From this research behaviourists moved on to believe that human behaviour and learning can be predicted and explained by studying the behaviour of these animals (Reece & Walker, 2000) They claim that learning takes place by responding to stimuli, that responses can be conditioned by repeating the stimuli and that reinforcement of responses is important to achieve learning.
Thorndike’s Law of effect explains that you learn something about your behaviour because of the consequence is has for you. Behaviours that are followed by good consequences are likely to be repeated in the future.
Current practice for lesson planning follows a behaviourist theory more so than a constructivist theory. In planning a lesson aims and objectives are identified and set as part of a behaviourist plan. This ensures a goal is set out for the learners to reach. The constructivist plan does not set any goal or expectation before the learners are exposed to the material.
Behaviourism as a theory was further developed by the psychologist B F Skinner, who argued that cause and effect is what controls behaviour, not the mind or reasoning. The keyword to Behaviourism is “conditioning” or “training.”
Skinner worked with the previous animal research and began to believe the principles of behaviourism were applicable to human behaviour. The ‘Operant Theory’ Skinner is most known for assumes that behaviour that is rewarded is likely to be repeated and behaviour that is punished is likely not to be.
Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's theory. A’ reinforcer’ is anything that strengthens the desired response. It could be verbal praise, a good mark or a feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction. A particularly effective way to reduce the occurrence of a behaviour is to ensure that it is not reinforced. This is known as ‘extinction’ Punishment is less effective as it only suppresses the behaviour temporarily allowing the behaviour to reappear.
Behaviourists are mainly interested in the overt observable behaviours rather than the internal thoughts, such as intentions or wishes. Looking in more detail they look for antecedents of behaviours i.e. the triggers and what are the behavioural consequences. All ABC Charts used within nursery and school settings are based on this theory. This identifies and breaks down behaviour. Antecedent (A)