Educational Psychology: What do we mean by the term “operant conditioning” in realtion to the teaching process?

2b iii).  Explain the concept of operant conditioning as per the teaching process

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is the second type of simple learning through association. There are differences between learning through classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Operant learning is a little more complex than classical conditioning. Its complexity is observed in the following ways:

In classical conditioning, the dog is a passive learner. It is given food and expected to salivate without working for the food. Salivation in the dog is said to be elicited in operant earns its reinforcement.

Operant conditioning Experiments

Experiments to illustrate how learning occurs through operant conditioning were conducted by BF Skinner. Skinner devised an apparatus called the Skinner box. The Skinner box was a small enclosure, which was equipped with a few gadgets. At one corner of the box was a lever or bar. This lever was connected to a food magazine, which contained food pellets. Skinner would put a hungry rat in the Skinner box. Hunger would motivate the rat to move about in the box. Each movement was called a trial. The rat would move all over the box without finding food. Accidentally it would touch the bar, which would operate the food magazine. The food magazine would release a few pellets of food which the rat would eat and continue the exploration of the box. After many trials, the rat learned to associate a certain corner of the box with food. This would reduce the unnecessary movement all over the box as the rat would confine its exploration of the to the particular corner, which yields food. Soon the rat would learn to associate the bar- pressing behavior with the food and would press the bar until there was enough food.

Therefore the bar-pressing behavior was the learned response, which was accompanied by the food, which was the reinforcement event.


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