Alternate Teaching Models: Behavioral Models

picture-009.jpgBased on the work of Skinner, a large number of approaches to learning have been developed, each taking advantage of the learner’s ability to modify behavior in response to tasks and feedback. Essentially, stimulus and response. These models are used in a wide variety of applications, from teaching information to changing habits, decreasing phobias, and learning to control one’s own behavior. In genealogy education I see this as most applicable to the learning of definitions, for example. The teacher supplies a list of terms to be learned by rote, and tests them. As I understand it if I assigned a list of terms to be memorized like
dower right
heritable lease
feme sole
relic

Then tested their knowledge with a quiz wherein they match the terms with definitions. This would be a behavioral approach.

One of the important applications of behavioral systems theory is in the development of systems that enable learning tasks to be regulated according to the progress of the learners and which teach students to pace themselves for optimal performance. Programmed learning, in other words. When the learner selects the correct definition he is rewarded. when an incorrect choice is made, the learner is cycled through a different channel to re-approach the same question disguised. Or to put it another way, these behavioral modelled programmed learning activities organize material to be learned in small sequenced instructional modules that are presented to the students with assessments of learning embedded in them.

Some of these behaviorally-based teaching models include mastery learning, direct instruction, contingency management, and self-training through simulation. Frankly it takes a very skilled instructional designer to pull this off, and rarely is done even moderately well in genealogy instruction. This leads to research performance problems. Back when “book ’em Dano” was commonly uttered by youngsters in Hawaii, and I was a student at Brigham Young University Hawaii, my instructional design prof made me read, Analyzing Performance problems or “You Really Oughta Wanna” by Robert Mager and Peter Pipe (Pearon Publishers, 1970). This is a guide to fine tuning behaviorist approaches to learning that failed. Still an interesting read if you can find it.

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