As the students of English Education Department , it is important to us to know the kinds of approaches or theories related language teaching and learning. In this case, some approaches  have constructed in teaching and learning process. All of the approaches are conducted in teaching learning process in order to get the positive effect for the students and the teacher itself. The use of the approach itself is to improve or increase the students ability in learning. Although there are some theories that still used some conventional methods that make the students uninterested in joining the teaching learning process. So the role for the teacher is to apply appropriate approach based on the condition of the students in order it can make the students are interested to learn .In this case , I would like to discuss about behaviorism that is explained in detail through history of behaviorism , definition of behaviorism ,the characteristics of behaviorism, the principles of behaviorism , the strength and weaknesses of behaviorism, the application of behaviorism in ELT, the differences of behaviorism with other theories.


      According to Demirezen (1988:135)  background  of behaviorism growth is basically, behaviorist theory is psychology theory that was founded by J.B Watson  as a reaction to traditional grammar. This theory  was supported by Leonard Bloomfield, O.N ,Mowrer, B.F Skinner and A.W Staats, Behaviorism grown in America as a new approach of psychology by making a particular  emphasis on the importance of verbal behavior. The major principle of  behaviorist theory is the analysis  of human behavior in observable stimulus-response  interaction as the association between them. Thorndike was the first behaviorist who explored the learning area in order to form the association on particular process of behavior and the consequence itself. There were kinds of behaviorism  that  the behaviorist theory of stimulus response learning was developed in operant conditioning from Skinner. He assumed that all learning to be establishment of habits as a result of reinforcement and reward. On the other hand, the other behaviorist that was assumed by Pavlov that stimulus  and response work together. The example of behaviorism based on Pavlov was children developed to learn  the language of their social surroundings naturally whose importance both over language learning and teaching must never be underestimated .In this respect of behaviorist was in fact that human and animal learning is process of habit formation. A highly  complex learning task, according to this theory may be learned by being broken down into small habits. These are formed correct and incorrect response, are rewarded or punished ( Hubbard Jones and Thornton Wheeler, 1983;326 as cited in Demirezen (1988:135)). Thus, it is clear that the acquisition  of learning in infancy is governed the acquisition of other habits.


          According to Waltman (2003) Behaviorism is a theory of animal  and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors. While, (as retrieved in  http://www.learningteaching.info/learning/behaviour.htm)  behaviorism described as developmental theory that measures observable behaviors produced by a learner’s response to stimuli. From those definitions of behaviorism from two experts , I can infer that  behaviorism is a theory that measures observable behavior that are produced by the learner to respond to the stimuli. The response to stimuli can be reinforced  with positive and negative feedback to condition  the desired behaviors. Reward is the positive feedback that is given to the learners because they can response to the stimuli correctly For example reward can be realized through stikers, treat , food  and shopping, While punishment  is the negative feedback that is given to the learners if they can’t response the stimuli well.  For example for the punishment such as  no play time, extra chores and taking away item. There are some of the key consequences of behavior.  The reward can strengthen the behaviors in order  the learners can increase the behavior. For instance, giving praise to promote good behavior. While, punishment can decrease  the behavior in order the learner don’t want to do it again . For instance, if the child  get extra chores or no recess.


            According to Tomic , Behaviorism attempts to describe , explain  and influence behavior. In this section, I would like to describe the features of behaviorism.

  1. According to behaviorist,  the most important causes of motivation for behaviorism lie outside rather than within the individual.
  2. The dualistic portrayal of mankind which distinguishes between mental processes and observable behavior is scientifically unproductive. For example” Mary loses control of herself because she is aggressive”. This sentence means something. Mary is the cause of their observable behavior. However, the only way  to detect the inner characteristics serving to explain behavior in such pronouncements is to observe this behavior. We see that the cause and effect have  the same source.
  3. The scientific study of mankind should be restricted as much as possible  to directly observable quantities.
  4. Explanations of human behavior are simple in principle, as behavior arose out the elementary learning processes, but in practice however , behavior is quite complex. Both the behavioral  patterns of and the outside influences that effect human beings  are complicated.
  5. Man is generally a shallow  and imprecise observer of both his own  and others’ behavior. The dualistic portrayal of mankind forces him to propose all sorts of dubious explanations.
  6. The attempt to influence behavior must be preceded by a thorough behavioral analysis. If the attempt to influence behavior fails, then the analysis is incorrect or incomplete and must be revised.


          The behaviorism is primarily associated with Pavlov (classical conditioning)in Russia and J.B Watson. While, B.F Skinner in United  States(operant conditioning). The two types of possible conditioning that  are  classical and operant conditioning are explained as follow.

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

        Ivan Pavlov is brilliant Russian Behaviorist. He studied about behaviorism (reflexes) for thirty years and was considered  to be the father of conditioning theory. He concerned in the concept of classical conditioning behaviorism. Classical  conditioning is the process of relax learning. Moreover, the condition tends to use the behavioral training naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. According to Waltman (2003)the example of  classical conditioning is Pavlov found that providing food to a dog would set off a response by an elevated salivary flow. He controlled the situation by ringing a bell each time food was given to the dog. He discovered that he could make the saliva flows just by ringing the bell, although food was not supplied. The bell , being the secondary stimulus, was so directly connected with the food or primary stimulus that the bell  brought about the salivary flow or primary response. The relax was triggered by a new stimulus. He called this “ a conditioned reflex”(Rippa, 1996 as cited in Waltman(2003)). A  learner  behavior based on experience became known as “classical conditioning”.

  The principles of classical conditioning (as cited in Cherry)

  1. Acquisition is the initial stage of learning when a response  is to be strengthened.
  2. Extinction is when the occurrences  of a conditioned response decrease or disappear
  3. Spontaneous  Recovery is the reappearance of the conditioned response after  a rest period
  4. Stimulus Generalization is the tendency  for the conditioned stimulus to appear  similar  responses after the response has been conditioned.
  5. Discrimination is the ability  to differentiate between a conditioned stimulus and other stimuli that have not been paired with an unconditioned stimulus

John B Watson(1878-1958)

        John B. Watson is the important contributor to classical behaviorism . He studied the behavior of animals. Watson’s approach was influenced by Ivan Pavlov who concerned in Classical  conditioning. Classical conditioning is the process of reflex learning. Watson’s approach emphasized in the role of stimuli in producing conditioned responses. For this reason, Watson may describe it  as an S-R(Stimulus-Response) called ”reflexes”. He believed that one’s surrounding and background are much more dominant than genetics in the determination of human behavior. He thought that one’s surroundings were the main stimulus that established behavior. He considered that if he could be in charge of a child’s surroundings, he could shape the child into any type of person he  sought. In his research similar to Pavlov’s experiment with  a dog’s digestive. Watson trained a child to fear a rat. When the child came in contact with the rat aloud noise was made and the child was startled. This led to the eventual fear of furry animals. Watson believed that if he could make a child fear a rat, then he could create any situation and response that he desired( Waltman, 2003).

B.F Skinner(1904-1990)

         B.F Skinner is American behaviorist whom develop a system based on operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the idea  that we behave the way we do  because this kind of behavior  has had certain consequences in the past. In operant conditioning there is reinforcement of the behavior  by giving reward or punishment.

   Positive reinforcement shows by giving reward to increase the response.

   Negative reinforcement shows by giving punishment to decrease response.

The greatest contribution of B.F Skinner was known his studies of how rewards and punishment influence behavior(Fisher,202 as cited in Waltman :2003). He taught that reinforcement follows behavior. Human behavior is developed by previous situations and reinforcements. Behavior enlarges in areas that are positively reinforced, therefore, we should be controlling, creating events that reinforce desired behavior. Skinner used a tool which was known the ”Skinner box”. This box was used to observe behavior in tested situations  and for operant conditioning experiment. For example Operant conditioning( as cited in Strandrige) is the mouse pushes the lever and receives a food reward. Therefore, he will push the lever repeatedly in order to get the treat. It means that the mouse can response to the stimuli well so, the  mouse can get reward in the  form of treat .Through his experiment he concluded that behavior could be changed by providing reinforcement based upon the response.

The principles of operant conditioning (as cited in Demirezeen(1988:137))

  1. Behaviorist theory dwells on spoken languageà learning language  is primarily what is spoken  and secondarily what is written.
  1. Behaviorist theory is the habit  formation theory of language teaching and learning, reminding us the learning of structural grammarà Language learning concerns us by “not problem-solving but the information and performance of habits”
  2. The stimulus-response chain, S-Responseà emphasizes conditioning and building from the simplest conditioned responses to more and more complex behaviors.
  3. All learning is the establishment of habits as the result of reinforcement and rewardà positive reinforcement is reward, negative reinforcement is punishment.
  4. The learning, due to its socially-conditioned nature, can be the same for each individual à each person  can learn equally if the condition in which the learning takes are the same for each person.


Classical conditioning

  • First described by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian psychologist
  • Involves placing a neutral signal before a reflex
  • Focuses on involuntary response and stimulus

Operant conditioning

  • First described  by B.F Skinner, an American psychologist
  • Involves applying reinforcement or punishment after a behavior
  • Focuses on  a voluntary behavior and consequence


            The next section  that will be discussed is the strength and weakness of behaviorism(As cited in Mergel:1998)

The strength of behaviorism is focused on a clear goal  and can respond automatically to the cues of that goal. On the other hand , the weakness of it is the learners may find themselves in a situation where the stimulus for the correct response does not occur, so the learner cannot respond.  A worker  who has been conditioned to respond to a certain cue at work stops production when an  anomaly occurs because they do not understand the system.


       Behaviorism offers a particular perspective on how learning occurs and how teaching impacts that process. According to Beavers, Eaglin, Green, Nathan and Wolfe (2002)) Learning is a persisting change in performance or performance potential that results from experience and interaction with the world. The importance  of measurable and observable performance and the impact of the environment comprise foundational principles of the  behaviorist approach to learning.

Some things to remember when incorporating behaviorist principles into your teaching:

• Write observable and measurable behavioral learning outcomes

• Specify the desired performances in advance (the learning outcomes serve this purpose) and verify learning with appropriate assessments

• Emphasize performance, and practice in an authentic context

• Use instructional strategies to shape desired skills

• Reinforce accomplishments with appropriate feedback

Behaviorism  can be applied through the teaching method such as Audiolingual method, TPR,Silent way.


The teacher can apply  the principles of behaviorism in the classroom that can be applied through classical and operant conditioning. The key elements in classical conditioning (as cited in journal from asiaeuniversity).

  • A teacher uses attractive learning aids
  • Decorate the classrooms
  • Encourage students to work in small group for difficult learning tasks
  • Greet the students and smile at them  when he comes to the classroom
  • Inform  the students clearly  and specifically  the format of quizzes , tests, and examination
  • Make the students understand the rules of the classroom
  • Give time for students  to prepare  for and complete the learning tasks.


           In operant conditioning , the consequences of behavior place changes in the probability that the behavior will occur. Reinforcement and punishment are two main concepts in operant conditioning. The following are some examples on how operant conditioning can be applied in the classroom (as cited in journal from asiaeuniversity)

  • Recognize and reinforce positive behaviors and genuine task accomplishment
  • Use various types of reinforcement such as teacher approval (praise, smile, attention and pats on the shoulder)concrete reinforcement(cookies, candies and stationery) and privileges(longer recess time and more time with friends)
  • Reinforce good behaviors and punish bad ones consistently
  • Use schedule of reinforcement, such as surprise rewards, to encourage persistence
  • Use positive punishment as the last option. Use negative punishment such as detention class ,instead.
  • Punish students’ behavior , not their personal qualities.
  • Tell the students which behavior is being punished.


            In this case, I would like to discuss the differences of behaviorism compare with other theories based on two experts. The first is the differences between behaviorism and constructivism theory  based  on Alzaghoul. The description is as follows:


  • Students tend to be passive
  • The teacher is active in teaching learning process than the students since the teacher presents and provides for practice and feedback.
  • The material  is prepared by the teacher.


  • Students tend to be active
  • The teacher is passive because the students  do their personal discovery knowledge
  • The students understand the information or material  constructed by themselves

The second is the differences of behaviorism theory compare with cognitivism and constructivism theories based on Orey (2008).

The Differences of cognitivism ,behaviorism,and constructivism (as cited in Orey:2008)


It stresses on acquisition of knowledge and internal mental structure.

The role of teacher  in cognitivism is to

1)Understand that individuals bring various learning experiences to the learning situation which can impact experiences to the learning situation which can impact learning outcomes,

(2) Determine the most effective manner in which to organize and structure new information to tap the learners’ previously acquired knowledge, abilities, and experiences, and

(3) Arrange practice with feedback so that the new information is effectively and efficiently assimilated within the learner’s cognitive structure.


It stresses on a new behavioral pattern being repeated until it becomes automatic including the use of instructional cues, practice  and reinforcement.

The role of teacher in behaviorism theory is to

(1) Determine which cues can elicit the desired responses,

(2) Arrange practice situations in which prompts are paired with the target stimuli that initially have no eliciting power but which will be expected to elicit the responses in the natural setting,

(3) Arrange environmental conditions.


It stresses  based on  construction of our own perspective of the world, through individual experiences and schema.

The role of teacher is

(1) To instruct learners on how to construct meaning

 (2) To align and design experiences for the learner so that authentic relevant contexts can be experienced. Instructions in constructivism have some characteristics:

(a) An emphasis on the identification of the context in which the skills will be learned and subsequently applied,,

(b) An emphasis on learner control and the capability of the learner to manipulate information,

(c) The need for information to be presented in a variety of different ways,

(d) porting the use of problem solving skills that allow learners to go “beyond the information given”

(e) Assessment focused on transfer of knowledge and skills


        Based on the explanation above related to behaviorism , I can infer that the implementation of that theory itself is like the conventional method where the students tend to be passive in teaching and learning process while the center of the learning is the teacher  since the teacher presents and provides for practice and feedback. The students tend to get reinforcement from the teacher in order the students can do what the teacher’s intend . If the students can response  to the teacher’s stimuli correctly , they can get reward such as  stikers, treat , food  and shopping, While punishment  is the negative feedback that is given to the learners if they can’t response the stimuli well.  For example for the punishment such as  no play time, extra chores and taking away item.

Behaviorism overall helps the teacher with her class in many ways. It helps her to have smooth classroom management skills, keep her children to work hard to achieve their highest potential. Through behaviorist theory  ,the students learn how to behave in correct way.


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