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Theory of Learning

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Emily McKinley

on 30 April 2014

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Transcript of Theory of Learning

Theorized & Written by Emily McKinley
Multiple Intelligence Theory
"I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place. Knowledge is not the same as morality, but we need to understand if we are to avoid past mistakes and move in productive directions. An important part of that understanding is knowing who we are and what we can do…" - Howard Gardner (Smith, 2008)
For thousands of
years scholars, psychologists,
theorists, educators, and even students have wondered what is involved to create the most effective path of teaching to be able to learn, process, retain and utilize new information.
As of right now, there is no absolute set of rules, or one distinct theory that all teachers follow to ensure that their students are receiving the highest level and best path to their education; however, the list of contributing theories is a long and continuously growing one. As current students learn to become the next generation of educators, they acquire the knowledge and information of these original and continuing theories and begin to connect, form, and apply them towards their own philosophy of teaching. Some philosophies will be similar,
but all will be diverse in application. Here is some
insight into my own compilation of original and
continuing theories that have influenced my
personal philosophy of how I intend to
teach my future students.
Multiple Intelligence Theory (MI theory) was created by Howard Gardner in 1983 in which he describes people's intelligence as being composed of eight different and separate types of intelligence. Those intelligences are as follows:
: Sensitivity/capacity to discern, logical/numerical patterns; ability to handle long chains of reasoning.
Sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, and meanings of words; sensitivity to the different functions of languages.
Abilities to produce/appreciate rhythm, pitch and timbre; appreciation of the forms of musical expression.
Capacities to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately, perform transformations on one's initial perceptions.
Abilities to control one's body movements and handle objects skillfully.
Capacities to discern/respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, and desires of other people.
Access, discriminate, draw on one's own feelings to guide behavior; knowledge of own strengths, weaknesses, desires, and intelligences.
Ability to recognize/classify numerous plants/animals of one's environment and their relationships on a logical, justifiable basis; talent of caring for, taming, and interacting with various living creatures.
Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences gives understanding and awareness to the fact that everyone's mind is
individually unique and that they are not uniform in the way they process, comprehend, and retain information . Due
to the independence of each intelligence, and uniqueness of every individual, Gardner's theory explains that one person would likely possess most, if not all, of the intelligences; but, would exhibit different levels of skill in every one of these domains. (Snowman/McCown, 2013, p.75) Due to such differences in the levels of intelligence strengths and weaknesses, Gardner's advice toward educators is to use MI theory as a framework for devising alternative ways to teach subject matter.(Snowman/McCown, 2013, p.78) By teaching in alternative ways and involving at least three different intelligences into each lesson, no matter the difference in intelligence levels, mostly all of the students in a classroom are able to connect and comprehend the lessons being taught. Because MI theory helps students mentally represent ideas in multiple ways, students are likely to develop a better understanding of the topic, are able to use that knowledge of thinking in diverse ways, and apply it to different situations in everyday life. Once the student in well practiced in this multiple and diverse way of thinking, the continuation of a student's education and learning in an out-of-school setting should also lead to an increased transfer of learning knowledge and relation back into enhancing in-school subjects. (Snowman/McCown, 2013, p.78)
Logical - Mathematical :
Linguistic :
Musical :
Spatial :
Bodily-kinesthetic :
Interpersonal :

Intrapersonal :
Naturalist :
"Eight kinds of intelligence would allow eight ways to teach, rather than one. And powerful constraints that exist in the mind can be mobilized to introduce a particular concept (or whole system of thinking) in a way that children are most likely to learn it and least likely to distort it. Paradoxically, constraints can be suggestive and ultimately freeing."

-Howard Gardner

(Smith, 2008)
"...the theory validates educators’ everyday experience: students think and learn in many different ways. It also provides educators with a conceptual framework for organizing and reflecting on curriculum assessment and pedagogical practices. In turn, this reflection has led many educators to develop new approaches that might better meet the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms."

-Mindy L. Kornhabe
Educational Researcher
(Smith, 2008)
Howard Gardner did not, initially, spell out the implications of his theory for educators in any detail. Subsequently, he has looked more closely at what the theory might mean for schooling practice (e.g. in The Unschooled Mind, Intelligence Reframed, and The Disciplined Mind) here are his thoughts:

All seven intelligences are needed to live life well. Teachers, therefore, need to attend to all intelligences, not just the first two that have been their tradition concern. As Kornhaber (2001: 276) has noted it involves educators opting ‘for depth over breadth’. Understanding entails taking knowledge gained in one setting and using it in another. ‘Students must have extended opportunities to work on a topic’
A broad vision of education:
Developing local and flexible programmes. Howard Gardner’s interest in ‘deep understanding’, performance, exploration and creativity are not easily accommodated within an orientation to the ‘delivery’ of a detailed curriculum planned outside of the immediate educational context. ‘An “MI setting” can be undone if the curriculum is too rigid or if there is but a single form of assessment’ (Gardner 1999: 147)
Developing local and flexible programmes:
Looking to morality:
‘We must figure out how intelligence and morality can work together’, Howard Gardner argues, ‘to create a world in which a great variety of people will want to live’ (Gardner 1999: 4). While there are considerable benefits to developing understanding in relation to the disciplines, something more is needed.
(Smith, 2008)
My entire life, growing up as a child from a military family, I have been taught to not only recognize the differences in others, but celebrate that those difference exist.
As a teacher I feel like that celebration of diversity should continue into the classroom whether it is associated with race, ethnicity, or especially in the ways of the mind. I have personally never looked at myself or someone else and thought of them or I as a one trick pony. I have never been able to believe that if someone is good at doing something, that must be the only thing they excel at; or vice versa, I can not believe that if someone fails at something, they are going to fail at
everything they do. Every single person on the face of this Earth is born to think differently, process information at different speeds, be able to perform better at one
task than another; why is it that most schools or teachers tend to stick to a uniformed process of teaching new information? Why is it that there is a nationally issued standardized exam that students must take to gain access and receive possible acceptance into college?
When I first learned about Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, it was one of the very first learning theories that I was most excited to not only learn about, but possibly exhibit and
follow in my future classrooms.
I have never been an excellent student when it came to Math in school, in fact, it was the one and only class that I would always earn a 'B' in while the rest of my report cards were 'A's' across the board. After watching the video presented above, I'm actually saddened by the fact that my Math classes, were nothing like that. The children in that video are using multiple techniques
that tap into an astounding amount of visual, physical, musical, group, and sensory activities that not
only enhance their Math lesson, but connect that lesson to be able to utilize those Math skills they have just learned into their every day lives. If I had received this type of education growing up there is no doubt in my mind that I would always have dreaded walking into Math class or trying to understand the homework that was given out. The children at the end of the video explain that because they are having fun, they are eager to learn more of that subject. Along with celebrating differences, having fun is a KEY belief in my classroom philosophy. Speaking from the heart, as well as personal classroom experiences from my classroom, if a student is not interested in the topic and or if the teacher is not making the effort to make the lesson exciting, interesting, or fun, the student is going to retain little to no information of the subject.
In my future classrooms I fully intend to implement the Multiple Intelligence theory, not only through my lesson plans but through assessing my student's knowledge of the subject. I would love nothing better than to be able to teach a literature lesson about a book the class is reading and not only work in groups to bounce off ideas of the main plots
and significant events, but to then have my students create a visual time-line of those main plots and significant
events. This way my students who are mostly interpersonal are able to bounce ideas off each other in a group
setting, my students who are mostly linguistic are able to help others understand the text, my students who are
logical-mathematical will not hate the assignment but will be able to contribute by recording, categorizing,
and ordering the time-line operations of events that their group decides on, and lastly my spatial students
will be able to visually represent the data collected by the group through the actual creation of the time
-line. As a teacher, I will be able to assess their work not by their own individual strengths or
weaknesses but by the entire completion of the lesson. As a teacher I fully intend to have my
class create songs from the information from our lessons so that they will be able
to remember, understand, and utilized the creation of those songs for a test, quiz
or maybe even as a future contender on Jeopardy.

Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences can work wonders if utilized properly by a teacher. It can get students excited about learning, they are hands on with each lesson they partake in, and are learning diverse ways to solve a problem
or look at the world differently.There is no doubt in my mind that as a teacher I wouldn't want to celebrate the differences in my students. There is not doubt in my mind that as a teacher I wouldn't want to enhance or strengthen my student's weaknesses in a setting where they are not only able to process and comprehend those weaknesses, but are enjoying themselves and are excited to continue to learn. Do I believe that planning each lesson will take longer to create and cause me to think deeper about my students and how they will benefit? Absolutely. Do I believe that in doing so I will become a more reflective and better teacher and that the extra work is even worth the time?

Cognitive Development Theory
"What children can do with the assistance of others might be in some sense even more indicative of their mental development than what they can do alone."
~ Lev Vygotsky, Mind in Society (www.uky.edu)
In 1934 Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, developed the Cognitive Development Theory which is also referred to as the sociocultural theory because Vygotsky's main idea was based on the theory that how people think is a function of both social and cultural forces. (Snowman/McCown, 2013,p.32)
Vygotsky believed that social interaction is the PRIMARY cause of cognitive development! Vygotsky's theory has two major parts:

Vygotsky's first claim is that children gain significant knowledge and conceptual tools handed down to them by those who are more intellectually advanced, whether they are same-age peers, older children, or adults. These more intellectually advanced people are referred to as More Knowledgeable Others or MKO. (Snowman/McCown,2013.p34) By having social interaction with a MKO, children and students are able to build their own set of psychological tools. These tools are ways in which people communicate, explore the world while aiding and changing our mental functioning; for example things like, speech, writing, gestures, diagrams, numbers, chemical formulas, musical notation, rules, and memory techniques are tools that people learn first from MKO like their parents and then through their peers and teachers. (Snowman/McCown,2013,p.33)

More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
Vygotsky's second major part involves the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which is distance of learning development and problem solving that a person can achieve individually to the point where they are at a higher level of achievement through aid and collaboration of a teacher or advanced peer (MKO); this is a level that they could not have reached alone. Teacher's are encouraged to use a term called scaffolding when working with a student through their ZPD. To scaffold through the ZPD teachers are encouraged to provide minimum support of the student so that the student stays challenged enough to build off of their pre-existing foundation of knowledge.
(Worster,2014, Vygotsky PPT)
In this visual diagram, the small circle represents where the learner begins at their foundation of knowledge of a certain task, or informational set; individually they can only learn so much.

The large blue circle is how much further a student can learn when they are being scaffold, or assisted, by a MKO.

If information that a student is receiving falls out of their ZPD, either no challenge or too advanced challenging, then no growth can occur.
Four Stages of Zone Proximal Development
"...What the child [or learner] is able to do in collaboration today, he will be able to do independently tomorrow." - Vygotsky
("Lecture Notes," n.d., para.6)
Assistance provided by More Knowledgeable Others (MKO's)
EX:) Think of a child learning to tie his shoes, first, you show him how, then you talk him through it, usually with some little memorable story about rabbit ears, loops or something like that, and eventually…
(Worster,2014,Vygotsky PPT)
("Lecture-Notes," n.d.,para.6)
Assistance provided by self
EX:) ...the child is able to guide himself through tying his shoes, usually repeating the story that you taught him—the interaction has become internalized. Children often talk themselves through difficult tasks—Vygotsky called this private speech. You’ll notice that this private speech is generally pretty close to directions provided by MKO’s.
("Lecture-Notes," n.d., para.6)
Automatization through practice
EX:) With practice, tasks become less difficult, so we no longer have to talk to ourselves through them. What began as an interaction becomes an effortless, almost automatic behavior. The “private speech” becomes more internalized—it “goes underground,” and it only arises again when we are faced with another challenging task
("Lecture-Notes," n.d., para.6)
("Lecture-Notes," n.d., para.6)
De-automatization; recursiveness through previous three stages
EX:) If time goes by and you don’t use a skill—say, you switch to all Velcro shoes as a child--it gets harder again. Then you have to go through stages 1 – 3 again. Even if you continue to practice a skill, it is often necessary to go through the ZPD stages again when planning to use that skill in a new way or in combination with other skills
Vygotsky's entire theory is based off of social interaction and learning from others who are more skilled, why shouldn't the way a classroom is set up reflect and enhance his vision? To the left is a Vygotsky Classroom design. The student's desks are set up into small group formations, this way it encourages social interaction and collaboration between students throughout the day.
The entire class is representation of a small community as opposed to individual rows of desks in structured isolation. (Worster,2014,Vygotsky PPT)
We know that the reason for the clustered desks is all about collaboration and socialization; because of this crucial design, lessons that are presented to the students should also reflect this philosophy.
The teacher's role is to facilitate growth by utilizing the interests and unique needs of students as a guide for meaningful instruction.
Because everyone enters school as an individual with varying levels of informational foundations, students should be challenged by their INDIVIDUAL ZPD, this way each student is able to grow and reach their highest potential.
(Worster,2014,Vygotsky PPT)
The teacher’s role is not to simplify the content, but provide unfamiliar content and the setting for learners to step from their current level to a higher level of understanding.
Teachers must be properly in-serviced on cooperative learning theories and methods. After all if cooperative teaching is to be successful, teachers need to be aware of what research has shown to work. They also need practical knowledge with examples.
(Worster,2014,Vygotsky PPT)
Being able to learn from another is one
most eye opening of experiences.
As I have previously stated, part of my personal teaching philosophy is
being able to create an exciting and fun learning environment while
celebrating the uniqueness of each of my students through the MI theory.
Vygotsky's Cognitive Development Theory not only supports my personal
teaching philosophy, but enhances it. Part of my belief's not only as a teacher,
but as a student is that listening and learning from others is one of the most
valuable tools a person is exposed to because everyone has such a unique and
individual background of personal knowledge. As a student whenever I was able to work
in a group setting or project, I valued that collaboration from my peers. I was able to listen
to other people's ideas and hear about theories, facts, and multiple ways of problem
solving that I had not thought of before. All of my classrooms growing up were set in the Vygotsky classroom fashion; because of this, I was able to help my peers in subjects like English, which I was strong in, and my peers where able to help me with my weaknesses; such as Math. By being able to learn from another person who was more skilled in Math than I was, even if it was my peers, it made me want to be able to master the skill or problem solving technique we as a class were currently working on.
As a teacher, part of my philosophy is to make sure that everyone in my class is feeling as though they are being supported in all of their endeavors, supported, but not coddled.
Social learning is extremely important, but like Vygotsky stated, the people you are learning from whether teacher or peers, must be more knowledgeable than you in the subject. As a teacher, I must be aware that each of my students will be looking to me as a support system, and though I do want to teach them as much as I can, I want to use Vygotsky's four stages of Zone Proximal Development to do so. As a teacher my students will be supported; however, I intend to teach them in a way that they are also being challenged. I want my students to be able to push themselves and use techniques that I have given them by themselves when I am not present to help them. Zone of Proximal Development is also when the celebration of uniqueness kicks back in. Not everyone of my students is going to have the same background and foundation level of education, I need to make sure that as a teacher they are not only being challenged, but challenged just enough so that each student is able to grown cognitively with my lessons and not be left behind. I will ABSOLUTELY be using Vygotsky's classroom design in my own one day. Social interaction and growth of ideas through collaboration and scaffolding from myself as a teacher will hopefully make my classroom more of a supported and growing community.
A little bit of Jigsaw planning is a perfect fit for a Vygotsky Class
Being a teacher supporting the Vygotsky theory there are a number of ways to be able to carry out his vision of the perfect classroom through design and lesson planning. You can mirror his classroom set up design, you can make sure that as a teacher your lessons aren't so easy your students are bored, but that they aren't so difficult that they feel anxious, you can make sure that you are being supportive in a constructive but challenging way like the video demonstration in the Vygotsky lightbulb, and finally you can make sure that your classroom is working together and collaborating on projects and lessons to open their minds to new opinions and views. One lesson that I 100% intend to use in my class that we learned about
this year was the jigsaw puzzle lesson plan. Though this is mostly seen as a cooperative learning strategy, to me, this lesson plan embodies Vygotsky's work in every way. For example, I'll use the video that was shown to me: students as a whole class were learning about the ancient Olympics. Students were then placed into small groups, carefully chosen by the teacher based on student personality and ability. Each
student in the small group was given a subject of the Olympics to study, from worksheets given by the teacher and from in class
discussion and homework, and was then told to become an"expert" on that particular subject. Once they were "experts" they would
then teach the rest of their small group about their subject and assess them to make sure that they understood their peer
teacher. This jigsaw way of teaching is, in my opinion, something that Vygotsky himself would approve of. Students are
collaborating on gathering information in a group setting, they are learning from their peers who are more
knowledgeable in a subject, their peers are assessing them to make sure that everyone is up to speed on the
topic, and the teacher is able to join group to group to scaffold how they are teaching and assessing each
other so that everyone is supported. As a teacher I feel as though this supports my unique philosophy.
My students are able to learn in a group setting, they are able to have fun while working with
each other, as a teacher I will be able to support them but challenge them, their individual strengths
will shine through in the way they teach their subject, their weaknesses will be
strengthened through the diversity of their peers instruction.
The theory of Constructivism was created by
Jean Piaget who was a developmental psychologist and epistemologist from Switzerland in the 1930s.
There are two separate parts of Constructivism, one has to do with the process of learning something new, and the other has to do with the stages of cognitive development that every person progresses through.
(Worster,2014,PPT Piaget)
According to Piaget, when a person is learning new material, they build their knowledge by relating
new experiences to past & familiar experiences.
If a person is able to construct new knowledge by relating it to something they already know, also known as a , the person is in the process of . When they are in assimilation they are known to be in a state of ; which means that they are balanced and content with the new knowledge learned.
If a person is NOT able to connect the new knowledge with an existing scheme, aka previous experience, then the person will go through what Piaget calls or in a state of confusion. If a person is in that state of disequilibrium and cannot connect their newly learned information to an already existing scheme, the person then try to modify the existing information or create a completely new concept - this is called . Then once the person has accommodated their old scheme or have created a new concept to understand the new information, they are in a form of which means they are adjusting to the new information to bring them around to a new state of understanding and equilibrium.
When teaching a new lesson, if there is too much disequilibrium when presenting new information to the class, the students
may get so anxious or confused that they may get
turned off and tune out the concepts trying to be
taught. Teachers must realized how much
disequilibrium is the right amount so
that their students will be able to
accommodate, and adapt to the
new concepts.
According to Piaget, there are 4 different stages of cognitive development that everyone progresses through in their life. He states that a person's cognitive development is directly associated with the developmental stage they are currently in; which, is mostly associated with the current age a person is.
(Worster, 2014, PPT Piaget)
(Worster,2014,PPT Piaget)
(Worster,2014,PPT Piaget)
(Worster,2014, PPT Piaget)
1.) Sensorimotor Stage: Birth-2 yrs
The infant knows the world through their movements and sensations.
Learn object permanence - objects exist even when they can't be seen
Realize they are separate beings from the people and objects around them
Realize their actions can cause things to happen in the world around them
Learning occurs through assimilation and accommodation.
2.) Preoperational
Stage: 2-7 yrs
Children begin to think symbolically, learn to use words/pictures to represent objects. Very egocentric, see things only from their point of view.
Children at this stage tend to be egocentric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others.
While they are getting better with language and thinking, they still tend to think about things in very concrete terms.
3.) Concrete Operational Stage: 7-11 yrs
During this stage, children begin to thinking logically about concrete events.
Begin to understand the concept of conservation; the amount of liquid in a short, wide cup is equal to that in a tall, skinny glass.
Thinking becomes more logical and organized, but still very concrete.
Begin using inductive logic, or reasoning from specific information to a general principle.
4.) Formal Operational Stage: 12 & above
the adolescent or young adult begins to think abstractly and reason about hypothetical problems
Abstract thought emerges.
Begin to think more about moral, philosophical, ethical, social, and political issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning.
Begin to use deductive logic, or reasoning from a general principle to specific information.
A little disequilibrium never hurt anybody!
Though many see Piaget's work as not very applicable due to the fact that environment, personal culture, child's educational foundation, and background do not factor in to his theory...I do have to say that his work enlightens my way of teaching as a reflective teacher. I can think of
quite a few times as a student when my teachers would teach my class a new concept and it was too much too fast; or the concept was so different from anything that I had heard of, that the amount of disequilibrium made me so uncomfortable and anxious that I didn't want to even attend that class.
Towards the end of this course, we learned that to become a better teacher, we must
be reflective on our own teaching process, the way we plan our lessons, and how our
students respond physically and cognitively to the lessons we teach. I WANT to become a
better teacher. I WANT to be able to inspire my students and help them reach their highest
individual ability. With Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory, I feel as though I will be able to
use this as a personal reflection tool for myself and my lessons. I want to make sure that the
disequilibrium that I am presenting to my students within a new lesson is ALWAYS able to be connected
or understood. The new sets of information that I conduct in class, I am going to try and make sure that
in some way, there is a connection to an existing scheme that my students may have so that they are able to understand the content to it's full extent. I never want my students to feel anxious or even hopeless in my
class because coming from my personal experience, I understand how awful that feels.
With all of Piaget's developmental stages, again, as a teacher, I would definitely use those as a reflective tool, but mostly when I am looking at my students. As a teacher one of my major beliefs is, as I've stated before, celebrating uniqueness and individuality in my students ways of thinking and in their strengths and weakenesses. With Piaget's theory however, I have to say that I do agree with him that there are these age appropriate stages that almost every person goes through while they grow up. As a teacher, I would definitely reflect on my own lesson planning to make sure that I am matching up the amount of disequilibrium that I intend to present to my class in my lessons, with how their minds are generally suppose to be working and how they are thinking and developing at their age, and are going to preceive the lesson. There are certain milestones and general characteristics that children go through in each stage that Piaget focuses on, for example: in the Preoperational Stage, ages 2-7, children are very egocentric
and can really only think in concrete terms, therefore, I know that I have to be able to teach them about different points of view in a way that they are going to be able to connect to and understand. The same goes with Concrete Operational Stage, ages 7-11, they are just starting to really understand that changing an objects shape doesn't change the properties of the object, or that their thinking is still very concrete but is just starting to
become more organized; so again, I will really have to make sure that my lessons are fitting to the ways
that they are generally thinking. Another factor to consider is that Piaget's stages of cognitive
development are always a good tool to use if you think that a student may be developmentally
delayed in some way. Though it is not THE list of characteristics to look at when questioning
if a student may be delayed, it can be used as a reference to see where a child may need
more assistance in a particular developing area.
Behaviorist Learning Theory/ Operant Conditioning
Burrhus Frederic Skinner, B.F. Skinner, was an American psychologist, behaviorialist, and Social Philosopher who created the Behaviortist Learning Theory; and most specifically, Operant Conditioning in 1938.
Operant Conditioning is based off of the theory that to best understand someone's behavior, one has to
look at the causes of a person's actions, and the repercussions of that person's actions. Skinner identified
three different types of operants,responses, that will follow a person's behavior
Neutral Operants - responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a
behavior being repeated.
Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.
Punishers: Response from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.
Behaviorism is primarily concerned with observable behavior, as opposed to internal events like thinking and emotion. Observable (i.e. external) behavior can be objectively and scientifically measured. Internal events, such as thinking should be explained through behavioral terms (or eliminated altogether).
(McLeod,2007,Behaviorist Approach)
Positive Reinforcement
strengthening a target behavior/ increasing and maintaining the probability that a particular behavior will be repeated - by presenting a stimulus (positive reinforcer) immediately or soon after the behavior has occurred: Praise, recognition, free play, or a good grade on exam or paper (personal self regulating positive reinforcement).
Negative Reinforcement:
to increase the strength of a particular behavior by removing an unwanted stimulus whenever a target behavior is exhibited. By removing the unwanted, you encourage students to learn a new behavior: Children picks up toys to stop parents' nagging, received a bad grade on exam so next time will study and not play video games night before.
reducing the frequency of an undesired behavior through the use of an aversive stimulus. You MUST see a decline in the undesired behavior: time out, re-writing the same lines over and over, loss of free-time,
previously reinforced behavior decreases in frequency, and eventually ceases altogether: teacher ignoring attention seeking behavior/whining when child wants something.
(Snowman/McCown, 2013,p.150-152)
Skinner believed that if the principles of operant conditioning were applied to education, all weaknesses could be reduced or eliminated. Teachers would just have to follow these four straight rules:
1. Be clear about what is to be taught.
2. Teach first things first.
3. Present subsequent material in small, logical steps.
4. Allow students to learn at their own rate.
This became the basis for two educational applications: approach to teaching called computer-based instruction: which increased student's participation, test scores, and excitement to learn through games. Also created a set of procedures for helping students learn appropriate classroom behaviors, referred to as behavior modification: use of operant conditioning techniques to modify behavior, generally by shaping behavior through ignoring undesirable responses and reinforcing desirable responses by using rewards contingent on certain actions.
(Snowman/McCown, 2013, p. 155-157)
Token Economies
Token Economy:
A system in the classroom where target behaviors are reinforced through the handing out of tokens, and can later be exchanged for rewards.
(McLeod,2007, Skinner)
should be consistent through out the classroom, such as stickers to be collected in a book or on a chart, recorded check marks, "coupons" created by the teacher, and can be given out immediately after for things like staying quiet on the rug during morning meetings, finishing the current Math worksheet.
can range from objects the students can "buy" like a new pencil to gaining more free time in class to do what they want.
Token economies combined with classroom rules, appropriate delivery of reinforces, and response cost, are effective in reducing disruptive classroom behaviors like: talking out of turn, being out of one's seat, fighting, being off task. Reduction of 50 percent or more in such behaviors are not uncommon. This type of behavior modification has also been seen effective in improving academic performance in a variety of subject areas. They have also be successfully used with individual students, groups of student, entire classrooms, and even entire schools.
Response Cost
: the withdrawal of previously earned positive reinforcers as a consequence of undesired behavior, often used with token economy; such as taking away one sticker or coupon, or check mark. Research has confirmed that response cost helps reduce a variety of problem behaviors for a wide range of children.
(Snowman/McCown, 2007, p.158-161)
Active Examples of Token Economy
Created By: First Grade teacher
Ms. Heather Gower
Clear, visual posting of how to earn a penny (token)
Clear, visual posting of how to lose a penny (token)
Clear, visual posting with what students can earn (reward). Bucket of pennies for teacher to hand out, individual bags for students with their names to hold tokens.
A reward system is a great way to help produce self regulated learners.
As a teacher, I want to instill in my students a sense of self worth, self regulation/control, and a sense of morality. I definitely agree with the behaviorist theory that the environment and the type of reinforcement within that environment, can truly shape a person for better or for worse. Too many times as a teacher I've seen students use bad behavior when their tired parents enter the room to get what they want, usually by throwing a tantrum. Those same parents usually do give in automatically just so the child will calm down...this is NOT something I want to foster in my students. I also do not want my students to be focused so much on the reward that they forget the reasons why they are repeating their good behaviors in the first place.
I also feel as though Skinner had a good point about the way teachers are to present information,
the less confusion about what needs to happen, the less undesirable behavior will occur. Communication
in any relationship, especially in a classroom with 15 plus students, in key to success. They need to know
clearly what I expect of them, I need to make sure that I am being as open and responsive to their needs as well.
By using behavioral theory and operant learning, I feel as though I will regulate myself as a teacher, and my
students will start to regulate themselves as learners, not only in a token economy, but also on an academic basis. I
want to instill in my students the importance of studying the material so that they will understand what they are doing
in my class. One example I will definitely exhibit is to review a lesson with them that we as a class have learned. We will
re-read the chapter, read through hand outs and worksheets, etc. Then we will have a quiz later on in the day. My assumption is that most of my students will get good grades. That night I will not assign homework but then give them another quiz on a different lesson we have already learned...again, my assumption, is that most of the grades will not be A's. I will then let my class know that these grades won't be recorded, but show my class the visual difference between how studying affects the outcome of a quiz or test. Hopefully this visual reinforcer will make them self regulate their learning and study habits for the next time they have a quiz or test.
Token economy is definitely something that I will initiate in my classroom, I love the visual aide posted by the first grade teacher Ms. Hower, it is something I think will encourage students to follow the program more closely; however, I want to my students to reiterate to me why they are gaining their token before they receive it; for example, if I see one of my students helping out another with their work, or help with tying another student's shoe, or including a student who is not originally included, I want my students to be able to give me the answer along the lines of "because he needed help", or "because you should be nice and include everyone" not an answer like, "so I could get a token for more free time." I want them to understand the reasons behind receiving their token so that they start to self regulate their learning habits of completing homework or the importance of not leaving others out and helping out when someone is in need of aide.
Another aspect of operant condition method that Skinner introduced was the computer or technology based incentive/program, especially in this day in age. Students today, their entire environment in the world around them is a constant growth of technology and the personal functionality of a person within that technology. To me, as teacher, it is important that I endorse
that growth and knowledge. Technology within the classroom can open SO many doors to learning at a higher cognitive level
with the academic programs and applications they have produced. Most for students are in a game form, which also
reinforces the part of my philosophy where students learn more if they are having fun. Students also see the instant
reward or gratification of their work instantly during these games, they gain access to the next level or gain/lose
points accordingly. Technology based learning programs for enhancing learning within the classroom is something
that I intend to encourage and endorse.
Class management is something that every teacher needs to learn to master, even if the strategies a teacher
uses might be tweaked from year to year, they are an important part of becoming a functional and good
teacher. With behavioral theory and operant conditioning, I honestly do think that the theory works in
regulating student's performance abilties, if done properly. I want my students to gain a sense of right
and wrong when it comes to their actions, and the way they treat other people. I feel as though this
theory not only helps them function as better people within a school setting, but
it is something they will be able to take with them an apply to in the
outside world as they grow.
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