18 Mar 2018
Pavlov & Skinner’s Behavioural Models for Education
Pavlov’s Experiment with the Dog
Behavioural Models for Education emphasises the benefits of immediate feedback, whether it’s in the form of a punishment or reward.
Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who experimented on salivation in dogs when they were offered food. He also noticed that the dog started to salivate when he was brought to that particular room where the food was served. Pavlov devised a theory based on stimulus and response. First, there are certain things that dogs do not have to learn. They are the instinctive reflexes that make them behave in certain ways for instance salivating when they see food. In behavioural terms, you could say:
Unconditioned Stimulus (Food) >Unconditioned Response (Salivate)
Unconditioned Stimulus (Food)+Neutral Stimulus (Bell)>Unconditioned Response (Salivate)
Conditioned Stimulus (Food) > Conditioned Response (Salivate)
Initially, Pavlov also observed that events that occurred relating to food would cause dogs to salivate each time they saw the lab assistants. However, later as the dog realised that the lab assistants don’t always bring food it stopped salivating. Pavlov concluded that the lab assistants became the neutral response for the dogs because they stopped salivating by looking at them. Later, Pavlov replaced the neutral response from lab assistants to bells. He rang a bell each time the food was served which made the dog salivate. As the dog learnt to associate food to the bell, the change of behaviour was noted (See formula above).
According to this Behavioural Model in Education, teachers can also make students behave in a certain manner by creating different stimulus and responses until the students get used to them and in turn get used to a certain behaviour. For instance, in a cooking class, if a student is dicing the vegetables well for a salad, the teacher should immediately give positive feedback to the student to keep the motivation level high. This immediate response will be better remembered by the student. Each time the student will dice vegetables in future, they would be able to recall the positive response of the teacher and will make sure that they dice it like they did before or even better than that.
Skinner’s Operant Conditioning
Skinner’s theory is another famous one from the Behavioural Models for Education. He stated that one should focus more on the reason behind an event rather than its consequence. This is known as Operant Conditioning. He believed that a reinforced behaviour is meant to be repeated and vice versa. Skinner stated three types of responses including the ‘Neutral operant’, which means the operant or stimulus from the environment has no effect over behaviours. ‘Reinforcers’ are the stimuli from the environment that are likely to positively effect the behaviour and lastly ‘Punishers’ that decrease the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated.
The term ‘Positive Reinforcer’ refers to giving an incentive to children to continue behaving in a certain way. For instance, if a there’s a quiz scheduled for a particular session and the teacher cancels it because the children behaved properly on that day would act as a motivator for them. Whereas ‘Negative Reinforcer’ suggests that the teacher would punish the student for acting in a certain manner. For instance, if a student does not submit an assignment on time, the teacher can give a bad grade to that student as negative reinforcement. This would make the student become punctual in submission of assignments to avoid bad grades. The term negative reinforcement should not be considered as punishment.
Punishment completely eliminates the repetition of behaviour. Punishment can be physical or mental both. In physical punishment, the teacher can make the student sit away from their friends or can even make them do detention for some time. However, psychological punishment may include body gestures or even a stare from the teacher due to certain behaviour. Nevertheless, the effects of punishments can easily be forgotten by the students and there’s a slight chance of repetition of the same behaviour.