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Question: In a typical learning situation which of the 4 behaviourism theories is best
applied? (1000-1200 words)

According to the dictionary behaviourism theory is where human and animal

behaviour can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or
feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behaviour patterns.
This theory was first found and experimented by Ivan Pavlov in 1897 using a dog as a
subject called classical conditioning. He used dog food and bell as a stimulus to see the
dogs response like the dogs saliva. Afterward there was Watson who did an experiment
on Little Albert who was a 9 month infant. Watson wanted to see how the child would react
by using a furry animal and loud noise as stimulus. He wanted to see if he can put fear in
the infants mind, and Watson is the only one who used a human for his subject. Another 2
theorise are Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner whose theory are almost the same as
Skinner develop his Operant Conditioning using Thorndikes laws of learning or effect also
known as learning theory. Thorndike used a cat to prove his theory using a puzzle box
while Skinner used a mouse and recreated the puzzle box and called it Skinners box.
Skinner made some changes and recreated the law of effect to connect with his
reinforcement idea (McLeod, 2009). All 4 theories had the same goal which was to study
the behaviour of each subject in reaching the goal. After the study I think Skinners
Operant conditioning is best applied in classroom as it was created in order to study the
learning process itself, compare to other learning theory this focus on the development
and it has been applied most in classroom learning.

Firstly, from my research I found out that Operant Conditioning was contributed by
both Thorndike and Skinner. Thorndike used the cat as subject by putting it inside a
specially build puzzle box where the cat could get out by pulling a rope or stepping on
pedal. Through trial and error the cat eventually got out by accident after trying to get out
and escape to get to the food put outside. Through more trial and error the cat became
better and leaned to open the door immediately. According to his Law of effect, the
probability of an action being repeated is strengthened if followed by pleasant or satisfying
consequences. Skinner extended the theory to a more complex behaviour. Skinner
believed that we must see outside and not inside of the learner as any decision are not
conscious or intentional. He added positive reinforcement, positive punishment, negative
reinforcement and negative punishment which are used in different situation (Huffman,
2007, pp. 216-217). I do think that in a learning situation especially in classroom there is a
need to use the reinforcement and punishment to change behaviour of the students.
These give students an encouragement and also a goal for them to reach while doing a
certain task.

If to be compare, classical conditioning and operant conditioning are almost the

same. Both dont really have any stage and are nurtured not using nature. Classical
conditionings learning happens when neutral stimuli became so strongly associated with
natural stimuli that they elicit the same response. It teaches the body to adapt to
something they are not used to, but operant conditioning develops using the reinforcement
and punishment given to change the behaviour (Boyd, 2010, pp. 18-19). I think its better
to have both reinforcement and punishment as it gives more ways of controlling the
classroom. There is more than one type of students in one classroom, not everyone is the
same. Using classical conditioning there are only one stimuli and response but in operant
conditioning more can be used. Operant conditioning allows students to change according
to the reward and punishment that are given to them. Skinner's theory of operant
conditioning uses both positive and negative reinforcements to encourage good and
wanted behaviour whilst deterring bad and unwanted behaviour. Unlike operant
conditioning, classical conditioning cannot be suppressed by will power alone. Reactions
connected to classical conditioning are involuntary. It is possible to suppress behaviours,
but not the urges associated with them. Operant conditioning is better compared to
classical conditioning as young learner need examples in order to do something as their
cognitive skill are still developing.

Psychologists have observed that we every action has a consequence, and if this is
good, the person is more likely to do it again in the future. However, if the consequence
isn't so great, it is likely the individual will avoid doing it in a similar situation next time
round. It is through this process that we develop our behaviours and begin to understand
what is appropriate and useful, and what isn't. By building operant conditioning techniques
into lesson plans, it is easily possible to teach children useful skills - as well as good
behaviours. By using symbols like smiley faces, 'Good Work' stamps, stickers, and even
simple ticks when a child does something correctly, you are encouraging them to repeat
such satisfying work again further down the line (teAchnology). If they refuse or keep
making mistake teachers can take away the stamp or stickers given and returned when
they repent. It helps student be more obedient when they know they will get reward when
they do as said. For example from a series Big Bang Theory, there was a scene where the
main character Sheldon used operant conditioning to stop some who was annoying him by
giving he chocolate every time she did as said. The girl was not aware she was being told
to change as he always praise and reward her but she was happily changing
unconsciously (Cendrowski, 2007). Operant conditioning can be used anywhere and not
only in classroom. Still its very useful in learning new thing as it helps learner to accept
understand the topic without losing interest.

For my conclusion, operant conditioning can be vastly used anywhere, anytime and
to anyone. As I said it was created in order to study the learning process itself and if
compare to other learning theory this is the best. It is being applied in classroom worldwide
by teachers. This theory develop by Thorndike and Skinner focus their learning based on
consequences voluntarily as the subject are active and operant in the environment used
(Huffman, 2007, p. 225). Operant conditioning should be used more often as its not hard
to be applied and it show result in classroom teaching. Teacher should get used to giving
praise and also punishment to students according to their action. Operant conditioning can
be used to explain a wide variety of behaviours, from the process of learning, to addiction
and language acquisition. It also has practical application which can be applied in
classrooms, prisons and psychiatric hospitals.

(1124 words)


Boyd, H. b. (2010). The Developing Child. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.

Cendrowski, M. (Director). (2007). The Big Bang Theory [Motion Picture].

Huffman, K. (2007). Psychology In Action. United State of America: Hermitage Publishing

McLeod, S. (2009). Simply Psychology. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from Simply
Psychology Web Site:

teAchnology. (n.d.). teAchnology. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from teAchnology Web