Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dueling Experiences Part ll: Examining the Psychological Structures Where Teaching for Artistic Behavior Art Programs Exist

Macky in 2004.
Taking on the job of training Macky would be a collaborative challenge for our family. Together, my wife Maria, our eight year old son Payton, six year old daughter Kelby and I would maintain rigorous experimental conditions inside our home. We were proud owners of a beautiful little puppy. Now we needed to house-train him!

Macky would sleep in a kennel and first thing in the morning he was led outside to go potty. At intervals throughout the day, whenever he was in the vicinity of the back door, our behavior modification team would repeat the question "Macky go outside?" Team members would open the back door and walk the furry animal outside. Within this learning structure, whenever Macky went potty outdoors he would receive verbal praise and a food treat. Our goal was to elicit an association of outdoor potty behavior with verbal cues and food rewards.
Macky in 2014.
Commands or meaningful words can be used to initiate behavioral changes when those words are associated with the behavior and repeated rewards or punishments. Our use of command words, "Macky, go outside," was meant to become a first order association with food. In order for the association to become a strong stimulus we paired the command with food rewards, usually a small piece of chicken or a Cheerio. The recitation of that command phrase and subsequent rewarding of food, meant that over time, the recitation of that phrase near the vicinity of the back door, would create an anticipation and association of the tasty food treat, the reward for doing potty behavior. The verbal command spoken by one of our team members near the proximity of the back door, would be repeated regularly. The back door would become a second order association in our behavioral potty training process.

Ivan Pavlov, 1904 Nobel Prize winner for his work in behaviorism, would use sound cues in order to signal to his dogs food was nearby. The dogs began to salivate when they heard the sound cue. Pavlov learned that dogs could be induced to salivate when the anticipation of food, an unconditioned stimulus was paired with a conditioning stimulus like sound or visual stimuli. Training dogs to salivate with the introduction of a sound or visual stimulus was the basis for Pavlov's discovery of classical conditioning, a form of behaviorism in which the association of stimuli will lead to a change in behavior. Pavlov's method of behavior modification utilized positive stimuli. This is called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is different from operant conditioning in which rewards and punishments are used to change behavior. Our family was using operant conditioning methods. We emphasized positive stimuli during our training process, but we did include using negative stimuli whenever bad behavior was exhibited an aspect of the training regiment I later regretted. Potty behavior inside the house would be punished with negative stimuli in the form of a smack on the nose by myself or Maria as prescribed by the lady who sold us Macky. Rewarding outdoor potty behavior with treats and verbal praise in order to create an association of food and utilizing negative reinforcement for unwanted indoor potty behavior, Macky learned to do his outdoor potty business in a couple of months. As predicted, we trained the animal with operant conditioning methods. I knew we would be successful in training our dog using behaviorist learning principles because behaviorism is an economically efficient form of learning experience.Throughout my life, behavioral conditioning paradigms were learning structures I was familiar with, particularly as an unwitting participant, during my formative educational experiences as a K-12 student.

My brother Kevin and I around 1962.
From 1964-'70, I attended Walkerton Elementary's Kindergarten program and St. Patrick's Elementary School. I remember profound differences in the educational experiences at these schools and from my own self-directed learning experience. Mrs. Gardner's kindergarten program was much different from my experiences at St. Patricks. With Mrs. Gardner, we made free association drawings and painted on big easels at the art center. Mrs. Gardner would read to us while we all sat around her at our community gathering center. We looked at picture books from the library center. We took naps in a part of the room designated for nap time. I learned to write my name but looking back on what I was producing, I didn't have the cognitive skills yet to understand the alphabet so when I spelled my name it read Cld.

Mrs. Gardner's Class (Photo courtesy of Jeannie Glasco Eiler).
That's me upper left corner, white shirt, behind the swan's tail.
I don't remember behaviorist principles utilized in Mrs. Gardner's room. Class seemed to be an extension of our natural selves. I only remember Mrs. Gardner being very nice to us and I remember playing and learning to verbalize and communicate with my classmates. I was born with a speech impediment and I stuttered quite a bit. ln retrospect, I appreciated Mrs. Gardner's pedagogy very much. She was a firm believer in holistic learning experience. I don't believe she ever used positive or negative reinforcement to get us to do anything. We were invited to participate in her activities. We had a natural inclination to learn. That is what I remember.

At St. Patrick's Elementary School in Walkerton, Indiana, the administration took a much different approach.  We learned quite a bit about positive and negative stimuli within the learning structures we participated in. Catechism was a central component of the school curricula and so was radical behaviorism. If you follow the teachings of Jesus, you will be rewarded in Heaven. However, if you break any of the 10 Commandments, you will spend either a certain amount of your "afterlife" in Limbo or burn in Hell. To a small child, that knowledge gives you a fear of authority. You learn to associate rule breaking with horrible outcomes.

At St. Pat's the teacher placed a demerit chart on our desk tops. We would receive an X for bad behavior to be marked inside a square designating a day on the calendar. You could receive a demerit for all kinds of infractions. One of our teachers called us "stupid donkey" if we didn't follow directions. We were shaped to be good compliant children and shamed or physically punished if we didn't follow the rules.

If you attended the schools I attended in Walkerton, Indiana back in the 1960's and early '70's, you learned behaviorist learning principles were central to the curriculum. If you don't follow teacher directions, the student will receive a bad grade. Or worse! Teachers and administrators created an association of fear of rule breaking within the learning structure we were placed in. Paddling was a real punishment and always a source of fear.

It wasn't just at St. Pat's that radical behaviorism and operant conditioning was big. In 7th grade while attending Urey Middle School, my math teacher took me outside in the hallway and proceeded to give me 3 whacks with a wooden paddle because I failed to produce my homework on time. My science teacher did the same thing to me! This was a regular occurrence for children. I felt shame and anger when it happened to me. I learned if you don't follow the teacher's directions, you will suffer! I began to associate math and science with physical and emotional pain.