Technology That Guides Learning

Using technology in the classroom

Behaviorism in Practice March 6, 2012

Filed under: Education,Technology — emilypartyka @ 6:27 pm

This week we focused on two instructional strategies that imbed technology – Reinforcing Effort and Homework and Practice. Each of these creates ways to engage students and keep them motivated to continue learning. These two strategies correlate to the behaviorist learning theory in different ways while still promoting diverse approaches.

Reinforcing Effort is a strategy which teaches students to see how the amount of effort that is put into a task will directly influence the result. It is extremely important for students to realize that effort is how we make progress. Chapter eight of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works” also mentions that “One easy way to help students make the connection between effort and achievement is by using a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 156). Technology, such as a spreadsheet or even a rubric (this is my favorite rubric maker), helps to illustrate to students even further that the harder we work and prepare ourselves, the more success we’ll see in the end. In terms of how reinforcing effort and the behaviorist learning theory correlate, I refer to the four key principles that James Hartley (1998) believes in. In short, Hartley feels that activity is important in order to learn. When students are actively learning, or putting in effort to learn, they will see results. Secondly, Hartley feels that reinforcement is the cardinal motivator. Through observation it is easy to see that students much prefer positive rewards than negative rewards. And just as students see what their effort can do, they are able to experience and enjoy those positive rewards.

Homework and Practice is the second type of instructional strategy that imbeds technology. This strategy allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to their homework. Homework and Practice acts as an extension of the classroom and provides students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the content (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 187). One example of using technology in this instructional strategy is to create web resources that the students can access from home. One suggestion is to create an online game that helps students to master certain skill sets. As it is mentioned in chapter ten of “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works,” “Online educational games have an inherent appeal and generate immediate feedback that allows a student, parent, and teacher to monitor progress toward mastery” (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 195). Students are drawn to games, so taking the opportunity to create or use an educational game will only help them progress to where they need to be. With regards to James Hartley’s (1998) key points of the behaviorist theory, he expresses that repetition, generalization, and discrimination are important notions. More specifically, when a student is using a game to master a skill, he is using repetition to create that mastery. The more frequently a student is exposed to the material and is given various opportunities to practice the skill, the more competent he becomes of it. Also, Hartley (1998) mentions the importance of establishing clear objectives. As students are continuing their skill practice at home, they need to be aware of what exactly they are expected to learn from it. Using the homework and practice strategy effectively will make it obvious to students what their objective is. (Side note: my previous post explores the idea of flipping your classroom so that homework is done in the classroom and learning is done at home. I believe that both of these can be effective depending on the types of learners you have.)

Reinforcing Effort and Homework and Practice are strategies to keep students connected to the content and to ensure that they fully comprehend the material. Both of these strategies have ties to the behaviorist theory which strengthens their effectiveness. The makeup of my students and their learning types keeps me from using the homework and practice type of strategy, but I do understand the usefulness of it. Reinforcing effort is much more appropriate for my type of classroom. Each year my classroom structure changes, so I look forward to seeing what strategies will work in the future.

What types of strategies are working in your classroom this year?                           


Hartley, J. (1998) Learning and Studying. A research perspective, London: Routledge.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.




4 Responses to “Behaviorism in Practice”

  1. DNadlonek Says:

    Your idea of flipping a classroom is interesting to me. I am not sure how it would work. I have many students who do not complete their homework as it is and never study for quizzes/tests, so I am not sure students would buy-in to this activity. I understand that by doing homework in the classroom, teachers can monitor student progress and ensure students are practicing skills correctly, but I think learning the concepts at home would be hard. If students were interested in the concept, then I think flipping the classroom would work out great! In the first part of the video (, Steve Jobs explains why he is successful at what he does, and it is because he is passionate about it. If students are passionate about what they are doing in school, then I think activities like homework would not be as painful for them. Technology is definitely one way we can help students create passion, or even interest. Like you mentioned in your post, students are drawn to online games, which would be a great way to gain student interest.

    • emilypartyka Says:


      Thanks for the comment. That video was spot on; thanks for posting. What Steve Jobs says about people who don’t love their job just giving up is so evident in the majority of my students. I can’t figure out why students think that school should be “easy.” I have many students who immediately stop trying if something gets too hard. Rather than standing up to the challenge, they step away and just give up, as Jobs says. I definitely understand that kids would be more apt to giving up if they have to do the learning at home. But at the same time, I feel that as long as the educator puts the time and energy into creating the atmosphere of a flipped classroom, the students will eventually realize how important it is to do the learning at home so that they have more time to complete homework with the teacher. I’m definitely not saying that it would be easy, but it’s definitely something to explore.

      • DNadlonek Says:


        I am very interested in the flipped classroom. (I will be going to a technology conference this week and am attending some presentations on using flipped classrooms.) I think if we can get students to do the learning at home, then teachers can create more stimulating activities in the classroom that allow students to get the practice they need, along with the critical thinking and other 21st century skills.

        Thanks for your response!

      • emilypartyka Says:

        I can’t wait to hear what you learn at the conference! I think a flipped classroom is something you really have to understand before implementing it in the classroom. I hope to attend future conferences about it, as well!


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