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Applying behavioural psychology in education: Contributions and barriers to the implementation of effective instruction

Leach, D.J. (1996) Applying behavioural psychology in education: Contributions and barriers to the implementation of effective instruction. Behaviour Change, 13 (1). pp. 3-19.

Abstract

Between 10% and 25% of children in Australian schools have significant difficulty in mastering basic educational skills. Failure to achieve 'tool' competencies in literacy (and numeracy) expected for independent adult functioning can have cumulatively negative consequences for individuals and their communities. The contribution of behavioural approaches to the instruction in basic literacy skills in schools is outlined. Empirical evidence of their effectiveness is presented and two of the most comprehensive (and most successful) models are described: the Morningside model of generative instruction and direct instruction. Despite strong research support, however, behavioural approaches have not been widely adopted in general education. It is suggested that the main barriers to their adoption are the currently dominant paradigms of structuralism and constructivism, neither of which have translated into effective teaching practices for children most at risk of failure. Constructivist epistemology, in particular, is seen as oppositional to behaviour-based instruction and scientist-practitioner intervention, and its disregard for empiricism is cause for concern that ineffective practices will be maintained. It is concluded that behaviour-based practitioners (and researchers) need to become more effectively involved in system-level change strategies if they are to make an impact on the wider problems of educational failure.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Publisher: Australian Academic Press
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/19959
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