Behaviorism in education : “Engineering fundamentals of behaviourist psychology and the ESL question”

jeudi 12 novembre 2015, par Igor Bijuklič

In our effort to question the role educational system has in the ESL problem we have to examine also those scientific disciplines whose contribution to modern educational theories and practices was/is predominant and decisive. No one can deny the influence behaviorist psychology had on education. Its notability as a discipline in this field differs from place to place (most distinctly in USA). Which aspect of behaviorism is decisive ? In its foundational inclination toward human engineering, behaviorism advocates the conditioning of human responsiveness, where the deliberate formation of stimuli commands and manipulation of human environment would result in predictable behavior response. The behaviorist assumption is that all human capabilities and activities, regardless their differentiation in philosophical and humanist tradition, can be reduced and consequently studied as “behavior”. Oriented toward natural sciences, “behavior” is set and understood as a bare responsive reaction that always has a definable preliminary cause (stimuli) and from where it is possible to reveal the “laws of behavior”. Namely, from the beginning behaviorism is not limited just by theoretical purposes but it is explicitly declared as a technique of “prediction and control” that is operating in the field of human affairs using scientific laws and most of all serving whatever needs or expectation society has toward how to adjust or adapt its members. One of behaviorist applications in the field of educational practice resulted in the introduction of methods based on the concept of reward and punishment – operant conditioning (B.F. Skinner). Like the behaviorist reduction to “responsive organisms” also this method is extremely problematic, because tends to introduces the belief that the purpose and result of hard learning is a certain reward located "outside" what learning and education can bring itself or in other words that we learn for the sake of something else and not in order to be educated, which is in long term distorting every attempt to give and explain the meaning of education (“why should we persist in the educational process and be educated”).