Behaviour modification

Question 2. Behaviour Modification

Behaviour modification is a system which suggests an increase in desired behaviours and a reduction in the undesired behaviours. It uses different approaches and reinforcement theories to change and modify certain target behaviours. (Huczynski, A. and Buchanan, D. 1997). This is the technique which needs to be applied in the case with the organisational behaviour instructor and her students who prevent her from delivering the lectures in a proper and effective way. The problems which the lecturer seems to be facing are actually the main behaviours that have to be eliminated in terms of introducing discipline and order in class.

First of all, behaviour modification theory suggests a four-step procedure Identifying target behaviours, Identifying effective rewards and consequences, Evaluating the outcomes and Enforcing the plan. In order to decrease certain undesirable behaviours, there has to be clarification in defining them. It is easier to start with targeting behaviours one by one.

In this case the behaviours have been particularly identified poor lecture attendance/absence, late arrivals, talking during lectures, no background readings and preparation for tutorials and lack of enthusiasm in getting involved in discussions. There can be a lot of reasons for this kind of behaviour: overload at university, personal issues or problems in the family or job commitments. However, the solution lies both in the hands of the lecturer and the students themselves. One of the effective theories applicable here, is the Behaviourist approach. It is based on "stimulus-response psychology and it suggests that "We use the knowledge of the results of past behaviour to change, modify and improve our behaviour in future. (Huczynski, A. and Buchanan D. 1997, page 110). It implies that we learn through positive or negative feedback and adjust our behaviour according to particular responses. In practice, this means that if the lecturer responds positively whenever somebody arrives on time or praises students who do their readings, she will encourage the expected desirable behaviour. This is how students can realise the link between action and positive reinforcer. This is also applied into Skinnerian (operant) conditioning where the rat receives food anytime it nudges the lever. If we figuratively compare the students to the rat, we can see that food is the praises and the rewards and nudging the lever is the desired behaviour which needs to be sustained. Also, the lecturer could encourage discussions and by doing so, creating an interactive environment for students. Apart from positive reinforcement, which can influence people's behaviour, Skinner(1971 cited in McDaniel Thomas R. 1987) argues that environment and outside conditions are the factors which affect people, not the other way round. This is why the behaviour modification programme should involve external or extrinsic feedback e.g. praises, rewards and encouragement.

Positive reinforcement, along with negative reinforcement and shaping which helps to sustain desired behaviour are the basic principles to be applied in the situation where order and discipline need to be achieved. Negative reinforcement could include carrying out the lecture longer than usual or not giving breaks . Otherwise, if the students listen and pay attention, the lecture may finish earlier. This is an alternative to motivate students who get easily bored and distracted. Behaviourist such as Pavlov and Skinner argue that in terms of positive reinforcement, concrete rewards matching the needs and the interest of the individual is the most effective way of modifying one's behaviour. This means that they should be clear, specified and directly reflect on the target behaviour. (McDaniel, Thomas R. 1987, Improving Student Behaviour) McKenna Eugene F. (2000, Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, page 186) says "The bigger the gap between behaviour and reinforcement, generally the less the likelihood that the behaviour will be strengthened or diminished. However, there is a risk of becoming dependent on the praises and rewards and this will result in materialistic students whose motivation will disappear eventually without an external factor. Another reinforcement for eliminating or decreasing undesired behaviour is punishment. Although it is not particularly recommended, according to Buchanan and Huczynski (2004) it works when it is short and immediate. Also, it has to be specified and clear regarding to the certain behaviour. This means that the students have to be aware of why they fail the subject or what exatcly is the cause of their detention, for example. Finally, extinction such as ignoring bad behaviour, could actually be one of the most ineffective methods because it can let students think that the lecturer accepts and tolerates such kind of behaviour. One of the most important techniques of changing behaviour is goal-setting. Following the different stages of modification step by step can lead to gradual and permanent results. Other reinforcements could involve satiation and modeling. For instance, keeping the class occupied with work, the lecturer could walk around the room and whisper to individuals. (McDaniel, Thomas R. 1987) Another method for improving the environment in class is altering the curriculum. There are still a lot of universities which offer a common curricula for students and a limited number of optional subjects. (Hallam, S. and Rogers, L. 2008) This results in students' lack of interest and demotivation. This is why the lecturer here can amend some of her "practical tutorial exercises and could try to challenge her students with more creative and imagination-demanding tasks.

Another plan for changing certain behaviour is socialization. This process involves modifying one's behaviour in order to conform with the manners and values of a particular organisation or society. ( Huczynski, A. and Buchanan, D. 1997) By observing and participating, students learn how to behave at university, during lectures and understand group norms. If the lecturer manages to apply these norms and some students obey, then the rest will feel the need to adjust to this kind of behaviour. This comes from the fact that socialization is a natural and internally bred process and serves as an intrinsic motivation factor. It is actually completely different from behaviour modification in terms of steps and rules. Socialization is not planned, happens naturally and there are no specified links between desired behaviour and consequences, whereas behaviour modification is a planned and observable procedure. (Huczynski,A. and Buchanan, D. 2004) However, both techniques have one goal modifying behaviour. Flaws and drawbacks can be found in both of them. For instance, Fred Luthans and R.Kreitner(1988 cited in Buchanan and Huczynski 1997) claim that there are behaviour modification issues such as lack of proper reinforces, differences between people's personalities classes consist of different individuals belonging to different cultures, their different reactions to reinforces one student could obey the rules, but the other may refuse to go to lectures or could event start arguing with the lecturer, which can lead to distraction and failure to deliver the lesson. Also, the need for sustaining the programme and the lack of extrinsic factors and motivators, such as rewards and high marks each and every time could be a problem, as well. Nevertheless, it is more structured and organised system than socialization. In the end, both techniques can be utilized in this particular situation. Moreover, the lecturer needs to combine the authoritarian and human relations approach. Hierarchical relationships can be effective but understanding and relating to students make a lecturer more approachable and appealing. She could be a friend outside the lectures and a respected teacher in class simultaneously. If she sets a number of rules when working and clearly sets a distinction between work and leisure, the students will follow her plan.

By implementing the two behaviour changing methods behaviour modification and socialization, the lecturer will be able to achieve and sustain the desirable behaviour and to motivate them for their course and future career.

  • Hallam, S. and Rogers, L. (2008). Improving Behaviour and Attendance at School, New York
  • Huczynski, A. and Buchanan, D. (2004, 5th edition) Organizational Behaviour: an introductory text. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall
  • Huczynski,A. and Buchanan, D. (1997, 3rd edition). Organizational Behaviour:an introductory text. London, New York: Prentice Hall
  • McDaniel, Thomas R. (1987). Improving Student Behaviour. London: University Press of America
  • McKenna, E. (2000, 3rd edition). Behaviour Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, page 186. Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press LTD

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