A. Behaviorism, constructivism and cognitivism are relatively common theories used in the classroom as ways to approach student learning. Behaviorism focuses on observable behavior, such as students answering questions correctly, or being able to follow directions to complete a task as instructed. Characteristics of a classroom that uses behaviorism might be memorization of facts, writing vocabulary words, or a token reward system to inspire the desired behavior and decrease undesired behaviors. Constructivism, as indicated by the root word “construct,” focuses on the construction of new ideas, or expanding on what is already known. Students in a classroom using constructivism as a means for learning might seem more actively engaged in the learning process; they often learn something new through applying what they already know about the content area, and exploring new matter to further their understanding. This type of classroom often uses hands on manipulatives to allow students to actually build, create, or experiment with what they are learning. A cognitivism approach to learning might be explained by the minds capacity to process information – such as how a learner might remember something, retrieve information, or store new concepts. Learning through this method often depends on how the student processes what the teacher is presenting. Classrooms using this approach might incorporate learning strategies that help students categorize and sequence information to assist with processing. Like constructivism, it can be an active style of learning.
Personal examples of a behaviorist style of instruction are based on the widely renowned theory by B.F. Skinner, which in the classroom can be summarized by reinforcing positive behaviors, and discouraging undesirable behaviors. For example, exempting students from taking a final if they have earned an A for the nine weeks, or giving students a zero for assignments due on the day of an unexcused absence. Constructivism in the classroom usually means students are engaged in activities like experiments, or real-world problem solving to increase knowledge, followed by a reflection of how their understanding of the concept has changed (Brooks, Ed.D, n.d.). Cognitivism methods of instruction are commonly integrated with the levels found in Bloom’s Taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Bloom, 1956). The instructor must understand the prerequisite knowledge possessed by the student, and the student is encouraged to use appropriate strategies to help make the learning meaningful.
B. Theories of Curriculum Design and Implementation
For students in a self-contained classroom, cueing and behavior modification are frequently used components of behaviorism. Cueing is using a method other than a verbal reminder as a way to encourage appropriate behavior, or discourage inappropriate behavior (Standridge, 2002). Behavior modification, as...