In this paper, we will describe classical and operant conditioning theories and its uses in an educational or work setting. It will begin with differences between classical and operant conditioning, followed by specific examples and applications for each developmental level (infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, or early childhood). A discussion on the use of rewards from a philosophical and practical viewpoint will follow with different developmental and learning theories that can be applied in an educational or work setting. Finally, a brief summary of definitions and terms of the theory, discussing specific examples, benefits, and challenges while implementing this theory.
Classical and Operant Conditioning
According to Pavlov, “learning begins with a stimulus-response which is classical conditioning” (p.47). Learning should reflect a change in behavior. The stimulus and response noted within the working setting may not see a change in behavior. The classical conditionings in the work setting include:
A customer service representative in a call center receives call quality scores via e-mail. The customer representative experiences anxiety each time the score(s) are given.
The departmental potlucks create an atmosphere of food and fun. The departmental service level suffers because the customer service representatives are not adhering to scheduled breaks and lunches.
The emergency room receives the charts daily. As the end of the calendar month approaches overtime is required to complete all work received.
In operant conditioning, learning occurs because of rewards and punishment. Rice indicated, “Satisfying consequences bring about changes in behavior” (2001). Operant conditioning is often used in the educational or work setting.
His or Her father gives them a credit card at the end of their first year in college because they did so well. As a result, their grades continue to get better in their second year.
A professor has a policy of exempting students from the final exam if they maintain perfect attendance during the quarter. The professors’ policy showed a dramatic increase in his student’s attendance.
Customer service representatives strive daily to meet the quarterly incentive. The adherences to break and lunch schedules are enforced.
Examples of operant and classical conditioning are prevalent in the everyday lives of many and are seen in the educational environment. An example of operant conditioning during the infancy stage occurs when a caregiver is effective in comforting a crying infant, the infant stops crying. The removal of the unpleasant crying reinforces the caregivers comforting technique. The caregiver is apt to apply the same method of comforting the next time he cries. As an example of classical conditioning during the infancy stage occurs when a baby bottle is inserted in the infant’s mouth. This brings out a reflexive unlearned response of sucking. The infant can develop a conditioned to the baby bottle; the sucking occurs as soon as the infant sees a baby bottle.
The following will provide examples of operant conditioning and classical conditioning during the early childhood stage in an educational environment. As an example of operant conditioning during the early childhood stage, when a student raises his or her hand and waits to be called on to receive something good as a reward. The rewards come in many forms for example a reward is the student receiving a praise or a piece of candy for his or her good behavior. Another example of classical conditioning during the early childhood stage is, when a student calls a classmate an inappropriate name. The teacher may call the student with the inappropriate behavior aside and reprimand him or her. The teacher would have that student take a time out or write sentences as of why he or she should not perform the action of calling the other student inappropriate names (Tuckman, 2010).
The following will provide examples of operant conditioning and classical conditioning during the middle childhood stage in an educational environment. As an example of classical conditioning during the middle childhood stage, when a student who seldom associates with other students is encouraged to associate with others, is given praise by the teacher. As an example of classical conditioning during the middle childhood stage, a student has a fear of test taking. In the past, the student has always performed poorly when taking a test. The teacher is aware the student knows the material. The teacher could work with the student by giving him or her series of tests the student could pass. The teacher would provide positive feedback to the student to reinforce the good grade. The student would associate the test taking with positive feedback, and then the student would no longer have a fear of taking test.
The following will provide examples of operant conditioning and classical conditioning during the adolescence stage in an educational environment. As an example of operant conditioning during the adolescence stage, when an above average child is receiving an average grade a parent could use monetary rewards if he or she receives A’s in school however, if the child receives an undesirable grade, the child would pay the parent as a means of punishment. During the adolescence stage, students enjoy working in groups on assignments and projects. As an example of classical conditioning during the adolescence stage, the teacher advises the students to work with the partner of choice if the class exhibits appropriate behaviors until that point in the lesson. If the class is not well behaved, the class does not get to work in groups. If the class exceeds the teachers’ expectations of appropriate behavior, the class is allowed to work in groups. The student’s behavior gives a definite response, which is a consistent reaction to the classes’ actions.
Over the year’s punishment and rewards have been used to control behavior. The concern is that money, high grades, and even praises may be effective in a person’s performance, but performance and interest can only remain constant as long as the reward is continuous.
Rewards and punishments are ways of manipulating behavior. These two methods are used in our educational environment. These methods are saying to the child, if he or she does this, we will give him or her this, and if he or she does that, we will take away this. The question that arises is as teachers are we using these methods appropriately and is our children benefiting from the methods as a hold.
What is the purpose of punishment? The purpose of punishment is to decrease certain responses. There are two types of punishments. Punishment I represents an appearance of an unpleasant stimulus, and punishment II removes the unpleasant stimulus. Punishment can be effective by immediate reasoning, or infrequent reasoning.
The purpose of a reward is to let the student know that he or she has done an impressive job. The reward is used to increase the student’s ability to perform better or do more because his or her performance is already at or above level. This reward can cause a student’s desire to fail in his or her ability, and become disinterested because he or she has already reached his or her level of attainment. The purpose of reinforces is to increase desired responses and behaviors. We use these reinforces to receive a positive or negative response.
The focal point is not principally on rewards and punishment. It is to create an atmosphere that increases motivation.
There is no one perfect option in developing a strategy or theory of what would best to used in a classroom or workplace setting. The human mind has been studied for thousands of years, and there is not one study that can be reproduced exactly when it comes to human thinking. The classroom is set up based on the teacher’s experiences as well as educational knowledge. Starting with the learning focus model, the classroom is set up in the following way to enhance the learning environment. 1) Self- Regulated students are students who develop goals, monitor goals, practice met cognition, and use effective strategies. 2) Teacher Characteristics is expressed in personal teaching efficacy, modeling and enthusiasm, caring as well as a positive expectation of the students’ abilities. Promoting students’ motivation in the classroom involves instructional variables, instructional focus, personalization, involvement, and feedback.
In comparing Piaget with Vygotsky, Piaget saw interaction primarily as a mechanism for promoting assimilation and accommodation in individuals. Whereas, Vygotsky developed his ideas based on learning and development, which arises directly from social interactions, which means individuals’ cognitive developments are a direct result of interactions with other people. “The role of language is central to Vygotsky’s theory, and it plays three different roles in development” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2007, p.46). The first role is giving learners access to knowledge. Second, language providing the learners with cognitive tools that allows humans to think about their surroundings and resolve problems. The third role that language plays is helping the learner with regulation and reflection of his or her own thinking. According to Vygotsky, “learning occurs when people acquire specific understanding,” Thomas, 32(3), 656). In reviewing the research of the three different theories of motivation–behavioral theories humanistic theories and cognitive theories–the researcher has to study the development of the humanistic views of Charles Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Looking at Maslow’s two-step processes, the first step is Deficiency needs, which includes survival, safety, belonging, and self-esteem. The second step, Growth needs, includes intellectual achievements, anesthetic appreciation, and self-actualization (Eggen & Kauchak, 2007, p.303). This researcher believes that if the work environment or the classroom environment could combine Piaget, Vygotsky and Maslow’s theories in to one basic idea, one would have the closest thing to a perfect understanding of human physical and cognitive development.