Thursday, 20 February 2014

What useful predictions or implications Behaviourism makes

Web 3.0 and Learning/Education 3.0 are lurking on the horizon with a greater emphasis on creation, co-operation, connectivism, collaboration, interchangeable roles of learner/facilitator/coach/teacher, increased peer to peer influence and a world where technology is everywhere and affecting everyone. (Hendler in Dron 2012). The ‘flipped classroom’, gamification and virtual worlds for learning will perhaps become the norm. This might suggest the demise of Behaviourism as a relevant learning theory, yet research and the basic requirements of some of these innovations are likely to add to its credibility rather than its obsoletion.

Online games, can be viewed as opportunities for behavioural learning to take precedence, given that they require a number of lower level activities.  Gamers must learn basic rules in terms of the game, its objectives and skills involved in navigating through the game. Sometimes, there is a built in 'training' module where learners are given feedback by the computer to enhance their gaming skills and responses.  Wu et. al. (2012, p270) suggest that more complex virtual worlds require more complex cognitive and social skills.

The evolving flipped classroom, comprises a mixture of ‘external’ instruction often focusing on solitary activities together with ‘internal’ discussions, reflections and analysis. Behaviourism on the outside, Constructivism on the inside.

The growth of social networks as learning tools might be considered the empire of the Constructivists. Yet Conole and Oliver (2006, p219) suggest that even these digital tools may be 'perceived differently' by practitioners depending upon their learning theory preference: a forum might be perceived as an opportunity for collaboration, reflection or sharing; alternatively it might be a means to check learning and give feedback.

Mödritscher's comparative research, on higher educational online courses, noted that students’ confidence in achieving their outcomes utilising the Behaviourist approach was 25% higher than those following the Constructivist approach and  50+% higher than those following the Cognitive based course. This was supported by a significantly higher percentage pass rate by the Behaviourist taught students in their final exam. Their pass rates were 10% higher than the Constructivist students and almost 20% higher than the Cognitivists. Those that allocate the funding or create and promote government policies may be unwilling to change this Behaviourist status quo for fear of creating disillusionment, lowering standards and attainment or loosing public support.

Currently, there is a disparity between practitioners’ espoused adherence to a constructivist pedagogy and their dependance on “behaviourist motivators”. (Thorpe in Conole and Oliver, 2006, p34). A review of recently published works on educational psychology and teaching methods indicates that teachers do not recognize how learning is viewed or defined from a cognitive perspective (Yilmaz 2008b). This suggests that practitioners will need to increase their self-awareness regarding their own teaching practices, as well as recognising alternative learning theories, if they are to initiate fundamental changes in learning design.

Finally, Mödritscher recommends that “It is important to choose the appropriate e-learning strategy for implementing an online course”. Carlile and Jordan, (2005) along with Anderson and Tron (2012) argue that behaviourism might be better suited to the 'training' world rather than the academic world because training modules are normally linked to learning objectives and metrics that can be measured and skills that can be demonstrated.

“Behaviourism works best in the teaching and assessment of competencies, where you want to test and verify that the student or trainee does indeed possesses the requisite skills or competencies. “ (Carlile and Jordan, 2005)

Behaviourism is here to stay, despite the ongoing innovations in digital learning. Perhaps the real dramatic changes will centre on the perceptions of the practitioners along with a more considered and better informed approach to learning design.


Anderson, T. and Dron, J.(2012 ) Learning Technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy 
Athabasca University, Canada [Online] Available from:

Carlile, O. and Jordan, O. (2005) It works in practice but will it work in theory? The theoretical underpinnings of pedagogy [Online] Waterford Institute of Technology
Available from: (Accessed 18/02/2014)

Conole, G and Oliver, M. Contemporary Perspectives in E-learning Research, Taylor and Francis e-Library, 2006

Mödritscher, F.  (2006) e-Learning Theories in Practice: A Comparison of three Methods, Journal of Universal Science and Technology of Learning, [Online] Available from: (Accessed 17th February 2014)

Wu, W.H et al. (2012)   Investigating the learning-theory foundations of game-based learning: a meta-analysis, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning  28 , 265–279

Yilmaz, K (2011)The Cognitive Perspective on Learning: Its Theoretical Underpinnings and Implications for Classroom Practices The Clearing House, , 84: 204–212, Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Hi Linda

    Your conclusion made me think - very interesting