Application 4: Online Learning in K-12 Schools Podcast

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Behaviorism in Practice

In this week's learning resources we were introduced to two concepts for combining technology with behaviorist theories of learning. In the book, "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works", we learned about two strategies, "Reinforcing Effort" and "Homework and Practice". Both of these ideas use the behaviorist notions of reinforcement, rewards, and consequences. For example, the chapter on reinforcing effort provides several activities that use technology to reinforce good behavior. Spreadsheets programs can be used to help students track the relationship between effort and success. They soon realize that the amount of success they achieve is proportional to the amount of effort they put forth.

Another activity demonstrated the usefulness of homework and practice. Homework assignments should be given to reinforce what was learned in class. They should be used for practice and students should be given appropriate feedback. This relates to behaviorist theory because it accentuates positive results while trying to eliminate less desirable results. When a student is given specific feedback on their work, they will know exactly what they have done correctly and what they need to do improve.

Similar to the previously mentioned spreadsheet activity, another example from the learning resources mentions an activity done by a physical education teacher and football coach. By having his team members track their workouts, they were able to see the progress they were making. They saw the amount of weight they were lifting, as well as their speed increase. this allowed their positive athletic behaviors to be reinforced while minimizing their negative results.


Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Hello Jody,

    The book "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works" is a great book. It is easy to read, has shorter chapters, and it provides great ideas along with a variety of different types of technology that can be used to support teaching and learning.

    I agree with the behaviorist in that it is important for students to receive immediate feedback on thier work. By looking at their graded papers and projects, they "can see the relationship between their effort and the grade they recieved." (Pitler et al., 2007, p159) In addition, this is the way students can tell if they are on the right track or not.

    Giving immediate feedback is also a behavior that teachers should instill in themselves. Overtime, it will become a habit, making it easier and quicker to do.


    Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

  2. Jody,

    I teach sixth grade language arts and social studies. I currently try to give my students at least ten minutes or so each day to work on their homework. I like to do this so if they have any questions or do not understand the material, they can ask. I also circulate the room to check that my students are understanding their work. However, I have a couple colleagues who believe that the entire class period should be for instruction (they have been teaching 30 years plus). They see things their way only.

    The textbook talks about immediate feedback when grading papers, as referenced by Jody, but by not giving students the chance to have questions is asking for the chance of reteaching a lesson.


  3. Jody,

    Much like you, I was impressed by the activity between the Physical education coach and the teacher that used the statistics in the classroom. Not only does this activity use behaviorist notions of positive and negative reinforcement, but also incorporates interdisciplinary aspects of teaching and meaningfulness to the lessons. When students interact with the content on a personal level, the material becomes relevant and the work worthwhile. Add to this the feedback and the students are invested in the work and the outcome.


    I too give my sixth grade mathematics students time to work during class. I find that this time is so important to allow the students a bit of a buffer in their work. Should they have trouble with the work, I am there to help and if they can do the homework independently, the task becomes less of a burden. I also get to work with less confident students and give them positive feedback when they are able to complete the problems. I am glad to know that others feel the same way.



  4. Jody,

    Your blog has some great points. Homework must be made for reinforcement. Why assign homework if it is not going to be checked. Students need the feedback because many times it will eliminate misconceptions or problems. Your last paragraph/our resources appealed to me. I coach weightlifting and track the students progress. Just this last test this week I tested the students. Some of them do their own thing while others follow my program. Because of my tracking my top two students have gained 145lbs and 135lbs of strength. The two guys that have decided to do their own thing this year have gained 0lbs from last year and 10lbs. This just really appealed to me. Thanks for the insights!

  5. I like what you wrote about homework accentuating poitive results and behaviorst theory in phys. ed.

    With homework and practice, it is best to try what we learn while it is still fresh, this way we get that truly positive result, or we know we do not have everything exactly right, and we can ask the teacher next time.

    Weight training in Phys. ed. class is a clear cut example of behaviorism. Most people want to train with weights to get stronger. There is no clearer way to show improvement than to be able to repeat the same lifting motion with more and more weight. Is there?