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1_Hooten - www.nationalforum.com - Dr. Kritsonis

1_Hooten - www.nationalforum.com - Dr. Kritsonis

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Published by: William Allan Kritsonis, PhD on Sep 10, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Mary Ann HootenFrank HammondsTroy University
Students often find it difficult to learn the basic principles of operant conditioning. Forexample, many students confuse negative reinforcement with punishment. For thisreason, several authors have evaluated the effectiveness of various methods of teachingsuch concepts as reinforcement, punishment, and extinction. For the current study, thefirst author created a video detailing how to teach a chicken to discriminate betweenplaying cards in such a way that this behavior could be incorporated into a card trick.This video was then evaluated in introductory psychology classes. The video resulted ingreater retention of the material covered than did lectures alone.
any instructors have likely encountered difficulty in gettingstudents to learn the distinctions between positivereinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment, as well as other basic termsassociated with operant conditioning. This is distressing since thedefinitions required in most introductory psychology classes are sosimple. Shields and Gredler (2003) found that participants did not perform well when attempting to answer questions regardingreinforcement and punishment. They observed that students wouldoften define negative reinforcement as punishing bad behavior. Theywere able to improve student performance in this area by utilizinginteractive demonstrations, providing written and verbal feedback for student responses, and by having students complete exercises.
Lukas, Marr, and Maple (1998) had students train animals at azoo. This probably improved the students’ understanding of thematerial. In addition, students reported enjoying the training and mostof the students spent more time training the animals than was required.While training at a zoo may not be practical in all cases, this highlightsthe usefulness in finding something the students enjoy.Best and Batsell (1998) demonstrated taste-aversion in aclassroom setting using 2 adult albino rats. The students enjoyed thesedemonstrations and rated them as valuable learning experiences.However, as the authors pointed out, many students do not have accessto live animal demonstrations of conditioning procedures.Another approach that has been used was to incorporate aservice-learning activity to help teach the principles of operantconditioning while assisting with a social cause. McDonald (2005)described how students trained dogs in animal shelters to becomemore adoptable, thus resulting in benefits for the students, shelter staff,the dogs themselves, and their potential new owners.While it can be very beneficial for students to have hands-onexperiences in animal training, this may not always be practical. Incases where it is difficult to get students to animal shelters or the zoo,an alternative approach might be to incorporate video of this type of training. According to Eskicioglu (2003), instructional techniques thatinvolve multimedia, such as video, can improve performance of lower achievers and increase interest in learning. Baggett (1987) found thatstudents performed better on an assembly task when presented with acombination of video instruction and practice than with practice alone.Based on these findings, the current study investigated theeffectiveness of a video created by the first author. This video wasdesigned to help students learn basic terms such as reinforcement, punishment, and shaping. The video shows a 4-month-old male DutchBantam chicken being trained to peck at a certain playing card, thequeen of hearts, and not to peck at other cards. This behavior was later 
Mary Ann Hooten & Frank Hammonds
incorporated into a card trick in which the chicken appears to knowwhich card a person has drawn from the deck. This video wasdesigned to be fun for the students and was intended to be a practicalsubstitute for a live in-class demonstration of conditioning. 
There were 126 participants in this study who were enrolled infour different sections of a General Psychology course. The sectionswere taught by three different faculty members. The study was conducted using a between-groups design,where two of the sections watched the video first and then listened to alecture on the principles of operant conditioning. The other two groupslistened to a lecture on this subject first and then watched the video. Two tests were given to each group to measure knowledge of operant conditioning and other information. One test was administeredafter watching the video and one after listening to the lecture. Thesetwo tests were identical in that they each contained the same 9 factualquestions related to operant conditioning and 2 questions related tostudent perceptions of teaching an animal a trick. The only difference between the two tests was that the test that was administered after thevideo also contained 3 questions that measured the student’s attitudesabout the video. Individual student scores on the test after the videowere compared to the scores on the test after the lecture.
A paired samples t-test was used to compare the scores fromthe test given after the lecture and the test given after the video.Results indicated that, regardless of condition, the mean score on thevideo test was higher than on the lecture test. The mean score of thevideo test was 71.38 and the mean score of the lecture test was 64.0.

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