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Textbook Site for:
Psychology Applied to Teaching, Eleventh Edition
Jack Snowman, Southern Illinois University
Robert Biehler
Classroom Activities
Chapter 7: Behavioral Learning Theory: Operant Conditioning

Activity 1

Title: Student-Generated Questions/Application Cards

Instructional Strategy: Critical Thinking/Connections to Prior Knowledge

Purpose: This is an activity to help students recognize the applications that psychology concepts can have in classroom situations.


  • Apply abstract information to real situations.
  • Develop applications students may use in their own classrooms.
Student Activity:

Provide each student with an index card and ask the students to do the following:
  1. Identify an important - and clearly applicable - concept from chapter seven.
  2. Write down two or three applications of the concept. Make sure to come up with your own "fresh" applications, and avoid repeating applications presented in the text.
  3. Have students present the concepts and their applications. Look for themes in the students' responses.

  1. Break students into groups based on similarity of concepts that they selected. Have each group write up a recommendation plan for a teacher that incorporates the applications that they originally created.
  2. Develop applications into viable techniques and share them with the class, via brief verbal or poster presentation.
  3. Write down difficult or confusing words in small groups of three to four. The instructor collects these cards and passes them to different groups who must come up with applications or examples for each word.
Activity 2

Title: Getting to Know Skinner

Instructional Strategy: Creative/Critical Thinking


Often students have a difficult time recognizing that there are real people behind the theories they are learning. This is an activity to help students bring theory to life.


  • Apply abstract information to real situations.
  • Adopt a particular perspective and maintain it throughout the activity.
  • Preview or review chapter material in an alternative format.
Student Activity:

The instructor will provide some brief biographical information about Skinner. You have to become an "expert" of operant conditioning theory. Use information from the text, additional articles, books, Internet sources, etc. You have two days to prepare for this role. Conduct a class discussion to identify the characteristics of operant conditioning theory. Discuss classroom issues and how well the theory addresses these issues.


  1. Press conferences: Experts provide a brief summary of operant conditioning in a short press conference (5-10 minutes); time may be allowed for questions. Additional students may be assigned roles as reporters, using thought questions to generate questions for theorists. Press conferences may be utilized to preview or review chapter material.
  2. Case study: Use operant conditioning to provide an interpretation of the following case.

    Denise is a conscientious and good student, although she is a bit unsure of herself. She is typically very attentive in class, and her classmates regard her as someone who will usually be able to answer questions.

    One day, Mr. Halvern, her American history teacher, was conducting a question and answer session, and Denise jerked when she heard her name called, suddenly realizing that she hadn't heard the question. A couple of the boys giggled as Mr. Halvern stared at her. Her stomach clenched, and she felt her face turn red. She started to stammer, then fell silent. Michelle also felt uncomfortable since she was not paying attention to Mr. Halvern either.

    Denise is now uneasy whenever Mr. Halvern starts calling on students in class. In addition she doesn't like geometry as well as she used to, because she never knows when Mrs. Davis might call on her. She's relieved when she's in the safe confines of Spanish class, where Mr. Lopez always calls on students in order, up and down each row.