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Topic

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Behaviourist Developmental Theories

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to: Describe the behavioural views of learning; Apply Pavlovs theories in the teaching of science; Apply Thorndikes theories in the teaching of science; and Apply Skinners theories in the teaching of science.

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INTRODUCTION

Imagine there are two scenarios. In Scenario A, a teacher praises a student for his excellent science project. While in Scenario B, a teacher praises a student for giving a correct answer. What similarity can you see in both of these situations as illustrated in Figure 2.1?

Scenario A Figure 2.1: Two classroom scenarios

Scenario B

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The scenarios in Figure 2.1 show the application of the principles of behavioural approach to learning. Did you notice that there is an observable behaviour in both of these situations? In scenario A, the observable behaviour is a teacher praising a student for doing an excellent science project. Meanwhile, in scenario B, the observable behaviour is a teacher praising a student for giving a correct answer. There is also feedback from the teacher, such as, I am proud of you. Your science project was excellent! and Very good!. Do you know that these are the essential elements of behavioural approach to learning? The behaviourist theories emphasise the study of observable measurable behaviours in order to influence learning. In this topic, you will first be introduced to learning theories and behavioural views of learning. You will then learn about the contributions of three behaviourists namely Pavlov, Thorndike and Skinner. For each of these behavioural scientists, you will study their early experiments and the underlying principles in each of their theories. Finally, you will explore the applications of each of their theories in the teaching of science.

ACTIVITY 2.1
Observe a science lesson conducted by a teacher in your school. How does the teacher reinforce good behaviours of the students? Write down all the different feedback the teacher gives to the students. Do you think the feedback that the teacher gives can bring about change in the behaviour of the students? Discuss among your coursemates.

2.1

BEHAVIOURAL VIEWS OF LEARNING

First of all, let us have a look at what a learning theory is. A learning theory is a set of principles which aim to explain the process of learning.

Do you know why is it important for teachers to know about learning theories? It is because, learning theories help us to understand how pupils learn and why certain techniques encourage learning more than others. Learning theories can be divided into four main schools of thought as shown in Figure 2.2. In this topic,

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you will be learning about behavioural learning theories. Cognitive learning theories will be covered later in other topics.

Figure 2.2: Classification of learning theories

For your information, behavioural learning theories were the earliest theories of learning that were introduced. There are two main groups of behaviourist theories as can be seen in Figure 2.2: (a) (b) Classical conditioning theories Operant conditioning theories

Pavlov, Thorndike and Skinner are behavioural scientists who have made major contributions in the field of behavioural learning. Pavlovs theory is known as classical conditioning theory, while Thorndike and Skinners theories are known as operant conditioning theories. This behavioural approach emphasises observable behaviours that can be measured. Learning and behaviour are described in terms of stimulus and response relationships (S-R). You will be learning more about the relationship between stimulus and response as you read further. Behaviourists describe individuals as being conditioned by the environment. What does conditioning mean?

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Conditioning is a process of teaching, where the learner associates behaviour or the response with a stimulus (McInerney & McInerney, 2006).

Conditioning occurs through interactions with the environment while learning is said to have occurred when there is an observable change in behaviour.

SELF-CHECK 2.1
In your own words, describe the behavioural views of learning.

ACTIVITY 2.2
Behaviourism has its own set of specialised terms to describe the learning process. It is worthwhile to be familiar with these terms. Can you find the meaning of the following key behaviourist terms: (a) (b) (c) Stimulus; Response; and Conditioning?

2.2

PAVLOVS THEORY

Now, let us study Pavlovs classical conditioning theory and its application in the teaching of science. Have you heard of the famous experiment that is shown in Figure 2.3?

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Figure 2.3: Pavlovs experiment on classical conditioning Source: http://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html This experiment was carried out by the Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov (18491936), to find out if a dogs behaviour could be conditioned. His theory is known as classical conditioning.

2.2.1

Pavlov and Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is one of the first theories of behaviourism. Pavlov showed the simple relationship between a stimulus and a response in teaching (conditioning) an animal to modify its behaviour (McInerney & McInerney, 2006). In his experiment, Pavlov conditioned a dog to salivate to the sound of a bell by linking a neutral stimulus to an unconditioned stimulus. In order to better understand classical conditioning, let us look at the observations studied by Pavlov on his dog as illustrated in Figure 2.4.

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Figure 2.4: Schematic representation of classical conditioning Source: http://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html In reference to Figure 2.4, let us have a look at Table 2.1 for more information on each phase in classical conditioning. Table 2.1: Phases in Classical Conditioning
Phase Before conditioning (Figure 2.4 (1 and 2)) Description A dog salivates when presented with food. Pavlov called the food an unconditioned stimulus (UC) resulting in an unconditioned response (UR) (salivation). A neutral stimulus such as the ringing of a bell did not bring about any response. To condition the response behaviour, Pavlov rang a small bell at the same time as the meat was presented. He carried out many practice sessions where the bell and meat were presented together. The dog eventually learned to salivate when the bell was rung without the meat. The bell which originally had no meaning for the dog, took on meaning and became the conditioned stimulus (CS) because of repeated pairing or association with the food which then became the conditioned response (CR) that is salivation.

During conditioning (Figure 2.4 (3)) After conditioning (Figure 2.4 (4))

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This early research demonstrated that a stimulus that readily leads to a response can be paired with a neutral stimulus in order to bring about learning. This is the essence of classical conditioning. We sometimes learn new responses as a result of two stimuli being presented at the same time. As seen in Figure 2.4, it starts with two things that are already connected with each other, which are, food and salivation. Then, paired with a third thing, which is the bell with the conditioned stimulus, which is the food over several trials. Eventually, this third thing may become so strongly associated, that it has acquired the power to produce a new behaviour. The animal is conditioned to respond to the third thing or stimulus.

ACTIVITY 2.3
Classical conditioning is often used in advertisements. In groups, study advertisements on television or in print. Describe how classical conditioning is used to sell the product. Use the following terms in your description: unconditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, neutral stimulus, conditioned stimulus and conditioned response.

2.2.2

Common Processes in Classical Conditioning

Pavlovs work also identified three other processes in classical conditioning, as shown in Table 2.2. Table 2.2: Other Processes in Classical Conditioning
Other Processes Generalisation Description Pavlov used bells of different tones. The dog still salivated even though the tones of the bells were different. The dog responded even though the tones of the bells were different or nearly the same. The dog is capable of stimulus generalisation and is able to generalise across different tones. The dogs could also respond to one tone of the bell and not to others that were similar. Pavlov did this by making sure the food was only presented with only that one tone and not others. He called this stimulus discrimination. The dog is able to differentiate among different tones. Extinction occurs when a conditioned stimulus (bell) is presented repeatedly but is not followed by the unconditioned stimulus (food). The conditioned response (salivating) gradually fades away and disappears. Pavlov continued ringing the bell and not following with the food. The dog gradually did not salivate. Extinction had taken place.

Discrimination

Extinction

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ACTIVITY 2.4
In groups, discuss the situations in your science class where you can use the following processes to facilitate learning: (a) (b) (c) Generalisation; Discrimination; and Extinction.

2.2.3

Applications of Pavlovs Theory in the Teaching of Science

Pavlovs theory helps to explain why children behave the way they do in certain circumstances. Many childrens attitudes are learnt through classical conditioning. For example, some children learn to dislike science or mathematics, not because the subject is difficult but because the subject has been paired with fear producing stimuli such as strict teachers. Once you understand the process of classical conditioning, you will be able to understand the importance of creating a healthy classroom environment. For example, if you treat your students with warmth and care each time during their science lesson, the students will begin to associate the science class with a warm and caring teacher. Your warm and caring attitude are the unconditioned stimuli. The science class becomes the conditioned stimulus which the students have associated with the warmth of the teacher. The unconditioned response is the initial response to the teacher. The students develop a positive emotional response to science. This is the conditioned response and the whole process is illustrated in Figure 2.5.

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Figure 2.5: Process of classical conditioning Now, let us study the applications of Pavlovs classical conditioning theory in science classrooms. Think of how you can use them in your science lesson. Applying Pavlovs Classical Conditioning Theory in a Science Classroom 1. 2. Provide a safe and warm environment so that the science classroom will be associated with a positive emotion or attitude. Associate positive and pleasant events with learning tasks. For example, make science experiments fun by having a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in the science room or laboratory. Help students to risk anxiety-producing situations voluntarily and successfully. For example, pair an anxiety-provoking situation, such as performing in front of a group, with pleasant surroundings and a nonthreatening atmosphere. This helps the student learn new associations. Instead of feeling anxious and tense in these situations, the student will stay relaxed and calm. Help students recognise differences and similarities among situations, so they can discriminate and generalise appropriately. For example, assure students who are anxious about taking a major examination that this test is like all other tests that they have sat for. Use motivation to produce positive behaviour. Source: Woolfolk (2001)

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SELF-CHECK 2.2
1. 2. What are the main principles in Pavlovs theory? Discuss with examples how you can use Pavlovs theory to teach science.

2.3

THORNDIKES THEORY

Edward L. Thorndike (1874-1949) introduced a theory of learning called connectionism. His theory viewed learning as forming connections between a stimulus (S) and a response (R). He conducted experiments with various animals. He placed a hungry animal in a puzzle box and food outside the box. He then observed how it learnt to get out. He believed that learning occurred through trial and error. His classic experiment with a hungry cat is shown in Figure 2.6.

Figure 2.6: Thorndikes puzzle box Source: http://www.csus.edu/indiv/w/wickelgren/psyc001/ ClassLectureThreeOperant.html

The puzzle box as shown in Figure 2.6 had a lever which opened the door. After much trial and error, the cat learned to associate pressing the lever (stimulus) with opening the door (response). This S-R connection when established resulted in a satisfying state of affairs (escape from box). The same cat was placed in the box over and over again. Each time the cat was placed back in the box, it took a shorter time to get out. The cat had made connection between its behaviour and the reward. Thorndike concluded that cats

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learn faster if they are rewarded for their behaviour and that learning is incremental, that is, it occurred in small steps. Can you see any differences between Thorndikes theory and Pavlovs classical conditioning theory? Did you notice that the learner in classical conditioning is seen to be passive and responding to the environment? In the case of Pavlovs dog, it responded to the stimulus of food. Whereas the learner in Thorndikes theory is seen actively responding to the environment. The cat pressed the lever (response) to get to the food (stimulus). This means that the learner plays an active part in the changes of behaviour. The learner also operates on the environment by responding to the stimulus. This is known as operant conditioning. Thorndike established the basis for operant conditioning but the person thought to be responsible for developing the concept is Skinner. We will learn about Skinners theory later.

2.3.1

Thorndikes Laws

Based on his experiments, Thorndike proposed three laws as can be seen in Table 2.3.
Table 2.3: Thorndikes Laws Thorndikes Laws Law of Effect Description Law of effect is the most famous of his laws. Any act that produces a satisfying effect in a given situation will tend to be repeated in that situation. For example, if a response (e.g. answering a science question) is followed by a rewarding experience (e.g. student gets right answer and is praised by the teacher), the response will be strengthened and become a habit. The more frequent the S-R connection, the stronger it will be. For example, the connection between a stimulus (e.g. getting the right answer) and response (e.g. doing a science question) is strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued. Readiness to do an act is satisfying. Individuals learn best when they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready. If students are ready, they will make more progress in learning.

Law of Exercise

Law of Readiness

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2.3.2

Applications of Thorndikes Theory in the Teaching of Science

Thorndike stressed the importance of stimulus-response connections. So, the task of the teacher is to arrange the classroom and learning activities to enhance connections between a stimulus and a response. The following shows the various ways you can apply Thorndikes theory in a science classroom Applying Thorndikes Theory in a Science Classroom 1. Give rewards or reinforcement for positive behaviour. This will establish the stimulus-response connection. Use drill practices to associate between a stimulus and a response. This will strengthen the S-R connection. Use routines to help students practice desired behaviours until they become a habit. For example, give step-by step routines on how to write science reports. Get students ready to learn by creating interest in science with interesting demonstrations and activities. Make sure students basic needs are satisfied. If students are hungry, tired or troubled, they will have little interest in learning.

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SELF-CHECK 2.3
Discuss the implications of Thorndikes theories on the teaching and learning of science.

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ACTIVITY 2.5
For each of the ways of applying Thorndikes theory given before, suggest examples you can use in your science lessons. Carry out your suggestions in your science classes. Record your observations and conclusions.

2.4

SKINNERS THEORY

Have you ever tried to train your pet? How did you do it? Look at Figure 2.7 which shows trained animals performing.

Figure 2.7: Animals performing tricks Source: http://drsophiayin.com/resources/cattricks, http: http://www.insidethemagic.net/2011/04/highlights-one-ocean-makes-a-big-splash-atseaworld-orlando-debut-wetting-guests-with-shamu-size-fun/

The complex tricks performed by the cat and the dolphins shown in Figure 2.7 are the result of many hours of training. The training or conditioning that is carried out is based largely on the principles of behavioural learning theories. Of all the theories of behavioural learning, operant conditioning probably has the greatest impact on science teachers. (Hassard, 1992).

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As was mentioned earlier in this topic, Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) is responsible for formulating the operant conditioning theory. Like Pavlov and Thorndike, Skinner believed in the stimulus-response pattern of conditioned behaviour. Skinner thought that behaviour (R) is controlled by a stimulus (S) and he called it operant behaviour. Do you still remember what operant behaviours are? Yes. Operant behaviours are behaviours that operate on the environment to receive reinforcement. That is why Skinners theory is also known as operant conditioning.

2.4.1

Skinner and Operant Conditioning

Skinners early studies were on animals like rats and pigeons. He devised an apparatus called the Skinner box as shown in Figure 2.8.

Figure 2.8: Skinners box Source: http://www.appsychology.com/Book/Behavior/operant_conditioning.htm

A hungry rat was placed in this box. The box contained a small brass lever that, if pressed, delivered a pellet of food. Once it was left alone in the box, the rat moved about exploring. At some point in time, it pressed the lever and a small food pellet was released. The rat ate this and soon pressed the lever again. The food pellet reinforced pressing of the lever.

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Can you identify the stimulus and response in the example above? Yes, you are right. The stimulus is the food pellet and the response is the pressing of the lever. Which one occurred first the stimulus or the response? Yes, the response occurred first, that is, the rat carried out the response (pressing lever) to get the stimulus (food pellet). The rat operated on its environment. Can you see how the rat in Skinners box is different from Pavlovs dog? What happens if the rat is not given any more food pellet? Skinner disconnected the food dispenser. When the rat pressed the lever, no food was released. The rat pressed the lever less and less and finally stopped. That is, the operant response has undergone extinction with non-reinforcement just as in classical conditioning. Skinner progressively reinforced behaviour that came close to the goal behaviour that is, pressing of the lever to get food. He called this shaping. In this way, the animal is gradually taught to perform quite complex behaviour. Skinners work resulted in the development of a number of principles of behaviour that have direct implications on teaching. Reinforcement which is the key principle in Skinners theory will be explored in more detail in the next section.

2.4.2

Reinforcement

In psychology, reinforcement is any consequence that strengthens the behaviour it follows. Consequences are simply environmental events that follow the behaviour. This can be summarised as shown in Figure 2.9.

Figure 2.9: Reinforcement Source: Woolfolk (2001)

Consequences to a large extent will determine whether a person will repeat the behaviour that led to the consequences. The type of consequences given and also the timing of the consequences are important in determining if the behaviour is to be strengthened or repeated. We will now look at different types of reinforcement and reinforcement schedules.

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There are two types of reinforcement as can be seen in Figure 2.10.

Figure 2.10: Types of reinforcement

The differences between both of these types of reinforcement are given in Table 2.4.
Table 2.4: Differences between Positive and Negative Reinforcement Positive Reinforcement A pleasant consequence increases the probability of that behaviour occurring in the future. The pleasant consequence can be verbal praise, good grades, tokens, motivating words, winning certificates, earning privileges, facial expressions or a feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction. Example: A student gives the correct answer as in situation B in Figure 2.1. The teacher praises the student. The student tries harder to give the correct response the next time. Negative Reinforcement Taking away something negative to increase the probability of that behaviour occurring again. Unpleasant consequences are removed such as nagging or extra homework.

Example: A teacher announces to the class that they have no homework for that day because they have done an excellent science project. Students work harder for the next science project.

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ACTIVITY 2.6
Study Table 2.2 again. Give another two examples of each of the positive and negative reinforcement that you can use in your science classroom. Discuss your answers in groups.

2.4.3

Punishment

Now, have a look at Figure 2.8 again. If every time the rat touches the lever, it receives an electric shock it will eventually learn to stop pressing the lever. This is punishment and can be summarised as in Figure 2.11.

Figure 2.11: Punishment Source: Woolfolk (2001)

For example, a student gives the wrong answer and is punished by the teacher. The teacher makes the student stand in front of the class. The student will then try not to give the wrong answer the next time. The undesirable response is reduced. What do you think of punishing students this way? Generally, reinforcement is preferred over punishment in modifying behaviour because punishment can bring about undesired emotional effects in the students. Can you suggest another way you can try to solve the teachers problem above?

2.4.4

Reinforcement Schedules

What do you know about reinforcement schedules? Reinforcement schedules refer to the pattern and frequency in which a particular response is reinforced.

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In the beginning stages of conditioning, Skinner reinforced the animal each time it turned the lever. This is called a continuous reinforcement schedule. After a number of trials, the animal slowly learns the desired behaviour. At this point, reinforcement is moved to an intermittent reinforcement schedule. An intermittent schedule allows for behaviour to be repeated but without constant reinforcement. This is shown in Figure 2.12.

Figure 2.12: Reinforcement schedules

As can be seen in Figure 2.12, there are two types of intermittent schedules: (a) Interval Schedule In the interval schedule, reinforcers are given based on the amount of time that passes between responses.

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(b)

Ratio Schedule In the ratio schedule, reinforcers are given based on number of responses the learner gives between reinforcements. Interval and ratio schedules may be fixed or variable.

Now, let us read the following case study and try to solve Encik Hamdans problem. Case Study Lisa is a student in Encik Hamdans class. She is always very excited during the science lessons and just shouts out answers without raising her hand. Encik Hamdan wants to reinforce Lisas appropriate behaviour that is raising her hand to answer the questions with points that she can use to exchange for play time. Look at the following reinforcement schedules. Identify which type of schedule it is and decide which schedule or combination of schedules will be the most effective to use with Lisa: (a) Schedule A Give Lisa points each time she raises her hands. Schedule B Give Lisa points every third time she raises her hand. Schedule C Give Lisa points after she raises her hand a variable number of times.

(b)

(c)

2.4.5

Applications of Skinners Theory in the Teaching of Science

After learning about the principles of Skinners theory, let us look at how we can apply it effectively in a science classroom. Study the following guidelines on how you can apply Skinners theory in a science classroom.

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Applying Skinners Theory in the Science Classroom 1. Reinforce positive behaviours. For example praise students when they complete their work well. Determine what behaviours you want. For example, carrying out science process skills correctly Reinforce these behaviours when they occur. Tell students what behaviours you want. Science teachers deal with a complex classroom environment which involves safety issues. Specifying behaviours that you expect in the classroom will ensure responsible and independent learners. Create chains of desired student behaviours by establishing reinforcement for those desired behaviours. For example, give students gold stars for each time they clean up after an experiment. Reinforce expected behaviour as soon as it happens. For example, stars or tokens are given as soon as students collect work materials and begin experiments. Give praise and other rewards to students who even get desired behaviours partially right (Skinners shaping). This is rewarding them for effort. Eventually, as students can do the desired behaviour correctly you can remove the rewards. For example, writing science reports neatly. When they exhibit these behaviours, reinforce them and tell them why. Reinforcement is best used at variable intervals (Skinner schedules). For example, give rewards for following the rules for science group discussions at intervals. You can also take pictures of students doing projects and show these pictures once in a while to motivate students. Develop your science lesson from simpler to more complex tasks. Give reinforcements at every concept learnt and continue to more complex ones.

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SELF-CHECK 2.7
What are the main principles in Pavlovs, Thorndikes and Skinners theories? Present your answers in the form of a mind map.

ACTIVITY 2.7
1. In groups, complete the following table to show what you have learnt about Skinners operant conditioning theory.
Essentials of operant conditioning Operant Shaping Reinforcement Positive reinforcement Negative reinforcement Punishment Reinforcement schedule Explanation with examples

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Discuss among your classmates what are any other ways can Skinners theory be applied in the science classroom.

Behaviourism refers to the study of observable and measurable behaviour. In behaviourism, learning and behaviour are described in terms of stimulus and response relationships. A stimulus is an event that activates behaviour; a response is an observable reaction to a stimulus. Behaviourists describe individuals as being conditioned by the environment.

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There are two main groups of behaviourist theories: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning, first described by Ivan Pavlov, is a theory that explains how we sometimes learn new responses as a result of two stimuli being presented at the same time. Three other processes in classical conditioning are generalisation, discrimination and extinction. In operant conditioning, as presented by Skinner and Thorndike, the learner actively operates on their environment to reach certain goals. Thorndike stressed that learning involves stimulus-response connections. He formulated three laws of learning: law of effect, law of exercise and law of readiness. Skinners theory focussed on operants or behaviours that are affected by what happens after the reinforcement (consequences). Reinforcement is the process of using a reinforcement to strengthen behaviour. There are two types of reinforcement: positive and negative reinforcement. Reinforcement schedules are the pattern and frequency in which a particular response is reinforced. The principles of the theories of Pavlov, Thorndike and Skinner can be used in the teaching of science. The teachers job is to create a science learning environment in which certain behaviours (the acquisition of knowledge, concepts and skills) are increased and reinforced.

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Behaviourism Classical conditioning Conditioned responses Conditioned stimulus Conditioning Connectionism Consequences Continuous reinforcement schedule Discrimination Extinction Generalisation Intermittent reinforcement schedule

Negative reinforcement Operant Operant conditioning Positive reinforcement Punishment Reinforcement Reinforcement schedule Response Shaping Stimulus Unconditioned response Unconditioned stimulus

Abruscato, J. (2000). Teaching children science A discovery approach. USA: Allyn & Bacon. Borich, G. D., & Tombari, M. L. (1996). Educational psychology: A contemporary approach. New York: Allyn & Bacon. Culatta, R. (2011). Behavioral theories of learning. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/ behaviorism/webquest.html EmTech. (2007). Learning theories. Retrieved http://www.emtech.net/learning_theories.htm May 7, 2011, from

Hassard, J. (1992). Minds on science Middle and secondary school methods. USA: Harper Collins. Mclnerney, D. M., & Mclnerney, V. (2006). Educational psychology-constructing learning. Australia: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Northern College. (2003). Learning theories Classical conditioning. Retrieved April 27, 2011, from http://www.northern.ac.uk/learning/NC Material/Psychology/lifespan%20folder/Learningtheories.htm Utah State University. (2000). Positive interaction procedures. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.usu.edu/teachall/text/behavior/LRBIpdfs/ Positive.pdf Woolfolk, A. ( 2001). Educational psychology. USA: Allyn & Bacon.