Theories, Principles & models in Education & Training

Unit 3: Theories,
Principles & models
in Education &
Aims and objectives of session:
Identify 3 theorists and theories of behaviourist theory, Watson, Skinner and
Understand the difference between classic and operant conditioning
Identify and interpret positive and negative reinforcement in a learning
Discuss, debate and reflect on our experience and viewpoints of behaviourism

Behaviourism theory:
Also known as ‘behavioural psychology’, behaviourism theory based on the idea
that all behaviours are acquired through conditioning occurs through interaction
with the environment….i.e. behaviourists behaviour is shaped by what’s known
as environmental stimuli.
Behaviourists also believe that behaviour is not so much influenced by inherited,
learnt or previous factors, just the environment, i.e. the learning environment.
Behaviourism can be studied in an observational or systematic manner.
Strict behaviourists believe that any person can be trained to perform any task,
regardless of background or skill set, personality traits etc, it only required the
right conditioning.
B. Watson theory:
Watson established his theory of behaviourism in 1913, often referred to as the
‘father of behaviourism’. This quote best sums up his views on behaviourism:
“Give me a dozen infants, well informed, and my own specified world to bring
them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to
become any type of specialist i might select-doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant,
chief, and yes even a beggar or thief. Regardless of his talents, penchants,
abilities, tendencies, vocations and race of his ancestors”.
Simply put strict behaviourists believe that all behaviours are the result of
experience. Any person regardless of their background can be trained given
the right conditioning.

Watson’s theories
Do you agree with Watson? Can a learner
be taught anything? Can we train to be any
professional? From any background?

Classic conditioning:
Conditioning AKA classic conditioning is a technique frequency used in
behavioural training in which was theorised by Russian physiologist Ivan
Two stimuli (a thing/event/activity that promotes and produces a reaction in/by
the person) are linked together to produce a new learning experience or
response. This method has been used on both humans and animals.
The most famous example of classic conditioning was ‘Pavlov’s dogs’ who
salivated in response to a bell tone. Pavlov showed that when a bell was
sounded each time the dog was fed, the dog learned to associate the sound
with the presentation of the food.

Pavlov’s dogs explained

Operant conditioning:
Operant conditioning is a method of learning attributed to psychologist B.F.
Skinner, where consequences of a response determine the probability of it being
Behaviour which is reinforced (rewarded) will likely be repeated and poor
behaviour will be less frequent.
Skinner believed that we do have such thing as a mind (unlike Watson) but that it
is simply more productive to study observable behaviour than mental events.
He thought classical conditioning was far too simplistic to be a complete
explanation of complex human behaviour. He believed the best way to understand
human behaviour was to look at the causes of action and its consequences.

Behaviour that is followed by positive
or pleasant consequences is likely to
be repeated.
Skinner introduced ‘reinforcement
theory’ as a result of this.
Skinner (1948) studied operant
conditioning by conducting
experiments using animals in a box.
The box was a device used to
objectively record an animal’s
behaviour in a compressed time
An animal can be rewarded or
punished for certain behaviours as as
pressing a lever.
Skinner identified 3 types of
responses that can follow behaviour.
Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor
decrease the probability of a behaviour being repeated.
Reinforcers: responses from the environment that increase the probability of a
behaviour being repeated. Reinforcers can either be positive or negative.
Punishers: responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of
behaviour being repeated. Punishment weakens behaviour.

Skinner’s Rats
Positive and negative reinforcement:
Positive reinforcement is a term described by Skinner in terms of behaviour
that is strengthened by rewards, encouragement and acknowledge, a positive
response leading to repetition of desired behaviour.
Negative reinforcement involves the removal of something to strengthen
behaviour. It can result in a penalty or punishment.
Both positive and negative reinforcement serve the sam purpose…to increase
a behaviour and intended for the subject to learn from their behaviour and
experience, good or bad.
Big Bang Theory example
Can you think of a time when you have
used positive reinforcement to reward
How can positive reinforcement be
used in the classroom?

Praise, verbal, thumbs up, smile,
acknowledgement, ‘good job’, ‘nice
Written, feedback, pointing out what
they did well, not just areas for
Recording on VLE or ILPs for
learners and colleagues to see,
Calls/emails/letter home to parents
and guardians
Prizes, end of project incentives,
pizza days, finishing class early,
movie day etc.
Encourage peer praise and
Points system, leading to a prize or
Instant feedback
Special privileges, 6th formers have
more of these for instance as an
incentive to study at a higher
level/stay at school
When have you used a punishment
or penalty to reinforce behaviour?

Negative reinforcement in the
Remove privileges
Instant disapproval
Taken to one side
Recorded on VLE or ILP for learner
and colleagues to see
Letters/emails/phone call home
Punishment in the form of warnings,
verbal, written, final etc.
Individual and whole class/group
punishment or penalties
Suspension and exclusion (severe
punishment dependent on the
Rewards removed
Moving tables/places in classroom
Negative/poor feedback
Detention, extra time in lessons
Individual and group task:
Positive VS negative
Use the sheet provided to record the pros and cons of using both positive and
negative reinforcement as a predominate to teaching method, consider this
individually first.
Work in pairs or groups to discuss your responses.
Feedback as a whole group and debate/discuss.
Phil Beadle: reinforcement strategies
Watch the clip and record examples and incidents of when the teacher using
positive and negative reinforcement in his class.

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