Tag Archives: Edward Thorndike

Connectionism

Connectionism is considered by many to be the foundation upon which behaviorism is based. Edward Thorndike is the developer of this concept of behavioral psychology. Thorndike, through conducting some of the first experimental research in the learning process, states that learning is the strengthening of the relationship between a stimulus and a response. A classic example of this is Thorndike’s experiments with animals. The animals were placed inside a puzzle box with a door that they had to learn to open. If they opened it they received a reward of food. The animals developed a connection between the lever for the door (stimulus) and the reward for opening it (the response).

This idea of connectionism came into curriculum as well. In many ways, behavioral objectives that are found in curriculum to this day can be traced to Thorndike’s influence. ┬áThe students perform the objective until they reach mastery. While they are repeating the behavior, the feedback they receive serves as an approximate response to the stimulus. With the growth in knowledge since the days of Thorndike, we have learned that behavior is not everything and that what happens inside the mind is important as well. Today there is more of an emphasis on cognitive approaches to learning. Despite this behavior is still has a major role in curriculum