Synthesis Paper-Behaviorism



There are many different learning theories or approaches to learning.  Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism are three perspectives of the learning process.  Behaviorism is focused “on the external observation of lawful relations between and among outwardly observable stimuli and the responses that follow” (Boghossian, 2006, p. 715).  In a traditional behaviorist model, the learner experiences some sort of conditioning where the intent of the conditioning is to produce a behavioral result.  One of the theories of Behaviorism is the Stimulus/Response theory which is based on the assumption that human behavior is learned.  “According to the behaviouristic theory, all development and education is based on building up conditioned reflexes and habits” (Hassan, 2011, p. 330).


Some of the major contributors/developers of Behaviorism were Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, John B. Watson, and B.F. (Burrhus Frederic) Skinner.  Watson and Skinner were the two main originators of the behaviorist approach. Watson believed that most human behaviors are learned through associations made due to a specific stimuli which generates a specific response.  Skinner developed operant conditioning.  He concluded that acts would be repeated if it led to outcomes that were favorable and acts would be avoided if the outcome produced unfavorable results (Zhou & Brown, 2014).

Major Principles:  

The major principles of behaviorism focuses on behaviour modification through stimulus-response pairs.  It uses trial and error learning and learning that takes place through association and reinforcement.  There is a pedagogical focus on control and adaptive response and a focus on observable and measurable outcomes (G. Conole, M. Dyke, M. Oliver, & J. Seale, 2004).


Direct Instruction is an example of an appropriate instructional approach based on behaviorist learning theories.  Direct Instruction is teacher-led and based on the belief that all kids can learn if you follow specific techniques.  Lessons should be designed so that all learners can understand and the content should be taught and modeled.  An adequate amount of practice should be provided with remedial feedback and a review provided when necessary.  Student progress and teacher performance should be continually assessed.  Students are expected to reach mastery of the content (Suydam, 1985).    


Boghossian, P. (2006). Behaviorism, constructivism, and socratic pedagogy. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 38(6), 713-722. Retrieved from

G. Conole, M. Dyke, M. Oliver, J. Seale. Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design. Computers & Education, Volume 43, Issues 1–2, August–September 2004, Pages   17–33. Retrieved from

Hassan, O. A. B. Learning theories and assessment methodologies – An engineering educational perspective. European Journal of Engineering Education, 36, no. 4 (August 1, 2011):  327–39. Retrieved from

Suydam, M. (1985). Direct Instruction. The Arithmetic Teacher, 32(9), 37-37. Retrieved from

Zhou, Molly and Brown, David (2015). “Educational learning theories”. Education Open Textbooks. 1. Retrieved from