Classroom Management: Practical Applications of Behavioral Psychology

Teacher-centered instructional paradigms are steeped with traditions emanating from behavioral psychology.  A stimulus-response (S-R) paradigm is most frequently associated with the concept of behaviorism.  This paradigm has been referred to as the tenet of contiguity.  The notion of contiguity (i.e. classical conditioning) is especially relevant as teachers strive to effectively manage activities in their classrooms and schools.  Take a minute to consider one or more instances where the tenet of contiguity (S-R paradigm) may be relevant in your practice.  Suggestion: It may be helpful to think about rule governed behaviors (e.g. fire drills, etc.).  When you establish rules–have students participate in a discussion about the significance of each rule/behavior.  Specifically, where/when does a rule apply?  Identify as many applications of each rule as possible.  Now let’s consider the influential legacy of reinforcement contingencies (i.e. the relationship between a response and various schedules of reinforcement).  B. F. Skinner conceptualized that by controlling the consequences of behavior as it evolves; it can be “shaped and maintained via a process of selection among variations…. [that is analogous] to the process at work in biological evolution” (Richelle, 1993, pp. 26-27).  He realized that successful traits are strengthened and undesirable behaviors can be minimized via positive and negative reinforcement; a concept referred to as “operant conditioning”.  Flora & Pavlik (1990) state that: “positive and negative refer only to the presentation or removal of stimuli in the environment, not some inherent quality of the stimuli”. (p. 122)  When the presentation or removal of a stimulus increases the probability or rate of a specific behavior, it has reinforcing consequences.

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Filed under Classroom Management, Education, School Reform Initiatives & Professional Development Strategies

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