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The Behaviorist Adult Education Philosophy


As it is widely known, there are at least six philosophical approaches to adult education. The custom research paper discusses liberal and progressive approaches have been previously considered, and it would be reasonable to consider another one philosophical approach to adult education called behaviorist. Its philosophy had a great impact on the general education system. It was founded by John B. Watson in the early 1920s and focused on the observable behavior of organisms. “Animal and human behavior is studied in laboratory settings employing scientific principles and methodology used so successfully in the “hard” sciences such as chemistry and physics” (Elias and Sharan).


That is why this philosophical approach should be considered in detail. The roots of behaviorism can be found in the ideas of European philosophical thoughts. The philosophical approach was inspired by materialism, realism, empiricism, and positivism. As it has been previously mentioned, behaviorism was founded by John B. Watson, who became the leader of this philosophy after the publishing two his main works Behavior - An Introduction to Comparative Psychology and Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist. The main ideas of behaviorism were developed in the works of Pavlov, Guthrie, Tolman, Spence, Skinner, Thorndike.

According to the behaviorism’s ideas, education should produce such people which would be able to survive. Therefore, the main goal of behaviorism is the survival of individuals, society, and human species in general based on cooperation and knowledge provided by education. “Behaviorism in adult education emphasizes such concepts as control, behavioral modification, learning through reinforcement and management by objectives” (Spurgeon and Moore).

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According to the behaviorism, the main role of the teacher is to create determined environment which would encourage the desired behavior and restrain the unwanted behavior. That is why the teacher can be considered as a manager and controller who provide the conditions needed for the achievement of the desired behavior. The role of learners can be described as active in accordance with behaviorist philosophy. “Learner takes an active role in learning, practicing new behavior, and receiving feedback” (“Philosophies of Adult Education”, n.d.). The students’ behavior should be defined by the environment created by the teacher. That is why students should show the results of their work and teaching by their behavior. It is very important that the students’ behavior is defined by the conditions designed by the teacher and knowledge that students posses.

There were a lot of programs created under the behaviorism’s impact. According to the behaviorism, teachers should be responsible for the results of education. That is why the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) can be considered as the U.S.A. Act focused on improving standards and results of education system based on bigger responsibility. It should be noted that behaviorism’s attempts to improve education standards and results based on responsibility were embodied in such programs as “Adult Basic Education (ABE), Edult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and Adult Secondary Education (ASE)” (Elias and Sharan).

In addition, it should be mentioned that behaviorism’s conceptions and ideas based on its objectives, instructions, and accountability were embodied in a number of areas of adult education such as “vocational education, human resource development, continuing professional education, and literacy education” (Elias and Sharan).


To conclude, it should be noted that behaviorism is a very popular philosophy created in 1920s by John Watson. According to this philosophical approach, the entire range of emotions, thoughts, instincts can find its results in the behavior. That is why education should be focused on researching human and animal behavior. The main goal of education in accordance with behaviorism is to provide knowledge needed for the survival of individuals and society. The teacher is a manager and controller of conditions which should be designed by him or her in order to encourage the desired behavior. The learner is an active participant of a training process.

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