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Instructional Strategies and Behaviorism

July 7, 2010

Behaviorism is based on what B.F Skinner called operant conditioning.  reinforcement of the desireable behaviors and punishment of the undesirable behaviors (Laureate 2008).  The goal of behaviorism is to use extrinsic motivators to get the desired behavior or output.  Overtime, the extrinsic motivators are phased out in the hopes of creating intrinsic motivators. 

The spreadsheet software mentioned (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. p.156) is a prime example.  Students are quick to blame outside (extrinsic) forces for their success or failure.  Having the students create and use an Effort/ Achievement sheet shows the student that it is in fact an intrinsic (effort) that has the greatest effect on their grades.  “Students need consistent and systematic exposure like this one to really grasp the impact effort has on achievement (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K.  p.158).”

Multimedia is a resource that students can use “to shape their individual learning style and increase their level of understanding to mastery (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. p.192).”  How did we learn to type???  How did we learn our math factors???  We learned these through multimedia programs. 

“Web Resources allow students to practice concepts and skills repeatedly from their house, during a study period, or even as an anchor activity in a differentiated classroom (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. p.195)”  Educational computer games provide immediate feedback and allow for students to monitor (an intrinsic motivator) progress. 

Web resources, multimedia, spreadsheet software are resources that can be used to achieve a desireable outcome.  Through monitoring and practice, students who need extrinsic motivation can slowly create an intrinsic motivation by using these type of resources.

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2008). Behaviorist learning theory. Laureate Education, DVD. 

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

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Rodney Smith permalink
    July 8, 2010 6:49 pm

    Extrinsic motivators are use everyday in society. There are blogs and surveys that suggest most people don’t like their jobs. What keeps them on the job? Extrinsic motivators like money, benefits and free education. Another word, a post office or DMV employee coming into work with a smile on their face will seem strange. They really don’t have any internal reason to love their job. They are there for that extrinsic motivator. But if there is someone that loves their job, they will be an asset to that company. Students have to love what they doing to get something out of it. Students should have the responsibility in finding that intrinsic motivation.

    • Cara Roberts permalink
      July 10, 2010 12:36 pm

      Rodney, Your example of the employee is very fitting. I would have to say that most people are extrinisically motivated by things like money, clothes, etc. and there are very few people who do things to better themselves purely because it will make them a better person. For example, we are all in grad school and spend hours with an extra load on our plates. I think most of us are instrinically motivated to some degree, we want to be better teachers and learn about our students. However, what probably motivated us more to do grad school is the fact that we HAVE to in order to renew certificates and there is a possibility that we could get a pay raise. Those two things are pretty big extrinsic motivators.

  2. July 8, 2010 7:12 pm

    Extrinsic motivators are used in everyday life. I don’t understand how pschologist today say it is dead or no longer around. Watching my nephews the other day, they wanted a snack and I told them after their room was clean. The extrinsic factor to get them to clean their room was a snack.

    As teachers, we use extrinsic motivators in the hopes of building intrinsic motivation within our students. I had a student who did not stdy at all while at home. She always told me she was dumb and shouldn’t waste my time with her. (She was a very blunt and upfront 12-yearold) In our discussions is where I found out she was not studying. I talked with her and her mom and they agreed she would come in early everyday before school for one week. (We had an upcoming test.) We would look over notes and content for 10-15 minutes a day. When the test came she scored much higher than normal and was shocked!!! I asked her what was different and she reluctantly agreed that it was the studying.

    Unfortnately this was at the end of the year. I can only hope it sunk in and she is not quick to say I’m dumb and give up… Hope fully, a seed of intrinsic motivation was planted and she will want to do well on her future test. Time will tell….

    • July 11, 2010 11:47 am

      Teachers of all levels know of many types of extrinsic motivation. There are so many rewards, conditions, and consequences that can be granted as a result of doing a task or showing effort. The amount of options to use greatly outnumber intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is grander idea; it is a grand scheme of thinking directed towards one’s inner satisfaction of achieving a goal after putting forth effort.

      Intrinsic motivation approaches that teachers take are appropriate in the classroom. I believe intrinsic motivation takes a true teacher to incorporate in a class. Giving moral praise, self-confidence, natural satisfaction, and the instinctual excitement of taking on a task are all types of intrinsic motivation I have used in class. I have learned that in order to successfully include these in a learning environment, the teachers who are doing so must be enthusiastic themselves. Students will not always be easily motivated when the model they are witnessing is someone who is not that excited about learning.

      Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is fairly easy to use as motivation in class and can be incorporated by any educator. This approach is very effective in obtaining a desired behavior from a student, but it may also be considered unhealthy in the big picture. I have used prizes, special privileges, preferential seating, and other forms of extrinsic motivation in my class; all of these have functioned well to some extent. As these methods of motivation are used more frequently, the students become more dependent on expecting a concrete outcome to their achievement. Otherwise, individual motivation fades quickly and can be harder to reach for some students.

      Comparing these two types of student motivation, I believe it is imperative that we all use intrinsic motivation as our primary strategy for attaining desirable behavior in our students. Intrinsic motivation should be a part of the everyday routine; students need to hear the encouragement and confidence boosters on a day to day basis. It is necessary for teachers to explain why it is critical for them to exercise internal types of motivation as they achieve a goal. Being proud of one’s work, challenging oneself to become proficient in a skill, and even thinking about one’s future as a result of putting forth full effort on a task. An approach I have used more than any is explaining to the students how internal and external motivation are connected. They are related because as the students learn to become truly inspired to achieve success, they must understand that that is the first step. After reaching this mindset, they should expect extrinsic pieces of motivation to inevitably come there way in the future.

      It is evident that both methods are effective and essential to a classroom. Extrinsic motivation, although valuable, is an inferior strategy because of its “short-term”, materialistic nature. Intrinsic motivation is not only superior to the latter, but it should be used as the primary ideology in any classroom. This is not only a motivational strategy, but it should serve an influential philosophy in the learning environment.

  3. July 11, 2010 6:45 pm

    Using an effort/achievement spread sheet is a good idea to show students how the end result of an assignment is ultimately up to them. If they put great effort into it then they will have achieved a good grade. Sometimes however, students need a motivator. They need to know there is something in it for them besides new knowledge. They like to be praised for their effort and even times rewarded.
    Using computer games and programs offers the students an opportunity to have instant success or remediation on any given assignment. They get review and practice of skills learned in class and most of the time enjoy doing it because it is different than the usually teacher directed lesson.

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