THE ROLES OF BEHAVIORISM THEORY IN LEARNING ENGLISH FOR THE BEGINNERS
By Anselmus Sahan*
Many countries over the world have been practicing the “Human Development” as a great project facing all decision makers. This human project is done in various ways in accordance with the basic needs of each nation or country. However, basically it is carried out because of some reasons as follows: Firstly, human beings have created many theories which are in fact useful for their lives, their relations with nature and/or other creatures. Those theories give reflection to human beings to feel that they are not the only creatures and therefore try to make this world full of friendship, joy and happiness. In the twentieth century, countries which do not care nature are blamed as the source of natural disasters. Actions to love nature particularly environment have become an integral part of human lives whenever and wherever they are.
Secondly, human development as a project has to empower the human beings as a central spot of this project. This can be manifested through educating human beings to love nature, to make real things to protect nature and/or environment, and to make humanism relations with other human beings across the areas and/or countries. Nowadays, there are three central issues addressed to the world society, namely: democratization, nature and gender. These three great issues can make people feel that each person has right, but there is no freedom to cut trees or burn the forest, and all women have the equal rights to do as the man do.
And finally, development is viewed as a progressive series of changes that occur in a predictable pattern as the result of an interaction between biological and environmental factors. In real life, to implement this view, education is regarded as the central institutions that can realize these three issues. Of course, education world which has curriculum in which all subjects are defined is a leading sector which can reach the aims of human development.
In line with the growth of population over the world, scientists try to develop at least four basic theories which discuss in detail the human being development, particularly in its implementation in education field. Those theories of human development are the Maturational Model, the Psychoanalytic Model, the Behavioral Model, and the Cognitive-Developmental Model (Salkind, 1985: 11-19).
The Maturational Model, developed by a physician, Gessel believes that the sequence of development is determined by the biological and evolutionary history of the species; or, development of the organism is essentially under the control of biological system and the process of maturation. Environment only acts in a supportive role. He adds that behavior at different stages of development has different degrees of balance and stability.
The Psychoanalytic Model, developed by Sigmund Freud, views that development is revolutionary in both its content and implication for the nature of development, consisting of dynamic, structural, and sequential components influenced by a continuously renewed need for the gratification of basic instincts. Psychic energy or energy of life is channeled through three different components or Freud’s tripartite system (the dynamic or economic component, the structural or topographical component, and the sequential or stage of component) that constitute the basis of the developmental process and individual differences. He adds that the dynamic or economic component characterizes the human mind (or psyche) as a fluid, energized system that can transfer energy from one part to the other where and when needed. The structural or topographical component describes the three separate, yet interdependent, psychological structures called id, ego, and superego and the way in which they regulate behavior. The sequential or stage of component emphasizes a progression from one stage of development to the next, focusing on different zones of bodily sensitivity (such as mouth) and accompanying psychological and social conflicts.
The Behavioral Model, developed by John Locke, et al views that development is a function of learning and one that proceeds according to certain laws or principles of learning. It places the major impetus for growth and development outside of the individual in the environment and organism is seen as reactive instead of active. The laws of learning and the influence of the environment paramount in the developmental process, covering classical conditioning and imitation. The newborn child as a naive and unlearned based on “Tabula Rasa” or “blank slate”. The Cognitive-Developmental Model: Stressing on the individual’s active rather than reactive role in the developmental process. Experience is the important factor in the developmental process.
The Cognitive-Developmental Model, developed by Ausubel and Sullivan, stresses the individual’s active rather than reactive role in the developmental process. Its basic assumptions are: (a) development occurs in a series of qualitatively distinct stages, (b) these stages always follow the same sequence, but do not necessarily occur at the same times for all individuals, (c) the stages are hierarchically organized such that a later stage subsumes the characteristics of an earlier one.
In addition, the presence of psychological structures and the way in which changes in these underlying structures are reflected in overt changes in behaviors. The form these changes take, depends on the individual’s developmental level. Development as a process qualitative differentiation or evolution of form, consisting of a series of sequence of orderly stages that are internally regulated, and that individual is transformed from one into the other.
However, this simple paper just wants to discuss the Behavioral Model, developed by John Locke, et al. I focus my discussion on this model because I think it is relevance with students who learn English in the beginning called beginner. I believe as beginners, they will find many difficulties to understand, for example, sounds, words and sentences, et cetera. Trough this model, teacher can help his students to slowly teach them to master English. Therefore, I can state the problem of my paper as follows: “How can the Behavioral Model help teacher to make learning situation for his students?”
To get the materials of the discussion I just read some books or references relevance with human development, education development, and models of human development theories. I believe those references have given inspiration to write this simple paper.
While to analyze the data gathered, I analyze them using the framework of the theories of human development. As stated in the problems of my paper, I analyze the data by reflecting some activities of the behavioral model practiced in teaching and elements of the model related to its strengths and weaknesses aimed at giving consideration to education practitioners of teaching not just to adopt this model and implement it in all classroom activities. What I want to share is that teacher may know this model and attempt to apply some relevance activities hoped that they can help students to learn English well.
A. What is Behavioral Model?
John Locke, et al view that development is a function of learning and one that proceeds according to certain laws or principles of learning. This means that students’ intellectual development really exists in each student. To realize it, learning should function to provide him/her a chance to reach it. Something which is provided for student to learn, according to this model, is called stimulus (Salkind, 1985: 16-17).
In the same way, this model places the major impetus for growth and development outside of the individual in the environment and organism is seen as reactive instead of active. It means that if a learning activity provided some stimuli, student should give response to those stimuli. If the stimulus provided is responded, then it is viewed that learning is able to create a stimulus and response condition.
To realize and particularly to strengthen the work of stimulus and response, this model exposes the laws of learning and the influence of the environment which is paramount in the developmental process, covering classical conditioning and imitation. It indicates that the creation of condition in which stimulus and response may happen, is a prerequisite task. The creation of the condition is realized in forms of imitation activities. It believes that one difficult problem, if it is imitated from day to day or from time to time, will be easily solved and consequently be memorized its laws.
It seems that this model really trusts that the newborn child as a naive and unlearned is “Tabula Rasa” or “blank slate”. A child who is still small will be an adult and experience a new environment in which she/he learns new things, such as words learning. In the process of his/her physical and emotional developments, he will face ways how he/she adapts himself and adopt new formulas which might be useful for his/her life.
As the final proposal, it is believed that experience is the important factor in the developmental process. As previously stated that a child will grow in a new environment, learning new things and those will enrich his experience. Through those experiences he/she will learn ways to socialize and actualize him/herself in his environment. By involving him/herself in the environment he/she will experience the changes of his/her emotional (intelligence) conditions.
B. Skinner’s Behaviorism Theory
Beside John Locke, Burrhus Frederic Skinner, an influential American Psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform and poet, also conducted pioneering work in psychology and innovated his own school of Radical Behaviorism. It seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcing consequences. He is known as the inventor of the operant conditioning chamber (or Skinner box), a research tool used to examine the orderly relations of the behavior of organisms (such as rats, pigeons and humans) to their environment (Salkind, 1985: 16-17 and 135-149).
He articulated the now widely accepted term reinforcement as a scientific principle of behavior. His position reflects the extension of the influence of physicist Ernst Mach’s The Science of Mechanics to the subject of psychology. Skinner’s pioneering research reflected the dual influence of whole organism research in Ivan Pavlov and Jacques Loeb.
Skinner invented the operant conditioning chamber which was used to measure organic responses and their orderly interactions with the environment. This device was an example of his lifelong ability to invent useful devices, which included whimsical devices in his childhood to the cumulative recorder to measure the rate of response of organisms in an operant chamber. Even in old age, Skinner invented a Thinking Aid to assist in writing.
The teaching machine was a mechanical device whose purpose was to administer a curriculum of programmed instruction. It housed a list of questions, and a mechanism through which the learner could respond to each question. Upon delivering a correct answer, the learner would be rewarded.
Finding the behaviorism of his time to be problematic, Skinner branched off his own version he called Radical Behaviorism which unlike methodological behaviorism did not require truth by consensus so it could accept private events such as thinking, perception and emotion in its account. Also, unlike all of the other behaviorists such as Tolman, Hull and Clark, Skinner’s version radically rejected mediating constructs and the hypothetico-deductive method, instead offering a strongly inductive, data driven approach that has proven to be successful in dozens of areas from behavioral pharmacology to language therapy in the developmentally delayed.
He is the author of Walden Two, Beyond the Freedom and Dignity, Verbal Behavior, Science and Human Behavior, and numerous other books and articles.
Challenged by Alfred North Whitehead during a casual discussion while at Harvard to provide an account of a randomly provided piece of verbal behavior Skinner set about attempting to extend his then-new functional, inductive, approach to the complexity of human verbal behavior. Developed over two decades, his work appeared as the culmination of the William James lectures in the book, Verbal Behavior. Although Noam Chomsky was highly critical of Verbal Behavior, he conceded that it was the “most careful and thoroughgoing presentation of such speculations” as a reason for giving it “a review.” After a slow reception, perhaps due to its lack of experimental evidence unlike Skinner’s previous work Skinner’s functional analysis of verbal behavior has seen a resurgence of interest in applied settings.
Skinner influenced education as well as psychology. He was quoted as saying, “Teachers must learn how to teach… they need only to be taught more effective ways of teaching.” Skinner asserted that positive reinforcement is more effective at changing and establishing behavior than punishment, with obvious implications for the then widespread practice of rote learning and punitive discipline in education. Skinner also suggests that the main thing people learn from being punished is how to avoid getting punished the next time.
Skinner says that there are 5 main obstacles in learning: (a) people have a fear of failure, (b) there is a lack of directions, (c) there is also a lack of clarity in the direction, (d) positive reinforcement is not used enough, and (e) the task is not broken down into small enough steps. Therefore, Skinner suggests that with all of the obstacles out of the way any age appropriate skill can be taught using his 5 principles: (a) have small steps, (b) work from most simple to most complex tasks, (c) repeat the directions as many times as possible, (d) give immediate feedback, and (e) give positive reinforcement.
Skinner’s views on education are extensively written about in his book The Technology of Teaching. It is also reflected in Fred S. Keller’s Programmed System of Instruction and Ogden R. Lidsley’s Precision Teaching.
In addition, part of Skinner’s analysis of behavior involved not only the power of a single instance of reinforcement, but the effects of particular schedules of reinforcement over time. Skinner’s types of schedules of reinforcement involved: interval (fixed or variable) and ratio (fixed or variable).
* Continuous reinforcement. It is a constant delivery of reinforcement for an action; every time a specific action was performed the subject instantly and always received a reinforcement. However, this method is prone to extinction and is very hard to enforce.
* Interval (fixed/variable) reinforcement. It is a fixed reinforcement which contains a set for certain times. Its variables are times between reinforcement although they are not set, and often differ.
* Ratio (fixed or variable) reinforcement. It is also fixed reinforcement which deals with a set amount of work needed to be completed before there is reinforcement. Its variable is amount of work needed for the reinforcement that differs from the last.
C. Application of Behaviorism Theory
The Behavioral Models both proposed by John Locke, et al and Skinner which deals with the changes of attitudes as the results of stimulus given set up some basic principles of its application in running a teaching and learning process, particularly to the beginner students who firstly learn English subject. These principles have potencies to change their behavior and force them to do the tasks given as seen in the following description.
1. Set up instructional objectives. The Behaviorism Model helps teacher to set up objectives of his teaching so that his students can follow learning process, understand the materials presented, and complete the tasks given. All tasks are formed through repetition drills and imitation. Before doing the tasks, teacher has provided a answer model and students should follows it. In the same way, teacher also provides some fixed forms of sentences and those require students to memorize and follow their teacher’s model of pronunciation.
2. Analyze current classroom environment, including identifying students’ ”entry behavior”. One of the most important duties teacher does in this model is that she/he should have competence to know a set of knowledge his students have before joining a certain topic. This is a prerequisite condition because by knowing this before, teacher can manage teaching and learning process well. To know students’ entry behavior, for example, teachers always prepares some questions (called leading questions) before presenting the materials of his teaching and asks those questions to students. If students can answer those questions, he/she may conclude that students have had knowledge about the topic he/she is going to teach. If not he should consider the best ways (in forms of exercises) to help them learn the materials given.
3. Establish learning materials (themes, topics, and sub topics). In this instance, for example, English subject taught to Junior High School Students, teacher establishes some topics and/or sub topics to be taught in one semester. Usually those topic and/or sub topics are provided in the Curriculum. But his tasks are to arrange some activities containing stimuli that might be helpful for increasing students’ motivation (responses) in learning those materials.
4. Divide learning materials into some topics and/or sub topics. Because the topics provided in the Curriculum book are of various topics, teacher should be able to divide them into some sub topics. This division will help him to set up priority scale in presenting the sub topics.
5. Present learning materials. After preparing the materials for teaching, now it is time for teacher to present them in the classroom. In presenting those materials, teacher should have extra abilities to enable his students to learn. It means that she/he should provide a set of exercises that require students to master the materials being given.
6. Give possible stimulus such as questions, test, exercises, and tasks or assignments. As stated before, in the beginning part of his teaching, teacher may offer some questions just to measure whether students have knowledge about the materials he/she will teach. Some kinds of questions may be also addressed in the middle and/or at the end of lesson. Usually, kinds of questions addressed in the middle and at the end of lesson aim to measure whether students have understood the materials being presented or not. If not, she/he will summarize the materials and give home assignment. In the same way, at the ending part of lesson, teacher can give them test, exercises and/or tasks to complete individually or in group. These have the same aim with the questions but need a lot of time to think and find out the answers.
7. Monitor and analyze responses addressed. While students do the tasks given, teacher can monitor students’ activities and try to analyze why they are really active, why some of them are passive, or why there are some groups which can complete the tasks fast while others not.
8. Give reinforcement (may be positive or negative reinforcement). Usually reinforcement is given at the ending part of lesson. In this time, teacher assigns students some exercises aimed at measuring students’ comprehension.
9. Give new stimulus. In this step, teacher provides some exercises which are mostly the same as the materials being given. For example, the topic of teaching English today is “Present Tense”. To help his students, teacher provides some sentences related to Present Tense and asks them to make negative forms, questions and short answers. But at the ending part of lesson, teacher distributes an article copied from English magazine and asks students to underline some Present Tense Sentences in the article. This is called new stimulus.
10. Monitor and analyze responses given (evaluate learning achievements). Monitor appears in form of observing students responses during presenting the materials or completing the exercises given. Of course, it aims to know students’ participation and activity. At the same time, particularly after completing a task, teacher revises their answers and finds that there are still some students who get low marks. By the fact, he plans to prepare a new stimulus.
11. Give reinforcement. Giving reinforcement is actually the realization of teacher’s findings that there are some students whose marks are still under the passing standard. Therefore, he offers another type of exercise aiming to reinforce their knowledge about the materials given. Usually, the more teacher gives exercises, the more students understand the materials.
Conclusion and Suggestion
There are two conclusions that I can draw from the description about the Behavioral Model above as presented as follows:
1. Almost the same as Scaffolding proposed by a Russian psychologist, Vygostky, the Behavioral Model that delivers Behaviorism Theory, is a model of learning that can be implemented in the situation where most students in a class are new learners or beginners; that is, those who firstly learn a new language, for example, English. Using the behavioral Model, teacher can motivate them to learn and master the language.
2. To practice this model in teaching and learning process, teacher should be wise because it will take much time and effort to guide beginners to master English. By using repetition and imitation exercises, learners are trained to master many parts of the language being learnt.
1. Teacher should prepare the materials for his teaching so that his learners can master he language being learnt.
2. Teacher should be wise to encounter learners difficulties in learning English.
This simple writing is a final task submitted to the Lecturer of The Theories of Language Learning Subject, Prof. Sulis. It consists of three parts: Introduction, Discussion, and Conclusion and Suggestion.
As a God creature, in the first I would like to thank to Almighty God for this blessing and invariably help showing during my life, particularly doing this simple paper writing. I also recognize that many people have contributed a lot of ideas to him. Therefore, through this great opportunity, I want to express my gratitude appreciation to some of them as follows:
1. Former lecturer of Theories of Language Learning Subject, Prof. A. Maryanto, Ph.D (the late) who has poured on my mind many current theories of language learning which, I think, are very important to support my study.
2. Prof. Sulis, the successor of Prof. Maryanto, who has assigned me, including my classmates, to write a simple paper related the theories of language learning. This assignment is a motivator for me to write in English and it is viewed a great chance for me to improve my ability in English.
3. My classmates who have, by their unique attitude, supported me to learn together from day to day and I feel, I am really at home with them because we can share our knowledge and experiences each other.
Finally, I should state that I do not have much money to pay back their sacrifice. I just pray to God to bless and protect them.
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*POSTGRADUATE PROGRAM, ENGLISH STUDIES PROGRAM, SEMARANG STATE UNIVERSITY, SEMARANG
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
THE ROLES OF BEHAVIORISM THEORY IN LEARNING ENGLISH FOR THE BEGINNERS