Behaviorism in Practice
The behaviorist theory is based on the premise that behavior can shape the effort that a student puts forth in class, which in turn affects the level of achievement that a student attains. This week’s resources also provided many technology based applications and strategies that supported the behaviorist theory. There are three that I use often that I believe reinforce the principles of the behaviorist theory. They address homework, student effort, and student behavior.
The first technology component deals with how I assign and assess homework. I try to instill in my students from the first time that they walk into my classroom that homework is a critical aspect of the curriculum. I often talk about examples of students that have completed their homework in prior years, as compared to students that did not, and the results. This is all part of trying to change their attitudes and behavior towards homework. I also let them know that when I assign homework I will provide feedback to every student; or that the technology that they use will, and we will discuss those findings. Two pieces of technology that I use are Remind101 and USA TestPrep. Remind 101is an application that I use to send texts to my students and parents to remind them of their homework assignments on a needed basis. Almost all of my students have cell phones, so this is a great way of reaching them outside of school. I begin using this program in mid-January, and have seen an increase in the quantity of completed assignments, and the quality of work. USA TestPrep is a site that prepares students for the CRCT, which is used for promotion in my state, for the grade that I teach. This site allows kids to watch videos, play games, take practice tests, and complete benchmarks on anything that we discuss or cover in class. This site also sends me and update immediately when students complete assignments, which allows me to send the immediate feedback through a message, or when I see them the next morning. The thing I like best about the site is that it allows me to assign individual assignments. I can use this feature to tailor my assignments to my students’ learning styles and abilities. I can assign videos to my audio-visual learners, games to my students that are tactile learners, and simple tests and practice to my high achievers. I can also change the degree of difficulty of the assignments. For my at-risk students I can assign them some level-one questions to boost their confidence. I can also assign only level three and four questions to my students that may need enrichment activities. Bottom line, the site is an educational technology that “is a support for teaching and learning that both teacher and student can call on to help ensure the opportunity for optimum performance (Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J., 2008, p.28)”. I have been using this site for two years, and my students’ standardized test scores have soared.
USA TestPrep also gives students badges and awards when they achieve certain levels of success on the website. This has helped with intrinsic motivation for many of my students. It also helps to “better track the effects of effort and provide immediate feedback to students (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M., 2012, p. 58)”. I never mention the badges. The students that always complete their homework talk with their peers about their accomplishments, and in turn it becomes a competition of who can achieve the most badges. There is no incentive or reward, other than occasional verbal praise, yet the competitive nature of my students drive them to try to attain certain levels of success on the website. This was something that I happen to stumble upon, but it has been a positive factor in my classroom. This reinforces the behaviorist theory that as students attain small increments of success, it can change their attitudes and feelings toward a particular event or concept. This is what I believe is happening with my students, and their view on homework.
Lastly, I use the PBIS website to print off rubrics for students’ behavior in my class and the school. We spend much of the first week of school discussing and editing the rubrics as needed. We also periodically spend time reviewing the rubrics as needed throughout the year. This gives my students a concrete outline of expected behavior, as well as the consequences they will receive for not following the rubric or matrix. The site also allows me to create behavior charts that can track student behavior. I have not had to use these charts often, but when they were used, they were successful at reducing unwanted behaviors. Technology has not changed the principles behind the behaviorist theory, but it has made the process of implementing this theory much easier, and less time consuming.
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc.,
custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that
works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.