Behaviorism in the Classroom

Much of what teachers do in the class room can be traced back to a developmental theory and or philosophy. As education evolves and the needs of people and society change so do educational trends. However there are basic beliefs or preferences to teaching which have helped develop best practices, one of these developmental theories is the constructivists and Vygotsky’s socio-cultural perspective In teaching practice, constructivists, emphasize the learner’s role in the education process the more active the role, the better.

It also focuses the student’s attention on pursuing questions or problems that occur to them, rather than on answers supplied by a teacher or expert text, teacher attention on the creation of learning environments is rich in “construction materials,” rather than in creating good information delivery systems. Finally, constructivists tactic emphasizes activity-based or project-based learning. Some of the main contributors to this developmental theory are Jean Piaget and John Dewey. Piaget’s research has had a profound affect on our understanding of child development.

His main contributions have resulted in extensive application to teaching practice and curriculum design in elementary education. Some examples of Piaget’s recommendations in the classroom are, “with children in the sensorimotor stage, teachers should try to provide a rich and stimulating environment with ample objects to play with. On the other hand, with children in the concrete operational stage, learning activities should involve problems of classification, ordering, location, conservation using concrete objects. Another contributor to the constructivist theory is John Dewey who insisted that education was based in experience and that educational institutions should therefore honor and build on students’ experience.

Piaget, also a constructivist, insisted that children even young children are quite sophisticated and active thinkers and to theorists. Vygotsky insisted that all learning, knowledge, and experience had a social basis. Together these three emphasize the active role of learners either individually or collectively based first on individual learning styles then grouped accordingly based on theses outcomes.

Teachers use this theory to differentiate the needs of the student and the learning styles of each student. For example, with Vygotsky’s method, when providing a scaffold, a teacher can support a student while they become proficient in a particular skill or objective and gradually remove the support until the student can work independently. Teachers can model the proper way to perform a particular task so that the student can then imitate the teacher’s method.

Another strategy teachers use while appling Vygotsky’s developmental theory is to break down an objective into small digestible parts so that a student can easily master the skill, gaining a sense of accomplishment and competence. Guided participation is yet another component to Vygotsky’s method that helps the teacher incorporate learning through adult activities. The constructivist method of teaching and learning can be applied to any educational setting and level of learner. Within the ESL classroom the constructivist model serves as an essential tool in addressing many aspects of learning that the ESL student is in need of.

Specific content vocabulary knowledge and acquisition is a barrier for any ESL student when engaging in a new lesson. Therefore, the introduction of this new vocabulary within any given lesson provides the first level of scaffolding and background knowledge to spiral into collaborative student inquiry based learning. This ultimately creates authentic individual student learning which can be reinforced with real life experience such as a field trip based on the lesson to further imbed the content of the lesson into the learn

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