What is the Behavior Approach to Curriculum

The Behavioral Approach is based on a blueprint, where goals and objectives are specified. Contents and activities are arranged to match with specified learning objectives. The learning outcomes are evaluated in terms of goals and objectives that are set at the beginning.

This approach is grounded in scientific principles. Everything the students do must be observable as this is the evidence that the student has achieved the goals and objectives, which are also based on observable behaviors.  All activities lead to students being able to do whatever the goals and objective specify.

The Behavioral Approach, is the oldest, and still the major approach. This approach relies on technical and scientific principles. It includes paradigms, model, and step-by-step strategies. Goals and objectives are specified. All the content and activities are sequenced based on objective, and learning outcomes are evaluated based on goals and objectives

Fredrick Taylor

At the close of the 19th century American education became ever increasingly affected by the developments and ideas present in business and industry – especially the Scientific Management theory postulated or developed by Frederick W. Taylor.

Taylor, an engineer working for Bethlehem Steel, developed his management theory that consisted of four basic principles. Taylor’s four principles along with how his theories are still affecting education are listed below:

  • Scientific research & analysis of work - Taylor insisted that the duty of a manager was to examine a task so that the task could be performed faster and better. According to Taylor the ultimate goal of any manager was to increase production. Taylor did a number of studies relating to the tasks of workers and formulated ways in which production could increase.

  • Scientific selection, training, and development – Taylor argued that every worker should be trained as to how best achieve or complete a task and once trained the worker or employee must follow the adopted practice. This idea is embedded in each state’s requirement for teacher certification. The idea of course is that workers (teachers) that are trained in specific curricula can provide much more information to students than can teachers trained in a wide discipline.

  • Intimate, friendly, and hearty cooperation for scientific work principles – Taylor felt that workers should be paid for their production. He advocated paying workers based on what they achieved and thus workers were placed into an incentive system. Many states have implemented and continue to implement this idea through a variety of plans including “merit pay”, career ladder, and currently the National Board standards. The idea in education is that those teachers that put forth more effort than others should be financially rewarded.

  • Planning work tasks were the responsibility of management. Workers should then be closely supervised to ensure their completion of any assigned tasks. The formal and informal teacher evaluation process of today somewhat mirrors Taylor’s idea concerning the duty of management to closely supervise employees.

Franklin Bobbit

Franklin Bobbit believed that the learning objectives, together with the activities, should be grouped and sequenced after clarifying the instructional activities and tasks. He also viewed curriculum as a science that emphasized the needs of the students. This viewpoint explains why lessons are planned and organized depending on the needs of the students and these needs must be addressed by the teachers to prepare them for adult life.

Bobbitt is best known for two books, The Curriculum (1918) and How to Make a Curriculum (1924). In these volumes and in his other writings, he developed a theory of curriculum development borrowed from the principles of scientific management, which the engineer Frederick W.Taylor had articulated earlier in the century in his efforts to render American industry more efficient.

The key principal for Taylor was the task idea, the notion that each worker should be given a narrowly defined production assignment that he was to perform at a specific rate using certain predefined procedures. It was the responsibility of an emerging profession of efficiency experts to identify these precise steps. The procedures for curriculum planning, which Bobbitt referred to as job analysis, were adapted from Taylor's work and began with the identification of the specific activities that adults undertook in fulfilling their various occupational, citizenship, family, and other social roles. The resulting activities were to be the objectives of the curriculum. The curriculum itself, Bobbitt noted, was comprised of the school experiences that educators constructed to enable children to attain these objectives.

Bobbit's Contribution

First, he was one of the first American educators to advance the case for the identification of objectives as the starting point for curriculum making.

Second, his so-called scientific approach to curriculum making served as a precedent for the work of numerous educators during the next half-century in spelling out the procedures for designing the course of study. It was a method that became and has remained the conventional wisdom among American educators concerning the process of curriculum development.

Third, Bobbitt along with other early-twentieth-century efficiency-oriented school reformers made the case that the curriculum ought to be differentiated into numerous programs, some academic and preparatory and others vocational and terminal, and that students ought to be channeled to these tracks on the basis their abilities.

Lastly, Bobbitt was one of the first American educators to define the curriculum as an instrument of social control or regulation for addressing the problems of modern society

Hilda Taba

Hilda Taba was an architect, curriculum theorist, curriculum reformer and a teacher educator. She was a student of John Dewey when she wrote her first dissertation which explained a process for what educators should teach and ho they could accomplish desired student outcomes. Her philosophy was; she believed that the renovation of curricula and programs is not a short effort but a long process.

Her Model was based on three main assumptions.

  • Thinking is an active transaction between the individual and data
  • Thinking can be taught
  • Processes of thought evolve by a sequence that is "lawful"

Taba believed that the curriculum should be organized around generalized learning objectives which enables students to discover principles that will enable tem t be successful

7 Steps to Curriculum Development

  1. Diagnosis of needs - Taba believed that teachers were aware of what students need so they should be the main creators of the curriculum.
  2. Formulation of Objectives - Development of overall goals originates from a variety of sources such as the demands of society, and the needs of students.
  3. Selection of Content - In this curriculum model, Taba believed that the content should match the objectives.
  4. Organization of Content - The content is organized based on the students achievement levels
  5. Selection of learning experiences - Instructional methods must keep students engaged, Learning experiences are created so that they develop multiple objectives: Thinking, Attitudes, Knowledge, and Skills
  6. Organization of learning experiences - The learning experiences are organized to allow community of learning. Each activity is a prerequisite for those that follow. This provides the students with a challenge without going beyond what the students are capable of.
  7. Determination of what to evaluate and how to do so - Students progress is monitored throughout the year. Evaluations were included at different points to help teachers and students plan and adapt learning activities to meet the objectives

Taba's model is considered a spiral curriculum which allows for important content to be reviewed throughout the year. The use of Taba's ideas of charting students status in learning and placing students with similar learning in diverse groupings is now what we call cooperative grouping. The development of curriculum based on ideals of Hilda Taba are found in curriculum used in many schools today.

Edward Thorndike

Edward Lee Thorndike was a well-known an American psychologist who worked on animal behavior. He has the honor of laying the foundation for modern educational psychology with the help of his proposed theory on connectionism. Thorndike’s theory on learned behavior is formed on the basis of operant conditioning and classical conditioning.

He is also best-known for his famous puzzle box experiments with cats which led to the development of his law of effect. Thorndike's principle suggests that responses immediately followed by satisfaction will be more likely to occur in the future. The law of effect also suggests that behaviors followed by dissatisfaction or discomfort will become less likely to occur.

Thorndike identified three main areas of intellectual development

  1. Abstract intelligence - the ability to process and understand different concepts
  2. Mechanical intelligence - the ability to handle physical objects
  3. Social intelligence - the ability to handle human interaction

The Law of Effect (learning is developed from the organism doing something)

For example, he placed a cat inside a wooden box. The cat would use various methods while trying to get out, however nothing would work until it hit the lever. Afterwards, Thorndike tried placing the cat inside the wooden box again. This time, the cat was able to hit the lever quickly and succeeded in getting out from the box.

At first, Thorndike emphasized the importance of dissatisfaction stemming from failure as equal to the reward of satisfaction with success, though in his experiments and trials on humans he came to conclude that reward is a much more effective motivator than punishment. He also emphasized that the satisfaction must come immediately after the success, or the lesson would not sink in.

The law states that responses that produce a desired effect are more likely to occur again whereas responses that produce an unpleasant effect are less likely to occur again.

Thorndike contributed a great deal to psychology, helped pave the way towards behaviorism, and introduced the concept of reinforcement.