Behavior Modification

Focus

Problematic individual behaviors

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … repertoire of behaviors
  • Knowing is … behaving (triggered by stimuli)
  • Learner is … an organism (individual-in-context)
  • Learning is … changes in behavior (linking stimuli to responses)
  • Teaching is … training; engineering behavior (through deliberate conditioning)

Originated

1970s

Synopsis

While subject to various interpretations, Behavior Modification is used more often to refer to the application of behaviorism-based techniques to decrease maladaptive behavior. Typically, Behavior Modification plans follow highly prescriptive and rigidly implemented protocols of rewards and/or punishment.

Commentary

With its focus on decreasing a specific behavior, rather than supporting a learner to cope in complex social and cultural worlds, Behavior Modification has been widely criticized as diminishing rather than enabling. In this regard, criticism-focused discourses have arisen around:
  • Corporal Punishment – includes any act intended to inflict physical pain in response to (and in an attempt to reduce the manifestation of) a specific, undesired behavior. While legal within parent–child relationships almost everywhere, rigorous studies put question to its efficacy and raise the possibility that it can contribute to significant and enduring psychological issues.
  • Poisonous Pedagogy (Black Pedagogy) (Katharina Rutchky, 1970s) – a broad category that encompasses all other hurt-intentioned acts aimed at manipulating children’s behaviors – including, for example, Corporal Punishment, isolation, shaming, and mocking. The phrase, Poisonous Pedagogy, signals an emerging sentiment that such acts contribute to dysfunctions.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Edward Thorndike; Joseph Wolpe

Status as a Theory of Learning

Behavior Modification is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Behavior Modification is the application of a theory of learning (i.e., Methodological Behaviorism). It does not seek to offer any insight into the nature or processes of human learning, focusing rather on protocols for suppressing target behaviors.

Status as a Scientific Theory

With regard to methodology, research on Behavior Modification meets most of the requirements of a scientific inquiry. However, it falls short on matters of critical attentiveness to its central constructs.

Subdiscourses:

  • Corporal Punishment - includes any act intended to inflict physical pain in response to (and in an attempt to reduce the manifestation of) a specific, undesired behavior. While legal within parent–child relationships almost everywhere, rigorous studies put question to its efficacy and raise the possibility that it can contribute to significant and enduring psychological issues.
  • Poisonous Pedagogy (Black Pedagogy) - (Katharina Rutchky, 1970s) – a broad category that encompasses all other hurt-intentioned acts aimed at manipulating children’s behaviors – including, for example, Corporal Punishment, isolation, shaming, and mocking. The phrase, Poisonous Pedagogy, signals an emerging sentiment that such acts contribute to dysfunctions.

Map Location



Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Behavior Modification” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.


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