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A Believer or a Behaviorist?

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Every person possesses habits. An important question to ask in understanding habits is, “what is the role of those habits in the educational experience?” Educators understand repetition, discipline, structure, and environment but do educators understand the behavioral assumptions that drive those methodologies or the ideologies from which current methodology has been derived? Consequently, the aim of this paper is to address one, central research question: can repeated behavior prohibit or promote learning or knowledge acquisition from a behaviorist’s perspective? Ivan Pavlov, perhaps a father in the behaviorism camp, spent years testing and proving what he believed to be the answer to this question.[1] He argued that he could create a consistent stimulus and develop a habit in his subjects (primarily working with dogs) through external means, thus priming them for future responses.[2] He believed that external stimuli teach a person to respond in certain ways, and those responses are then solidified through repeated exposure. Not all behaviorists agree, though, with Knight Dunlap stating these habits of learning were seen as the very fabric of the human nature: “in their totality, make[ing] up the character of the individual.”[3] If Pavlov’s assertion is true, and Dunlap’s perspective is accurate, what role does habit formation plan in the ability of the student to learn? (more…)