Behavioral Theories of Learning

Skinner’s terminology provides that positive reinforcers are any form of encouragement like rewards, awards and goals and positive reinforcement is the act itself of receiving the reward or achieving the goal (Skinner B. F. , 1969). The definitions of operant conditioning provide that negative reinforcement is a mode of behavioral theory that as a result of experiencing a negative condition, a particular behavior is enhanced, strengthened or emphasized. (http://www. mcli. dist. maricopa. edu/proj/nru/opcond. html, 1999).

A good example of positive reinforcement inside a classroom would be a teacher giving extra credits for students who would achieve a certain high average. How is this positive reinforcement? Students will become motivated to excel and give extra effort to achieve the award and in the process they get to learn more ultimately benefiting them in the end. A pre-school teacher giving candy to the brave little girl who will not cry and back out of her first day in school is also an instance of positive reinforcement.

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The school board giving an award or an additional benefit for the teacher of the month, this is another example of a positive reinforcement. Why is that? By promising to give a little extra something, the school encourages the teachers to improve their over-all teaching performance and by doing so, they are encouraging a little friendly competition among fellow educators. The learning curve is sure to climb the charts if all the teachers and students are motivated. How will that be achieved? It is simple.
The teachers will be inspired to think of innovative teaching methods that will be effective on students and in turn the students learn more. Some teachers are not as approachable as others that is the reason why students don’t ask questions even though they did not fully understand the subject matter, as a solution, they can make themselves available to students for consultation. As a result, the school’s educational framework benefits because of cooperation and communication. Everybody gets a special kind of something in the end.
The key word in positive reinforcement is benefit. One way or another, everyone receives something beneficial to himself and to others as well. An example of negative reinforcement inside the four corners of the classroom would be a teacher who warns students that if they fail the exam they would get an automatic failing grade. This is negative reinforcement because if a student wants to avoid getting a failing grade, he would study. His studying habits will be strengthened as a consequence of being threatened of getting a failing grade.
The application of negative reinforcement can be most usually seen in the fields of education and reform. The use of fines, imprisonment is one such example of the use of negative reinforcement to warn of the negative consequences of associating with social ills (Skinner,1953). Negative Reinforcement as compared to punishment strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided as a result of such behavior while the latter weakens a behavior because of the introduction of a negative condition as a result of the behavior (mcli. dist.
maricopa. edu, 1999). An example of punishment is when a student is caught cheating by his professor, the consequence would be detention or suspension. Another demeanor of a student which is very suitable for punishment is bribing a teacher in order for him to get an “A”. This offense should be dealt with seriously because it can affect the educational system not to mention the character and reputation of the school. Punishment endeavors to make the person realize the intensity of the offense that was committed and for him to reflect on his actions.
All these will be in vain if an important goal of punishment is not achieved, which goal is for the person not to repeat the same offense ever again. The application of these kinds of reinforcement depends upon the situation and the individual upon whom these will be enforced. Imagine expelling a student for being caught littering inside the school grounds. The use of these types of reinforcements would vary not only because of a particular scenario but the attitude and intent of the person involved would have to be taken into consideration as well. In positive and negative reinforcement, the responses and effects are unpredictable.
The effect would be of course either positive or negative as well. Positive outcome results when the desired response or behavior is achieved by using a certain kind of reinforcement, however, this desired outcome is not always achieved. For instance, in positive reinforcement, the aim is improvement and encouragement but the psyche of the person being motivated or encouraged does not depend on the positive reinforcer. For instance, no matter what benefit the teacher promises the student but the latter is not moved by it, there would be no positive result.
The results in negative reinforcement, the aim of which is education or reform, will not be accomplished when the expected reaction or behavior is not achieved. As in the example given above, when a teacher suspends or sends a student in detention for cheating but the latter does it again, negative outcome results. In the field of education, positive or negative enforcement or even punishment may be associated with each other not only because they are modes to elicit a certain response from a student but because of the result they so aspire.
The means may be different but the desired end to be achieved is the same; to maximize the learning potential and more importantly to mold the student’s behavior for the better. References Skinner B. F. , 1969, Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Retrieved 04/03/09 from http://www. freeonlineresearchpapers. com/ Macopa Center for Learning and Instruction Retrieved 04/03/09 from http://www. mcli. dist. maricopa. edu/proj/nru/opcond. html Skinner B. F. , 1953, Science and Human Behaviour, New York: Macmillan. Retrieved 04/03/09 from http://www. freeonlineresearchpapers. com/

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