Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reinforcing Effort towards Homework & Practice

The idea of Reinforcing Effort is an easy one for me to follow. I have conformed my teaching praise style the intrinsic style proposed by Carol Dweck (2007). Pitler & Hubbell (2007) reinforce this exact theory when stating the effort will reflect the attitudes and beliefs a student carries about his or her learning. I found the use of technology to introduce and use spreadsheets to collect, monitor, and graph student progress towards goals of effort to be enlightening; I will look into this further and try one myself. As for tying this idea of intrinsic praise of effort to a behaviorist theory, I can see some links. The entire idea of both is to praise and reinforce positive behavior; effort reinforcement does not give way to punishment or consequences, unless the individual chooses to change for their own personal satisfaction. I will have no problem adapting the technology ideas for reinforcing effort into my own classroom.

As for the Homework and Practice section of the Pitler & Hubbell text, I will most use some of the new websites I found listed in their publication. I will not mind subscribing to a site when I know it is kid/user friendly and allows for the instant feedback from quizzes. I already use computer-based homework, including online textbook assignments and computer generated projects, so this is the logical next step for me. I believe most homework is reinforcing the behaviorist theory, although only in the routine of the work. Teaching science leaves a multitude of various interpretations to completing an assignment to the rubric details; I prefer this to “robot” methods, as students tend not to retain the information.


  1. Marie, in your blog you said you wanted to try using spreadsheets to track the progress of your students, with having experience using this form of technology I suggest you try it. I use a spreadsheet to track my students’ oral reading fluency scores. My students input their scores into the computer and then take the data to create a line graph. The students are then able to see their progress. I have even used a spreadsheet to tack the number of words read by each student. This created a huge completion among my students, but it also got them wanting to read.

    Victoria Osborn

  2. Marie,
    I taught 8th grade earth science as a long term sub for a little over a semester. I found 8th grade boys especially challenging. They felt as though they had it all figured out. I had trouble motivating some of them because they had the mindset that they would work hard when it mattered in high school. I believe that by the time kids are in 8th grade that they need to have some sense of internal motivation developed. I think that the behaviorism should help to foster their motivation in the lower grades. There is a need to use behaviorism in middle and high school because kids will always try to push your limits, but ultimately, their motivation should come from within. It should not come from some reward or because of fear that they will be punished.

  3. I am looking forward to getting students involved tracking their progress of points. I find so many of them lack the organization to work through a program for a desired outcome. Even though I have online grading with Parent connections, the students never seem to know if they have even turned in an assignment. I am forever being asked, "What am I missing?"

    As for behavior of 8th grade boys, well, they are different. I often can be heard saying, "8th grade boys are proof life exists on other planets."

  4. You are absolutely correct in stating that students who continue to put forth consistent effort are more likely to receive a higher level of achievement. As they see themselves progressing, they continue to seek this positive reinforcement (whether it be internal or external). I feel the same way as a student and as a teacher. If I see that the work I am producing is of high quality, and is receiving a desirable grade, I will continue to put effort into my studies. As a teacher, if I see that students are learning a topic using a variety of teaching strategies and applying technology into the instruction, I will continue to teach my students in this fashion. Consequently, if I see that my teaching is not coming across effectively, I will research new strategies to implement into my classroom. Although we may not always be conscious of behaviorism in our classroom, I feel that some theories that it suggests are used almost daily.

    Like Dr.Wolfe said on the DVD that teachers made over 2000-3000 decisions a day and I believe among which are mostly behaviorist in nature, it's just that we don't really do it consciously.

    You are very right that if students receive good feedback, they'll continue to seek this positive reinforcement. Like what we are doing with this course. We have our grades and feedback on a weekly basis, it not only tracks our progress but giving us consistently and timely feedback really engage us in the learning. I found myself logging in everyday just to see my grades and how my other classmates are responding to my post, etc. When we get our grades (be it good or bad), we'll have something to either maintain or work towards. This is very specific and concrete. Compare to other courses which students only need to finish certain projects to graduate and they won't see their grades until the end of the course (spread over few months), chances are students won't be as engaged or they might put it off til the last minutes.

    I think even if we use cognitive approach to our teaching and learning, it still needs practice in different form or shape, in order to stick that piece of information in our brain, that's just how the brain works. That's already behaviorist in practice.

  5. Marie,

    I really like the idea of having the kids use the spreadsheets to track their progress. As a math teacher, I currently teach a substantial unit on data analysis through the use of Excel and Numbers.I think that collaboration with other teachers on my team with regard to the tracking of progress in their curricular areas would lend a great deal of reinforcement to the topics that I teach. Technology useage is universal, and I would like my kids to become comfortable using the programs that I teach as completely farmiliar tools. As a group of teachers, we can specify technological pathways that we would like to emphasize with our team of kids.

  6. Rhetta~
    Behaviorism is unavoidable in a classroom; how much we display the use is avoidable. Truly good classroom management can appear almost seamless, even though the behaviorist theory is in complete practice. I believe in reinforcement, and it tends to be 75% intrinsic for effort and 25% extrinsic. There are still students operating in the “I can’t do it, so I quit” method of thought, so they need to hear both types of praise and reinforcement.

    Love the call name, just cannot say it…”Ski-zip”?
    With your math and my science, we may even be able to collaborate here to develop a good spreadsheet for data collection. I know most of my students can use Excel, but some have barely scratched the surface. Not much technology in my building for kids to get their hands on, so trying to develop entire units around the use of technology is difficult; I have tried! I will continue my quest for introducing more uses for technology with them, and, hopefully, something will stick. The behaviorist theory of technology use, according to Dr. Michael Orey, is to use auto feedback in practice form. When used with other methods of instruction, I know this is useful.

  7. Marie,

    Educational theories have been debated for years. How and why people learn has been studied extensively and new theories are always arising and old ones are being updated. How an educator views learning is manifested in their teaching methods and educational objectives. One such learning theory is behaviorism. One of the most prominent behaviorists is B.F. Skinner who suppositioned that satisfying responses are conditioned whereas unsatisfying ones are not (Standridge, 2002).

    While looking at Skinner in a purely psychological way suggests that the stimulus-response must be present in order for behaviorism to occur (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008). Therefore a teacher who turns the light off for students to quiet down is providing a stimulus (the light). Students who stop talking are immedietely rewarded with a token or whatever reward system the teacher uses. If the students do not stop talking they will have a token taken away. This is providing the reinforcement needed to produce an appropriate response (students stop talking). If we look at behaviorism in this way than many of the ideas suggested within the learning resources do not fall under the category of behaviorism. When looking at skill and drill strategies what is the stimulus? The content (multiplication facts for example?) or the anticipation of good grades? We know that we want the response to be- the students studying and receiving a good grade, but what was the catalyst (or stimulus) that shaped this behavior?

    If we look at behaviorism in a more liberal way and view it as a series of causes and effects than behaviorism certainly is evident in the strategies suggested by Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski. Behavior contracts can provide a change in behavior when the students track it and see their success over time. The response is more effort put forth in the classroom, but the lack of a stimulus makes it a questionable behaviorist strategy. Likewise skill and drill websites can offer immediate feedback for students which is an important aspect of behaviorism.

    Whether the strategies suggested are examples of behaviorism or not does not discredit them as strategies. There are many geat websites offered by Pitler, et. al as well as suggestions of using spreadsheets to create rubrics for students to track their successes. These are all powerful tools to be used within the classroom and can be met with student success when utilized appropriately.


    Lever-Duffy, J. & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical Foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

    Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

    Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved<2009>, from