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An Overview of Behaviorist Theory

            Behaviorist theory is  founded by J.B . Watson. Basically it is a psychological theory of native language learning. This theory was advanced in America as a new approach to psychology in the early decades of the 20th century by making a particular emphasis on the importance of verbal behaviour. This has received a considerable trust from the educational world of 1950s.

            Behavirist theory is originated from Pavlov’s experiment which indicates that stimulus and response work together. Ivan Pavlov, Behaviorisma Russioan Psychologiat, conducted a series of experiments in which he trained a dog to salivate when hearing a tuning fork through a procedure that he has come to be known as classical conditioning. For him, the procces of learning consisted of the formation of association betweeen stimuli and reflexive responses. In his classical experiments he trained a dog to associate the sound of a tuning fork fork with salivation until the dog acquired a conditioned response that is salivation at the sound  of the tuning fork. A previously neutral stimulus (the sound of the tuning fork) had acquired the power to elicit a response (salivation) that was originally elicited by another stimulus (the smell of food).

            Watson (1913), deriving from pavlov’s finding has named this theory Behaviorism. Following Pavlov’s finding, he adopted classical conditioning theory to explain all types of learning. He rejects the mentalistic notion of innatess and instinct. Instead, he believes that by procces of conditioning     we can build a set of stimulus response connections, and more complex behaviors are learned by building up series of responses.

            In 1938 B. F. Skinner published his Behavior of Organism. He followed Watson’s tradition and added a unique dimension to  Behaviorism. Other psychologists therefore have called him a neo behaviorist. He created a new concept called Operant conditioning. According to skinner, Pavlov’s classical conditioning was a typical form of learning utilized mainly by animals and slightlyapplicable to account for human learning. He called Pavlov’s conditioning  Respondent Conditioning. It was concerned mainly with respondent behavior, behavior thath is elicited by a preceding stimulus. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning tries to account for most of human learning and behavor. Operant behavior is behavior in which one operates on the environment. Within this model the importance of stimuli is de-emphasized. More emphasis, however, is on the consequence of stimuli.

            Operants are classes of response which are elicited and governed by the consequences they produce. Respondents, on the contrary, are responses, which are elicited by identifiable stimuli. Cedrtain pgysical reflex actions are respondents. Crying, for example, can be either respondent or operant behavior. However, crying which is elicited In direct reaction to a hurt is respondent behavior. However, crying which is an emitted response, which produces the consequence of getting fed, cuddled, or comforted is operant behavior. Such operant crying can be controlled.

            Skinner’s operant conditioning seems to be preoccupied with scientific controls. This has been widely applied in clinical settings (i.e., behavior modification) as well as teaching (i.e., classroom management) and instructional development (i.e., programmed instruction). He claimed that any subject matter could be taught effectively and succesfully by a carefully designed program of step-by-step- reinforcement.

            According to Skinner (1957), reinforcement is the key element.  The events or stimuli (the reinfoncer) constitute a powerful force in the control of human behavir. Reinforcers are far stronger aspects of learning than mere association of a prior stimulus with a following responses. Human being are governed by the consequences of their behavior. In studying human behavior, therefore, we ought tostudy the effect of those consequences. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response. It could be verbal praise, a good grade or a feeling of increased accomplishment orsatisfaction.the theory also covers negative reinforcers-any stimulus which results in the increased frequency of a response when it withdrawn. It is different from adversive stimuli (i.e. punishment) which result in reduced responses.

            With regard to foreign language instruction, Skinner’s verbal behavior (1957) described language as a system of verbal operants. Therefore, the teaching methodology based om skinner’s view rely the classroom procedures on the controlled practice of verbal operant conditioning, then, is a mechanistic approach to learning         External forces select stimuli and reinforce respomses until desires behavior is conditioned to occur. Learning is the result of external factors operating on and shaping the organism’s behavior. Given the proper reinforcement behavior will change. In simple terms, the theory says that learning occurs in the following manner: the learner responds to a stimulus. The response must be active. The connection between the stimulus and the response is conditioned by reinforcement. In sum, we can say that learning is basically viewed as a process of conditioning behavior. From this tenet comes the definition of learning as “a change in behavior”. In accordance with skinner’s theory, Brook (1964:46) has defined learning as “a change in performance that occurs under the conditions of practice”.

            Skinner (2957:82) make quite clear that learning language, although it is complex, is the same as learning other learned behavior. He states that in all verbal behavior under stimulus control there are three important events to be taken into accounts, namely: a stimulus, a response, and reiforcement. These three are contingent upon each other. We can see this in the following way: the stimulus, acting prior to the emission of the response, sets the occasion upon which the response is likely to be reinforced, under this contingency, through a process of operant discrimination, the stimulus becomes the occasion upon which th response is likely to be emitted. A representation of this can be seen in figure I below
Chart 1 : learning Process According to Behaviorism

Stimulus à Organism (Human being) à Response Behavior à Reinforcement
     à No Reinforcement

           Markle (1969) and Skinner (1968) state further that nehaviorist theory includes some basic tenets, namely : (1) Behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effectiove; (2) information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced (shaping); (3) reinforcements will generalixe across similar stimuli (stimulus generalization) producing secondary conditioning. They further exemplify the implications of reinforcement theory as applied to the development of programmed instruction as follows: (1) Practice should take the form of question (stimulus) – answer (response) frames which expose the student to the subject in gradual steps; (2) require that the learner make a response for every frame and receive immediate feedback; (3) try to arrange the difficulty of the questions so the response is always correct and hence a position reinforcement; (4) Ensure that good performance in the lesson paired with secondary reinforcers such as verbal praise, prizes and good grades.

The Application of Behaviorist Theory in Language Learning

         Skinner’s theory of behaviorism has profoundly influenced the direction of the second or foreign language teaching. The simplicity and directness of this theory – learning is a mechanical habit formation and proceeds by means of the frequent reinfocement of a stimulus and response sequence – has enermous impact on language teaching. It provides the learning theory, which underpins the widely used Audiolingual Method (ALM) of the 1950s and 1960s. this method, which will be familiar to many language teachers, has laid down a set of guiding methological principles based on two concepts: (1) the behaviorist stimulus-response concept based and; (2)and assumtion that second language learning should reflect and imitate the perceived processes of mother tongue learning. There are three crucial elements in learning, namely: a stimulus, a response and reinforcement. A stimulus, which serves to elicit behavior, a response triggered by a stimulus’ and reinforcement, which serves to mak the response as being appriorate (or inappropriate) and encourage the repetition (or suppression) of the response in the future. Learning is thus described as the formation of association between stimuli and responses. (Skinner; Brown, 1980)

         The application of this theory In Audiolingual method is as follows: the organism as the foreign language learner, the behavior as verbal behavior, the stimulus as what is thaught (language input), the response as the learner’s reaction to the stimulus,a nd the reinforcement as the approval or praise (or discouragement) of the teacher or fellow students. And learning a language is a process of acquiring a set  of appropriate language stimulus-response chains, a mechanical process  of habit formation. Some of the learning precepts include: (1) never translate; (2) New language should always be dealt within the sequence of listening, speaking, reading, and writing; (3) frequent repetition is essential to effective learning; and (4)All errors must be immediately corrected. (Rivers, 1964 and Hutchinson, 1980) Meanwhile Richards and Rodgers (1987) mention five major principles of teaching and learning which include: (1) The separation of  language skills into listening, speaking, reading, and writing, with emphasis on the teaching of listening and speaking before reading and writing, (2) The use of dialogues as the chief means of presenting the language; (3) The emphasis on certain practise techniques: mimicry, memorization and pattern drills; (4) The use of mother tongue in the classroom should be discouraged; and (5) The use of language laboratory.

    Classroom environment in audiolingualism, therefore, is arranged in which there is a maximum amount of mimicry, memorization and pattern drills on the part of the learners. Ausubel (1968) calls this type of learning as rote learning. On the other part, the teacher is supposed to give reward to the utterances coming closest to the model recorder and to extinguish the utterances, which do not. There are various pattern drills used in Audiolingual Method as presented by Brook (1964:156-61) as follows:

1.      Repetition
2.      Inflection
3.      Replacement
4.      Restatement
5.      Completion
6.      Transposition
7.      Expansion
8.      Contraction
9.      Transformation
1      Integration

      Under Audiolialism learner errors have become a significant concern. Nelson Brooks (1964: 58), the proponent of Audiolingual  method, views learner errors as sin to virtue, stating that “like sin, error is to be avoided and its influence overcome, buat its presence is to be expected”. Thus, in the teaching learning process, teachers must provide correct language models using different types of pattern drill. Errors are neither desirable nor tolerated. They are evidence of non-learning; learners fail to learn the linguistic elements. Some language-teaching theorists even suggest that there is a danger of errors becoming habits in their own right if they are tolerated. Errors should not be tolerated sonce they are result of non-learning, rather than wrong learning. Errors which always exist when a learner learns a foreign language should be avoided.

        Audiolingual  method has problablyhad greater impact on second and foreign language teaching compared with any other methods. It is developed as reaction against more traditional method such as grammar translationand reading methods. It is the incorporation of the linguistic principle of Aural-Oral approaches with the  psychological learning theory. Behaviorist psycholgy and structural linguistic provided its principle rationale. It was Professor Nelson Brooks who coined the term in 1964. Its principles formed the basis of widely used series such as the Lado English Series, English 900 (American English), and English 901 (British English). Although the method began to lose its favor, Audiolingualism and materials based on audiolingual principles continue to be widely used to day.

      The theory of language underlying Audiolingualism is derived from structural odr descriptive linguistics or Bloomfieldian linguitics. Language is viewed as a system of structurally realted elements for the encoding of meaning; elements are phonemes, morphemes, words, and sentences. Learning a language is assumed to entail mastering the elements of the language and learning the rules by which these elements are combined, from the phoneme to morpheme t word to phrase to sentence. The theory of learning underlying Audiolingual is derived from Behaviorism. Both fields are mutually supportive to the emergence of Audiolingualism. Behaviorist, Skinner has a lot to say about the way language worked and the linguist, Leonard Bloomfield has a great deal to say about the psychological aspects of language learning. Out of these influences emerge a number of learning principles which become the psychological foundations of audiolingualism and shape its methodological practices. Among of the more central are as follows:

(1)   Foreign language learning is basically a process of mechanical habit formation. Good habits are formed by giving correct   responses rather than making mistakes.
(2)   Language skills are learned more effectively if the items to be learned in the target language are presented in spoken form before they are seen in written form.
(3)   Analogy provides a better foundation for language learning than analysis. Drills can enable learners to form correct analogies.
(4)   The meanings that the words of language have for the native speaker can be learned only in a linguistic and cultural context and not in isolation.
(5)   Teaching a language, thus, involves teaching aspects of the cultural system of the people who speak the language.
                                                                                                            (Rivers, 1964:19-22)
        The marriage of structural linguistic analysis and behaviorist habit formation provides us with five keys characteristics which need to be taken into consideration in designing language programs, namely:
(1)   Language is speech, not writing,
(2)   A language is a set of habits,
(3)   Teach the language, not about the language,
(4)   A language is what native speakers say, not someone thinks they ought to say, and
(5)   Language are different.
                                                                                                (Moultan in Nunan, 1991_231)
        The learning objectives of an audiolingualprogram are  distinguished between short range ang long range objectives. Short range objectives, according to Brooks (1964: 111), include “training listening comprehensin, accurate pronunciation, recognition of speech symbols and the ability to produce these symbols in writing. Whereas long-range objectives of learning must be language aas the native speaker uses it. There must be must be some knowledge of a second language as it is  processed by a true bilingual” (Brook 1964:104).

         Audiolingualism reaches its period of most widely use in the 1960s. but then comes criticism on two fronts, namely: the behaviorism as its learning theory and structural linguistics as its language theory. Noam Chomsky (1957). This critique is based on his own model of linguistic, namely: transformational generative grammar. “Language is not a habit structure; ordinary linguistic behavior characteristically involves innovation formation of new sentences and patterns in accordance with rules of great abstractness and intricacy” (Chomsky 1966:153). Chomsky’s theory of transformational grammar proposes that fundamental properties of language are derived from innate aspects of mind and form how humans procces experience through language. Much of language use is not imitated behavior but is created a new from underlying ‘Competence’ (Chomsky, 1966. Most of audiolingual paradigm is questioned and created a critic in language teaching circles. Cognitive Code Learning is offered as an answer. The theory is derived in pasrt from Chomsky’s view.

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