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Behaviorist Theory Essay

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The Problem
Theodore is a fourteen-year-old eighth grader. He is a popular student with athletic abilities in football and basketball. In math class he has a tendency to thrive on attention from the teacher and other students. His state mandated math test show that he has limited knowledge in math however, he does not appear to have any learning disabilities. He has stated before that he “just doesn’t get math.”
When Theodore comes to class he is slow to get his math journal, he talks regularly through class and completes his work hesitantly. He misses the opportunity to hand in homework regularly and this is impacting his grade. Sometimes when working on problems he has not worked on previously, he displays a sense of helplessness. He refuses to try to complete the work and simply states he “doesn’t understand” and just sits there blankly. However, Theodore does regularly volunteer to complete bell work problems on the whiteboard. Sometimes he gets the answers right, and when he gets them wrong he just shrugs it off. His talking in class is disruptive and sometimes he misses vital lesson material and prevents others from hearing the message as well.
Review of Theory
Theodore’s behavior problems could best be explained by reviewing two behaviorist theories; those of Guthrie and Skinner.
Guthrie would see Theodore’s behaviors as bad habits. These habits are a response to a large number of stimuli. The stimuli for Theodore could be the school, the math classroom, the math teacher, his class peers and the math assignments. The more these stimuli are experienced, the more the bad habits come to fruition. His inappropriate behaviors in the past cost him little amongst his peers and past teachers may have overlooked his cl...


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...ehavior modification, Theodore can reduce or eliminate his inappropriate behaviors while at the same time increasing behaviors that can further his academic achievements. Guthrie’s focus was on eliciting particular patterns of behavior in particular situations. While Skinner’s approach was more on either ensuring the right reinforcement was added or subtracted to elicit the appropriate behavior. While the theory approaches are different they both can lead to a successful modification that will be useful for Theodore now and the rest of his high school career.



Works Cited

Hill, W. F. (1985). LEARNING A Survey of Psychological Interpretations. In W. F. Hill, LEARNING A Survey of Psychological Interpretations (pp. 33-62). New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
Ormrod, J. E. (2012). Human Learning sixth edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.



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