Teachers know that children and learners alike have their own way of learning in school. Additionally, psychologists, theorists, and researchers have also studied various behaviors and theories, and concepts over the years as to how children learn – and these different behavioral theories help teachers understand the learning experiences of the students they’ll be teaching to.
Aspiring professional teachers should also be familiar with these behavioral theories rooted in psychology. That’s why in this article, we will discuss these behavioral learning theories so that future teachers like you will be more equipped in the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET), as well as your practice.
Classical Conditioning Theory by Ivan Pavlov
Ivan Pavlov has been mostly credited for the behavioral learning theory of Classical Conditioning. The Classical Conditioning theory is surrounded by observable behavior becoming responses to stimuli. This theory can be further explained by Pavlov’s experiment.
The dog experiment
In this experiment, Ivan Pavlov conditioned the dogs to elicit a specific response by manipulating the variables that came with food. As expected from a dog’s actions, once they smell or sense food they begin to salivate. Now, Pavlov controlled the scenario when the food was being brought, a bell would ring.
He does this repeatedly – conditioning the dog to associate food with the bell, causing him to salivate. Once the dog has been conditioned to elicit such a response, Pavlov removes the food. However, the dog has been conditioned so well to associate food with the bell, that once the bell was rung, the dog still salivated.
Questions surrounding this experiment would ask if this is even applicable to individuals and children. Followers of Pavlov and the behavioral learning theory and concept of Classical Conditioning that the same principle applies to learners and children as well when it comes to learning and behavior. You will need to be aware of this theory to apply it in your Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) journey.
Theory of Connectionism by Edward Thorndike
Contradicting popular belief, it was Edward Thorndike who is one of the pioneers of the behavioral learning theory of Operant Conditioning even though BF Skinner has been talked about more commonly (we’ll talk more about him later).
While Ivan Pavlov’s behavioral learning theory and concept of Classical Conditioning focuses on the association of two stimuli to elicit the same response, the Operant Conditioning theory focuses on an individual’s behaviors and the various outcomes that can happen from those actions, which would ultimately improve or alter the behavior based on the outcome.
This theory was first observed by Thorndike through experimenting with cats getting out of puzzle boxes.
The relationship of learning with behaviors and outcomes was first observed by one of the pioneers of the Operant Conditioning theory, Edward Thorndike.
The cat experiment
This experiment was done by Thorndike by placing cats inside puzzle boxes. Outside of the box, where the end of the maze is, Thorndike placed food which is supposed to act as the motivation for the cats to get out of the maze.
Initially, these cats would use various methods to escape the maze. However, only when the cat pulls the lever, will it get out of the box and reach the food. This resulted in a favorable consequence of their behavior.
The experiment is repeated over and over again – the law of exercise, the cat will do the same consequence for shorter periods of time and would even go straight to the lever, unlike earlier trials where they would use different routes to escape.
With this experiment, Thorndike concluded that as long as a behavior will elicit favorable consequences, individuals will repeat the behavior. On the other hand, if a certain behavior does not elicit a favorable consequence, individuals will not repeat the behavior. Thorndike would, later on, call this concept the Law of Effect.
Make sure you are able to identify one theory from another as items like this can show up at the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET).
Operant Conditioning Theory by BF Skinner
Thorndike did pioneer the changes observed in behaviors as they were based on the consequences that came with such behavior, but it was Skinner who was (quite, unfortunately, perhaps) who has been most credited for this behavioral learning theory.
With Skinner though, he expounded the theory of Connectionism by understanding that instead of relying on the consequences or outcome of a certain behavior, there must be reinforcement.
The rat and pigeon experiment
This is formally known as the Operant Conditioning Chamber. In this Chamber, Skinner would place rats and pigeons with disks or levers that these animals could control.
When either the pigeon or rat pulls the lever or presses the disk, they will be rewarded with food. The food acts as a reinforcement to repeat the same behavior.
A behavior will be repeated or not by learners – adults and children alike, as long as it is reinforced (positive or negative reinforcement).
To apply in the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) and your teaching profession, this can be observed when children are learning that their actions can lead to adults scolding them for undesirable actions or give punishments that would make children not repeat the same behavior. And another example of favorable consequences would be praise or a reward after a good deed has been done so children will tend to repeat that behavior.
In a school setting, reinforcement can be identified below:
Social Learning Theory by Albert Bandura
Albert Bandura has been known for his Social Learning Theory which suggests that learners – adults and children alike, learning or gaining knowledge does not solely depend on their personal experiences on whether what behaviors to do or not do, but by also learning from the experiences of other models, such as adults which has no consequences on the part of the children (observational learning). You may encounter questions like this during the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) to measure your knowledge with behavioral learning theories.
This behavioral learning theory and concept are further explored by Bandura and his colleagues through an experiment called the Bobo Doll Experiment.
The Bobo Doll Experiment
In this experiment, children are exposed to adults acting aggressively towards a Bobo doll. Later on, the same sample of children would imitate aggressive behaviors by kicking, punching, and throwing the doll across the room.
There was no reinforcement needed for learning, as suggested by Skinner. But rather, with the experiment of Bandura, these children acted upon what they have learned from other models. Another sample of kids who did not observe aggressive behavior from adults did not act similarly.