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Behaviorism vs. Cognitivism. And their impact on education. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner 1904 - 1990. American psychologist and behaviorist. I nvented the operant conditioning chamber to support his belief that learning can be measured by an observable event. Radical behaviorism:

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behaviorism vs cognitivism


And their impact on education

behaviorist b f skinner 1904 1990
Behaviorist B.F. Skinner1904 - 1990

American psychologist and behaviorist.

Invented the operant conditioning chamber to support his belief that learning can be measured by an observable event.

Radical behaviorism:

Behavior is determined by:


Past and present environments the subject exists in.

Behavior is NOT a result of some introspective thought.

skinner s operant conditioning chamber
Skinner’s operant conditioning chamber

Skinner’s box is a tool used to measure the effects of training on animals. A stimulus like a light or sound is used to tell the animal when to perform an action. In this case, the rat pushes a lever. He learns from experience that pushing the lever at the wrong time gets him shocked, and pushing the lever when the stimulus is activated gets him a reward. In this case, the reward is food. Since you cannot ask a rat what he is thinking, behavior is the only way for an animal to demonstrate it has learned. This is the goal of behaviorists: they want to show that learning is measured by outward behavior or action.

impact of behaviorism on education
Impact of Behaviorism on Education

Behavioral approaches to teaching generally involve:

  • Dissecting a subject into smaller lesson units
  • Providing feedback and reinforcement regularly
  • Teaching "out of context." Behaviorists generally believe that students can be taught best when the focus is directly on the content to be taught. Behavioral instruction often takes the material out of the context in which it will be used.
  • Lectures, tutorials, drills, demonstrations, and other forms of teacher controlled teaching tend to dominate behavioral classrooms.
cognitivist jerome bruner 1915
Cognitivist Jerome Bruner(1915 - )

One of the originators of the cognitive psychology movement.

Coined the term scaffolding to represent the way that children build knowledge on top of skills they have already mastered.

Proposed three modes of developmental learning in children:



and symbolic

Bruner proposed that a spiral curriculum for learning is ideal, where each topic is revisited as more supporting knowledge, or scaffolding, can be built upon.

References - image of Skinner’s operant conditioning chamber