Unformatted text preview: happy and contented when adults praise and support her. Her
teachers are warm and supporting, so she fells happy when she talks or
thinks about school. 10 • Sarah was in two plays in elementary school, and in both cases she forgot
her lines on stage. This made her feel anxious and embarrassed. Now any
request that she participate in a play makes her feel anxious. • When Mr., Joseph was in high school he got into a lot of trouble and did
poorly. Eventually, he felt so uncomfortable in school that he quit coming.
Today as a parent coming back for a parent conference, just the sight of
the school building makes him feel uncomfortable.
Classical conditioning can also explain how we implicitly learn certain attitudes (Houwer, Thomas, & Baeyens, 2001; Olson & Fazio, 2002). From a
classical conditioning perspective, if people or items are paired with other stimuli
that produce positive or negative emotional responses, those people or items
eventually can produce the same emotional responses. Advertisements make use
of this by pairing products with stimuli that elicit positive emotions such as
physically attractive and/or popular people. Negative racial or gender attitudes
could be acquired implicitly if members of a race or gender are associated with
images or words that produce negative emotional reactions. This possibility
means that curricular materials need to be evaluated carefully so that students are
not exposed to these types of negative associations.
This idea that school can become connected to stimuli that produce strong
emotions or attitudes in students is important. It reminds us that we can
unintentionally produce attitudes or emotional associations for school that we do 11 not want our students to learn. This type of awareness may be particularly
important for students whose life experiences are quite different from those
provided by school. Think about coming to a new place where a different
language is spoken, customs are unfamiliar, and maybe even the food served at
lunch makes you feel nauseous. The negative feelings that these experiences
create could easily become associated with school, creating negative feelings
about school. As a teacher, you may be able to reduce this possibility by helping
all students feel supported and welcome. For example, you could create
classrooms and schools where students’ various home cultures are clearly visible.
You could assign other students to serve as guides and interpreters, or you could
help students quickly acquire functional vocabulary in English such as the word
Here are some more recommendations based on classical conditioning for
creating a classroom environment that reduces the likelihood that students will
associate anxiety and discomfort with your classroom.
• Emphasize improvement rather than perfection. Let students know that
mistakes are a natural part of learning. • Provide opportunities for students to re-do assignments that are
difficult for them. • Maintain an orderly and predicta...
View Full Document
- Spring '08
- Classical Conditioning, B. F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov