Children within ages 8-12 fall within the pre-adolescent to adolescent stages of their development (Patterson 5). These children are generally regarded as those that are already of school-age and are therefore capable of maintaining longer attentions spans in order to learn more things than those who are significantly younger than they are (Patterson 6). During these stage, several learning conditions can be applied to suit whatever is best for a particular child. In general, there are three major models in conditioning learning. These are the classical, operant, and cognitive-social conditioning models. This paper aims to expound on each of these models under the context of children within 8-12 years of age. From this information, this paper would reflect upon the author’s own experiences with regard to the different models and the effects that each has had.
Classical conditioning is a model which was forwarded by Ivan Pavlov during the late 19th century (Huffman 27). He formulated the model after he discovered that dogs salivated not only in the presence of food but also in the presence of the person who brought the food even if there was no food present (Huffman 28). Hence, Pavlov theorized that it was possible to “teach” an animal to associate one stimulus to which it already has a response to with another stimulus and in time the anima will have the same response to the second stimulus as well. The development of this model to apply to humans did not come until John Watson’s
experiment during 1920 (Huffman 28). Watson saw how children’s usual reaction to loud
noises was fear (Huffman 28). He exposed an 11-month old child to a harmless white rat
which the child played with naturally (Huffman 29). In succeeding sessions, Watson introduced a loud noise that would scare the child every time the child tries to play with the rat (Huffman 29). This resulted eventually to the child learning to fear the rat. For those in the ages 8-12, there are several classical conditioning instances that can be observed. One particular example is the ringing of the bell during recess or dismissal. Since the students know that the bell signifies that its time to go home or take a break, then they associate a positive outlook towards bells. When later on they are shown a bell and asked what they can associate with it, most children would not forget to mentioned that they associate it with recess or food or going home.
While classical conditioning uses antecedent conditions in order to elicit conditioned responses, these responses are not maintained by consequences but are natural reactions produced from a response that has already been associated towards a previous stimulus. This is its main difference from operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, a consequence that follows after a particular response from a stimulus teaches the respondent the best course of action for the situation (Fester & Skinner 9). Forwarded by Edward Thorndike, this conditioning model introduces a new stimulus after the child’s response to a situation depending on the nature of the child’s response (Huffman 53). If the child responded well to the situation, then he or she is given a reward. A reward is generally something that is expected to be pleasurable or satisfying for the child. A reward can be an actual object such as a piece of candy or even a verbal compliment. When the child’s response to the situation is not desired, then the reward is withheld or a punishment is given to the child. As time
progresses, the child will learn that in order to gain a reward and avoid punishment, he will
have to do what is expected of him or her. This type of conditioning is very present in
classrooms of children aged 8-12. Teachers would normally give praises to students who get answers correct. At the same time, the teacher scolds students who do not pay attention and sometimes sends them to the principal’s office for their behavior. Hence, this reinforces the value of getting the correct answers and teaches students to pay attention in class.
The cognitive-social model of conditioning emphasizes the roles that thinking and interacting play in shaping human behavior. In this model, it is believed that when animals are allowed to interact and think about a particular difficulty, they will be able to find the best means to resolve that difficulty. Bandura proposed that as individuals observed and interacted, their thinking processes resulted to new knowledge that they can apply to solve problems. Bandura believed that this was a much more flexible means of conditioning behavior than by applying mechanical procedures aimed at eliciting just one specific response. In classrooms, the theory behind holding group activities where children can interact and think about finding solutions to problems is mainly cognitive-social in nature.
While each of the explained learning conditions has affected the author, what has most affected the author would be operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is widely used both in the school and in the home. Parents would usually tie rewards with good behavior, treating children to ice cream whenever they get high marks on exams. Because of the prevalence of this model in most of the author’s experiences, the author has learned what to do based on whether he would get rewarded or punished for committing an act in question.
Patterson, C. Child Development. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.
Ferster, C. B., & Skinner, B. F. Schedules of reinforcement. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957.
Huffman, K. Living Psychology. John Wiley & Sons, 1995.