Overview of Behavioral Theories
Behaviorism, along with several newer variations that have names like information processing theory, emphasize the learning of facts and skills that authorities, such as teachers or school boards, have decided are important. While these theories have many different names we will use the term behaviorism here. Names associated with behaviorism include John Watson, an American psychologist who was very influential in the 1920s and 1930s, and B. F. Skinner (http://126.96.36.199/INST5931/Beyond_Freedom.html), another American psychologist who had a tremendous impact on education in the 1950s and 1960s. Behavioral approaches to teaching generally involve the following: 1. Breaking down the skills and information to be learned into small units. 2. Checking student's work regularly and providing feedback as well as encouragement (reinforcement). 3. Teaching "out of context." Behaviorists generally believe that students can be taught best when the focus is directly on the content to be taught. Behavioral instruction often takes the material out of the context in which it will be used. 4. Direct or "teacher centered" instruction. Lectures, tutorials, drills, demonstrations, and other forms of teacher controlled teaching tend to dominate behavioral classrooms. General Implications of Behavioral Theories
Behavioral teaching and learning tends to focus on skills that will be used later. You learn facts about American history, for example, because it is assumed that knowing those facts will make you a better citizen when you are an adult. You learn basic mathematics computational skills because you may need them when you get a job. Behavioral learning does not, however, generally ask you to actually put the skills or knowledge you learn into use in a "real" or "authentic" situation. That will come later when you graduate and get a job. The behavioral emphasis on breaking down complex tasks, such as learning to read, into subskills that...
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