The Theory Of Operant Conditioning Stands On Two Major Pillars

The Theory Of Operant Conditioning Stands On Two Major Pillars

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The Theory Of Operant Conditioning Stands On Two Major Pillars

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The Theory Of Operant Conditioning Stands On Two Major Pillars

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What Is the Theory of Operant Conditioning Stands On Two Major Pillars?


Teaching class Five (5) primary students comes with a challenge in classroom management. Keeping a given number of students focused and motivated to study is a difficult affair. Most learners do not participate in class or complete assignments and homework. Students’ age at primary 5 affects their behavior of learning (Joswick & Morrow, 1999, p.479). For effective learning to take place, it is important for a teacher to be in control of the learners’ behavior.
Evaluation of the scenario
Learners have a varied range of behavior. A small percentage of learners do not attend all classes. Another group does not attempt assignments left by the teacher at all or do not complete it on time while a larger number do not complete their homework. This behavior is typical of the learners under this age bracket as they similarly do not complete tasks given to them at home by their parents.
In order to manage the class, a teacher can employ strategies of the operant conditioning theory to effectively control these behaviors of learners in his or her classroom.
Evaluation of the operant conditioning theory
The theory of Operant conditioning stands on two major pillars, that is, rewarding a certain   behavior or withholding a reward for an undesirable behavior to achieve a suitable change in behavior. Thus, a relationship is grown between how one behaves and the consequences of his or her behavior pattern. One’s behavior directs the course of action taken against them.
The Operant Conditioning Theory has two key components which are; reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement and punishment is further divided into four options, positive and negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment. Positive reinforcement such as, giving rewards to learners and praising an individual for a good behavior strengthens a behavior while negative reinforcement involves taking off an outcome after display of a given behavior. In both incidents a behavior improves positively. A positive punishment is the introduction of an unfavorable condition to learners with an aim of curbing or stopping an occurring behavior. On the other hand, a negative punishment is the removal of a favorable condition from a learning environment after the occurrence of a behavior, with an aim of cubing it. In both cases behavior decreases (Colónet. 2007, p.207).
Young learners need to be appreciated at all times when they behave well. According to Bridget Sizer, offering them attention, time and verbal encouragement is the most crucial way of improving and maintaining good behavior (Sizer 2013). The application of positive reinforcement would ensure the yielding of positive results. Those students who complete tasks on time are supposed to be rewarded. It will motivate the same student to do even better in the next assignments in terms of accuracy aiming for another reward. Those who have not done their homework will be encouraged to attempt it so that they also get a similar reward.
Alternatively, punishments can be used on learners as a method of reinforcement. Punishment is a positive or negative consequence following a behavior that reduce the probability that a particular behavior will occur in the future again. Positive punishments like presentation of unfavorable conditions will discourage unsuitable characters. For example, if learners fail to do homework because they like watching television, a parent should be encouraged to switch off the television until the children finish their homework. These conditions will push students to do their tasks in time so as to enjoy the luxury of watching television. Withdrawal of privileges such as reduction of pocket money, dropping off learners at school and gifts will also send an alarm to them that they have a duty to fulfil for them to get the privileges. These way leaners will be compelled to do what is required of them at all times.
Strengths of the operant conditioning theory
The concept of Operant conditioning can be incorporated in teaching and classroom management as a programmed instruction. When the knowledge is passed bit by bit, the reactions are able to be reinforced.
Behavioral modification as a psychological correction technique, is widely used when there is an encounter with learners with learning difficulties. When normal learners are subjected to the operant conditioning techniques, it will modify their performance skills as well as helping in the management of the students. As stated above, a possible way of effecting positive reinforcement is through giving complements, being there to encourage learners and applauding them when they have behaved well. When all this is put together the students’ behavior can be changed into a more desirable state. For example, if the teacher informs the learners that he will reduce amount of assignments if they attend all classes, the class will be attended to perfection. The reduction of assignments (which are good in a learning exercise) is a negative reinforcement, because a good condition is taken away from the learning process in order to increase the attendance pattern of the learners. When the teacher poses tough questions to the learners, he will praise students with any answers close to the correct one. These way learners will be encouraged to give more tries. This is a way of shaping up an operant behavior through positive reinforcement.
Operant conditioning covers a large scope of concepts, such as studying language and fears of individuals. By learning people’s fears it is easier to help them out of that situation. The theory is more practical and has direct implications in the area of education. When a person is rewarded for a behavior, it is more likely for it to improve or repeat again. Theories that were developed later, like Albert bandura’s theory of observational learning support, agree with the operant conditioning theory. Parents and teachers are aware that children are learning from them. Parents and teachers have had awareness on how to manage behavior and thus, parenting has become more easy as parenting techniques have been improved (Kerr, 2007, p. 255). The theory is very helpful when raising children, and when teaching them.
Another strength of operant conditioning over bandura’s theory of observational learning is that, once a student is punished for behaving in a given manner, it’s highly unlikely to observe similar behavior again. According to observational learning theory, whether you punish a given behavior, it may reoccur again as the student shall be observing and acting the way his or her friends do.
Weaknesses of the operant conditioning theory
Punishment as a technique in operant conditioning theory may lead to rebellion. When an individual has been punished, he or she is likely to behave again in the same way in protest to the punishment. It is normal that humans express their dissatisfaction by protesting actions against them. The operant conditioning theory does not guarantee complete change in behavior (Runco, 1993, p.84). The person in question might choose to act in pretense that they have stopped the behavior in order to receive the reward. After receiving the reward, an individual might go back to his or her normal behavior. Individuals have different responses to stimuli. Some may bend for the stimuli while others may resist. This brings to question the suitability of the operant conditioning theory as it entirely relies on stimuli to achieve intended response.
Operant conditioning does not take cognitive factors into account. According to Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, the explanation on how a child creates an image of the world in his or her brain tells that behavior is something that comes with biological development of an individual and his or her interaction with the environment (Dedeke, 2015, p.437).
The operant conditioning theory does not give remedies in case of reoccurrence of a behavior. It only gives suggestions on how to counter a problem with no clear definition of ways of countering its reoccurrence. There is a possibility that once the reward has been given for good behavior, the student could go back to their bad behavior. There should be a set of strategies that will ensure continuity of good behavior (Mechler & Bourke, 2011, p.28).
There can only be good or bad behavior, there is no neutral behavior. The operant theory pays emphasis on improvement of behavior and as such it rewards a behavior that has not necessarily qualified as good or bad. This does not encourage complete change in behavior.
This theory does not allow direct engagement and motivation of the students. Learners are supposed to engage in their learning directly to yield maximum results. The operant conditioning theory places the teacher ahead of the class. The teacher is in complete control of the class and he or she only subjects his or her learners to conditions he or she feels are appropriate for the improvement of learners. This may slow down the process of behavior correction as learners may have a contribution to their own behavior’s improvement, for example copying from what their friends do to be rewarded or appreciated.
The operant conditioning theory pays too much attention to environmental stimuli while overlooking possible determinants of behavior like health and psychological factors. According to Erik Erikson’s psychological theory of human development (1959) the psychosocial development of an individual comprises eight stages of development from infancy to adulthood (Gibson, 2004, p.193). These stages are subdivided into two phases. The first phase of development which is comprised of five stages takes place from birth to the 18 years of age.
The remaining three stages take place from the age of 18 to. During each one of these eight stages, an individual goes through a series of psychosocial changes which may result into either a positive or negative development of personality depending on the experiences he or she is exposed to. Erikson states that, a crisis likely occurs at each beginning or end of each stage of development and these crises are of a psychosocial nature since they revolve around psychological and social needs of the character in question being different from those in the environment or society around them (Augier & Kreiner, 2000, p. 659). This personality related behavior cannot be changed through reinforcement or punishment but through psychological processes like guidance and counseling. This renders the operant conditioning theory inapplicable in such situations.
Skinners operant conditioning theory essentially hold that, it is only a behavior that can be directly observed and physically measured that can be described and studied by scientific means. Out of the behavior tradition grew the belief that development of human beings is an observable behavior that can be learnt through experience with the environment and actions. Operant conditioning shows that it is this part of the behaviorism theory that focuses only on the observable response of the individuals to a form of stimuli that can correct psychological problems. Skinner argues that, the mental and internal way of how one’s brain and body works, cannot be a subject of consideration in this theory (Schwinger, 2011, p.217). It is because Skinner thought that one cannot understand the mind and internal body systems as they cannot be observed directly, whereas opposed to reactions in an experimental setting.
The theory of Operant Conditioning deals with an operant for each behavior. An Operant is described as an intentional action or condition set up with the aim of having an effect on the environment surrounding an individual in order to yield a positive behavior. The teacher is able to control a specific behavior without risking negative change on other related behavior in learners. Skinner tried to identify the processes that make specified operant behaviors more or less likely to reoccur (Yoon & Vargas, 2014, P. 52).
Skinner came up with three types of responses that can follow behavior. The first one is neutral operant which are environmental responses that are not likely to increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior to be repeated (Barr, Rovee-Collier & Learmonth, 2011, p.625). The Second one is reinforcements which are positive or negative responses from the environment that are likely to increase the chances of a behavior to reoccur. The third and last response is punishment which are also positive or negative responses from the environment that reduce the likelihood of the reoccurrence of a behavior since they weaken a behavior (Komaki, 1994, p.27). Through these type of responses, a teacher can be able to control and manage the behavior of his or her students (Critcher, 2009, p.17). The introduction of operant in classroom management will ensure that learners respond in a manner that the teacher wants them to behave.
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