The than punishing poor behavior as this

basis of the behaviorist theory is that learning is a passive process in where
learning is defined as “what people do in response to external
stimuli” (Elliot, 2007, pg. 46). Learning is therefore the procurement of
new behaviors. According to Skinner, knowledge is not used to guide human
actions; it is the action itself (Skinner 1976. p152). Behaviorism suggests
that in order to learn, the learner needs an active engagement and needs to be
reinforced with instant rewards (Sotto, 2007: 35). The more satisfying the
reward to the learner, the more the behavior of the learner is strengthened,
leading to more comprehensive learning (Skinner 1974 cited in Elliott 2007 pg.
48). The idea is that if a child is rewarded for their desirable behavior, they
will be more likely to repeat that behavior. Skinner suggested that educators
should primarily focus on positive reinforcements and the success of the
learner rather than punishing poor behavior as this weakens the behavior
portrayed by the learner (Pritchard, p11). This suggests that a schools
rewards/ behavior system is extremely important to a student’s development, as
the way the school looks at rewards and punishments can affect the behavior and
learning of the students.


learning breaks down tasks into small, progressive sequences where continuous
positive reinforcement is given. The theory suggests that without positive
reinforcement, the learned responses will be forgotten. The theory relies on
continuous repetition and use of the “skill and drill” exercise. It has been
suggested that the point of education was to present the learner with an
appropriate collection of responses to specific skills (or stimuli) by
constantly repeating said behavior which is reinforced by rewards (Skinner
1976) as this is the most reliable way of processing and retaining information.

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issue with this theory is that, although the learners are actively doing tasks,
they are receiving the information passively, as the teacher is the transmitter
of the knowledge to the learner, rather than actively looking and deciphering
information for themselves. Farnham-Diggory (1981, p60) criticized the theory
for the “lack of understanding” of what individual learners own learning really
involves. Pritchard argued that although positive reinforcement is an
acceptable way to practice skills for some learners, for other learners, they
may not be motivated by rewards or they may not understand the logic behind it
(Pritchard, pg11).


In a
behaviorist environment, students are required to do the same activity and work
at the same pace as the rest of the class, and don’t have the option of
choosing their activities or topics. Although this cuts down on the amount of
planning a teacher has do to, as they can focus on one topic thoroughly, it can
also cause issues with regards to differentiation. When planning and delivering
lessons, a teacher needs to make sure that the lessons are at the right level
of understanding for each student in the class, which may influence teaching
and learning as a whole (Kyriacou, p79).


critics claim that by constantly rewarding positive behavior and learning, it
could cause some children to lose interest in their own learning (Pritchard
pg10). He carries this on further by mentioning that using a reward system
could have a damaging effect on students if the focus of the positive
reinforcement is on only a few students, rather than the many (Pritchard,
pg10). Moreover, positive responses from students following on from praise by
the teacher may not be established every time, so the desired behavior may take
some time to be established, or not at all in some cases. (Sotto, 2007, pg35.)