The instructional strategy of homework and practice falls under “Repetition, generalization and discrimination,” one of the four key principles of learning according to James Hartley (Smith, 1999). He also notes, “Skills are not acquired without frequent practice” (Smith, 1999). Homework and practice are an instructional strategy that do just that, it provides students an opportunity to review, apply, and practice the skills they have learned.
The author’s of Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works talk about how exposing students to concepts multiple times helps them to become proficient with the skill and that they need to be exposed to the skill about 24 times to achieve 80-percent competency (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Numerous software programs and websites provide students an opportunity to practice the concepts they learn. This programmed instruction provides students with reinforcement and can be used as practice during school or as homework. Some great websites I use are www.spellingcity.com , www.funbrain.com , and www.coolmath-games.com .
The authors continue to state that when “homework is assigned, it should be commented on” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 187). Providing comments on homework and practice is a way to give positive and negative reinforcement. Providing positive and negative reinforcement is a way to increase the likelihood that students will repeat the behavior that the teacher is looking for. As the students repeat the behavior, their proficiency in the skill will increase.
Reinforcing effort is another instructional strategy that increases achievement (Pitler et al., 2007). Making a connection between effort and achievement is important for students. I really like the activity that fifth grade teachers, Ms. Powell and Mr. Rodriguez, used to help their students to see this connection. The filled out an effort rubric to assess themselves and then charted their progress on a spreadsheet. This is a perfect example of, “Reinforcement is the cardinal motivator” and “Learning by doing,” that are key principles of behaviorist James Hartley (Smith, 1999).
Even though there are differing opinions on whether or not the behaviorist learning theory is applicable in a classroom, I feel that it can be useful. There are many concepts, like math facts, that once a student learns the concept they need to practice the skill repeatedly to become proficient. Reinforcement is also a great motivator when used the correct way. However, I do believe that behaviorism should not be the only learning theory that is evident in a classroom.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program four: Behaviorist learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc. custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm