Friday, June 5, 2015

Is that your final answer? EDUC 8845

Behavioral theorists view learning as an extrinsic event which can be observed and measured by others. This is the traditional learning theory in education, the one most researched, peer-reviewed, and most funded in the USA. It stems from the epistemological tradition of objectivism which assumes reality is an outwardly observable event. Melding the behaviorist theory with Driscoll’s definition of a learning theory as persistent change as a result of experience, one would get a theory of learning which involves an observable and persistent change.

Siemens considered metaphors that involved making connections from four educators. John Seely Brown saw educators as master artists or ateliers who worked with students in a learning studio. Clarence Fisher considered educators to be network administrators who enabled students to form their own learning networks. Curtis Bonk viewed the educator as a concierge who could invite students to partake of possible offerings. George himself thought of educators more like curators or expert learners who set up learning spaces for students.

Another possible metaphor is the conductor of a symphony orchestra, where each student is playing a different instrumental part (differentiation), learning the same basic concepts but using different paths. When one plays music, one constructs not only the physical sound, but the phrasing, the mood, and the emphasis of the notes. This is important in constructing the overall sound, or in this case, learning.
All these metaphors have to do with learners constructing knowledge. Behaviorism, however, has more to do with teachers writing on "tabulae rasae", sequences of substeps, and rewarding acceptable behavior while punishing unacceptable behavior.
Some educational applications of behaviorism in classrooms include contracts, rewards, punishments, reinforcements, and extinction plans. Those are the obvious ones, but should not any student act that has been learned through the student’s experience and is observable by someone else be included? This would include quizzes like those created at Quia, tests one can create with a tool like Surveymonkey, or recitations like those recorded on Podomatic. 
Those types of learnings are best explained by behaviorism in the digital age and are those that can be tested with one correct answer which is observable. In this way, learning is extrinsic and measurable.

Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc

Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM. Retrieved from

Photo courtesy of jurvetson covered under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license and available at

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This is a reposting from a course taken during my doctoral journey at Walden. I now run at the end of that path............


Richard said...


I really like your comment about how a symphony comes together.

Most times the various parts learn their part separately and then come together. The ability to collaborate creates a great product by the sum of its parts.

but many times the parts do not sound good at all until they come together.

As teachers or conductors we have to motivate our students to understand that although their part might not give them the result they expect, in the end they will be part of something great.

Kat said...


Do you think that schools should focus on teaching things that only have one good answer?

I think that is the flaw in behaviorism in schools today...we put so much pressure on the answer that kids aren't really thinking. I am big into no right or wrong, just better choices and encouraging mistakes...Skinner would not be proud of me, I know.

Durff said...

@Kat Teach things that only have one answer? Is that what I'm supposed to do? Well someone better fire me! Just today, class brainstormed eight ways to get assignment to me (and publish too) and the assignment involves designing a planet named Betelgoose. Skinner would hate me!

Durff said...

@Richard You are so right! Students today heard the symphony in which they played a small part. The flatclassroomproject 10-3a & 10-3b had the awards ceremony. My middle schoolers were peer reviewers.