Q; Describe How Skinner’s
Approach of Operant Conditioning Can Be Applied to the Kenyan Education System.
Skinner is termed as the father of operant conditioning. In developing the
theory, he stated that an individual’s behavior is a function of its
consequences. This approach was rooted on a belief that the best way to
understand behavior is to look at the causes of an action and its repercussions,
rather than focusing on internal cerebral events.
conditioning is actualized by the use of operants- intentional actions that
have an effect on the environment of an individual, administered upon a desired
response. According to Skinner, a behavior is likely to be modified through a
number of processes. These include;
These are responses that cause a
behavior to occur with greater frequency. The reinforcement could be positive
(reward) or negative (escape).
This is response that decreases
the probability of a behavior being repeated. Whether positive or negative,
punishment weakens behavior.
Bearing in mind that the reinforcement
theory focuses on observable behavior, it has been used in many areas of study,
including the raising of children and training of learners. By learning to
adjust reinforcement or motivation through stimuli, schools in the Kenyan
education system can gain a broader understanding of human behavior, from
teachers to students and pupils in the classroom setup.
Beginning with the case of
students, reinforcement for good behavior is in form of tangible items, praise and
occasionally, money and tokens.
The most instant form is praise, whereby
the learner receives feedback on the spot every time desired behavior is
recorded. Constant praise is pleasing to the learner, hence ensures that there
are efforts to sustain the desired behavior.
Praise is followed in rank by
tangible rewards, ranging from pens, pencils, books, foodstuff and others
depending on the region. Tangible rewards make the recipient have a sense of
achievement, increasing the probability of recurrence of good behavior.
Money and tokens such as vouchers
are rarely used though most appreciated.
Reinforcement for undesired
behaviour ranges from spanking, pinching, mild caning, and grounding from trips
amongst others, depending on factors such as gender, intensity of undesired
behaviour and the frequency in which it occurs.
To note is that most teachers
apply reinforcement schedules according to what they find practical in their
set up, rather than taking the theoretical approach, which is recommended.
To identify the method to be
used, a variety of factors are to be considered. These include the schedule of
reinforcement employed and the response cost.
Reinforcement can be continuous
This is rewarding the learner
every time they display desired behaviour during learning sessions. Continuous
reinforcement generates long lasting changes in learning. It is most applicable
in the case of public institutions where top achievers require constant
motivation to maintain healthy competition; else they drop drastically in academic
Also called intermittent
reinforcement, the learners are only reinforced occasionally when desirable
behaviour is recorded during the learning sessions. This method keeps the learners
on toes; not knowing when a reward would come their way, hence ensures constant
efforts to maintain good academic performance.
Operant conditioning has strength
in the fact that it is helpful in the raising of children, teaching them and
shaping their behaviour. Learners rewarded for good behaviour are likely to
continue with good behaviour, while those punished for undesirable behaviour
are less likely to model the behaviour again.
It has a weakness in that if
positive behaviour is reinforced all the time, the reinforcement either gets
exhausted or extinct.
In this case, teachers should
employ both continuous and partial reinforcement for optimal academic success