Sunday, May 17, 2009

Behaviorist Learning Theory and Technology

The behaviorist learning theory holds that learner behavior is based on prior conditioning and associations with stimuli. Dr. Orey (2001) offers the following, “Students work for things that bring them positive feelings, and approval from people they admire” (p.3). The single most important attribute or behavior for student success is effort. “The instructional strategy of reinforcing effort enhances students’ understanding of the relationship between effort and achievement” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, p.155). The authors recommend specific instructional strategies for explicitly teaching the importance of effort. Technology makes it easy for students to grasp the impact their effort has on their achievement. First students use an effort rubric to assess themselves honestly on their study habits. Using Microsoft Excel, students record their effort rubric scores and their grades in a spreadsheet. At the end of the unit of study, students select a chart to create a visual image of the correlation between their effort and achievement. After analyzing their chart, students can develop goals to improve in certain areas of the effort rubric. According to the behaviorist learning theory, instructional strategies that reinforce positive behaviors will lead toward positive behavior habits.

Teachers assign homework to increase students’ expose and practice with concepts to further deepen their understanding of the content and to gain proficiency with their skills. Technology provides a wealth of resources for enriching student learning outside of the classroom. When students are given the opportunity to design and create a project-based homework assignment using a word processing program it reinforces a desired response. When students use a word processing program like Microsoft Word, they can utilize the research tools within the program to enhance their work. Using the thesaurus, dictionary, Encarta Encyclopedia, and eLibrary can facilitate immediate, positive feedback on their projects. Students can also use the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level rating along with the AutoSummarize to evaluate the sound writing skills and sophistication of their work. Web resources give students the opportunity to increase their conceptual understanding and practice skills toward mastery. Online games are motivating, fun and generate immediate feedback to reinforce positive behaviors. Technology has far reaching implications for student success both in and out of the classroom. Technology supports the behaviorists learning theory as it provides positive reinforcement for maximum learning experiences.


Orey, M.(Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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