostering responsible citizenship.

The practice of providing consequences for both positive and negative behaviour is the essence of Skinner’s behaviourist theory. The teacher develops a process of systematically applying rewards (reinforcements) and consequences for behaviour. Skinner developed the notion of “operant conditioning”. The four principles of operant conditioning include: reinforcement, punishment, shaping and extinction of behaviour. Brady & Scully (2005) point out a key challenge for the teacher in applying Skinner’s principles in classroom contexts is identifying appropriate reinforcers and punishers.

Skinner's and Rogers' theories of how children learn represent two very different perspectives; they describe opposite ends of the learning spectrum. Skinner is a behaviourist, while Rogers is a humanist. Both Skinner and Rogers apparently value the concept of student freedom. Where they differ is in how students utilise this freedom. According to Skinner, the struggle for personal freedom in education can be helped best by teachers striving to improve their control of students rather than abandoning it (Skinner, 1973). For Rogers, discipline should not be imposed, however, self-discipline, should prevail. Rogers proposes students should be able to guide their own experiences.

The humanistic approach by Rogers defines a teacher’s role to encourage an environment of self-growth among students. Rogers (1977) suggests students possess an...
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