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Behaviorist Approach in Education Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 6th, 2020

Behaviourists state that the observable student’s behaviour can be not only effectively measured but also modified to achieve the desired result. Changes in the environments and tasks, as well as the focus on reinforcers, can guarantee the student’s expected response in a form of the changed behaviour (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 44). This paper aims to demonstrate how this approach can be integrated into the educational setting to change the student’s behaviour.

Set Behavioral Goals

Rad is inclined to make inappropriate comments when other students participate in the discussion, and he does not demonstrate a willingness to answer the teacher’s questions. Rad tries to avoid being asked by a teacher, and he chooses to provide irrelevant comments to interrupt the studying process to make the teacher focus on his behaviour rather than answers. In this context, the observed behaviour seems to be the skill deficit because Rad often does not know how to answer the teacher’s questions and chooses to hide the lack of competence. The desired behaviour for Rad is associated with ceasing the disruptive behaviours and increasing participation in-class activities. Rad is expected to demonstrate the interest in the lesson and provide answers to the teacher’s questions without making irrelevant comments. The student is also expected to cooperate with students effectively.

The behavioural goals determined for Rad are the following ones:

  1. By the end of three months, Rad will listen attentively to the other students’ answers, being able to react to four out of five answers.
  2. By the end of four months, Rad will participate in class discussions and answer the teacher’s questions while respectfully stating his opinion in three out of five cases.
  3. By the end of three months, Rad will increase his cooperation with students while interacting in groups by 30%.

Determined Appropriate Reinforcers

Reinforcers are events or objects that are used by teachers to strengthen the desired behaviour. In this context, positive reinforcement is associated with using phrases, objects, or situations that are pleasant for students, and negative reinforcement is associated with removing unpleasant objects or consequences for students (Athens & Vollmer, 2010, p. 570). In the case of Rad, it is necessary to select reinforcers depending on the expected behaviours and set behavioural goals.

To help Rad to become an attentive listener who reacts to the students’ words without interrupting them, it is necessary to refer to adding points to Rad’s answer for mentioning specific details from the other students’ answers. As a result, Rad will have the opportunity to receive additional points while listening attentively to their classmates. This reinforcer is effective because it is associated with the second reinforcer that influences Rad’s participation in discussions. Rad is expected to answer the teacher’s questions regularly, accurately, and respectfully, and a positive reinforcer is the extension of the free time in the class in 3 minutes for each correct answer provided appropriately. This reinforcer helps the Instructor control the work-and-rest balance concerning Rad’s learning.

The other reinforcer is associated to improve Rad’s cooperation with classmates. Successes in the group’s work will be rewarded with the opportunity to choose the place for the group and rest activities as well as background music and visual aids. This reinforcer is important to make the environment comfortable for Rad to involve him in group activities for successful cooperation.

Selected Procedures for Changing Behavior

To achieve the desired behaviour, the Instructor focused on four main procedures to be implemented in case of Rad. First, it was necessary to demonstrate a specific model to explain how to listen to classmates’ answers, what aspects to note, how to react to their answers, and why such a behavioural model is beneficial for Rad. The model was selected to address the first behavioural goal. Second, to increase Rad’s motivation and address the lack of skills’ development, it was necessary to provide the support and consultation on the lesson activities at the end of the day and encourage the boy to prepare for the next lesson. Third, it was important to make the environment appropriate for cooperation and positive communication, and changes were made in the class to make it more attractive for group activities and interaction with classmates. Finally, more group activities in the form of the game were initiated by the Instructor to increase motivation, reduce stress levels, and improve collaboration.

Implemented Procedures and Recorded Results

The determined procedures were implemented simultaneously for four months. Rad has demonstrated a model of reacting to the classmates’ answers during discussions and informed about possibilities to add points to his answers if he was attentive. Rad stopped making irrelevant comments and focused on the students’ words. Rad was also provided with regular consultations regarding the home and class assignments to increase his confidence and motivation. If Rad participated in discussions and answered questions correctly during the lesson following the consultation, he had additional free time to spend it on playing computer games, walking in the garden, or listening to music. When group activities were planned, Rad was asked about his preferences regarding the setting and used aids. If Rad was working hard during the group activities, his notes were taken into account for planning the next group sessions. Rad demonstrated the willingness to participate in activities having the element of the game. If Rad rejected to cooperate with classmates or interrupted them, his free time was reduced in 3 minutes for each warning as punishment.

Changes in Rad’s behaviours were fixed with the help of Frequency Count to observe possible modifications in Rad’s listening activities; with Checklists to note Rad’s behaviours during the discussion sessions and state his answers, and with Anecdotal Record to note Rad’s behaviours during the group activities. It was found that the number of student’s irrelevant comments decreased by 40%, and he reacted to four out of five statements. The reaction of Rad to the teacher’s notices and questions improved, and he answered three out of five questions correctly and in an appropriate manner. Following Anecdotal Records, the cooperation improved in more than 45% because of the nature of group activities (game).

Evaluation and Revision

The effectiveness of behavioural changes in Rad was assessed with references to the comparison of actual results fixed with records and checklists and expected results. The evaluation indicated that Rad demonstrated changes in the behaviour within the determined period. However, the positive results regarding the changes in cooperative behaviour were mostly associated with the nature of game activities attractive for students. As a result, revisions are necessary to propose the additional strategies that will work to improve cooperation while focusing more on the nature of the interaction between classmates (Bloom, Iwata, Fritz, Roscoe, & Carreau, 2011, p. 20). Although the desired behaviour was achieved and Rad became more attentive and active at the lessons, it was possible to develop more reinforcers for Rad to guarantee flexibility for the Instructor while implementing procedures.


The combination of effective reinforcers and procedures to change the student’s behaviour should be determined with references to the desired behaviour, observable behaviour, and set goals. As a result of these activities, positive outcomes can be expected.


Athens, E. S., & Vollmer, T. R. (2010). An investigation of differential reinforcement of alternative behavior without extinction. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(4), 569-589.

Bloom, S., Iwata, B., Fritz, J., Roscoe, E., & Carreau, A. (2011). Classroom application of a trial-based functional analysis. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 44(1), 19-31.

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43–71.

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