Saturday, May 25, 2013

Behaviorist teaching instruments -- Most important idea for me in Mod 1

In Module 1, I of course resonated to the cognitivist theory-- it is after all the basis for most of our educational tradition! But I found myself weirdly intrigued by the idea of how behaviorism can guide some practices in certain types of online classes, like MOOCs.

Before I forget-- the text book starts with describing the behaviorist learning theory, and I started thinking about how different types of learning tools can be useful for different learning tasks. Specifically, I was remembering the quiz I took recently in another class, which was multiple choice, and automatically scored. I've created quizzes like that in my writing courses, and the purpose is to test the student's understanding of factual material-- no interpretation, really, no analysis, just the facts, ma'am.

The behaviorism comes in with the little "reward" after I click on the answer. Right away-- no delay for grading-- "Correct!" pops up. (Okay, I did get one question wrong, and there was a BUZZ! An ugly buzz. Clearly a "negative stimulus. I didn't want to hear that buzz again. I wanted to hear the happy "correct" chirp.) And as soon as I finished all the questions, I got the grade (passing, fortunately). It's the perfect learning tool for the era of instant gratification.

I found myself absurdly pleased with my grade. I realized that part of the instructions for the quiz helped prepare me for that result. The instructions told me that I could take the quiz as much as I needed, but as soon as I scored 80%, that would be a "pass" and I would move on to the next quiz, the next level. I was prepped to want at least an 80%, and I was so proud when I got better than that and got to "move on to the next level."

This is a way to engender a sense of competition when there's no one to compete with, when I'm alone with my laptop. As soon as I know what "pass" is, I feel fired up to do better than that. There is no rival here, but I get the pleasure of "winning" anyway.

Again, though, this type of behaviorist learning tool is appropriate for certain tasks-- learning facts-- and not others!


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