The Common Core Method

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Charlotte Thomson IserbytFree or Not Free? That is the question!

Note the Skinnerian language inherent in this book’s title:PROGRAMMED LEARNING: EVOLVING PRINCIPLES AND INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS (Foundation for Research on Human Behavior: Ann Arbor, Mich., 1961) edited by Jerome P. Lysaught (see blog post earlier on this topic).

From a chapter authored by Robert Glaser aptly titled “Principles of Programming”:

Putting the Student on His Own
The next point is called “fading or vanishing.” Thus far it has been indicated that programming techniques utilize the principle of reinforcement, the principle of prompting. The next one we come to is the principle of fading or vanishing. This principle involves the gradual removal of prompts or cues, so that by the time the student has completed the lesson, he is responding only to the stimulus material which he will actually have available when he performs the “real task.” He is on his own, so to speak, and learning crutches have been eliminated. Fading can then be defined as the gradual withdrawal of stimulus support. The systematic progression of programmed learning is well set up to accomplish this.

It is always to be kept in mind that these principles are quite in contrast to “rote learning” or drill.

  • In rote learning, many wrong responses are permitted to occur, and the student eventually learns to develop his own prompts often to a relatively unrelated series of stimuli.
  • Programmed learning, on the other hand, is designed to take advantage of the inherent organization of the subject matter or of the behavior of the subject in relation to the subject matter in shaping up the student’s learning. [emphasis and reformatting for blog usage, see page A-16 in my book for original]

Glaser is very clear regarding rote learning allowing the student to make a mistake, intentionally or not.

With rote learning the student still has free will and is not under the control of the Skinnerian programming to bring him/her to the “correct” answer.

With rote learning the student is free to make an error and in some cases the student may purposely make an error due to his/her disagreement with the so-called “correct/desired” response.

The difference between rote learning and programmed instruction is that simple. Freedom.