Tell me and I'll forget: Show me and I'll remember: Involve me and I'll understand- Ancient Chinese Proverb

Skinner: Operant Conditioning

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I have always had a connection with Skinner’s Operant Conditioning theory. Ever since I first read the theory have embedded the basic principals of the theory in the way I manage behavior when at work in my childcare center.

The basics of the theory are good behavior gets positive rewards, such as a hug or high five, and undesirable behavior gets a negative response, missing out on play for a tiny bit. Skinner believes the children will react to the different levels of adult attention resulting in the child making positive or “good” choices.

It made sense to me! A bit of tough love as I call it and I blindly used this theory at work. Although I did see many great results within the children’s behavior there were times where my technique wasn’t effective. One thing I didn’t take into consideration was the child (which is the most important part!). I would forget to factor in the child’s disposition, home life and how their day was going. I felt like I had really let myself and the children down by not analyzing the situation and meeting their needs in an appropriate way. Once I realized why it wasn’t working I was able to be more flexible and attentive to each child’s behavior needs.

Although I still use and apply Skinner’s theory I feel as if I uses it in a more practical and realistic way. I have also began analyzing the theories and teaching techniques I learn through uni and work by using them in real situations in a flexible way and not blindly following what I read because it sounds good on paper. From this I have developed a better appreciation for practical experience and how it shapes, defines or challenges theories and I will continue evaluating and experimenting with different theories in a class environment.


Author: tegansinclair

I have a passion for Early Education. I enjoy working in the childcare setting and have been working in it for many years. A few hobbies of mine include spending time with family and friends, drawing and being crafty, watching movies and cooking.

One thought on “Skinner: Operant Conditioning

  1. Hi Tegan,
    Reading your post made realise how important practical experience and reflection is when applying the theories we have been taught, as sometimes things don’t work out quite the same as what has been said in all the textbooks and articles we’ve read. I too, have found myself questioning the theories that I used to think made sense to me.


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