Sunday, November 11, 2012

Behaviorism in Practice

“Practice makes perfect” as the old idiom goes but as the psychologist Ericsson also presents, In the absence of adequate feedback, efficient learning is impossible and improvement only minimal even for highly motivated subjects. Hence mere repetition of an activity will not automatically lead to improvement in, especially, accuracy of performance” (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993, p. 367). In recent readings I have discovered two areas of instruction that can be directly linked and tied to both reinforcement of learning in the classroom and contributing to the learning itself. This would be in the area of reinforcing effort generally and more specifically with homework and practice.

When applied to homework Eriksson’s comment is especially true. For it to be affective and to reinforce student learning it must include well-developed tasks that engage the student on a number of levels both cognitively and behaviorally.  Dr. Pitler states in his writings in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, “homework is an extension of the classroom” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Melonoski, 2007, p. 187).  It is a place where reflection upon and shaping of the content should occur. To accomplish this without the undue effect of homework losing reinforcement value and be perceived as either punishment or becoming a meaningless rote drill the “role of expectancy and value components” (Trautwein, Ludtke, Schnyder, & Niggli, 2006, p. 16) should be taken into consideration in that students are clear on how they are expected to behave and are provided with the motivation to be successful . 

Dr Pitler and McREL speak also in a more general sense of addressing reinforcement of learning in the area of effort.  Where homework design and presentation is instructor-based, the notion of effort and success is within the control of the individual. Dr. Pitler and the authors state, “effort is the most important factor in achievement” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 155). Students taught that the relationship of effort and achievement are tightly meshed whether with homework or other areas of learning, and understand the importance of effort for success are viewed to be more likely to succeed (Trautwein et al., 2006, p. 19). 

How an effective instructor brings these two factors for reinforcement of content acquisition into play in this age of the 21st Learner, should vary in both, method and delivery. With the use of technology, an instructor can provide the means for motivating and reinforcing learning growth.  The use of spreadsheet software to create, rubrics, effort/ achievement Microsoft Excel charts that the student can access and record progress (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 160), and survey charts that provide visual clarification of how effort and achievement correlate.

The incorporation of technology into shaping skill mastery and adaptive learning can provide success in homework design with word processing applications, spreadsheet software, and the use of multimedia, and communication software such as Writeboard (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 208).  Means such as these can provide a student with a broader range of learning experiences that reinforce content acquisition and application, and provide motivation for success.  This provides the student with the “extension” to the classroom (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 187)  and reinforcement strategies that will lessen Eriksson’s concerns where “practice will make perfect".   


       Acquisition of Expert Performance [Scientific Article]. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363-406.

      Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works (pp. 187-201). Denver, Colorado: MCREL.

      Domain-Specific, Multilevel Homework Model [Scientific Article]. Journal of Educational
      Psychology, 98(2), 438-456.

1 comment:

  1. Jim,
    As a fellow art teacher do you find all of the information in the chapters we read from "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works" applicable in the art room? I am having trouble thinking of ways these resources could be used in my middle school classroom, especially when I have the students for only 30 days. I rarely if ever assign homework. I feel if I do give them homework my students would rush through it and it would be a waste of good paper. I see what they do with homework from other classes (normally they are doing it at the end of my class after they cleanup if they have time including cheating off each other). I would rather spend time reinforcing the desirable behaviors then giving them homework that at least 50% of the students would rush through. What are your thoughts?