Behaviourism and adaptive learning

Philip J. Kerr, Adaptive Learning in ELT, Oct 13, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This post looks at the connection between behaviourism and adaptive learning. The author notes that both oppoents and proponents of adaptive learning draw the association. But what, exactly, are the parallels between the two? This is what this article explores. Both are primaarily interested in the study of behaviour, both are based in the world of observation and fact (as opposed to, say, a basis in theory), both are presented as revolutionary or as 'game-changers', and both are interested in the mechanisms of prediction and control of outputs. Each faces similar challenges as well (and not simply from points of view based on 'theory'): the ethical issues raised by surveillance and manipulation. There is, it seems, something wromng with a theory of learning that is simply based on the idea of implanting some concept or idea into a person (whether or not it is measured by behaviour). The history of advertising has made it pretty clear that we can do this; the question is whether we should do this. Image: Dreamstime.

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