Programmed Instruction: The Next Generation

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Charlotte Thomson IserbytDay 12: Skin­ner Hor­ror Files

Like a Bad Hor­ror Movie — Skinner’s BACK!!!
More his­to­ry you aren’t sup­posed to know.… Horror film

Just like a bad B-rat­ed hor­ror film, B.F. Skinner’s Pro­grammed Instruc­tion con­tin­ues through the decades — rerun, rein­vent­ed, rein­tro­duced, repack­aged and re-named — as an inte­gral part American’s reform engine. Skin­ner is the METHOD that dri­ves the whole sys­tem. This explains the cur­rent exag­ger­at­ed obses­sion with test­ing for “results.”

Why did Skinner’s method need to keep chang­ing its name? Pos­si­bly because the orig­i­nal Pro­grammed Instruc­tion was such a rad­i­cal con­cept. After all, most par­ents didn’t want their chil­dren called “organ­isms” and trained like Thorndike’s cats or Skinner’s pigeons and rats. But that’s the mod­el. And that’s what is being imple­ment­ed.
chicken horrorThis METHOD has been embraced by both the polit­i­cal Left and the polit­i­cal Right. So that’s why we’re in the mess today. Much decep­tion goes on to cov­er up this fact. You need to know how to trans­late their lin­go to under­stand the seman­tic decep­tion. Read the fol­low­ing expla­na­tion and you will get a quick ABC les­son in how to under­stand edu­ca­tion reform “Greek”:

Pro­duc­ing a def­i­nite or desired result [empha­sis added],” the first def­i­n­i­tion for the word “effec­tive” found in Webster’s Dic­tio­nary, is the appro­pri­ate def­i­n­i­tion for the word “effec­tive” as it is used in the title Effec­tive School Research (ESR) or Effec­tive Schools (ES). This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true as it relates to the Skin­ner­ian “method,” often referred to as “What Works” edu­ca­tion, more com­mon­ly known as outcome/performance/results based edu­ca­tion and mas­tery learning/direct instruc­tion. The evi­dence which links OBE to ESR is irrefutable:

Out­come-Based Edu­ca­tion incor­po­rates the find­ings of the Effec­tive Schools Research, link­ing them togeth­er into a com­pre­hen­sive and pow­er­ful mod­el,” stat­ed Char­lotte Daniel­son, M.A. in her Practitioner’s Imple­men­ta­tion Hand­book [Series]: The Out­come-Based Cur­ricu­lum. [empha­sis added]

Cir­ca 1984: As the change agents were plan­ning to insti­tute their full-blown Skin­ner­i­an­ism, the July 1984 issue of their own in-house peri­od­i­cal, The Effec­tive School Report, pub­lished an arti­cle titled “Effec­tive Schools for Results” by Dr. Robert E. Cor­ri­g­an and Dr. George W. Bai­ley. Here is a key excerpt that explains how the Skin­ner behav­ioral mod­el was being incor­po­rat­ed into our nation’s schools:

Over the past thir­ty years there have been three pri­ma­ry pro­grams relat­ed to the design and imple­men­ta­tion of effec­tive schools and suc­cess­ful learn­ing results. Each of these research efforts focused on dif­fer­ent aspects or vari­ables in the fol­low­ing areas:

A Skinner experiment gone terribly awry

A Skin­ner exper­i­ment gone ter­ri­bly awry

  • behav­ioral change and the appli­ca­tion of learn­ing the­o­ry to pro­duce suc­cess­ful learn­ing results;
  • the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of soci­o­log­i­cal fac­tors oper­at­ing in effec­tive schools; teach­ing strate­gies to effect learn­ing, and
  • the com­bi­na­tion of these vari­ables and prac­tices in a sys­tem­at­ic approach to achieve learn­ing and man­age­ment results.… [empha­sis added]

Note the last sen­tence above. The plan all along was not just to achieve LEARNING results, but also MANAGEMENT results. Think about the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this. This entire “sys­tem” of edu­ca­tion must become Skin­ner­ian. The entire oper­a­tion, the entire machine — all schools, all dis­tricts, all teach­ers, all chil­dren — must be tran­si­tioned over to Skinner’s mod­el and method. Thus a sys­temic ref­or­ma­tion of Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion sys­tem, based on rewards for com­pli­ance to change, and penal­ties for those who tried to stay tra­di­tion­al aca­d­e­mics, was insti­tut­ed.

Below is the his­to­ry of who’s who in the var­i­ous ver­sions of revi­sion­ist Skin­ner­i­an­ism, as it was updat­ed over the years. As you can see, Skin­ner him­self was very involved in this trans­for­ma­tion of edu­ca­tion over to his method­ol­o­gy. From the same cir­ca 1984 peri­od­i­cal:

The following professionals and groups have initiated successful educational programs which can work together as a common system to deliver predictable success for every learner—the ultimate criterion of an effective school program:
  • Wilbur Brookover and Ron Edmonds of the Effec­tive Schools Research Move­ment;
  • B.F. Skin­ner, Nor­man Crow­der, Robert and Bet­ty O. Cor­ri­g­an, 1950–1984, Mas­tery Learn­ing Prac­tices;
  • Made­line Hunter, 1962–1984, Mas­tery Teach­ing Prac­tices;
  • R.E. Cor­ringan, B.O. Cor­ri­g­an, Ward Cor­ri­g­an and Roger A. Kauf­man, 1960–1984, A Sys­tem­at­ic Approach for Effec­tive­ness (SAFE) for dis­trict-wide instal­la­tion of Effec­tive Schools.…

Skin­ner pro­posed that it is fea­si­ble to deliv­er pre­dictable learn­ing mas­tery results when teach­ers per­formed the fol­low­ing pro­grammed actions to design and imple­ment les­son plans or cur­ric­u­la. These design and teach­ing steps describe the gen­er­al process steps of learn­er-cen­tered mas­tery learn­ing instruc­tion. [empha­sis added]

academic horrorsInclud­ed in step 3 of the above-men­tioned learn­er-cen­tered mas­tery learn­ing instruc­tion is the fol­low­ing descrip­tion. It doesn’t get any clear­er than this. This is how Skinner’s method works on chil­dren:

Provide immediate feedback as to the correctness of learner responses, provide for immediate correction of errors, and control the progress of learning as students proceed in small steps along the tested learning path to master the learning objectives and criteria with predictable success.”

The arti­cle con­tin­ues. It is here that the rub­ber meets the road. Mas­tery of skills has set “stan­dards” so that stu­dents must be “con­tin­u­al­ly eval­u­at­ed” accord­ing to “new skills require­ments.” These stan­dards are NOT set by the par­ents, or teach­ers, or your own local com­mu­ni­ty — i.e., the local grass­roots vot­ers and cit­i­zens. There is no local con­trol. These stan­dards are pre­scribed by “indus­tri­al, civic, and aca­d­e­m­ic LEADERS” in “soci­ety,” i.e., the Pow­er Elite. Below is how “mas­tery of skills” is direct­ly tied to a child’s future:

The ulti­mate ben­e­fits to be derived through the instal­la­tion of this mas­tery of skills deliv­ery sys­tem will be the pre­dictable suc­cess of all future grad­u­ates to mas­ter rel­e­vant skills to enter and suc­ceed in soci­ety. Grad­u­a­tion skill stan­dards would be con­tin­u­al­ly eval­u­at­ed and, where nec­es­sary, will be revised based on new skill require­ments estab­lished by indus­tri­al, civic, and aca­d­e­m­ic lead­ers either (a) to get and hold jobs, (b) to advance to high­er edu­ca­tion, and/or © to be self-suf­fi­cient fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion. [empha­sis added]

How much clear­er could the Corrigan’s be in describ­ing the need for Skin­ner­ian mas­tery learning/ direct instruc­tion in order to imple­ment school-to-work?

NOTE: See Appendix VI in my book, and the previous blog posts which detail the role of the Corrigans in this disaster. Most of these history snapshots on October’s Skinner Horror Files month are excerpted from entries or appendices in my book. This is valuable history that the powers-that-be don’t want the public to know.