Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Behaviorist Approach to Teaching in Class: A Guide for Art Teachers

What is Behaviorism and how can it be Utilized in art schools?

Highly directed class for Behaviourism
Behaviorism is a tenet based on the idea, that behavior can be learned without involvement of the mind. But how can this principle be used in art education?

Behaviorism is a theory expounded by the psychologist B F Skinner, who argued that cause and effect is what controls behavior, not the mind or reasoning. The keyword to Behaviorism is “conditioning” or “training.” The story about Pavlov’s dogs illustrates this idea.

All About Pavlov’s Dogs

Pavlov noticed that his dogs salivated at feed time at the smell of food. He decided to explore this reaction and accompanied feed time with the ringing of a bell. This he did over a long period, which is what conditioning requires. One day, he rang the bell but did not bring food. The dogs continued to salivate. Through this, Pavlov learned that the dogs had made a mental association between the sound of the bell and the experience of food. The dogs had “learned” a response through conditioning to a particular stimulus, in this case, the bell.

Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

There are two sides to the Behaviorist Approach:
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning

Classical conditioning is simply about conditioning through a neutral stimulus. Nothing else is involved. An example of this is the sound of the bell in schools or and other educational institutions that encourages the automatic response of pupils to go to class.

Operant Conditioning means reinforcing a particular behavior through punishment or reward. An example of this is to give someone a treat if they behave or to berate bad behavior.

In both Operant and Classical conditioning, Behaviorism is all about behavior only, and not about the Cognitive thought processes of the higher brain. This can come in useful in a boisterous art class of young learners.

Basic Colour Mixing Exercise for Highly Directed Learning

Different Levels of Learning

Bloom’s Taxonomy illustrates the pyramid of learning. The lowest tier is simply to recall. This can be seen in young children who recite the colors of the rainbow. The pinnacle of Bloom’s Taxonomy is evaluation. This means being able to reflect upon the information and formulate a fresh view.

In the context of art education, the Behaviorist model for learning is teacher-directed, pedagogic and concrete. It is all about “do as I say.” This involves the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This might be applied to basic colour mixing or learning about vanishing points.

The more gifted learner who is at the top of the learning pyramid might not benefit from a Behaviorist-dominated lesson. Exploring art techniques is one example.

Appropriate use of Discipline in Art Lesson Plans

The behaviorist view in terms of teaching includes highly-structured lesson plans. Strategies include approaches such as lectures, demonstrations on mixing tones and directed instruction on applying varnish. This can help keep the class in order and encouraging desired behavior. This will preserve healthy teacher pupil boundaries. The Behaviorist approach to teaching is easy to evaluate, for it is structured, directed and concrete.

When the Behaviourist Approach is Appropriate Within Art Class

The Behaviorist approach might be best suited to a class of young or less able learners, for the objectives are clear and are easy to measure. This form of teaching might also be necessary for moving things along, keeping to deadlines such as exams, discouraging late-comers and people texting during art class (which I have experienced). The Behaviorist approach might also be appropriate for a class full of unruly teenagers, but a different approach might be needed if a pupil is at risk of becoming excluded.

Behaviour Management in Art Class

The Behaviorist approach is only one theory that can be applied to teaching and learning. More able students might become fidgety if too much Behaviourism is applied, the gifted student for instance. There are other approaches that can be used such as the Cognitivist or Humanist approach, but no lesson plan can work if it is completely Behavioural-free. A little discipline helps keep the lesson structured and moving along.

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