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Behaviourism


Behaviourism diagramThe basis of the theory of behaviourism is that humans can be trained to produce certain behaviour in response to certain stimuli, and the more often the response is stimulated, the stronger is the training.

More advanced theories of behaviourism look at reinforcement as the focus rather than simple observable reflexes, and state that specific learning can be achieved with the right applications of negative and positive reinforcement (Skinner’s operant conditioning).

Behaviourism has had a bad reputation for a long time, because it's perceived as a low level approach to training and education, which simply relies on producing a behaviour without any consideration of the internal processes that produce the behaviour, just the external response. Many people see this as no more than the level of ‘education’ which we use with dogs, without any idea of free will and choice.

However, there's no denying that throughout our lives, we learn much of what we know from the stimulus-response model, especially as young children. Skinner noted that behaviorism is often is used by school teachers, who reward or punish student behaviours. (Funderstanding, 2002).

While not at such as low level as behaviourism, the premise underlying much authored elearning is based on the concept of rewarding correct answers.