Behaviorism Activities

Behaviorism WebQuest

Ideas for Discussions

Any of the following ideas could be used as a springboard for a thoughtful reflection about behaviorism. Encourage learners to expand on the information they have read by provided examples from their own lives and offering original insights or creative applications.

  • Describe how modeling and observational learning (see Bandura's Social Learning Theory) has impacted your behavior at some point in your life.
  • Describe ways in which you could use Bandura's Social Learning Theory to establish behavioral guidelines for your classroom.
  • What is the relationship between Bandura's Social Learning Theory and Vygotsky's views of development.
  • Describe several behavior modification techniques that were used in classrooms you participated in or taught in. Were these techniques effective?
  • Describe what you consider to be the strengths/and or weakness of operant conditioning for helping you to control behavior in a classroom setting.
  • Descibe several ways in which you could employ Thorndike's Law of Effect in an effort to elicit specific behaviors from learners.
  • Discuss some the problems that can arise with the use of positive and negative reinforcers. Use examples from your own childhood or from your teaching experiences.
  • Discuss the value of intrinsic motivation and describe specific ways in which you can enhance intrinsic motiviation in your students
  • Discuss the use of punishers in the classroom. Provide examples of effective and ineffective punishers.
  • Considering the concept of generalization, discuss why it is important to help your students develop positive attitudes regarding classroom tasks and their own abilities.
  • How can a classroom teacher help her students become self-regulators? Provide specific examples.
  • Dicsuss ways in which some types of reinforcement might be inappropriate or counter-productive in a classroom setting.
  • Behavioral theories assert that we can only assume learning has taken place when there is an observable change in behavior. Why is this a useful distinction for a teacher to make, on the one hand, but a troubling assumption on the other?
  • Write about some of the forms of punishment that you have seen adminstered in your school career. Was each of these punishments effective or damaging? Explain your reasoning.


Devise two or three ways in which you can use the concept of extinction to help alleviate test-taking or mathematics anxiety in your students.

Schedules of Reinforcement

Invent several ways that you could use schedules of reinforcement in the classroom. Classify each idea as a fixed-ratio, variable-ratio, fixed-interval or variable-interval method and explain why you think this method would be most appropriate for reinforcing the behavior you are trying to elicit.

Secondary Reinforcers

Describe several situations in which secondary reinforcers, such as grades or praise, might not be effective motivators.

Positive Reinforcement

Describe how you would set up a classroom system in which students become accustomed to providing the reinforcement for each other.

Positive Reinforcement

Create an extra-curricular reading program that provides appropriate positive reinforcement to the children participating. Be prepared to share your ideas with the class.

Group Contingencies

Create a reinforcement program in which the entire class, or several large groups of children must depend on each other's good behavior to receive positive reinforcers. Be prepared to share your ideas with the class.

Create Your Own Assignment

Create your own learning objective and design a short activity to support that objective.


The Behavioral Kiss

Begin class by offering each student a handout or another paper. Whenever a student say's "thank you," give that student a chocolate kiss and say "you're welcome." Eventually the students should catch on and consistently thank you for the paper in order to receive a candy. This brief illustration of operant conditioning may be silly, but it's fun.

Discussion on Behavioral Methods of Maintaining Order in the Classroom

Invite your students to recall behavioral proceedures their own teachers used in the classroom—sytems of reward and punishment, stimulus/response, response/stimulus. Ask them how well these systems worked. Did they enhance learning? Did they help the teacher's to keep order? How did the student's feel about these systems.

Discussion on Classical Conditioning

Invite your students to recall a song that evokes powerful emotions for them. Ask them if there is a specific event or person that they associate with that song. One student shared the story of how her elderly dog convulsed and died in her arms while she was watching the movie "Sgt. Bilko." To this day, she has a strong distaste for that movie and other movies of that genre. Point out that this is the power of classical conditioning and that a teacher can use this behavioral principle to her advantage by helping her students to build positive associations between their learning activities and things that they already love. For example, she might invite students to read in a comfortable loft with pillows and stuffed animals. She might create mathematics activities that include outdoor games. She can also help students to overcome negative associations (such as test anxiety), by slowly building a new set of associations with the students (ie. test day is also treat day; introducing authentic testing activities that are enjoyable, etc.)


Discovering Psychology with Phil Zambardo—PBS series.

Use the flim clips that show how positive teacher expectations change student behavior (cues 10:43 and 11:28).


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