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This short thought paper considers the ways in which

a behaviourist approach to classroom management
can work within a constructivist classroom to create
an environment conducive to learning.

Susan Beeley
ETEC 512: Application of Learning Theories to

Thought Paper #1
ETEC 512: Thought Paper #1

With increased focus on constructivism in education recently, theories that have been traditionally

favoured, such as behaviourism, run the risk of being compared and determined to fall short in terms of their

usefulness in education. While behaviourism is most useful setting the tone of the learning environment through

modifying behaviour, constructivism is more about how learning occurs. Rather than being seen as mutually

exclusive perhaps the two can be married in order to produce optimal results.

Baviskar, Hartle and Whitney (2009) suggests that the essential characteristics of a constructivist lesson are

that prior learning is elicited, cognitive dissonance is created, knowledge is applied with structuring feedback from

the teacher, and reflection on learning is key. While engagement in individualised learning experiences is seen as

the primary method of classroom management in a constructivist classroom, the increased movement and

freedom in the classroom may still favour certain behaviours being adhered to by all.

The use of reinforcement or even punishment with natural consequences based on the behaviourist

approach is a useful way of establishing acceptable classroom behaviours that allow learning to occur. This could

be seen as a required prerequisite in a bustling constructivist classroom. In fact, in Whites (2010) Classroom

Observation video clip there were clearly elements of both behaviourism being used to set the tone in the

classroom and constructivist practice. Comments such as I could not be more proud, snaps for yourselves,

and we are doing great things are all examples of positive reinforcement. Further, collaboration, creation of

cognitive dissonance through questioning, teacher and peer feedback on work, target setting and journaling were

all evidenced to be used in a very constructivist manner.

Rather that feeling the need to select one theory to apply to teaching, perhaps teaching and learning

would do well if we recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the various theories and use them in combination

ensure the best quality education possible.


Baviskar, S.N., Hartle, R.T. & Whitney, T. (2009). Essential criteria to characterize constructivist teaching: Derived

from a review of the literature and applied to five constructivist-teaching method articles. International

Journal of Science Education, 31(4), 541-550.

White, E. (2010, March 24). Classroom Observation: English II [Video File]. Retrieved from