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B.F. Skinner and Jean Piaget. By Melissa Ysasi. Introduction.

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  • B.F. Skinner and Jean Piaget are one of the most influential theorists in the history of Behaviorism and Cognitive theory. The importance of understanding how people learn and modifying behavior will continue to be used by teachers and parents around the world.
theorist b f skinner
Theorist B.F. Skinner
  • Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20,1904, in the small Pennsylvania town of Susquehanna. Burrhus was an active , outgoing boy who loved the outdoors, building things and actually liked school. Skinner received his B.A. in English. He wanted to write poetry and short stories, however it didn’t work out for him. He decided to go back to school at Harvard University. He got his masters in psychology in 1930 and his doctorate in 1931.
b f skinner
B.F. Skinner
  • In 1945, he became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University.
  • In 1948, he was invited to come to Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his life.
  • He was a very active man, doing research and guiding hundreds of doctoral candidates as well as writing many books.
  • He became one of the best psychology writers.
  • Skinner died August 18,1990 of leukemia after becoming the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud.
  • Reinforcement is the main element in Skinner’s stimulus response theory. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response. It could be a prize, verbal praise, or a good grade. This entire system is known as Operant Conditioning. Operant is the behavior before the reinforcer and when a particular stimulus response pattern is rewarded the individual is conditioned to respond.

A behavior followed by a reinforcer stimulus results in an

increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.


  • Skinner believed that the bad do bad because the bad is rewarded and the good do good because the good is rewarded. He also wrote that it was actually a matter of good luck or bad luck with who your parents, teachers, peers and other influences were because this is how an individual is shaped.
impact on teaching training
Impact on teaching/training

Operant Conditioning can be applied in behavior modification, classroom management, and programmed instruction. The Skinner theory is a huge contribution in behaviorism and can be applied in teaching settings around the country. According to Skinners theory, behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur in individuals. Positive reinforcement also produces motivation in learners and allows the students to be successful. Skinner also believed that ultimately it is the issue of an individuals free will and self control.

applied theory in adult education
Applied theory in adult education
  • Operant Conditioning has been widely applied in programmed instruction and can be used in adult education. For example:
  • Practice should take the form of a question (stimulus) answer(response) which expose the student to the subject in gradual steps
  • Require that the learner make a response for every question and receive immediate feedback
  • Try to arrange the difficulty of the question so the response is correct and apply positive reinforcement
  • Ensure that that good performance in the lesson is paired with secondary reinforcers such as verbal praise and good grades which will give feeling of increased accomplishment and satisfaction.
jean piaget
Jean Piaget
  • Jean Piaget was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland on August 9,1896.
  • He published his first paper when he was ten on a sighting of an albino sparrow.
  • After high school , he went on to the University of Neuchatel and in 1918 and he received his doctorate in science.
  • In 1919 he taught psychology and philosophy.
  • In 1921, his first article on the Psychology of Intelligence was published in the Journal de Psychologie.
  • In 1929, he worked as the Director of the International Bureau of Education.
  • Received a number of honorary degrees
  • He died September 16, 1980, as one of the most significant psychologist.
cognitive theory
Cognitive Theory
  • There are two major aspects to his theory: the process of coming to know and the stages we move through gradually acquire this ability. Both of these processes are used throughout life as the person increasingly adapts to the environment in a more complex manner. Assimilation is the process of using the environment so it can be placed in the preexisting cognitive structure. Accommodation is the process of changing cognitive structure in order to accept something from the environment.
stages of cognitive development
Stages of Cognitive Development
  • Sensory motor stage(infancy) motor activity without the use of symbols
  • Pre-operational stage (toddler and early childhood) intelligence is demonstrated through the use of symbolism, memory, and imagination
  • Concrete operational stage(Elementary and early adolescence) intelligence is demonstrated through logic and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete objects.
  • Formal operational stage(adolescence and adulthood) in this stage intelligence is demonstrated through the logic use of symbols related to abstract concepts
impact on teaching training1
Impact on teaching /training
  • Many schools and programs are modeled on Piaget’s theory. Discovery learning and supporting the developing interests of the student are two primary instructional techniques. Piaget’s theory recommends that parents and teachers must challenge the child's ability. It is recommended and used by teachers who use a wide variety of concrete experiences to help the child learn such as working in groups to get experience from another’s perspective. Piagets theory has made an enormous contribution to how people learn.
applied theory in adult education1
Applied theory in adult education
  • The theory can be applied by giving students an opportunity to explore many hypothetical questions such as opportunities to discuss social issues. Encourage students to explain how they solve problems. Whenever possible, teach broad concepts, not just facts. While discussing a topic such as the Civil War, consider what other issues have divided the country since then. All these questions can increase learning in an adult education program.

B.F. Skinner and Jean Piaget are two of the most significant psychologists of the twentieth century. They have opened doors and served as a stepping stone to better understand the learning process and improve behaviors.


Skinner, B.F. (1953). Science and behavior. New York:Macmillan



Markle ,s. (1969). Good Frames and Bad (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.



The Psychology of Intellegence(1947, in English1950), retrieved in 1999