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Lecture 8

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McGill University
PSYC 215
John Lydon

Behaviourism focuses on one particular view of learning: a change in external behaviour achieved through a large amount of repetition of desired actions, the reward of good habits and the discouragement of bad habits. In the classroom this view of learning led to a great deal of repetitive actions, praise for correct outcomes and immediate correction of mistakes. In the field of language learning this type of teaching was called the audio-lingual method, characterised by the whole class using choral chanting of key phrases, dialogues and immediate correction. Within the Problem Based Learning (PBL) environment, students may be encouraged to engage with the learning process and their peers within the group by positive reinforcement from a skilled facilitator to increase positive actions of engagement, contributions and questioning. Negative behaviours eg lack of engagement, negative contributions, could be minimized by the facilitator using negative reinforcement. Within the behaviourist view of learning, the "teacher" is the dominant person in the classroom and takes complete control, evaluation of learning comes from the teacher who decides what is right or wrong. The learner does not have any opportunity for evaluation or reflection within the learning process, they are simply told what is right or wrong. The conceptualization of learning using this approach could be considered "superficial" as the focus is on external changes in behaviour ie not interested in the internal processes of learning leading to behaviour change and has no place for the emotions involved the process. Operant conditioning was developed by B.F Skinner in 1937, operant conditioning deals with the modification of "voluntary behaviour" or operant behaviour. Operant behavior operates on the environment and is maintained by its consequences. Reinforcement and punishment, the core tools of operant conditioning, are either positive (delivered following a response), or negative (withdrawn following a response). Skinner created the Skinner Box or operant conditioning chamber to test the effects of operant conditioning principles on rats. Although operant conditioning plays the largest role in discussions of behavioral mechanisms, classical conditioning (or Pavlovian conditioning or respondent conditioning) is also an important behavior-analytic process that need not refer to mental or other internal processes. Pavlov's experiments with dogs provide the most familiar example of the classical conditioning procedure. In simple conditioning, the dog was presented with a stimulus such as a light or a sound, and then food was placed in the dog's mouth. After a few repetitions of this sequence, the light or sound by itself caused the dog to salivate. Although Pavlov proposed some tentative physiological processes that might be involved in classical conditioning, these have not been confirmed. Skinner's view of behavior is most often characterized as a "molecular" view of behavior; that is, behavior can be decomposed into atomistic parts or molecules. This view is inconsistent with Skinner's complete description of behavior as delineated in other works, including his 1981 article "Selection by Consequences." Skinner proposed that a complete account of behavior requires understanding of selection history at three levels: biology (the natural selection or phylogeny of the animal); behavior (the reinforcement history or ontogeny of the behavioral repertoire of the animal); and for some species, culture (the cultural practices of the social group to which the animal belongs). This whole organism then interacts with its environment. Molecular behaviorists use notions from melioration theory, negative power function discounting or additive versions of negative power function discounting. Molar behaviorists, such as Howard Rachlin, Richard Herrnstein, and William Baum, argue that behavi
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