Skinner said, “The things we call pleasant have an energizing or strengthening effect on behavior” (Orey, 2001). Learners are pleased to see the consequences of their effort expressed as academic achievement, and they are then energized and strengthened to repeat the effort.  Technology makes instructional strategies that utilize immediate feedback, data-gathering, and data analysis possible, allowing students to visualize their academic growth (Pitler, Hubbell, & Kuhn, 2012). Therefore, technology plays an important role in the application of behaviorist learning theory, positively reinforcing the relationship between the operant, effort, and the reward, academic achievement.

Pitler, Hubbell, and Kuhn (2012) explain that of all the factors impacting achievement, reinforcing effort is paramount. They recommend strategies using technology tools to explicitly teach students the cause and effect relationship between effort and achievement. For example, educators can help students input effort data and the resulting academic achievement data into a spreadsheet to produce graphs that concretely show students the connection between them. The graph itself acts as either a positive reinforcement of students’ efforts or as a positive punishment of students’ lack of effort (Orey, 2001). Behaviorist learning theory predicts that in these cases the positive reinforcement will increase student effort in the future, whereas the positive punishment will decrease student lack of effort.

In my classroom, I currently do not use technology very often to reinforce effort, but I do incorporate behaviorist-based instructional strategies. To help students see that their efforts in decoding and frequent oral reading are paying off, I provide them with a data sheet on which they track by hand results of fluency tests, specifically administrations of AIMSWeb Reading Curriculum-Based Measurement (Pearson, Inc., n.d.). To promote reading stamina, I post a bar graph chart that shows students how many minutes per day the whole class was on-task reading to themselves. To help students become better writers, I provide feedback in the form of printed rubrics that include hand-written comments.

One technology application that students use for immediate feedback in my classroom is SpellingCity.com (VocabularySpellingCity, n.d.). Here students practice their spelling and vocabulary words and receive immediate feedback. However, their studying effort is not accounted for in the data, and the feedback they do receive is not graphed in a way that shows progress over time.

Another technology that I use for reinforcement of writing skills is adding comments to students’ work in Google Docs. According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) (2016), this use of technology to evaluate learning fulfills ISTE Teacher Standard 2, “Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments.”

I have recently begun to use Socrative, a classroom response system, to give students instant feedback on their factual knowledge of literary genre terms (Mastery Connect, 2017). Socrative not only provides instant feedback to individual students, but also uses graphs to show students what percentage of the class has achieved mastery of each term. However, like the other technology I currently use, there is not mechanism for students to see how their effort is paying off over time.

In the future, I would like to incorporate an online survey platform where students could anonymously provide feedback to each other on their writing. This would fulfill ISTE (2007) Student Standard 1, “Empowered Learner.” As a writing teacher, I find the turn-around time from when students complete their written work to when I can return it to them with comments to be too slow. Allowing peers to provide feedback to writing would be worth the initial time it would take to train the students how to provide valuable feedback, in that eventually students would be able to provide feedback to each other in a much more timely fashion than when I evaluate all of their written pieces myself.

In recent research, I have discovered applied concepts of behaviorist learning theory among Responsive Classroom (2017), a video blog summary of Dylan Wiliam’s Embedded Formative Assessment (Blue Sofa Media, 2014), and an article by Johnson (2015) detailing approaches to improve student learning during classroom activities. In my classroom management, I integrate behaviorist learning theory aspects of Responsive Classroom (2017) when I use positive language  to help students reflect on their behaviors that lead to academic achievement. Next week, when I begin to roll out Genius Hour, use of positive language will be important in helping my students stay on task as they research a topic of their choice. Blue Sofa Media’s (2014) video blog points out that research shows my evaluative comments on students’ Genius Hour work will result in more academic improvement than just giving grades. Moreover, Johnson (2015) describes research showing that completing research like that incorporated in Genius Hour in class, an activity that in the past was commonly assigned as homework, allows for more peer feedback, resulting in more learning.

The positive reinforcement provided by positive language, evaluative comments, and peer feedback should result in student behavior conducive to learning during our Genius Hour activities. Technology can support these strategies. For example, I can prepare short audio clips using positive language and email these to students instead of interrupting student learning with direct verbal praise. Students who choose to create electronic products as part of their Genius Hour projects can receive evaluative comments from me electronically, either embedded in their Google Docs or in the comments section of their blog. To expedite peer feedback, I can create a web showcase of Genius Hours projects on our class web site, model to students how to give valuable feedback, and then allow them to comment on their peers’ work. All of these technologies transform what previously may have been brief oral communications into permanent written feedback that students can refer back to as needed.

In conclusion, technology supports learning strategies that align with behaviorist learning theories. Using such strategies results in changes in student behavior, particularly in students’ application of effort, and ultimately in their increased learning.

References

Blue Sofa Media. (2014, January 21). Grades vs. feedback [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/xjZ87Pai_5M

International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards/standards-for-students

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standards for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards/standards-for-teachers

Johnson, K. (2015). Behavioral education in the 21st century. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 35(1/2), 135-150. doi:10.1080/01608061.2015.1036152

Mastery Connect. (2017). Socrative. Retrieved from https://socrative.com/

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Main_Page

Pearson, Inc. (n.d.). Aimsweb Overview. Retrieved from http://www.aimsweb.com/overview

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Responsive Classroom. (2017). Naming What Children Can Do. Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/naming-what-children-can-do/?utm_content=buffer9dc11&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

VocabularySpellingCity. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from http://www.spellingcity.com/about-us.html

 

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8 thoughts on “EDUC 6711 Module 3: Rewards of Student Effort Made Visible by Technology

  1. Patricia,
    As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your ideas this week. As you mentioned in the comments on my blog, we noticed many of the same points. For example, we were both drawn to the idea of having students use a Google Sheet to track data. I know you mentioned that you do not use a lot of technology currently to assist in providing feedback for students. One resource I have found to be particularly helpful is the use of Google Classroom. My students turn in their papers to this resource and I am able to send them feedback by the next time they are on the computer. You could also have students share their spreadsheets with you on Classroom and they would be in one neat folder in your Drive. I also use Spelling City for students and think that could be easily tracked in a Google Sheet and may be a wonderful place to start for this year and maybe add more next year after getting your feet wet.

    Best,
    Kelsey Greenfield

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is coincidental that you mention having students submit papers through Google Classroom – my students did that for the first time on Friday, and when I get done with my own homework, I plan to tackle going through them. Heidi in her comment below mentions JoeZoo Express, a Google Doc add-on that is supposed to make commenting on student writing easier.

      Like

    2. Kelsey, I just had a chance to look at my students’ docs in Google Classroom. Wow! It is a very time-efficient system compared to what I had been doing. (Opening my Shared with Me Google Drive and searching for all their individual Google Docs!)

      Like

  2. Much like you, while I find that I do use behaviorist based instructional strategies, I currently do not utilize a lot of technology to do so. However, now that I have conducted some research, I realize there are many opportunities to do so. You mentioned using Google Drive to provide feedback in writing, a subject that can be difficult to do so in a timely manner. JoeZoo Express is a feedback and grading add-on in Google Docs that provides teachers with a quick way to provide specific and timely feedback on student writing. I have also been thinking about how to use the commenting feature in more productive ways such as having students highlight specific portions of their writing for feedback. For example, if the lesson was on unpacking quotes, students could highlight in their text where that was added. Then, as the teacher, you can easily see where the feedback needs to be provided from the day’s lesson. Otherwise, it can be overwhelming reading through 30 essays a night – at least in my case! Similar to Socrative, Kahoot, can also provide students with immediate feedback. Unfortunately, it cannot track progress over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Patricia,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post & I just comment on the aesthetics of your blog – its very easy to navigate and looks beautiful.

    We use the edublog platform for student blogging. We have set up the classroom feature where all the students blogs are connected to the class blog. This is very useful for the teacher and the students as they can navigate to each others blogs and provide valuable peer feedback. The class teacher can access all her students blogs through the class blog reader and doesn’t need to individually visit each students blogs to provide comments, thus saving tremendous amount of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Patricia,
    I enjoyed your explanation regarding effort and achievement as expressed from a behaviorist learning theory. I agree that it is important that students understand the differentiation between effort and academic achievement. Instructional strategies such as reinforcing effort and providing recognition play a significant part in student academic and behavioral progression. Technology makes instructional strategies that utilize immediate feedback, data-gathering, and data analysis possible, allowing students to visualize their academic growth (Pitler, Hubbell, & Kuhn, 2012). Applications such as Socrative will be very useful in my current learning environment. Socrative integrates technology in the classroom that encourages student engagement while providing feedback, gather data and analyze data to distinguish effort and achievement. The app allows the teacher to monitor learning by providing interactive entrance and exit ticket which serve as a type of formative assessment. Students use certain behaviors to obtain information, implementing engaging lessons using computer games and interactive activities will promote this kind of behavior. I often use this technique in my classroom to ensure that all students find the experience fun and exciting. Applications like Dojo help develop classroom management practices. Although Dojo is not aged appropriate for my students, it can be used to promote class rewards such as lunch request, and no uniform days (Chiarelli, Szabo, & Williams2015).
    Another way to reinforce student learning based on their academic performance would be implementing incentive programs within the classroom. Incentive programs reinforce positive behavior by rewarding students for various achievements in the classroom. Away to engage the student in the program is to allow them to assist in developing the incentive program. If student aid in the development of the program then they will be excited about participating.

    Best Regards,

    Valencia Allen-Smith

    References

    Chiarelli, M., Szabo, S., & Williams, S. (2015). Using ClassDojo to Help with Classroom Management during Guided Reading. Texas Journal Of Literacy Education, 3(2), 81-88.
    Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that works (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

    Like

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