This week I have been reading about the behaviorist learning theory and how it relates to reinforcing effort and homework and practice. Dr. Michael Orey explains the behaviorist learning theory as being focused on changes in behavior that are caused by stimulus-response associations (2001).
In Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, it is suggested that students keep track of the amount of effort they put into their work through the use of a rubric and excel spreadsheet (Pitler, 2007). Now, I think this is a great idea! Not all students come to school ready to put in hard work, so it is important that schools teach these skills and traits to our students. The idea of monitoring success on an excel spreadsheet directly correlates with the behaviorist learning theory. The sample rubric used in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works has categories such as class notes, attention, and participation, in which students rate their effort. They then keep track of this information on an excel spreadsheet, along with their academic grades on quizzes and tests, to see the correlation between the two. In this case, students are under going operant conditioning, which is when satisfying responses are learned to be repeated and unsatisfying responses are not (Orey, 2011). (See a funny clip from the Big Bang Theory that illustrates operant conditioning at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euINCrDbbD4&feature=related)
If students see that as their effort goes up, so do their grades, they are more likely to repeat their actions when it comes to effort. If they see that a lack of effort correlates with low grades, they may desire to change their behaviors. I think this activity has great potential. While I believe there will still be students out there who do not gain a positive outlook from this approach, it will be more beneficial than not. As an educator, it is our job to give students tools for success in order to become life long learners, and this activity would be a great way to help students engrain the idea that effort goes with success. Has anyone tried teaching effort? Was it successful?
As for homework and practice, the very idea of giving homework aligns with the behaviorist learning theory. The behaviorist learning theory promotes repetition. According to Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, in order for students to reach eighty percent proficiency on a skill, they need to practice the skill approximately 24 times (Pitler, 2007, p.188). Pitler suggests using multimedia and web resources to enhance homework and practice. (An example of a multimedia website schools can sign up to use is First in Math. Whereas, an example of a web resource is Math Playground.) Multimedia and web resources allow students to complete skill and practice type activities through technology. In return, technology can allow for differentiation and monitoring of student progress. While I do not use technology as a required part of homework since some of my students do not have access, I assign math homework practice nightly. My worry is that some students practice skills incorrectly, thus internalizing the skill incorrectly, as Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works explains can happen if teachers do not provide feedback quickly (Pitler, 2007). While I review concepts before assigning homework and immediately the next day, I know some students are learning concepts incorrectly. How do other teachers handle homework and avoid internalizing of incorrect methods?
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Main_Page
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.