Learning Theory: Behaviorism | Part 2

One of the classic differences between theory and practice (when the theory gets actioned) is, when we see an action, we pretty much see a defined form of theory executed well… while the theory by itself could continue to remain abstract.  

Okay!  Let me put it this way…

We wade through an ocean of theory, cull the required part that we believe is the most important for our current context, chunk it nicely and present it in an action form that our audience can comfortably relate to. What we offer may be just one of the perspectives on the subject but we are fine as long as we present an angle that is satisfactorily representative of the truth.

Now… we are going to do something similar with our theoretical reflection on Behaviorism… get a quick traction of one of its ‘threads’, assimilate it and proceed from there, clamping our way into understanding it as comprehensively as we can .

I’m aware that as much as this prelude might sound redundant for some, it may be as reassuring for someone who’s a bit theory agnostic.

So, here we go…


I want your behavior to change in as far as your knowledge of countries is concerned. After a few interactions, I check if you are getting Ethopia’s capital right. You say Addis Ababa, then your ‘behavior’ has changed for better. You say Mogadishu, you aren’t there still.

Either which way, the outcome of the exercise is measurable. Which is to say… the hallmark of behaviorism is ‘objective evidence of changed behavior’.


In the analogy we discussed in my previous post Learning Theory: Behaviorism | Part 1, the child’s observable behavior of not harming other kids becomes the (only) measurable parameter for us to go by… not those non-measurable elements such as emotions, thinking, contemplation and introspection that (need to) happen before the desired behavior is achieved.

So, behaviorism doesn’t care much about the internal process as much as it’s focused on the external outcomes. And, to achieve those external outcomes, it invests all its energies on extrinsic stimuli such as rewards and punishments that condition the subject to respond in a particular way.

So, what are these stimuli? And, how do they condition the desired responses?

Am eager to contemplate on these questions in the next post.


The earlier posts connected to this discussion are here:

  1. Learning Design Basics: Introduction
  2. Learning Design Basics: Definition, the take-off point!
  3. Learning Design Basics: Bifurcating Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  4. Learning Design Basics: The Coveted Side of Theory
  5. Learning Theory: Behaviorism | Part 1



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