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Theorist B.F Skinner

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Biographical description:

B.F Skinner was born on 20th March, 1904 to Grace and a lawyer, William skinner in Susquehanna in the state of Pennsylvania, US. Skinner initial intentions was to become a writer while he attended collage in New York at Hamilton College, where he wrote critical articles for the school papers, and proceeded to graduate in 1926, with a BA in English literature. As time went and he widened his reading, Skinner got interested in psychology and had started introducing psychological aspects in his short literary works, this came to a climax when he left literature, and sought admission at Harvard university to study psychology as a graduate student thus the culmination of his behavioral studies and theories, the common one being: operant conditioning theory. (Boeree, 1998, p.3)

Principal teachings:

BF Skinner developed the theory of operant conditioning where he used animals (rats) to perform experiments to determine how animals behave. He noted that animals operate in an environment thus exhibiting operant behavior, which is important in developing certain consequences which eventually determine the probability of similar behaviors being repeated. He concluded that behavior is basically shaped and maintained by the eventual consequences of exhibiting a certain behavior. The consequences that shape behavior include: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and lastly punishment. (Boeree, 1998, p.4)

Positive reinforcement basically reinforces a behavior that leads to its presentation, for instance if an organism takes part in a behavior that is proceeded by a positive reinforcement or he/she is rewarded as a result of exhibiting the behavior, the probability that the animal will engage in that particular behavior again under the same situation is high. On the other hand negative reinforcement fortifies behaviors that lead to avoidance (Skinner, B. F.1938, p.1)

 Major contributions to the field of classroom management:

B.F Skinners contributions has got great importance in the field of classroom management, according to Skinner learning at any level is basically a conditioning process in which people acquire new responses. Learning is actually rewarded by the response while Behavior on the other hand is directed by a given stimulus. (McNair n.d, p.48)

Based on this, it is believed that students will basically change their behavior in class for things that bring them more pleasure and avoid behaviors that may result to unpleasant situations to them(McNair n.d, p.48)

Equally continued reinforcement, provided each time a student undertakes or does a good act, is instrumental in establishing new learning, for instance complementing a student each and every time he/she hands over well done homework in time, is instrumental in helping the student establish the behavior of doing the homework’s well and handing them over in time in the long-run. On the other hand if the student behavior is not reinforced it soon fades away, while intermittent reinforcement of the behavior as long as the desired behavior has been established in class is appropriate in maintaining the same behavior in students. (McNair n.d, p.48)

In the same context, Skinner noted that punishment in the classroom in most cases lead to negative effects in student’s behavior modifications and could not extinguish bad student behaviors. (McNair n.d, p.49)


Boeree (1998) Personality theories: B.F Skinner, 1904-1990,[retrieved on 30th May 2009]

            From http://www.social-psychology.de/do/pt_skinner.pdf

McNair (n.d) Classroom management theorists

Skinner, B. F. (1938) The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York:


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