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 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 Lleonard bloomfield, O.N, Mowrer, B.F Skiner and A.W Staats. Behaviorism also grown  in America but it focuses on the importance of verbal behavior.

     The major principles of behaviorist theories the  analysis of human behavior in observable stimulus response interaction as the association between. Thorndike was the discoverer who found the process of behavior and the consequences. There were variety of behaviorism. Skinner is the psychologist who developed operant conditioning that behaviorist theory produced stimulus response. He assumed that all learning occurred because there were reinforcement and reward. While Pavlov assumed that stimulus and response worked together . For example of Pavlov was children learned language behaviorism is as the result of habit formation. Thus, it is clear that the acquisition of learning in infancy is governed the acquisition of other habit.


    According to Waltman (2003) Behaviorism is a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors. It described as developmental theory that measures observable behaviors produced by a learner’s response to stimuli (Mergel, 1998). 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 stickers, 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 gets extra chores or no recess.


    According to Tomic (1993) Behaviorism attempts to describe, explain, and influence behavior. It is important thing that should be described because it is significant thing that must be known by the users of the theory. Without knowing the characteristics, the implementation tends to be less valuable. In this section, I describe the features of behaviorism as the followings.

  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 differentiated between mental processes and observable behavior is unproductive.
  3. The scientific study of mankind should be observable.
  4. The explanation about human behavior should be as simple as possible
  5. Man is generally a shallow and imprecise observer of both his own and others behavior.
  6. It is important to include behavioral analysis at the beginning in order to influence the behavior.


    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 conditionings are explained as follows.

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

       Ivan Pavlov is brilliant Russian behaviorist. He had studied behaviorism for thirty years. So, he was called the father of conditioning theory. He stressed his concept classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is the process of learning. The condition to create classical conditioning should be as natural as possible to produce stimulus which paired with 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 in Waltman, 2003). A learner behavior based on experience became known as “classical conditioning”.

The principles of classical conditioning (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 was the important contributor to classical behaviorism. He studied the behavior of animals. The approach that was used by John B Watson was influenced by Ivan Pavlov who investigated in classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is the process of reflex learning. Watson’s approach used stimuli to get the conditioned response. For the reason, Watson may describe it as an S-R (Stimuli-Response) called ”reflexes”. He believed than the social environment influenced the dominant of human behavior than genetics. He also considered that he could form the children’s behavior based on his expectation if he could be in charge of children’s surroundings.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 the American behaviorist of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the condition in which we do something because it has certain consequence or impact in the past. In operant conditioning there are two types of reinforcement that are positive and negative. Positive reinforcement shows by giving reward to increase response. While, 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 in Waltman, 2003). He thought that reinforcement will give impact to behavior.  It means that the human behavior is influenced by the previous situation and reinforcement. We should create the positive reinforcement in order to create the desired behavior. Skinner used a tool to observe behavior by testing the situation for operant conditioning experiment. For example in operant conditioning is the mouse pushes the lever then he gets the food as his reward. Because he can achieve his desired  goal, he will do it again 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 on the desired response that wanted to achieve.

The Principles of Operant Conditioning

   There are some principles of operant conditioning (Demirezeen, 1988:137). All of the principles must be followed of the teacher would like to apply the type behaviorism theory. They are behaviorist theory dwells on spoken language , the written language is dominant than spoken, behaviorist theory  is the habit formation theory of language teaching and learning, reminding us the learning of structural grammar the operant conditioning produces the simple behavior, the result of positive reinforcement is reward while the negative ones is punishment, and the result of learning, from one person to another can be the same if they have the same condition (Demirezen,1998:137).


    There are some differences that differentiated classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is the process of learning. The condition to create classical conditioning should be as natural as possible to produce stimulus which paired with response. While operant conditioning is in the opposite when it is seen based on the principle.  Operant conditioning is the condition in which we do something because it has certain consequence or impact in the past. In operant conditioning there are two types of reinforcement that are positive and negative. Positive reinforcement shows by giving reward to increase response. While, negative reinforcement shows by giving punishment to decrease response. Here are the basic principles between them (Cherry,2008).

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


   There are some strength and weaknesses of behaviorism. The strength of behaviorism is emphasized in the goal that want to achieve and the own response. The weakness is the learners could find difficulties if there is no stimulus to correct the response. As the impact, they can’t response it. For example a worker who has been conditioned to response to a certain cue at work stops production when an anomaly occurs because they do not understand the system.


     Behaviorism gives point of view about how learning happens and teaching influences the process. According to Behavers et al (2002) learning is a persisting change in performance or performance potential that is gained from experience and interaction with the world. With the observable behaviors which can be seen could comprise the foundational principles of the behaviorist approach. There are some considerations when we apply the principles of behaviorism in teaching. They write the behaviorist that is observable and measurable, choose the desired performance, use authentic context to emphasize performance and practice, emphasize in the use of instructional strategies to get the desired skills, and, give reinforcement to get the appropriate feedback.


    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 (asiaeuniversity, 95).

  • 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 (asiaeuniversity, 95)

  • 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.


    Behaviorism is a language theory to measure the observable behavior. It is one of the language theories that gives contribution in education field. In this case, there are some language theories that give contribution to education field beside behaviorism such as cognitivism and constructivism. So, in the followings are the differences among them in order to users of this theory do understand with their own principles(Jung & Orey, 2008).


     It stresses on students’ observable behavior to create automatic learning includes the use of instructional cues, practice, and reinforcement. In this case, the role of the teacher in behaviorism theory is determines what type of cues that could produce the desired response, to create conducive situation to reach the target stimuli and to create environmental condition.


      It stresses on the process happens inside the human mind, acquisition of the language, and internal mental structure. In this case, the role of teacher is to understand the position of the students who have different experience that will influence to the learning outcome, to determine the manners that mostly used and which one is effective to organize the new information, to provide feedback in order to make the new information will be more effective and efficient.


     It emphasizes on how to construct the meaning of the word or thing based on their  own understanding. It can be done through individual experience and schema. The role of the teacher is to ask the students to learn to construct meaning and to assimilate and accommodate the students’ prior knowledge and the new ones.

     There is also an explanation of the differences between behaviorism with other theories(Alzaghoul,2003).Behaviorism as theory of learning creates the students to be passive learners. They just absorb the material given by the teacher. While the teacher tends to be more active than the students since the teacher presents and provides the material and feedback. The other theory is constructivism. It creates the situation where the learners to be active creators. They construct the meaning of word of thing based on their own understanding by assimilation their prior and new knowledge to get the new understanding. The teacher is passive because the students do their personal discovery knowledge


    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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