Theory: Skinner’s Classroom Management (1938) WilliamGlasser (1998) and Alfie Kohn (2006) I chose Skinners theory, as one of the theorists Iwish to examine for behavioural management philosophy. His theory and researchon operant conditioning and reinforcement schedules is one of the maintheorists that teachers learn about for classroom management. His ideas beganwith the idea that the operant (behaviour) is said to be reinforced if theconsequence increases the likelihood of the behaviour’s occurrence.”Operant conditioning is a learning process throughwhich the strength of a behaviour is modified by reward or punishment. It isalso a procedure that is used to bring about such learning.”(https://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Operant_conditioning, n.d.)He also had secondary reinforces included in thistheory which reinforces whose reinforcing properties have been acquired throughexperience (typically through second order conditioning). While this may seemlike an abstract idea, it has become very common amongst teachers.
An exampleof this would be reward charts, stickers, free play time etc. Anything reallythat teachers use as motivation for good behaviour within the classroom. Thestudent quickly learns that if they behave in a certain way they will receivethe sticker, free play or whatever the teacher gives out for good behaviour,completion of homework, being friendly etc. They also learn that if they don’tbehave in the conditioned way, they will receive a punishment e.
g. they won’thave the time off or may lose a sticker or again whatever the teacher uses aspunishment. This in theory, does sound like a very good idea. But as Skinnerhimself has said, it doesn’t really reinforce self-discipline, the studentbecomes reliant on the motivation or privileges from the teacher and or otherindividuals.
This can in turn then cause problems as the student may becomeunwilling to cooperate in activities that won’t give them a reward or they mayresult in demanding a reward for every action that they do. Which of courseisn’t how the real world works especially as we are teaching the students togrow up to be respectful, functioning adults. Although used in moderation andwith careful consideration, it can be useful to the child’s academic and socialprocess. The school in which my case was on going, they decided not to usethese rewards systems in the classroom. The teacher believed that the studentswould become too focused on the reward and forget about the principle behindthe reward system, she also said that the class was too competitive and anyreward system would cause additional conflict in the class. So she believed itwasn’t worth doing. Although they did have an overall “smiley” reward system inthe school.
The class as a whole, collected smileys from other teachers –especially the teachers who specifically taught them the additional subjects,such as Danish, art or P.E if they taught they were behaving well or wereworking hard etc. the main classroom teacher wasn’t allowed to give them thesimiles.
They were rarely given, so it was a big deal if they received one. Thewhole school had this system in their class and at the end of the year, theclass with the most similes won a pizza party or something along those lines.This proved quite effective across the school, this would be a good example ofmoderate use. As the students never knew if they were being watched.
If ateacher just happened to see the class being friendly in the playground, theywould take that into consideration, but the students were never really actingnicely or working hard just to get the smileys as they were so rare.Another theorist who I feel was applicable to mycase was William Glasser (1925 to 2013) and his choice theory. He developed theterm choice theory in 1998.
His theory simply states that all we do is behave.In this theory, he suggests that we select our own behaviour, as in we chooseto act in a certain way. He also says that our choice is decided by genetics tostatisfy five basic needs that he has decided on. These five needs aresurvival, love / belonging, power, fun and freedom. In his theory, he believesthat the most important need is love /belonging because he feels beingconnected with other people is needed as fundamental basic in satisfying all ofthe other four needs. This links into the classroom as this theory shows thatthe classroom should be a satisfying place for students where they feel liketheir benefiting from their time being there. Glasser, identifies the teacheras the leader of the classroom. He says they need to work equally hard, if theywant to have successful students who become self-sufficient.
He says that theirrole is have the students understand that by working hard in school / home isworth it in the long run, i.e. acceptance in college, internships etc. Which inturn will have a positive and successful influence on their lives. But the maingoal is that the teachers get the students to see this. This is slightlydifferent than Skinners theory where the students immediately or almostimmediately see the reward (extrinsic motivation), this theory is more based onintrinsic motivation, influenced by the teacher. This leaves the question then of how does theteacher achieve this level of motivation for their students.
As with manyteachers have found it can become very challenging to motivate your students. Glassersays, you can try and create positive relationships with the students,basically trying to have the classroom feel like a happy and safe environmentfor learning to take place. Have the students become comfortable with you,while of course maintain professional boundaries. So that they feel they cancome to you as the teacher for mentoring and support.
As well, the teacher cancreate relevant learning experiences that the students can use to demonstratetheir success within your classroom. How his theory applies when developinglessons: When a teacher decides to practice choice theory, they have to designthe lesson in a way that satisfies the student’s needs. Glasser believes thatthis will allow the students to learn more and increase their participationwithin the classroom while reducing the amount of disruption due to interest inthe lessons. He believed that students are able to connect and feel a sense ofpower or freedom and enjoy themselves in a safe learning environment whenteachers design lessons in his way. These are three things in particular that he believeswill happen with the implementation of this theory inside the classroom.
1. Coercion:”Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntarymanner by use of threats or force.” (Wikipedia – Coercion, n.d.) He believesthat this is minimized because it never inspires quality. He believes thatstudents aren’t designed to behave using reward and punishment systems such asSkinners.
Instead he believes that teacher should build up positive relationswith the students and be an inspiring leader / role model instead. 2. Quality:When the teacher focuses on quality, the expectation increases. They expectmastery or a high level of understanding of the given concepts and encouragethe students to re do their work and continue trying until they havedemonstrated a certain level of competence and high quality work. While to someteachers this does seem harsh and de – motivating. The students learn that theyare capable of high quality work, they have a deeper understanding of what theywere learning and in turn this will result in better grades thus in turnearning the benefits that come from higher grades and a good work ethic.
3. Self– evaluation: In this choice theory, self-evaluation is common. Students areprovided with the information from the teachers and then they take ownership oftheir learning by self-evaluating their own performance. In turn this promotesindependence, free thinking, responsibility and it helps the student reachtheir goals while becoming efficient decision makers who take an active part intheir own learning and education. I thought this theory was relevant as it shows atheory in contrast to Skinners. Skinners theory is more based on extrinsicmotivation and Glassers theory is more based on intrinsic motivation.
Glassersfive basic needs that are survival, love / belonging, power, fun and freedomseem to fit into my case fairly well. When I think about the student and whathe was doing or in what manner he was behaving it really does fit into theseneeds. Especially the love / belonging one that Glasser states is the key need.The student in focus was dealing with a divorce, the teacher had said to methat she believe the student feels that he is blame for his parents to splitup. This ties into love / belonging need, he may have felt his parents didn’tlove him enough to stay together and this left him with a feeling of where hebelonged as he wanted to be in Germany with his dad but as well he wanted to bein Denmark with his life, friends and mum. This unsettledness resulted in a lotof turbulent behaviour stemming from these basic needs.
As well with the power,fun and freedom needs, I saw that a lot of behaviour also came from theseneeds. Which I will explain further in my analysis. I have looked at Skinners theory from the earlytwentieth century, Glassers from the end of the twentieth century and now Iwill look in Alfie Kohn’s work from 2006. Giving a few different theoreticalperspectives from different time periods over the last 80 years.Kohn questions the traditional school model. Hedoesn’t believe in the reward system such as Skinners ideas.
He says thatpeople feel like everyone can be a leader when in fact, especially within theschool systems, they are rare. He thinks that using reward systems areineffective especially in the long run and are unbeneficial in schools as itdoesn’t allow the learners to become competent adults. He states that somepeople become so focused on the reward (extrinsic motivation) method of educationthat they forget why they are behaving this way, why that this behaviour isrequired the principles behind the behaviour etc. In turn simply not being effective.This reflects back into what my mentor teacher was saying that they would gettoo distracted by the reward rather than the meaning or the requirement behindthe reward system. He believes that in an ideal classroom, curiosity andcooperation are key factors. He says the student’s curiosity is what shoulddetermine what is taught. This somewhat links into Glassers idea that we areled by 5 key needs and this influences what we learn.
What differs here toGlassers principles of high expectations is that he argues that standardsshould be kept very minimal and he is critical of standardized testing. He alsosays that a strict curriculum and homework aren’t beneficial to student needs,in an ideal classroom for Kohn, he says cooperation and curiosity are two mainfactors. He feels that the classroom should be student led and that the teachershould determine their curiosities to figure out what should be taught.
Thissomewhat links into Glassers idea that we are led by 5 key needs and thisinfluences what we learn. What differs here to Glassers principles of highexpectations is that he argues that standards should be kept very minimal andhe is critical of standardized testing. He also says that a strict curriculumand homework aren’t beneficial to student needs. How could you implement his theory into theclassroom? He suggests that the students should explore topics that interestthem the most and the teacher should allow and support this. He has saidstudents “should be able to think and write and explore without worrying abouthow good they are,” (Kohn, 1993). One of his main points is that students learnat different speeds, he says that there is too much importance placed onacademic achievements rather than the learning process to get there. His idealclassroom would include: Students being happy in school, having them excitedabout being in school and about learning, ideally asking multiple questions andtaking an important role in their own learning.
He says that students shouldhave their work displayed, to have them feel pride for their work. Also thatstudents should be collaborating together inside and outside the classroom,exchanging ideas together and forming a community within the school. He alsofeels that it is beneficial to have multiple activities occurring at the sametime with multiple activity centres with various classroom structures for groupwork. Finally that the teacher is being respectful and interacting with thestudents in a supportive and friendly way.
His theories and approaches are moreapplicable to elementary schools.In terms of modernschool systems, Kohn’s approaches are more consistent with those used inelementary classrooms. The key element is a “shift from a quiet, well-managedclassroom to one that is lively and features an emphasis on student learning,”(Hanson, n.d.)