Behavior Change in Learning Processes

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 8
Words: 1976
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: College


Learning is an uninterrupted process that is influenced by changing behavior throughout the life of an individual. In 1938, BF Skinner suggested that the primary changers of behavior included the environment, reinforcement, and punishment. This essay provides an overview of various theories that lead to a change in behavior in the context of learning.

Demonstrate Your Understanding

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a type of learning that occurs when a particular behavior is instilled in a child through either a reward or punishment. This process establishes an association between the acquired behavior and its consequences. Whenever operant conditioning is subjected to a child, pleasure, or displeasure is exhibited due to acclimatization to new behavior (Skinner, 1954). Various terms are associated with operant conditioning include explained below.

Conditioning is a process of developing a particular behavior in an individual in a controlled environment.

Reinforcement is either a positive or a negative outcome that is developed by a stimulus in the event of modifying the behavior of an individual (Skinner, 1954).

Punisher refers to a reaction that reduces the chances of repeating a behavior.

A Learning Scenario that illustrates Operant Conditioning

In a synonymous school, a teacher has a tendency to ask pupils to narrate stories to their classmates during English lessons. However, some children hate speaking while facing the audience, especially when a guest or pupils from other classes or schools join the audience. Being aware of the probable behavior, the teacher reveals that the pupils who will show fear during the presentation will have higher probabilities of being selected in every literature lesson to tell a story in front of other pupils. He has no problem with children who are bold and confident in narrating stories to the audience. In the end, the pupils developed confidence due to consistent practice. Skinner (1954) described such a set of circumstances as operant conditioning.


Schema refers to a consistent and recurrent series of activities that are interrelated and controlled by the same means. There are two distinct stages of schemata development in a child, namely assimilation and accommodation (Anderson & Pearson, 1988). The phases describe the intellectual growth of an individual. They also show how people adapt to new things or surroundings. The assimilation stage is significant in solving problems that involve new scenarios. On the other hand, the accommodation phase occurs when the existing schema is unable to operate (Anderson & Pearson, 1988).

An equilibrium stage is arrived at when a child can deal with a new situation or information in the course of a learning process. For instance, pupils can develop a schema for a donkey through assimilation (Singer & Revenson, 1997). They can develop particular characteristics such as four-legged, hornless, and long ears, among others. In this context, when the pupils perceive a zebra as a donkey when they see it for the first time. However, when the teacher corrects them, they create a new schema to accommodate the fact that the animal is a zebra rather than a donkey.

Compare and Contrast the Behaviorist Tradition of Learning and Development with a Constructivist Approach

Beliefs, mental states, and responses to the immediate surroundings are crucial factors that determine the behavioral patterns of individuals (Skinner, 1954). However, the application of the behaviorist tradition of learning and development can change shape such comportments with a view of ensuring conformity to particular settings. In this approach, adjustment of behavior can be accomplished by rewarding the individuals. On the other hand, the constructivist paradigm involves relating new knowledge to learned concepts. In this case, the learners are expected to develop independent knowledge regardless of the influence of the instructor (Skinner, 1954).

The effect of the constructivist model on children’s learning cannot be underestimated. Indeed, Skinner (1954) revealed that the constructivist significantly improved thinking amongst children as compared to the behaviorist approach. In a behaviorist approach to learning and development, the instructor does everything while the learners are passive listeners. For instance, a teacher can present complex learning activities to students with a view of testing their abilities to complete various exercises. The learners are required to be passive and should accept the content without asking questions.

Constructivist teachers focus on demonstrating concepts to children to ease understanding of compound information. For example, a teacher can require the children to solve some complex problems. The children will ensure that they solve the problems individually or in groups to seek appropriate solutions. According to Skinner (1954), the situation results in improved engagement, critical thinking, and discovery of new ideas; hence, their cooperative learning experience is improved.

Application of the Knowledge to a Real-World Scenario: Concepts of Learning in Relation to Prompt B (Tutoring Scenario)

Applying the knowledge in Miami FL: The Mind Development Concept

As a volunteer tutor in a local YMCA, I should understand the developmental stages of the mind. Piaget’s mind development concepts should form an elaborate framework for understanding the stages of child development, which are gradual and fixed. In reality, the progress rates of the minds of children are different. For instance, a child’s motor skills become more complex as it enters a new stage in cognitive development. Therefore, there is a need to comprehend the sensory-motor (from birth to two years), pre-operational (between two years and seven years), concrete operation (seven to eleven years), and formal operations (eleven to sixteen years) stages of child development with a view of delivering proper instruction to pupils in the local YMCA.

Within the four stages of development, three distinctive factors are identified. The first factor includes the schema, a number of processes that ensure a successful transition from one stage to the next. As a teacher, I should also bear in mind the various stages of mental development that the child goes through during the delivery of instruction (Anderson & Pearson, 1988). In a classroom, the construction of thoughts such as recalling and seeking solutions is based on the cognitive development of the minds of the pupils. At this point, there is a need to understand how the children perceive different ideas and the contexts around them. Therefore, I should use the opportunity to insight the attitudes and beliefs of the students by showing them the appropriate methods to tackle simple to complex problems using constructivist approaches (discussed above). This practice is an adaptation technique that will instigate the understanding of new concepts and differentiating them from earlier ones.

This approach is suitable for fifth-grade students. For instance, Ana, a fifth-grade student who is struggling with math, requires support and feedback from the tutor to cope with the completion of the given problems. As a teacher, I should understand that challenging thoughts promote the cognitive development of learners in grade 5. The learners are still at the preoperational stage of Piaget’s development theory. As a result, the learner’s feedback has significance regarding the level of comprehension. In this case, Ana still requires the support of the teacher to comprehend math problems. The teacher will use alternative methods such as visual aids to pass intricate information involving math to the learner. In this context, I will present the concept using visual aids or models to elaborate the math to the student. Nonetheless, I should also allow the student to understand the concepts by letting them judge their own actions. Therefore, Ana should be left to solve the problem independently to improve the understanding of the concept. In this case, the teacher will serve as a leader to show the student the appropriate method to solve the math. The processing speed of the student is still under development. Therefore, there is a need to use counters and other visuals to let Ana understand how operations such as addition and multiplication work.

Concepts of the Social Learning Theory

This theory will also be applicable to fifth-grade students. Since social interactions result in the development of cognitive skills in children, the theory can be applied in the classroom to improve the learning process through observational techniques. The process of applying the social learning theory will entail rewards or punishments to reinforce the behavior of the students. There will also be a need to provide models in both academic and social settings with a view of improving the thinking capacities of the students. This practice will be based on the concept that will be enhanced through the attention and motivation of the child (Singer & Revenson, 1997).

The development of the thought processes will significantly improve retention of content amongst the students. This situation will also comprise part of the learning where the student will be expected to remember learned events. Another aspect of learning will entail the reproduction of the image. This phenomenon will encompass self-observation and physical techniques, among others. Lastly, motivation will be instigated to enable the child to learn through processes such as intuition, among others. The social learning of the child will be best accomplished through behaviorist instructional techniques. This method will eliminate some undesired behaviors as new and recommended ones will be instilled in the child through instruction.

Whose theories would inform your approach to teaching?

Piaget’s development theory will be applicable to my teaching approach, where the constructivist approach will be implemented. The theory will enforce the implementation of interactive learning for students and teachers. Most children will tend to discover new information through the approach. The children, on various occasions, will demonstrate the concepts themselves. Issues that are related to map reading, map work, geometric and other arithmetic will be demonstrated and issued to the students in Miami FL, to practice them in team discussions. They will also expect to use their critical thinking to solve problems that will be related to socialization and the environment. This strategy will enable the class to participate actively in collaborative learning activities. For example, in an arithmetic class where calculations are involved, a counting technique will be elaborated to the pupils to illustrate addition (Singer & Revenson, 1997). The teacher will then issue an assignment to the students. Oral discussions about the topic will also be encouraged to identify the extent of knowledge that will be acquired by the children.

What will your teaching look like at our school?

Using a constructivist theory will encourage a participatory approach to teaching. As a result, students will remain active and enthusiastic. Piaget’s theory of development has elaborated the developmental stages of the mind. By using the constructivist approach, the students will learn more concepts through discovery (Stigler & Hiebert, 1998). They will also be encouraged to discover problem-solving techniques. This situation will improve their thinking and reasoning capacities. In this case, the teaching approach will be lively and participative.

Concept of Learning and Teaching Approach in the Miami FL

Various concepts of learning that will be implemented in my class include discovery and use of examples and demonstrations, among others. The students will be encouraged to develop new concepts for solving problems. The use of lists and a formative approach to teaching will also be implemented in the class. The lists will be used to specify various activities such as field trips, studies, and geographical tours, among others that the students will undertake. In addition, a peer assessment in pairs will be used. The students will be instructed to work individually. Lastly, peer assessment will also be applied in teaching (Stigler & Hiebert, 1998). This method will be used hand-in-hand with rubrics to ensure quality outcomes.


The essay has elaborated various ways of shaping behavior by examining the operant conditioning and schema models. It further provides the comparisons and contrasts between the constructive and behaviorist approaches to teaching and application of such knowledge in real-life situations. It can be deduced that both the constructivist and behaviorist approaches to teaching are applicable in the real world; hence, a combination of both techniques is paramount to the improvement of pedagogical processes.

Reference List

Anderson, R., & Pearson, P. (1988). A schema-theoretic view of basic processes in reading comprehension. Web.

Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Singer, D., & Revenson, T. (1997). A Piaget primer: How a child thinks. Boston: International Universities Press.

Skinner, B. (1954). The science of learning and the art of teaching. Harvard Educational Review, 24(2), 86-97.

Stigler, J., & Hiebert, J. (1998). Teaching Is a Cultural Activity. American Educator, 22(4), 4-11.