Monday, March 11, 2013

Post 8: Comparing Approaches

Question: Consider your CSEL intervention case study. Are there tools from a behaviorist view for either encouraging productive behaviors or discouraging undesirable behaviors that you could apply to the case? What are they?

In a previous post, I discussed how I would handle "Lisa," a third-grade student in the case study who seems to be the catalyst for the problems in one of our learning groups. Some of the behaviorist tools we have discussed in class could also be of benefit in her case. I certainly would give immediate feedback as the class works in their learning groups -- praise for appropriate or correct behaviors and correction of mistakes for inappropriate responses within the group. (I am not speaking here of correct "answers" to the tasks, but how Lisa is responding appropriately or inappropriately to her group.)

We could also use a contingency contract, where both teacher and student agree on appropriate behaviors and the reinforcers that will accompany those behaviors. In Lisa's case, I would like for her to 1) respect the other group members by listening to them and not interrupting, and 2) contribute to the group's learning/work by making suggestions or acting on the group's solutions or strategies. The reinforcers could be a choice between: 10 minutes of computer time at the end of library period; extra material checkout privileges; extra reading time; or special open-access pass to the library. I would be interested to hear what Lisa's chosen reinforcers would be.

The Wikipedia entry for Behaviorism explains it well:
Within the Problem Based Learning (PBL) environment, students may be encouraged to engage with the learning process and their peers within the group by positive reinforcement from a skilled facilitator to increase positive actions of engagement, contributions and questioning. Negative behaviours, e.g., lack of engagement, negative contributions, could be minimized by the facilitator using negative reinforcement.
The difficulty in exclusively using a behaviorist approach in my class, however, is that I will not be in a typical general education classroom. Because visits to the media center are often infrequent, I may not have enough time with Lisa to truly make an impact using this approach. To reap it's full potential, it seems to me that I would need our interactions to be much more frequent.

Now, compare the interventions that you have identified above with what you think might work from a cognitive or constructivist viewpoint. How do they compare to behaviorist tools? What are the benefits of each theory, and what are the deficits? Which theory might play a larger role in how you determine classroom management?

A behaviorist perspective can be of great benefit in managing classroom behavior, but I think it is limited in it's concept of the mind as a "black box." True, the mind is not observable, except through measurable outcomes or responses. However, I am not sure that even human behavior fully expresses the complexity of the human mind. Perhaps even when learning has occurred, one's behavior may not reflect it. In this YouTube video comparing behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, the author states that a with behaviorism, instruction is given through repetition and reinforcement. A teacher can expect regular responses to this type of instruction.

Cognitivism, on the other hand, deals with the recall of stored information. Teachers get the learner's attention and help him make sense of new information so that it can be stored for later recall. It seems that this perspective deals less with [stimulus ---> response] outcomes, focusing less on behavior and more on memory and recall.

Likewise, constructivism also focuses on skills and knowledge. Knowledge, in this case, is interconnected and drawn from as needed, and added to when new information is presented. Constructivists believe that you build knowledge by doing and that teachers guide through the problem-solving process.

In the school library environment, I believe that students learn best by doing. Both teaching and assessing must take a very hands-on approach. When students come to the library independently, they are intrinsically motivated by their own curiosities and desires. Librarians often guide them in finding books they like to read or point them toward new sources on familiar topics. Likewise, we guide them through challenging research projects, where they are generally less intrinsically motivated. Still, the process is hands-on, and students learn by doing.

In this way, I would probably categorize myself as a constructivist, with a nod to the social cognitivists. We learn so much in the context of community, taking in information from watching others and imitating what they do, that I do not think we can discount the role that others play in our learning.

1 comment:

  1. I also talked about using a contingency contract with Lisa. I think this would be a great way for her to know what is expected of her. She will also be aware that if she does behave accordingly, there will be a reward.