Thursday, September 15, 2011

Behaviorism Still Efficient in Physical Education

The popular trend in education today seems to gravitate towards the belief that behaviorism is washed-up and outdated.  Throughout my time in education, and more specifically, during this week of behaviorism evaluation, I do not see how components are not even more necessary today.  Conversely, the ability to be a 21st Century Learner is needed for students and there are a number of key concepts that must be developed cognitively.
Effort is the foundation of success in Physical Education.  Almost the entire grade a student received is based off of effort.  A student’s ability to throw a ball or lift a barbell has almost no weight in the grade they receive.  The goal in any subject should not be just to get the best grade, but considering that effort will lead to the best grade in Phys. Ed., this should be the focused.  Effort is essential because the reinforcement of it builds a connection between hard work and achievement (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007, p. 155).  Students need to be encouraged for their effort and because it is intrinsic to seek approval, reinforcement either by a teacher or by data can be very beneficial (p. 161).
Any way that effort can be reinforced is helpful, but when technology can be integrated, it is even more beneficial.  Technological components go beyond a teacher’s suggestion or comment and therefore reinforce and then continue down the path (p. 162).  This leads into the benefit of utilizing the behaviorist cornerstones of homework and practice. 
The best way to build on the concepts or motor skills explored in Phys. Ed. class is to go home and dive into it further (p. 187).  For many years, kids have gone home and played either around their residence or with peers in the neighborhood.  Interestingly, this great physical practice has been hindered by technology with the influx of computers and video games.  Because of this technology takeover and free time revolution, obesity is becoming even more of an epidemic. Thankfully, this epidemic is attempting to be curtailed.
Organizations such as the National Football League have established initiatives such as Play 60 to encourage students to be physical active each day.  Practicing is the only way skills can be learned in Physical Education.  Without actively experimenting with the concepts in their neighborhood that were debuted in class, there is no way they can strike with a club, dodge a ball or maybe even jump a rope.
            There are some concepts taught in Phys. Ed. that do not require physical activity to learn more about.  Proper training techniques, nutritional habits and rules of a sport need to be learned just like history or biology might be.  This means a more traditional “homework” structure can be effective to reinforce what was taught during the day.  PE Central, a leader in the subject area, created a Kids Quiz Page that is an interactive resource with the capability to provide instant feedback.  Websites such as it help students to be more aware of what leads to a healthy lifestyle, the true focus for any Phys. Ed. Teacher.



Pitler H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. Richard,

    I feel as though the behaviorist theory is still as much in place as it was in earlier years. When I go to finalize grades at the end of a grading period and have students that are teetering on the line of getting a B/C, I think back to the amount effort that they put into their work. If I feel as though a student did not try their best or apply any effort I will leave their grade as it is; however, if I have a student that I know did all that could and applied a great amount of effort, I will give them the point or two needed to boost their grade.

    So many students today are used to having everything handed to them and not having to work for anything. These students have no grasp on the concept that the more effort that one puts forth the greater their outcome will be.
    I believe that the use of technology is the best way to encourage students to put forth effort. The majority of our students go home every day and play video games. As we all know, the more effort that you put forth in these games the better your score is, or so be it. We need to use technology as a tool to encourage student s to do their best so that they can receive the instant gratification that they are so used to getting.

    Heather Price

  2. Well said Heather.

    Students should not just get a quality grade because they expect one, they must earn it.