Instructional Development Timeline
B. F. Skinner

Major Contribution to the History of Instructional Development

  • Operant Conditioning
  • In his 1954 article, The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching, Skinner describes the modern classroom as particularly advers to learning. He advocated for the Teaching Machine as an instructional tool that reinforced student learning
  • Based on his theory of reinforcement the development of programmed instruction and outcome-oriented instruction was born. Characteristices og Programmed Instruction:
    • behavioral objectives, small frames of instruction, self-pacing, active learner response to inserted questions, and immediate feedback regardless to correctness of the response
  • helped shift educationís focus to the outcome behavior of the learner

Skinnerís View on Teaching (based on The Art of Teaching)

Skinner among other behaviorists note shortcomings of the 1950ís traditional classroom as the following:

  • Aversive stimulation
  • Lapse between response and reinforcement
  • Lack of a long series of contingencies for desired behaviors
  • Infrequency of reinforcement

(information from 1954, Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 24, No. 2)

To break these habits, a teacher needs to bring desired behavior under many sorts of stimulus control. To achieve this, teaching should be broken into progressive stages or steps with reinforcements following each stage. The reality is that the contingencies required for desired behavior in a class is far beyond what teachers/humans can realistically arrange. With that being said, the behaviorists support the idea of instrumental aid as a necessary means for effective control of human learning. In the mid 20th century, the idea of new technologies in the classroom were just being introduced. In 1954 a machine to teach arithmetic was developed. The device was made to be used by children without constant supervision of a teacher. It provided direct reinforcement by the ringing of a bell for the desired response. A combination spelling and math machine was later developed where new problems were only presented if a child (user) answered a question correctly. It is of interest that presently in the 21st century, technology has taken huge leaps in instruction design. The same arguments arise from the 1950ís to the present that a teacherís relation cannot be duplicated by a mechanical device and ďmechanized instruction will mean technological unemployment (pg. 6).Ē In response to such objection the behaviorist note that instrumental help improves teacher-student relations. Such technologies frees up time for teachers that will enable to focus more on the student.


Operant Conditioning