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Behaviorist Theories and the Adult Learner

With regard to behaviorist theories, what are the reference to the applicability to the adult learner?

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In response to your question about the applicability to of adult learners, I looked in the one book I own, which the university I attend considers to be seminal research on adult learning, and found the text (see below) about behaviorism-especially including Skinner's theories. As with the previous file I provided, this text should be exactly as it appears in the book. Essentially, the passage summarizes Skinner's theory as reinforcing behavior with either positive or negative consequences. It is easy to extrapolate from this definition that experience such as touching a hot stove, which has a negative consequence, would reinforce the lesson that touching a hot stove is a major mistake. That said, by the time one is an adult, it is assumed that he or she will have learned such simple lessons. In looking at this passage, I am inclined to part with Skinner and behaviorism for the full explanation of adult learning.

Bandura also is classified as a behaviorist and I think his theory is more applicable to adult learning. Many of the early learning theorists like Skinner address the overall learner, sometimes with specific reference the age of the student. If I were writing this paper, I would assume that that Skinner is referring to a learner at the beginning of the learning process. The example I used about touching the hot stove seems like something a person would learn as a child, whereas Bandura's social cognitive theory requires a bit more experience on the part of the learner.

Merriam, S. B., & Caffarella, R. S. (1998). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

p. 251
Behaviorist Orientation
Behaviorism is a well-known orientation to learning that encompasses a number of individual theories. Developed by John B. Watson In the early decades of the 20th century, behaviorism loosely encompasses the work of such people as Thorndike, Tolman, Guthrie, Hull, and Skinner (Ormrod, 1995). What characterizes these investigators is their underlying assumptions about the process of ...

Solution Summary

The applicabilty of behaviorist theories to the adult learner is discussed.