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IST 524: Mini-Report Week #: 2 Team Name: Team 2

Recorder: Barraza Coordinator: Barraza, Ross
Elaborator: Ross, Gill Explorer A: Farooq Explorer B: Ahmed

Education Week Op-Ed(ucation): Moving Beyond Behaviorism

Behaviorism is one of three learning theories providing psychological roots to the instructional
design profession. (Driscoll, 2017, p. 52) Behaviorism is a lasting change in observable behavior that
occurs as a result of experience. (Week_2_Part_1 PPT) Cognitivism and constructivism are the other
two theories. Although these three differ in their perspectives, each one aims to produce learning
through instruction. (Gagne, 1995/1996, p. 17) As a fundamental and foundational theory,
Behaviorism provides only a partial account of human behavior.

B. F. Skinner devoted his life and career to the study of learning with emphasis on behavior. He
believed that, “learning can be understood, explained, and predicted entirely on the basis of
observable events“. (Skinner, 1938, 1969, 1987) The behaviors were observed before and after and
the intervention to determine if the implemented instruction produced performance changes.
Skinner’s work has contributed to reinforcement, feedback, behavior modification and behavioral
objectives concepts that have significantly impacted the field of instructional design.

Although behaviorism was the primary perspective in the first part of the twentieth century,
alternative psychological models were emerging to explain human learning. Cognitivism began to
challenge behaviorism after World War II and focused on “thoughts” and “ideas” as serious
psychological phenomenon. Chomsky (1959) “suggested that behavior concepts could not explain
the generalities of language.” Advances in linguistics, information theory and the growth of
computer use also contributed to migration away from pure behaviorism.

Behaviorism accepts the existence of cognition and emotions, but argues (a) ‘inner state’ has no
role to play in how humans and animals learn and (b) only observable behavior can be scientifically
and objectively measured. To a behaviorist, what happens inside the mind of an organism is
irrelevant to the learning process or has no effect on it. The model depicts this process as a “black
box”. Its traditional, relative indifference towards neuroscience and deference to environmental
contingencies is rejected by neuroscientists sure that direct study of the brain is the only way to
understand the truly proximate causes of behavior. For example, self-assessment and self-direction
of learning, or metacognition—an ability to think about and regulate one’s own thinking (Israel,
2005)—can be difficult for students to achieve, but is an important goal for constructivist learning,
as it gradually frees learners from dependence on expert teachers to guide their learning.
Behaviorism research has provided valuable insight to better understand a portion of human
learning from a psychological perspective; however, it does not provide all the necessary
components to completely describe the learning process. New learning theories, instructional
theories and technology have produced improved models that more appropriately reflect the
instructional design process, as illustrated in the following quote: “A robust psychological
foundation linked to a rich instructional base provides a strong means to tailor instructional
solutions to the specific conditions of a given learning situation.” (Tennyson & Breuer, 1993, p. 124)

Exploring Behaviorism as an introductory learning theory has its merits, but educators must move
beyond its tenets to understand human learning in a more holistic, comprehensive way with other
theories and models of learning and instruction.