Wednesday, March 7, 2012

behaviorism, technology, and an idea

This week’s coursework centers on behaviorism and technology. I began by watching a video entitled Behaviorist learning theory (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). In this video, Dr. Michael Orey discusses how prevalent the theory of behaviorism is in classroom technology in the form of tutorials and games that allow for practice and rewards for correct answers. I had never considered this before and it has made me think about how I currently use these tools in my own classroom.

The second resource I examined was Using technology for classroom instruction that works (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). In focusing on the chapters surrounding “reinforcing effort” and “homework and practice”, I saw many parallels to behaviorist theory. Behaviorism is all about reinforcing positive behavior, and effort is certainly considered positive. Therefore reinforcing effort is unquestionably based in this theory. This text suggests using spreadsheet software to monitor correlations between effort and achievement, and data collection tools to compile and display data supporting this same correlation. Both of these strategies would allow students to reflect on their effort level and see the connection between good behaviors (effort) and rewards (better grades).

Behaviorism also calls for practice, which brings us to the “homework and practice chapter”. This book recommends that homework should focus on “specific elements of a complex skill or process” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 188) and suggests using word processing applications, spreadsheet software, and multimedia. I chose to focus my attention on multimedia since that is the area I find most useful in my own classroom. According to this text, “multimedia homework is an opportunity to deepen understanding and gain proficiency” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 192). In science it is difficult to find meaningful homework that allows students to practice the skills we have done in a lab. Multimedia provides us with many more options to make this possible.

Currently my students are investigating why we see lunar phases. I found this tutorial ( which has some really nice animations. Something like this would be great for students to complete individually so they can take their time. This would be a good homework assignment after completing the modeling labs in class because it reviews the concept and presents it in a new and different way. While this would not necessarily require practicing a skill, it does require students to practice going through the process of thinking about what is happening to cause these phases.


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 


  1. Before this course, I too never really considered that the different computer based tutorials and games that I use in class for engagement and remediation were linked to behaviorism.

    I agree with you that both of the instructional strategies we explored this week are aligned with the behaviorist learning theory. With “reinforcing efforts,” as teachers we do this numerous times per day, without realizing that we are really conditioning our students. As a math teacher I find that I am always pushing my students to study or do homework, because in math practice is imperative. With technology, it is easier for students to chart how their efforts pay off.

    When I taught at the middle school level I was able to implement technology on a more regular basis, I was assigned a mobile lab that allowed my students to interact more with technology. I also concentrated more on project, since these allowed the students to get a deeper understanding of the lesson; this is exactly where I would like to be again.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I am fortunate in having a classroom set of Netbooks this year, which has allowed me to try a lot of new things. Next year we are going one-to-one so I have my work cut out for me :)

  2. First, I would like to say thank you for the resource. The phases of the moon site will be great for my students to use during our space unit.

    Secondly, I also have not realized how often I use the behaviorist theory in order to encourage the desired behavior. Our school uses the 1 2 3 Magic behavior plan to mange school wide behavior ( ). Although it is a great way to quickly correct and consequence an undesired behavior, I prefer to positively praise students. There are many times that I congratulate a student's effort or say "I love how a certain student has his packet out and his eyes on me". Using methods like this let the rest of my class know what I am expecting and hopefully they will complete the desired task. There are so many strategies that educators have in their bag of tricks. In order to get 20-30 students at any given time to comply and respond appropriately, we are constantly implementing the behaviorist theory.