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Unformatted text preview: ble classroom environment. Allow
students to know your expectations. 12 • Make sure that students who are new to the classroom are given the
support they need at first. For example, spend time going over your
expectations with them.
Operant Conditioning Our modern understanding of operant conditioning has developed
primarily out of the work of B. F. Skinner (Skinner, 1938; 1953; 1958; 1974;
Skinner & Epstein, 1982), but operant conditioning has its historical roots in
empiricism and the ideas of E. L. Thorndike and J. B. Watson among others
(Thorndike, 1905, 1949; Watson, 1913, 1919). Operant conditioning is a behavioral learning model that attempts to explain learning through the effects of
both antecedents and consequences on behavior. However, the focus in operant
conditioning is on how consequences may be used to produce learning, so we will
Of several responses made to the same situation, those which are
accompanied or closely followed by satisfaction to the animal will, other
things being equal, be more firmly connected to the situation...those which
are accompanied or closely followed by discomfort to the animal, will
things being equal, have their connections with that situation weakened
(Thorndike, 1911, p. 244). 13 In this quotation, E. L. Thorndike (1874-1949) defined his original law of
effect, which in turn formed the basis for the behavioral idea of a consequence.
As we noted earlier, a consequence is a stimulus that occurs after a behavior has
been emitted and that has the effect of making that behavior more or less likely to
occur. Although Thorndike eventually revised his law of effect by dropping the
potential for discomfort to make a behavior less likely, modern behavioral
psychologists like B. F. Skinner (1953) have retained two types of consequences.
Reinforcements are consequences, which have the effect of increasing or
maintaining the likelihood that a behavior will occur again, while punishments
are consequences that have the effect of decreasing the likelihood that a behavior
will occur again (Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991). Behaviorists further identify
two types of reinforcement and two types of punishment, positive and negative
reinforcement and presentation and removal punishment.
Positive reinforcement. With positive reinforcement, a behavior is more
likely to occur because when the behavior does occur, a valued or satisfying
consequence is provided to the learner. For example, a student comes to class on
time one day and the teacher praises the student for the on-time behavior. As a
result, that student comes to class on time more frequently. In this case, praise is a
positive reinforcer for the on-time behavior, because it is provided to the student 14 after the occurrence of the on-time behavior, and it has the effect of making the
on-time behavior more likely to occur.
A number of different environmental events can serve as positive
reinforcers in the classroom (Alberto & Troutman, 1999; Becker, 1986; Duncan,
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This document was uploaded on 03/29/2014 for the course EPS 324 at N. Arizona.
- Spring '08