Learning Theory Based on Behaviorism
Jin Xue-jun Zhangjiang Normal University
Much of the research by behaviorists was done on animals rather than human learners and then extended to humans. The core idea of it is that learning occurs through stimulation and response. Does this animal-behavior based behaviorism conform to children’s generalizations of English language? Experts say, yes, by showing examples of learning the plural forms of some nouns after learning simpler form of singular noun (e.g. “glasses” is one such case).
Many of the behaviorist theories have stimulus-response and reinforcement as integral components. So learners learn through direct instruction, under guide of outcome oriented and future oriented teaching, with their external motivation.
Direct instruction: Linear sequential learning.
Outcome oriented: Academic / basics focus.
Future oriented: Accountability. System for managing time.
External motivation: High degree of a teacher’s direction and control.
High expectations for students’ progress.
The goal of instruction, according to behaviorism, is to increase the number or strength of correct students’ responses. The amount of learning is measured by observing changes in behavior. The following table presents some features of behaviorism in language learning.
View on learning
View on learner
Role of teacher
Behaviorism Increase in number of Passive recipients of Reinforcers to increase desirable responses stimuli to decrease desirable behaviors resulted from reinforcement undesirable behaviors
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