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Compare and contrast between behaviorist and humanist learning theories in terms of learning and teaching.

Behaviorists and humanists contrast in their understanding of teaching and learning, because they have opposing ideas about education. For Behaviorists, education is all about teaching the correct response. Humanists emphasize choice and self-reflection in the classroom. These differing philosophies mean that humanists and behaviorists also differ in their views on teaching strategies, assessment, and ways to reward students who do well.

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Essentially, Behaviorism and Humanism sit on two opposing sides of the spectrum when it comes to philosophies of teaching and learning. Behaviorism, for example, is all about stimulus and response. In a classroom, the stimulus is the topic, like algebra or Shakespeare, and the teacher's role is to make sure that each student knows the correct response to a question about the stimulus. As a result, Behaviorism favors teaching strategies, such as the repetition of the learning material, so that the student has the opportunity to learn the full range of correct responses. Success is defined through an observable change in the student’s behavior. For example, if a student scores highly on a test, this provides the teacher with evidence that a behavioral change has taken place because that student has learned the correct responses to the test questions.

In contrast, rather than focusing on the stimulus and response, Humanism emphasizes freedom and creativity when it comes to teaching and learning. Rather than focusing on observable changes in behavior, Humanism is all about giving choice and agency to the student over what he learns and how he learns it. Instead of looking at test scores, as a Behaviorist would, a Humanist teacher would encourage their student to spend time reflecting on his learning journey.

Finally, a note about motivation. Behaviorists believe in conditioning through positive reinforcement. Praise, getting high scores on a test, and even giving out prizes for achievement are all ways that a student can be motivated to do well. In contrast, Humanists believe that none of these tools are essential in the classroom. By allowing students to choose what they learn and how they learn it, Humanists believe that a student will be internally motivated to do well—they know that their learning is relevant and important.

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