Behaviorism and Developments in Instructional Design and Technology

Behaviorism and Developments in Instructional Design and Technology

Irene Chen (University of Houston Downtown, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch510

Abstract

The theory of behaviorism concentrates on the study of overt behaviors that can be observed and measured (Good & Brophy, 1990). In general, the behavior theorists view the mind as a “black box” in the sense that response to stimulus can be observed quantitatively, ignoring the possibility of thought processes occurring in the mind. Behaviorists believe that learning takes place as the result of a response that follows on a specific stimulus. By repeating the S-R (stimulus-response) cycle, the organism (may it be an animal or human) is conditioned into repeating the response whenever the same stimulus is present. The behavioral emphasis on breaking down complex tasks, such as learning to read, into subskills that are taught separately, has a powerful influence on instructional design. Behaviors can be modified, and learning is measured by observable change in behavior. The behavior theorists emphasize the need of objectivity, which leads to great accentuation of statistical and mathematical analysis.
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Introduction: The Basics Of Behaviorism

The theory of behaviorism concentrates on the study of overt behaviors that can be observed and measured (Good & Brophy, 1990). In general, the behavior theorists view the mind as a “black box” in the sense that response to stimulus can be observed quantitatively, ignoring the possibility of thought processes occurring in the mind. Behaviorists believe that learning takes place as the result of a response that follows on a specific stimulus. By repeating the S-R (stimulus-response) cycle, the organism (may it be an animal or human) is conditioned into repeating the response whenever the same stimulus is present. The behavioral emphasis on breaking down complex tasks, such as learning to read, into subskills that are taught separately, has a powerful influence on instructional design. Behaviors can be modified, and learning is measured by observable change in behavior. The behavior theorists emphasize the need of objectivity, which leads to great accentuation of statistical and mathematical analysis. The design principles introduced by the behavior theorists continue to guide the development of today’s computer-based learning. In distance-education courseware and instructional software, key behavior-modification principles are used. For example, a typical course Web site usually states the objectives of the software; uses text, visual, or audio to apply appropriate reinforcers; provides repetition and immediate feedback; uses principles to shape, chain, model, punish, and award the learners; incorporates a scoring system as a part of the system; and provides status of the progress of the learner. Major learning theorists associated with behaviorism are the following:

  • Pavlov

  • Thorndike

  • Skinner

  • Watson

  • Gagné

The major educational technology developments in America that can be attributed to behaviorism are the following:

  • The behavioral objectives movement

  • The teaching machine phase

  • The programmed instruction movement

  • The individualized instructional approaches

  • The computer-assisted learning

  • The systems approach to instruction

Major instructional design theorists associated with behaviorism are as follows:

  • Glaser

  • Gagné and Briggs

  • Dick and Carey

  • Mager

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Background: Behaviorism And Learning Theories

The advent of behavioral theories can be traced back to the elder Sophists of ancient Greece, Cicero, Herbart, and Spencer (Saettler, 1990). Behaviorism, as a learning theory, can be traced back to Aristotle, whose essay “Memory” focused on associations being made between events such as lightning and thunder. Other philosophers that followed Aristotle’s thoughts are Hobbes (1650), Hume (1740), Brown (1820), Bain (1855), and Ebbinghause (1885). Franklin Bobbitt developed the modern concept of behavioral objectives in the early 1900s. More recently, the names associated with the development of the behaviorist theory include Pavlov, Thorndike, Watson, and B. F. Skinner.

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