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behavior vs cognitive

One of the other students wrote:
Discussion 3 – Theories of Learning and Cognition

1.  What are the benefits of the behaviorist approach? What are the shortcomings?

Behavioristic theory “assumes that any behavior that cannot be described in overt, observable terms is unscientific” (Staettler, 2004, p. 228). One of the most well-known researchers at the forefront of the behavioral objectives movement was Benjamin Bloom who developed the omnipotent Blooms Taxonomy which states that learning is achieved an a theoretical framework to meet a learner’s needs: “Bloom states that most students become very similar with regard to learning ability, rate of learning, and motivation for further learning” (Staettler, 2004, p. 289). His famous hierarchy goes from simple to complex: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. However, Bloom acknowledges mastery learning has its flaws: “Some of the apparent weakness of the schools may be due to lack of clear-cut objectives for education and their implementation by carefully developed instructional materials and procedures” (Staettler, 2004, p. 289). Behavioristic theory is inappropriate for higher levels of organizing and communicating ideas. There is little room for self-expression.

2.  Personally, Bloom’s Taxonomy was engrained in my head while I was learning educational practice. This hallmark of the behavioristic approach has proven successful in both dealing with lower level and Advanced Placement level students. I use a behaviorist approach especially when developing my Advanced Placement Environmental Science free response questions when getting my students ready for the AP exam in May. I find that synthesis and evaluation of already learned material at the knowledge, comprehension, and application level easily demonstrates to me the knowledge and writing skills necessary for my students to succeed on AP and standardized tests. This may not be the best approach for a holistic determination of student achievement but it has proved fruitful and accurate predictor for student success on standardized tests. 


3&4. “Emphasis changed from procedures for manipulating instructional materials to procedures for facilitating learning processing and integration…new knowledge does not always emerge by slow increments, but may erupt in sudden paradigm shifts or scientific revolutions”(Paul, 2004, p. 318). The focus of cognitive science is to understand how knowledge is learned rather than what the learner is taught. Cognitive Science has 5 primary features: 1. Mental representations; 2. Computers serve as the most viable model of how the human mind functions; 3. Emotions are remove from decision making; 4. Interdisciplinary study; 5. An agenda of issues.  (Staettler, 2004) . As I’ve grown and progressed in my learning there seems to be a shift from the behaviorist approach to the cognitive approach. I’m not sure if this is necessarily good or bad. But the difference has been noted. The cognitive concept of educational technology focuses on the learner as an active participant in the teaching-learning process. This is the primary benefit to the cognitivist approach. The major drawback seems to be a depersonalization of learning.

Staettler, P. (2004). The Evolution of American Educational Technology. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.



STEVE's response

I find your description of preparing students for the AP as a step by step method.  I'm sure many students like the feeling that "if I just keep at this, I will get there."
  i'm curious, why does cognitive concept turn into a depersonalization of learning?
I have an excellent ebook that shows how cognitive and project based learning can be individualized.  Tell me your out of blackboard email and I'll get it to you.   My email is EDDSteve@gmail.com
On page 332, Staettler writes, "the learner as an active part of the learning process. This view says that effective learning depends largely on what the learn knows and on the active cognitive processing that takes place during instruction." (as you have quoted)...  -- This must mean individual attention. ...  hence a reverse of the depersonalization or standardization that is found in "mastery" learning machines  (are you familiar with APEX software that many high schools use?)
Staettler, P. (2004).  The Evolution of American Educational Technology. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
Littky, D. (2004).   The big picture:  Education is everybody's business.  Alexanderia, VA:  ASCD.

  i recommend Dennis Littky 

great interview on National public radio

or you can go to npr.org


School Features Real-World Learning, No Grades : NPR


comment by Rosnel Joseph

I would like to reward you for your post. I believe in myself you made a strong statement the rewards tend to be standardized -- food for pigeons, money for children and adults. I am quoting (Skinner, 1953) stated rats to use a marble to obtain food from a vending machine, pigeons to plays a modified game of tennis. Rat is on people spoken someone who has been disloyal to his or her behaviorism and punishment. The food for pigeons is thought to be good for their health. Money in the form of coins or notes is that children can carry around with them. The cash children will find some money in their purse. Nice job, your post is very clear and detailed thanks!


Great Post!

Rosnel Joseph


Skinner, B.F. (1953). Science and Human Behavior. New York: Macmillan, 1953.

When you start your school, Rosnel, I hope you will focus on individualizing and differentiating the work and the rewards.  I think there is something positive in having a standard goal that many people can respect and aim for, such as the certificate or diploma.  Maybe there is a school award for best improved student.

But some people need little rewards that make sense for them.   I hope you enjoy the Littky book that I gave you because it has inside there the core of the balance of behaviorism (rewards) and cognitive (individual constructions of meaning).

I have been a teacher too long and I'm using "psycho talk" and "academic talk" instead of how real people talk.   I hope we can translate this discussion into something that parents and young students can understand.