Learning Behavior Theory

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Carol talks a lot, mostly off the subject matter, and interrupts constantly. However, when she is interested in the topic, she can concentrate and stay on task much better than when she thinks the lesson is boring and useless. Carol is best friends with Frankie, so when they are in a group together, she is more distracted than usual. Sometimes the teacher reminds Carol that she needs to get back to her work. Other times, she gives Carol extra homework or makes her sit in the back of the room all by herself. When Carol is concentrating and staying on task, the teacher tries to compliment her for her positive behavior. This paper will apply the learning behavior theory to this hypothetical situation. 

Task A: Explain One of Carol’s Negative Behaviors in Terms of Learning Behavior Theory

The “Learning Behavior” Theory refers to a model of teaching that requires teachers to elicit desired behaviors through conditioning of students. Specifically, teachers condition students to respond to certain antecedent behaviors and refrain from acting in certain ways to avoid certain consequences stemming from negative behaviors. Here, Carol has proven to talk during inopportune times during class, and often speaks about matters not related to classroom material.

1: Discuss an Antecedent Behavior of the Above Negative Behavior

An antecedent is a prompt or cue that comes before a behavior and ensures that the correct behavior is elicited. Here, the teacher could remind all the students that there is no talking before instructions are being given. Additionally, the teacher could instill a program in the room where she has one “talking stick” or “talking ball.” The teacher could remind all students that only the person who has the “stick” or “ball” can speak. This would be an antecedent behavior that would elicit silence from students. 

2: Discuss A Possible Consequence of the Above Negative Behavior

According to Alberto and Troutman (1999), consequences can be broken into two categories: reinforcements or punishments. Reinforcements can be further broken down into two categories: positive reinforcers or negative reinforcers. The former is like a “reward” while the latter is more of an “escape.” In this particular situation, the teacher could provide some kind of “gold star” system, where students not talking out of turn accumulate points. The student with the most points at the end of a given period would take some kind of award. An “escape” in this situation would entail something like avoiding a detention period or missing a recess. However, in the context of younger children, a positive reinforcer is likely more effective. Additionally, punishments may not be as effective here. Likely, a positive reinforcement is the best option here. 

3: Discuss an Instructional Intervention that May Mitigate Carol’s Negative Behavior

A teacher may want to take Carol aside and let her know that she “is doing a good job,” but gently remind her that she needs to stay on task during class. Rather than publically speaking about Carol’s behavior, the teacher may find it more effective to engage in one-on-one conversation with the student. 

Task B: Explain How Applying Principles of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Could Encourage the Following in the Learning Environment from the Scenario:

Motivation refers to something that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior. Intrinsic motivation refers to “internal desires to perform a task.” External motivation refers to “factors external to the individual and unrelated to the task they are performing.” http://www2.fiu.edu/~cryan/motivation/intrinsic.htm. 

1: Positive Social Interaction

Here, when Carol was intrinsically motivated (i.e., interested in the work) she was more inclined to pay attention. As such, putting her in a group when she is doing “intrinsically motivated” work will be helpful to the group. According to Bambara, students will “get more” out of the situation if Carol is intrinsically motivated to do well at a particular task. However, if Carol is responding to an extrinsic motivation, placing her in a group will not be productive for the entire group. She will do what she tends to do- get distracted. 

2: Self-Motivation

Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation in an elementary school environment can work together to facilitate self-motivation. If Carol is isolated and not in a group environment, yet desires to be a part of such environment, a teacher can use “extrinsic motivation” to encourage her behavior. By using entry into the group as the “carrot,” the teacher can elicit behavior or good work from Carol to bring her back into the group. Additionally, if Carol is talking out of turn, and the teacher wants to give her more homework, she should give her more homework that she is “intrinsically motivated” to do. This way, during her “time out,” Carol will be working on things she wants to.

Task C: Discuss Two Additional Techniques the Teacher Could Use to Create an Emotionally Safe Classroom for Carol 

According to Perry (2010), an emotionally safe classroom is one that is predictable, structured and familiar. For young children, such an environment becomes a haven where they can learn to their fullest potential. In order to create such a classroom, the teacher may:

1 – reserve time in the day for quiet time. This will allow a student to reflect on their accomplishments of the day. Additionally, it will avoid points in the day where a child may be overwhelmed by the novelty of the classroom (Smith 2011). 

2 – get to know the students as individuals. This allows a student to trust the teacher regarding more than the mere curriculum. It provides for an open, honest exchange of ideas and criticisms, and will prepare the student for the future. 


Alberto, P. C., & Troutman, A. C. (1999). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (5th ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill. 

Bambara, L. M., & Knoster, T. (1998). Designing positive behavior support plans. Washington DC: American Association on Mental Retardation: Research to Practice Series. 

Bruce D. Perry, MD, Ph.D., Creating an emotionally safe classroom. Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/safety_wonder.htm. 

Elizabeth Smith, Creating emotionally safe classroom environments. Retrieved from http://www.optimus-education.com/creating-emotionally-safe-classroom-environments.