Assignment 1: Behaviorism and its Impact on Instructional Design Theory

Learning is gaining knowledge about the world through experiences and also encompasses intuitive knowledge. This is my own definition, but a psychologist would say that learning is a change in behavior that leads to a more adaptive behavior better suited to the environment. This also holds some truth, but is incomplete. A behavior does not have to be an outcome of learning. Learning is also gained intuitively within oneself. Whether is comes from heredity we don’t know but some people just know things despite not having the experiences before. Piaget said hat there are several stages of the development of the mind. Children are not ready to learn proportions at a certain age. Once past a certain stage the brain can process an understanding or learning of proportions. This is innate or intuitive knowledge that is determined by ones genetic makeup.
Before we understand how behaviorism has affected instructional design we have to know what instructional design and behaviorism are. Instructional design is the maximizing of the effectiveness and efficiency of instruction. This is done with the purpose if maximizing learning of the student as an outcome. Instructional design can use the metaphor of a car. A car designer can produce (in theory) a car that can be 99% efficient. If designs are done over and over again we can engineer a car that can come close to the theoretical 99%. This is the same with learning but instead of miles per gallon our outcome is learning. Perhaps this learning can be measured by testing. Behaviorism is a philosophy of psychology that stands on the assumption that all things that organisms do—think, feel, and act—can be studies via behavior. This philosophy can allow for the scientific study of human beings because while mental states are not observable, behavior is observable. Since behavior is something that can be seen, or observed then we can gain scientific knowledge about behavior. We can then make inferences about thoughts and emotions that have led us to the behaviors by analyzing patterns of behaviors. Certain stimulus can provoke a response. To study the cause and effect relationships between stimulus and response is the science of behaviorism.
Behaviorist approaches to instructional design can be rooted in World War II, when psychologist rated the learning of soldiers by task performance measures. Programmed instruction came out of behaviorist approaches and made reinforcement its main tool. Instruction using a behaviorist approach involves slowly shaping the behavior of the learner until the desired learned behavior is demonstrated. Cues are used in the beginning but it is hoped that the learner has learned to the new behavior even when no cues (help) are present. Mastery of objectives is demonstrated in a behaviorist approach by skills that have been learned. These skills for example can include memorizing words, measuring using a graduated cylinder, Or solving a word problem. Gropper states that task analysis is the process of figuring out what tasks demonstrate mastery of objectives that have been learned. This is an important step to complete before selecting what instructional strategies to use to get students to the end task.
In my opinion the behaviorist approach needs to be complimented with the cognitive approach even though it may seem like they are diametrically opposed to one another. Behaviorism does provide a scientific strategy to improve learning but it seems to disregard mental states. In fact, B.F. Skinner himself claimed that mental states do not exist. This view is extreme and unfortunately incomplete. This ridiculousness is a major flaw in the theory because it leaves the most important aspect of ourselves-the mind. This is why behaviorism has died down because cognitive psychology made more sense and is not inconsistent like behaviorism. We have seen great innovations with both models so why can’t we just use both? I think at least in the field of psychology the behaviorist and cognitive approaches have seemed to merge. In cognitive-behavioral therapy for example, both approaches work to help patients. Why can’t these two theories merge for instructional design? We need a theory developed that can merge these two theories together to produce a more holistic approach to make learning more efficient.

Works Cited

A behavioral approach to Instructional Prescription by George Grooper (1983)


Assignment 2: Cognitive Theory of Learning

Cognitive is a theory of learning that was a reaction to behaviorism. This reaction may have to do with Skinner’s extreme objectivist approach. He called the mind the “black box” and what happens in the black box was outside of scientific investigation because we cannot observe the mind. This approach has left scientists and teachers with a blank spot that needed to be filled. The Black box is not empty but should be studied to provide us with much information about the working of the mind. Behaviorism does provide valuable information but other theories for learning should be further explored to get a better holistic understanding of learning. Cognitive theory is based on schemata, short and long term memory and the information processing model. All of these ideas will be further explored in my paper. The cognitive theory heavily is based on the ideas of short and long term memory. In the ideal case we should want to have learning experiences that store more information in the long term storage rather than just short term. To accomplish this, learning must be meaningful and fit into preexisting knowledge schemata.
Learning under behaviorism is a change in behavior while learning under cognitive is a change in a schemata. Schemata needs to be explained in more detail. The tie to prior knowledge is important because this is how students relate to the new information contained in a lesson. All students come to a new lesson with the information that they bring with them through past learning experiences. This is logical and I am surprised that this common sense theory of learning has taken so long to be apparent. We have to understand student’s schemata and try to teach the new information by making it make sense to their existing schemata. To accomplish this we need to teach in a logical and structured way. We as teachers must also bring the new knowledge to them so they can relate to it better. The building bodies interactive module is an example of this because it first of all has students relate what they know about primates in the beginning. They are asked to put the puzzle pieces together and they are forced to think critically as if they where in the position of a paleontologist. This change in perspective helps them to relate to the new information in their existing schemata’s. When the puzzle pieces are put together correctly we were given instant feedback. This seems like a behaviorist approach to learning. The tutorial even had a little constructivism in it as well because the student is placed in the perspective of a paleontologist. This helps them relate to the information in a meaningful way. The information on the tutorial was logical and structured. This helps the new information get “assimilated” easier without any challenge to preexisting schemata. This is important because when information is not logical and coherent then students are more likely to resist placing the information in long term storage. If the schemata of the student does not allow the placement of the new information into preexisting schemata then it is simply thrown out. This means the information will not be used again and little if any learning has taken place.
As I have said before, short and long term memory plays an important role in knowledge acquisition. We as educators need to make sure that what we are teaching is not just being placed in short term memory only but goes deeper. Deeper learning can only occur if we tie to the schemata and most importantly make the processing of new information easily digested in chunks that can be comprehended. If this is done then more information can be given to the long tem memory for retrieval long after the material has been learned. We often as educator focus on the short term retention so that students will cram for a test. This is of course not lasting knowledge because the information is placed in short term and will be expunged when more information comes in and as time goes by.
Cognitive learning theory uses the metaphor that the mind is like a computer software program. The brain is like the hardware. Such concepts such as cognitive load sound a lot like we are talking about a computer. Our hardware and long term memory can only fit a certain amount of information that can be retained. If too many ideas are given to students at any given time then the information will not be recalled at a later time. We have to send input information in chunks that can be “processed” easily so that they can be recalled (output) at a later time. The chunks of information need to be reduced in size so they are more efficiently processed. The whole idea works and it is the processing parts that cognitive psychologist focus on more than any other thing.
Instructional design has been influenced by this theory in many ways. The goal of instructional technology- to provide the most efficient manner of instruction-was met in many ways via cognitivist approaches. Without knowledge of the inner working of the mind we would not see the depth of understanding that are students have today. Computer-based learning systems have been heavily influenced by cognitive learning theories of instructional design.

Assignment 3:

Assignment 4: