Behaviorist‏‎ Method in TEFL

The behaviorist approach is derived from the work of behavioral psychologists who researched into how people responded to various stimuli. Conditioning (training) is the key concept in this method.

The American psychologist B. F. Skinner, regarded as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century and the father of Behaviorism, first argued that cause and effect is what controls behavior, not the mind or reasoning.

The behaviorist approach identifies two main aspects:

  • Classical Conditioning - conditioning done simply through a neutral stimulus like the ringing of the school bell which calls for automatic responses such as students entering or leaving class.
  • Operant Conditioning - reinforcing a particular behaviour through punishment or reward, like giving a student lines if they misbehave in class or no homework if they behave. Through this system of rewards and punishment the student learns appropriate habits.

In the context of learning, the behaviourist model for learning is all about "do as I say" and very much teacher-centered.

Behaviourists saw language as something that could be broken down into a mass of habits and once each was learned, then the language was learned. This approach, though effective for some, neglected somehow the usage of language in the real world, since the language taught is not presented as a natural activity, but rather as a set of isolated sentences which are practiced to memorize a form. Additionally, this method does not cater for gifted students who need more learning challenges.

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