Behavioral Approaches in Teaching

Many teachers, on first hearing about behavioral approaches to teaching understanding react by saying, “But that’s what we do already!” And to a certain extent this is true. It seems unlikely that many teachers are employing behavioral techniques effectively; otherwise there would be fewer harassed teachers! The confusion arises as a result of teachers sometimes dismissing the behavioral approach as obvious or common sense, without paying sufficient attention to certain key principles which under print the whole system. The techniques advocated are indeed very similar, if not identical, to the procedures utilized by many skilled teachers, nor is this surprising  since few children would learn very much, that is useful and desirable if these principles were not sometimes being followed.

But there are differences which are easy to gloss over in a spirit of self righteousness. The most important of these is undoubtedly consistency. How many teachers have been trained to do so but this is one of the keys to success, as we shall to do so, but this is one of the keys to success, as we shall see, one cannot expect to achieve success with the behavioral approach unless the principles are followed consistently.

Another bone of contention is the nature of reinforce, desired behavior, rather than giving a be grudging tick or “That’s ok”? Remember the teacher does not define the reinforcement since she has little to offer the child. It is comforting to believe that her approval of desired behavior is reinforcing but is it? Ask oneself whose approval is valued by the children in the school and attempt to determine why. What does a teacher have to offer children that will make her approval into a powerful social reinforce by pairing it with known desirable consequences (exciting reinforces) e.g. should she wait for the end of the week to tell the child that her writing has improved? Delay between the behavior and the presentation of the reinforce has been shown to weaken its effect. Similarly, is she instructing the classroom situation so as to encourage desirable behavior to occur – by rearranging the seating for example? These points are raised care needed to teach effectively using the behavioral approach.

No one claims that it is an easy or foolproof method. It is dependent upon skills being learned so well that they become automatic, skills which it is unlikely that they were taught at college, or which were not presented with in a cohesive conceptual framework. A behavioral approach is one that is well worth studying and a program of skills well worth learning. While it does not provide one with a curriculum of what we teach. It does provide the means for effective teaching.

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