Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoksi (2007) suggested that effort has a direct influence on student achievement and that reinforcing effort enhances students’ understanding of that relationship. Teachers must express to their students how important effort is and that the amount of effort that they put forth will ultimately affect their overall academic performance. It would help to have a matrix designed for students in order to examine what exactly constitutes effort.
One researcher, Edward L. Thorndike, stated that “responses were strengthened or weakened by the consequences of behavior” (Smith, 1999). Dr. Orley (Laureate, 2010) also stated that “reinforcement is more powerful than punishment.” According to the behaviorist learning theory, Dr. Orey (Laureate, 2010) recommended reinforcement of desirable behaviors. James Hartely noted that positive reinforcements should be used more than negative, as positive reinforcements serve as a motivator for success (Smith, 1999). Teachers can praise and reinforce quality effort from their students by giving appropriate feedback. Meanwhile, undesirable efforts should be punished, primarily in the area of attention as off task behaviors generally warrant punishment. Punishment for a lack of effort may also include point deductions based on missing homework assignments, or skipped answers.
Homework and practice is yet another instructional strategy that relates to the behaviorist theory. After students learn the concept, they now have the opportunity to apply their skills on their own. Pitler et al. (2007) explained, “Having students practice a skill or concept enhances their ability to reach the expected level of proficiency” (p. 188). They go on to say, “Multiple exposures to material help students deepen their understanding of content and become proficient with skills” (Pitler, et al., 2007, p. 188). Therefore, students’ skill level may be strengthened or weakened depending on the amount of practice, or homework. Meanwhile, teachers need to give feedback to the students fairly quickly as students tend to make careless errors at times while practicing a new concept. We do not want our students to continue making those errors, even if they are completing their homework and practicing daily. Therefore, it is important for teachers to reinforce practice and accuracy at the same time.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm