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8.5 Behavior Modification Through Instruction and Curriculum

Learning is a very comprehensive term. Learning does not mean only acquisition of knowledge or skill; it means much more than that. Thus, it includes acquiring of attitudes, values, likes, dislikes, and many other habits. A number of psychologists have defined learning as ‘change or modification of behaviour’. Thus, learning is the process by which an organism, as a result of its interaction with a situation, acquires a new mode of behaviour, which tends to persist and affect the general behavioural pattern of the organism to some degree.

According to G.A. Kimble, “Learning refers to a more or less permanent change in behaviour which occurs as a result of practice”,

Munn says, “Learning is more or less permanent, incremental modification of behaviour which results from activity, special training or observation”.

Thorpe defines learning as that “process which manifests itself by adoptive changes in individual’s behaviour as a result of experience”.

The above cited definitions emphasise that learning results in change or modification of behaviour. Thus all learning results in change or modification of behaviour. But a pertinent question in this connection is: Do all changes in behaviour occur due to learning? The answer is definitely ‘No’. There are so many other causes of change in behaviour, e.g., fatigue, drugs, anxiety, emotion and so on. An individual, after long hours of continuous work, shows marked deterioration in his efficiency and performance. Radical changes in behaviour are noticed under the influence of intoxicants; a child in a state of fear and anxiety shows poor performance, and so on. In addition to these, there are other factors which result in the change of behaviour e.g., the natural process of maturation.

Thus, all learning is modification of behaviour, but all modification of behaviour is not learning. We may conclude by saying that ‘Learning is limited to those changes in behaviour which are a result of training or experiences, and not a result of maturing or temporary physiological 1 or psychological states of the organism’.

It must be noted that learning stands for relatively permanent change or modification of behaviour. The temporary changes in behaviour do not constitute learning.

Moreover, modification of behaviour may take place in the desirable direction or in the undesirable direction. For example, children learn good habits as well as bad habits. Of course, teachers and parents must always encourage children to learn desirable behaviour patterns.

It is not practice alone which causes learning. In fact, learning occurs under conditions of reinforcement. Thus, learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour and is the result of reinforced practice.

Basis of Behaviour

Human behaviour results from two basic forces : Forces ‘inside’ the individual, and forces ‘outside’ the individual. The inside’ forces mean man’s physical hungers, and his psychological urges; the ‘outside’ forces are one’s aims and objectives, expectation of reward, and other requirements of the society. An individual tries to modify his behaviour to meet his internal and external needs. Needs and requirements, therefore, are the basic causes of learning. These needs can also be classified in the following way:

1. Basic Needs. Food, shelter, sex, etc.

2. Psychological Needs. Satisfaction of urges and desires, pleasures and happiness.

3. Normative Needs. Attainment of aims and objectives, observing norms and values, acting according to the standards set by adults and society.

Behaviour, therefore, is prone to modification due to need-oriented learning, and is both complex and purposeful. Therefore, the modification of behaviour through learning towards the fulfilment of the individual’s needs in a socially approved way is the main concern of a teacher.

Behaviour modification / learning is influenced by curriculum and instruction in the following ways:

i) Effective Methods of Teaching

Better and effective methods of teaching are essential for learning. Mostly, poor learning is the result of faulty methods of teaching. Instead of the old and traditional methods of teaching, modern and psychological methods of teaching should be used. A good method of teaching is that which makes the subject-matter clear even to the slowest learner. Bad learning is mostly due to the fact that the subject matter is not clear to students on account of employing faulty methods of teaching. Best methods of learning will result in best type of learning.

ii)Clarity of Presentation

The subject matter must be presented clearly before the students, so that they understand it properly. This is a very important condition of learning. Let us analyse the teaching-learning process. The teacher has a mental image of the subject matter that he likes to teach to the students. He uses the media of verbal explanations aided by various types of devices of teaching and audio-visual aids to get this mental image of knowledge conveyed to the minds of the pupils. The success of teaching as well as learning will depend upon the clarity of this mental image. If a clear image is formed in the minds of the students, the impression on their mind will be clear and lasting, which means better learning. Therefore, the presentation of the subject-matter should be as clear as possible to make learning effective and successful.

iii) Providing Direct Experiences

Nothing teaches like an experience and personal observation. Therefore, wherever possible, the students should be taught by the method of personal observation and experience. For example, no amount of verbal explanation will give us a clear picture of the Taj Mahel the best way to know and appreciate it is to see it personally. Let the students observe and experience; and rest assure, true and effective learning will automatically take place.

iv) Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a procedure of associating pleasant or unpleasant experiences, objects or events with the responses made by the learner. The basic idea of reinforcing a response is either to strengthen a response or to weaken it. Appreciation and rewards help in the strengthening of a certain behaviour in the child; and punishment and reproof help in the elimination of undesirable behaviour in children. Thus, reinforcement can be positive such as appreciation and rewards, and negative such as reproof and punishment. The idea of providing reinforcement in learning was first popularised by Edward Thorndike and later by B.F. Skinner. Reinforcement plays a significant part in learning and therefore, the teacher should make use of this technique in the learning process.

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