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Behavioral & Wholistic Approaches to Education

The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the Behavioral and Wholistic approaches to education. To this end, the paper first defines and discusses research on the Behavioral approach. This is followed by a definition and discussion of research on the Wholistic approach. Finally, conclusions regarding a comparison of the two approaches are formulated and presented.

The Behavioral Approach: Definition and Research

The Behavioral approach to education is an outgrowth of Behavior Theory (Sometimes termed "Learning Theory."). According to Pervin (1980), Behavior Theory holds that human behavior is shaped by a manipulation of environmental or external rewards and punishments. As originally conceived by B.F. Skinner (1953), the behavioral approach to learning was termed "operant conditioning," and postulated that the characteristics of a human response was shaped by its consequences which either positively reinforced the behavior thereby leading to its continuance, or negatively reinforced the behavior thereby leading to its extinguishment. In this early version of the Behavioral Approach, the learner's role was passive. As Skinner (1953) put it:

Operant conditioning shapes behavior as a sculptor shapes a lump of clay. Although at some point the sculptor seems to have produced an entirely novel object, we can always follow the process back to the original undifferentiated lump. . .(p.91)

In its more current form, the behavioral approach has assigned a more active role to the learner; this through the development of Social Learning Theory which adds the dimension of cognition to learning by the postulation of observational learning processes. In other words, people can learn something merely by observing its occurrence. According to Bandura (1977), the inclusion of this cognitive dimension to Behavior Theory has resulted in a:

. . .conception of human functioning that neither casts people into the role of po...

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Behavioral & Wholistic Approaches to Education. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:10, March 26, 2019, from