Difference Between Behaviourism and Contructivism When Applied to Drama

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The relationship between a teacher and student is one based on learning. It is the teacher’s role in the relationship to facilitate this learning during the time a student is at school. Yet the way in which a teacher can teach has long been a contentious issue. There have been and will continue to be numerous theories behind the way a student learns best. These theorists have examined the teaching practices and drawn conclusions to what good and bad teaching practice look like. Each theory is different, some subtly and others wildly. In this essay I will explore the differences between behaviourism and constructivism when applied to the method of drama.

Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge (Ashman and Conway 1997). If someone has gained knowledge then they have been through the process of learning. The knowledge learnt does not have to be restricted to anything in particular. It could include the knowledge being able to relate to others including your peers. All students learn differently, this is one factor most theorists actually agree on. These differences allow teachers to use a variety of different methods in the classroom to ensure that their students are all learning. Therefore it is critical to a teacher to have a sound understanding of how their students learn in order for them to be able to teach them effectively. Without this knowledge the teacher would be ineffective in passing on the knowledge to their students and thus the teacher doesn’t fulfil their part of the relationship.

Howard Gardner, in 1983, came to the conclusion that learning could be broken down into eight different ways. These include Visual/Spatial, Verbal/Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal. Clausen-May (2005) suggests that most schools focus heavily on the logical and verbal based learning when teaching; he used the example of mathematics to demonstrate this. Such teaching could, and general does, create issues for those students who fall into any of the other six methods of learning. With these different learning styles a teacher must be prepared to test knowledge in more than one way to discover whether or not anything has been learnt.

With its origins in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, behaviourism is a theory based on a stimulus response. Behaviourism holds both scientific measurement and observation as central elements. To the behaviourist learning is considered an attainment of a new behaviour or conditioning. Pritchard (2009) explains that even the most complex learning situations can be described in terms of stimulus and reaction. One can practice a response to a certain situation in order to reinforce the applicable neural pathways in the brain and make this reaction more likely when given similar stimulus.

Conditioning can be either classical or operant. An example of classic conditioning is the well-known ‘Pavlov’s Dog’ where a bell ringing is associated with the dog being fed, and thus responds accordingly. (insert reference here) Operant conditioning contrasts classical where as desirable behaviours are reinforced with rewards, such as praise or physical rewards. In turn undesirable behaviour is punished to discourage it. The behaviours then hopefully become habit. Lack of reinforcement may lead to a regression in behaviour.

Burrhus Skinner, the leading psychologist in operant conditioning (Child, 1997). In the early stages of life, Skinner states that constant and continual reinforcement is needed to develop behaviour. Once past the early years, the reinforcement can become more intermittent. He believes that the more the stimulus and response happen together the stronger the association between the two will become. In relation to education, Skinner favoured rewards, which in this case were more likely to be positive reinforcement, than punishment to achieve results (Pritchard, 2009). The learning process according to...
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