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Range of behaviours in the classroom typically displayed by this age group

Discuss about the Operant Theory Application In Class.

Operant conditioning is a learning process in which behaviour is controlled by consequences. The process uses four key concepts, which are positive and negative reinforcement, as well as positive and negative punishment. Through these, a teacher can be able to create the conditions conducive for learning. At the same time, the teacher is able to identify the conditions under which the students will be most responsive to the learning process (Henton & Iversen, 2012).

Operant conditioning involves three concepts – punishers, reinforcers and neutral operants. Regardless of their absence or presence, the subject does not alter their behaviour. Reinforcers are referred to as responses from the environment which increases the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated. Reinforcers can be negative or positive. On the other hand, punishers are those responses whose occurrence decreases the probability of a behaviour recurring. Punishers are meant to weaken the specific behaviour being targeted.

Positive reinforcement means that positive behaviour is rewarded with something positive. For instance, a teacher may try to compliment students who give the right answers in class by asking other to clap for them or complimenting them. The teacher may also organize kinds of presents for student behaviour that could be encouraged, such as participation, punctuality among others. Negative reinforcement on the other hand means that negative behaviour attracts a derivation of something desirable. For instance, students can be asked to hand in their assignment early, to avoid receiving a Fail grade in their coursework. Similarly, the teacher may consider not using long hours to cover coursework if students pass a special test which gauges their understanding of coursework (Coon & Mitterer, 2010).

Positive punishment decreases behaviour. A student who has misbehaves may be punished by being placed in detention after class. At the same time, students who do not study for their class work receive a bad grade, which means that they spend more time than others in covering work done, and improving their grasp of the subject. Negative punishment works to remove something pleasant in addition to working to decrease target behaviour. For going to school late, a student may be deprived of their break-time. They may also be required to stay on after school to make up for lost time, but also as a form of punishment. Students who misbehave in class may be punished by having their positions in trips being close to them (Ernst, Daniele & Frantz, 2011). 

Application of Operant Conditioning

In this age group, the students are increasingly independent. They are yearning for independence. This means that they may sometimes not always respond positively to figures of authority in their lives, including their teachers and parents. The said behaviour is experienced by Jane. She faces students who are unresponsive in class. They have a pronounced apathy towards learning, clearly preferring to be in other places instead. The said students are usually bound to avoid answering questions in front of their peers. This is mainly due to their need for acceptance from their peers. They want to appear as though they are part of the group. As a show of resistance to authority, the class may have subconsciously become defiant to the teacher. As such, giving any quarter such as participating in class discussions or completing assigned homework will be felt by the individual students as a betrayal of their peers (Law, Siu & Shek, 2012).

At this stage, students are becoming more knowledgeable about the world they live in. They want to be accorded respect, and treated as adults. They are on the throes of adolescence, where profound behavioural and physical changes will occur. They are therefore in many ways confused about how they should respond to situations which were in many cases easy to resolve and be decisive about. The teacher therefore needs to understand the background of the students, so that they can better respond to them, and fulfil their needs as far as school is concerned, while being important figures in their new journey to adulthood through adolescence (Guerra & Silva, 2010).

According to Skinner, the theorist behind operant conditioning, education should be done in a way which makes it enjoyable even as it tries to pass on a message. For instance, the student needs to participate in class work if they are to have any form of enjoyment in the class, or even to properly learn. To do this, the teacher must apply a set of incentives in order to increase classroom participation, and pique the interest of the students in the coursework (Fryling, Johnston & Hayes, 2011).

To encourage students to be more responsive in class, the teacher should encourage them using positive reinforcement. For instance, answering the question properly in class should be congratulated by the teacher in front of their peers. This will make the student feel more confident, and improve his relationship with the teacher. At the same time, the students will have learnt about the kind of behaviour that the teacher expects from them in future.  The teacher should also make participation a key part of the students’ grades. Group assignments during class time should be set regularly. The level of participation in these assignments should be assessed, with the teachers knowing full well that their participation will be important in determining their final grade in the course (Hewage, 2007).

The strengths and weakness of Operant Conditioning

Negative reinforcement can also be used to help students meet the expectations of the teacher. For instance, students who do not complete their assignments on time understand that this will have a bearing on their final exam. The more assignments they fail to deliver on time, the less their scores will be. This will be communicated to other interested parties such as the children’s parents. With such collaboration in place, it should be possible to push the students to become keener to complete their assignments (Lineros & Hinojosa, 2012).

Students should also be subject to negative reinforcement to encourage them to participate in the above described group assignments carried out during class time. The groups should be required to show the participation of each student. They should be required to complete the assignment and present it within class time, with each member of the group being required to play an active role in this. Failure to do so should be met with negative reinforcement. Those who do not finish on time should not go for normal breaks until they are done. Students who fail to participate properly in discussions should be made to understand that their lack of participation negatively affects the final score at the end of the term (Lineros & Hinojosa, 2012).

Operant conditioning also involves positive punishment. This should be done especially in the ability to complete homework and assignments. After class, those unable to complete their homework for the previous meeting should be required to sit in class and do the work before they are released. This will discourage them from repeating the issue in future, as they will have lost time they could have been using to play. The teacher needs to understand that students will often fail to do homework. They may detest the time they have to spend doing it, under minimum supervision, while they could instead by playing with their peers (Lineros & Hinojosa, 2012).  

The operant theory has several advantages over other theories in bringing about the desired behaviour above. Among these advantages is its focus on motivation. Skinner believed in modelling behaviour so that the individual could know what is acceptable to the teacher. The reinforcement is also expected to outlast the engagement with the teacher and even the curse. The operant behaviour also serves to teach the student about the realty. This is in relation to the fact that positive action leads to positive results, and vice versa (Byiers et al, 2014).  

The theory is easy to administer. For instance, the inability to complete the desired coursework leads to a low grade at the end of the term. This is something which the teacher can administer easily, and something which the student can readily understand. At the same time, there are other variants. Of the students are not keen on answering questions in front of their peers, they can do so within groups in which they feel freer and more able o express themselves.

The theory also has weaknesses which may at times inhibit its ability to be effective. According to skinner, there can only be good or bad behaviour. There is nothing in between. The reality is markedly different. This mean that the teacher may be unable to respond to situations in which student behaviour is neither good nor bad using operant theory (Sullivan, 2014).

Positive and negative reinforcement may not always work to bring about the required behaviour.  For instance, congratulating students in front of their peers may not be enough to improve the level of participation from the students. In other times when the reinforcement can no longer be given out, it becomes impossible for the student to continue the behaviour. For instance, if something makes it impossible to attach class discussions to the final score, students are less likely to continue with the behaviour in question (Lattal & Lattal, 2012).


While Bandura’s social learning theory is able to make explanations about aggressive behaviour even in the presence of direct aggressive behaviour, Skinner’s theory is not able to do this. This is a major weakness since it cannot be used to address issues involving vicarious learning. Other theories also help explain differences between aggressive and non aggressive behaviour. The theoretical premise that people respond differently to situations because they feel reinforcement favours or punishes violence is not present in operant conditioning, further diluting its applicability in varied settings.
Operant Conditioning

The operant theory is a useful way of improving the issues which Jane faces in the class. She is unable to get feedback from her students. This means that she has not ability to suit her teaching to adapt to students’ needs. Teachers should be able to use the model so that they can enhance commitment and participation in the classroom. The theory is easy to apply to different circumstances, making it especially powerful as a tool for modifying student behaviour. It may have its disadvantages as well. It is too simplistic in some instances, making it more difficult to apply in issues which are not clear cut in nature. At the same time, the model may only have temporary effects on the subject. This makes it in many ways unsuitable for long term behaviour modification. However, this still means that the teacher will, under the present circumstances, still be able to modify the students’ behaviour to suit her desired criteria. It is therefore suitable for the task at hand ((Fryling, Johnston & Hayes, 2011).

References

Byiers, B., Dimian, A., McComas, J., Symons, F. (2014). Effects of Positive and Negative Reinforcement in a Concurrent Operants Arrangement on Compliance and Problem Behavior. Acta de Investigación Psicológica, 4(3), 1758-1772.

Coon, D., Mitterer, J. (2010). Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. Belmont: Cengage Learning.

Ernst, M., Daniele, T., & Frantz, K. (2011). New perspectives on adolescent motivated behavior: attention and conditioning. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 1(4), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2011.07.013

Fryling, M. J., Johnston, C., & Hayes, L. J. (2011). Understanding Observational Learning: An Interbehavioral Approach. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 27(1), 191–203.

Guerra, L., Silva, M. (2010). Learning processes and the neural analysis of conditioning. Psychology and Neuroscience, 3(2), DOI: 10.3922/j.psns.2010.2.009 .

Henton, W., Iversen, I. (2012). Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning: A Response Pattern Analysis. New York: Springer.

Hewage, C. (2007). Behaviour therapy for medical practice. Galle Medical Journal, 12(1), 45-48.

Lattal, K. M., & Lattal, K. A. (2012). Facets of Pavlovian and operant extinction. Behavioural Processes, 90(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2012.03.009.

Law, B., Siu, A., Shek, D. (2012). Recognition for Positive Behavior as a Critical Youth Development Construct: Conceptual Bases and Implications on Youth Service Development. The Scientific World Journal, 7 pages.

Lineros, J., Hinojosa, M. (2012). Theories of Learning and Student Development

. National Forum of Teacher Education Journal, 22(3), 1-5.

Sullivan, A. (2014). Punish Them or Engage Them? Teachers’ Views of Unproductive Student Behaviours in the Classroom. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(6), 43-56.

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