Skinner’s theory

Skinner’s theory is especially useful for classroom management. Steiner (1999) uses the example of Michael, a troublemaker, to illustrate how operant conditioning can be used to modify his behaviour. When Michael disrupts the class, the teacher immediately scolds him. However, instead of being seen as a punishment, Michael sees that as a reinforcement. It may be deduced that the teacher’s attention on Michael is a form of encouragement.

In this case, Michael’s disruptive behaviour can be stopped by giving him attention (praises and rewards) when he displays cooperation, and ignoring him (withdrawing his reinforcement) when he is being disruptive. If this reinforcement is done in small steps as Michael slowly approximates to the ideal target behaviour, it is known as shaping. The Premack Principle can also be used to modify and shape pupils’ behaviours. By this principle, teachers can reward pupils with their preferred activities (such as classroom games) when pupils display the target behaviour or punish pupils by removing the preferred activity (i.e. withhold some privileges).

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Using Skinner’s theories in the classroom context requires teachers to know pupils well, as teachers have to know which acts would reinforce and which suppress certain behaviours. In the above example, Michael’s behaviour can also be shaped by applying Bandura’s theory. The teacher can reward other pupils who display cooperation so that Michael will be motivated to display the same behaviour, i.

e. Michael will learn vicariously that certain behaviours will be rewarded. However, Bandura’s theory has greater applications with respect to observational learning.Many children learn by observing a model, and thus the teacher needs to be a good role model in the classroom.

An example is when teaching languages, the teachers have to model good grammar and pronunciation so that pupils can pick up cues on what constitutes proper grammar or pronunciation. In skills-based lessons, such as science practical lessons, teachers can also demonstrate good techniques for pupils to model. In addition, observational learning is made up of four components-the attentional processes, the retention processes, the motor reproduction processes and the reinforcement and motivational processes.For effective observational learning to occur, interest amongst pupils has to be sparked, i. e. pupils need to pay attention to the model. An implication is that teachers have to provide attention-grabbing stimuli to capture the interest of pupils. A variety of teaching methods can also be employed to engage the pupils.

Bandura’s theory also states that there has to be stimulus contiguity of a number of stimuli to help pupils remember. One stimulus can cue others so teachers need to employ visual and verbal cues constantly to help pupils retain new information.For observational learning to occur successfully, pupils cannot just observe, but must also reproduce the behaviour accurately. The implication of the motor reproduction processes required is that teachers need to provide ample opportunities for pupils to practise and to attempt to reproduce the behaviour. Lastly, Bandura stated that there is a difference between learning a behaviour and actually reproducing this behaviour. The difference lies in the provision of reinforcements. Reinforcement can be direct, vicarious or even self-directed.

Teachers should remember to provide reinforcement and motivation for pupils to learn. Other than directly rewarding desirable behaviours, teachers can also motivate pupils by showing them the relevance of learning a particular skill to real-life scenarios. Learners’ success is also predicted by their perceptions of how likely they are to succeed (i. e. self-efficacy). Sources of this self-efficacy appraisal are actual performance of the pupils, vicarious experiences of their friends and others, verbal persuasion and physiological cues (such as monitoring pulse rate).

Teachers can help pupils build up their self-confidence in learning by highlighting their occurrences of success (boosting pupils’ confidence directly), and also motivating other pupils by encouraging them when their classmates succeed (i. e. using vicarious examples). An example is when a pupil completes a challenging task, the teacher can say, “A has done it after putting in a lot of effort. The rest of you can also do it.

” The use of other pupils’ achievements as motivation is important as pupils are more likely to believe they can succeed when their peers succeed, since they identify better with their peers rather than adults.Verbal persuasion can be employed by teachers to encourage the students to think that they can attain their goals. Constant affirmation of pupils will eventually help them believe in their abilities to achieve their learning outcomes or complete a task. Another concept in Bandura’s theory that has great applications in the classroom is that of self-regulation.

Bandura believes that the self-system, a set of cognitive structures that involve perception, evaluation and regulation, allows us to evaluate our own behaviour in terms of past experiences and anticipated future consequences.Based on this evaluation, we can exercise some control, or self-regulate, our behaviour. Bandura believes we use both reactive and proactive strategies to regulate our behaviour. When humans set a goal state they wish to achieve (e.

g. promotion, graduation, vacation), they reactively try to accomplish that goal. After they have reacted, and achieved that particular goal state, then they can proactively set a new goal for themselves.Therefore, to help pupils motivate themselves and take charge of their own learning progress, so that they would act proactively to attain their goals, teachers should try to help pupils set personal targets that are achievable, and guide them along to help them achieve. Goals should also be short-term or proximal so that they can provide immediate motivation and increase self-efficacy. Efficacious self-regulators invest activities with proximal challenges on their own by adopting goals of progressive improvement when they can get feedback of how they are doing (Bandura ; Cervone, 1983).Those who set no goals of improvement achieve no change and are outperformed by those who set themselves the challenging goal of bettering their past accomplishments.

The need to focus on progress rather than on distal products is particularly important for individuals who are convinced of their personal inefficacy and who need repeated self-persuasive evidence that they have what it takes for high attainments. It is easier to instil beliefs of personal efficacy if the instruction and informative feedback centre on mastery of strategies that enable one to achieve progress rather than only on level of performance attainments.Knowing the means for becoming adept in given endeavours instils a sense of personal control over one’s own development. The implications for educators are that constructive feedback has to be constantly provided to spur pupils on and that when designing tasks and helping students to set goals, progress, rather than performance should be emphasised. Conclusion There is no one learning theory that fully accounts for how learners acquire new skills or behaviours, and why they do so.An effective teacher thus has to subscribe to various schools of thoughts and synthesise a system that he or she is comfortable with.

Since each learning theory deals with a limited scope, it is also important for the teachers to apply the findings of each theory as he or she sees fit. In this assignment, Piagetian theory is mainly applied to cognitive development of pupils, Skinner’s theory is mainly applied to shaping of pupil behaviour, and Bandura’s theory, a cross between the two and thus has most practical relevance, is applied to help pupils in observational learning and in self-regulation.