Episode 112 - Behaviorism in Education: The Legacy of B.F. Skinner - 16:1 - An Education Podcast Episode 112 - Behaviorism in Education: The Legacy of B.F. Skinner - 16:1 - An Education Podcast

Episode 112 - Behaviorism in Education: The Legacy of B.F. Skinner

July 4, 2024

Educational Philosophy & Psychology

Education News Headline Roundup

Behaviorism in Education: The Legacy of B.F. Skinner

In this episode, we investigate the life and work of B.F. Skinner, the pioneering psychologist who transformed our understanding of behaviorism and left deep marks on classrooms, schools, and methods of instruction. Discover how Skinner’s theories on behavior modification, reinforcement, and punishment continue to influence modern education and classroom management.


  • Early Life and Influences: Learn about Skinner’s journey from aspiring writer to groundbreaking psychologist, influenced by the works of Ivan Pavlov and John B. Watson.
  • Operant Conditioning: Understand the principles of operant conditioning and how Skinner’s research with rats and pigeons laid the foundation for behaviorist approaches in education.
  • The Skinner Box and Other Oddities and Experiments: Explore the development of the operant conditioning chamber, famously known as the “Skinner Box,” and its role in studying animal behavior. Be sure to stick around for a discussion of… (checks notes…) war pigeons?
  • Educational Impact: Join a discussion of how Skinner’s theories have shaped modern educational practices, including the use of positive and negative reinforcement, token economies, and programmed instruction.
  • Controversies and Criticisms: Delve into the ethical debates surrounding behaviorist techniques and their application in both educational and social contexts.
  • Legacy in Education: Katie and Chelsea Reflect on Skinner’s lasting impact on educational technology and teaching methodologies.

Discussion Questions:

  • Has Skinner’s focus on observable and measurable behaviors had an overall positive or negative impact on formal educational systems?
  • How much behavior modification is too much when it comes to classroom instruction, and what are the ethical implications of applying behaviorist principles in schools?
  • With new research questioning the efficacy of extrinsic rewards, how do we reconcile Skinnerian approaches to motivation in modern education?

Sources & Resources:

Book about book bans banned by Florida school board | Books | The Guardian

Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects state education board’s authority over public school libraries | AP News


Watch out Stanford. California is eyeing a new legacy admission ban | Politico

California May Ban Legacy Admissions at Universities – The New York Times

A New National Student Organization Is Taking Aim At Legacy Admissions

Proctorio | Office of Information Technology

Students Are Pushing Back Against Proctoring Surveillance Apps | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Biographical Information – B. F. Skinner Foundation

Project Pigeon – Wikipedia

B.F. Skinner’s Pigeon-Guided Rocket | Smithsonian

Understanding Behavioral Psychology: the Skinner Box

Behaviourism | Classical & Operant Conditioning, Reinforcement & Shaping | Britannica

Behaviorism In Psychology


What Kind of Dog Was Pavlov’s Dog? | Smithsonian

Pavlov, Watson, Skinner, And Behaviorism | Kate Votaw

B.F. Skinner Raised His Daughter in a Skinner Box? | Snopes.com

Mystery solved: We now know what happened to Little Albert

Operant Conditioning: What Is It and How It Works

Reinforcement and Punishment – General Psychology

Behaviorism in Education: What Is Behavioral Learning Theory?

Skinner’s Behaviourism – New Learning Online

Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters orders schools to teach the Bible

Oklahoma schools head Ryan Walters: Teachers who won’t teach Bible could lose license

Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory in the Classroom | Teaching Channel

Why B.F. Skinner May Have Been The Most Dangerous Psychologist Ever

The Engineered Student: On B. F. Skinner’s Teaching Machine | The MIT Press Reader

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