Saturday, May 15, 2010

Behaviorism in Practice

As I stated in my earlier posts, this blog was created for a course I'm taking towards my Master's Degree. As you can see, I haven't made a post in several months. I am a very reluctant writer (I teach math) but I do enjoy the informal nature of the blog. This informality will allow me to share some exciting news with those of you that happen upon my page; I was granted tenure this week!
So on to behaviorism. The principles behind behaviorism are pretty simple; reinforce positive behavior and punish undesireable behavior. To me, this means providing students with well defined, obtainable, yet challenging, goals, then giving them plenty of support and opportunities to be successful, and finally rewarding them with positive feedback and a good grade. Direct instruction, which I typically use in my classes, ties in well with the behaviorist theory and works especially well in learning and teaching math. Math is a skill that needs to be practiced. I need to keep close tabs on the work my students are doing in class to make sure they are doing the problems correctly. No student wants to complete 10 math problems and then be told they did every one wrong. Frequent, positive and encouraging feedback is necessary if I want my students to not just stay on task but to take risks and try problems that may be a bit of a challenge for them.

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