Behavioral Learning

Building Skills

Intended Learning Outcomes
What students learn
Way of Learning
Origins and theory
Common Methods
What the teacher provides
Building skills
Physical and procedural skills where accuracy, precision, and efficiency are important
Behavioral learning
Behavioral psychology, operant conditioning
Tasks and procedures
Practice exercises

Is this learning that involves a procedural or physical skill? Is this something concrete and observable that a student performs? Is it a routine (though not necessarily easy) set of mental or physical operations that can be broken into steps and observed? Is there one best way to perform this skill? Is this a task a student attempts and through feedback can get better at it? These are learning outcomes that are well served by behavioral learning.

A nursing teacher guides students step by step in developing the skill to insert a tube in the patient’s nose that goes to the stomach. Nasogastric tube insertion is a basic skill taught in a Fundamentals of Nursing course. How does the teacher use principles of behavioral learning to teach this skill effectively and efficiently?

Teachers who want to use behavioral learning effectively do the following:

  • Clearly define observable, measurable learning objectives.
  • Perform task analysis to break complex learning activities into steps and substeps, arranged in hierarchical or sequential order if necessary.
  • Measure students’ present performance level.
  • Identify and remediate prerequisite skills as needed.
  • Model the task or tasks to be performed.
  • Allow sufficient time and opportunities for students to practice.
  • Use various forms of well-timed and specific feedback to shape students’ behavior.
  • Find appropriate motivation for students in the form of positive and negative reinforcers.
  • Use positive reinforcers to establish behavior; avoid the use of punishment unless necessary to stop harmful behavior.
  • Assess actual learning throughout instruction according to the stated objectives.
  • Carefully select and use technologies that allow students to practice skills and subtasks while receiving timely and specific feedback.

How do you use this way of learning?

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