Behaviourism as a Philosophy of Education

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Behaviourism as a Philosophy of Education was mainly influenced by the likes of Pavlov, Thorndike, John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner who played an integral role of implementing these principles and techniques of behaviourism into our every day lives. Behaviourists consider the child to be an organism that acts, thinks and feels and is already programmed with the necessary skills for learning when they arrive at school. Skinner believed strongly in education but critics argued that his idea of education was different, Skinner believed in “training” or operant conditioning and that a child would not really learn unless things were reinforced through this training. It is thought that conditioning happens in education automatically. For example we are taught to sit up straight and be attentive in class, this conditioning then becomes a part of the normal routine. Skinner believed that extrinsic rewards for a good deed done would make a child respond better to learning or training when other methods of conditioning did not work, and be replaced by intrinsic rewards later, however some critics disagree with this method. He also believed in having positive reinforcements because negative reinforcements (even though can be effective) have too many bad side effects. However, critics argue that this type of behavioural engineering will turn people into robots that will not be able to function without someone controlling them but Skinner did not agree with this. He believed that advanced technology of today’s world could be conditioned to help man better himself if used in the correct way.

Behaviourism in Education 

Ivan Pavlov is considered the father of conditioning theory. He is famous for his conditioning experiment of reflex responses in animals and humans.  (“Dogs and the bell and the dogs would salivate or expect food once the bell was rung. The dog associated the sound of the bell with food). Pavlov’s emphasis was only on the one way process of...
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