Applying Behaviorism: Asana Example

Teaching yoga asana, the physical postures (such as downward dog and child’s pose) that are sequenced together to create a practice that strengthens and stretches the body, can be taught in asynchronous online learning through the learning theory of behaviorism. Take, for example, a sequence of poses that are meant to be practiced in a specific sequence: from the head to the toes. Each section of the body, for example, the shoulders, has its own group of exercises, such as shoulder rolls and shoulder flossing. Because this sequence follows a particular order, and includes groups of sequences that can be classified by sections of the body, it qualifies as knowledge that can be learned through behaviorism because behaviorism proves most successful where there is a “correct” response or easily memorized material.

We could create a mini eLearning module that teaches the correct sequence and the exercises for each section of the body. Then, we test the learner in a quiz with the following methods of learning:

  • Discrimination. Using a drag-and-drop exercise, have the user drag the exercises listed to the correct section of the body.
  • Chaining. Sequence ordering exercise with a predefined and correct sequence of exercise that the users must form. Supply a list of exercises and have the user order these correctly.
  • Feedback. Supplement positive comments each time the learner provides a correct answer. Reward the user with a video showing the full sequence after successfully completing the quiz.

The stimulus is the learning material and its subsequent reinforcement via the discrimination and chaining exercises. The response is the feedback and reward when successfully answering and completing the quiz. The negative reinforcement is the absence of positive feedback when unsuccessfully answering the questions, because negative criticism is not acceptable in this learning context.

Behaviorism is focused on observable behavior, and a quiz is a common method of assessing the degree of learning in behaviorism as it can measure observable behavior by the user’s score.

Positives using this approach is the ability to teach a physical practice using methods alternative to physically demonstrating. Perhaps the user is unable to demonstrate a particular exercise, but can still demonstrate comprehension. It also reinforces the correct information through language rather than strictly through physical demonstration.

Negatives using this approach include the inability for the user to question alternatives. For the user who may be unable to demonstrate a particular exercise, this approach lacks information to help them make modifications or adjustments in their practice. Similarly, while a successfully completed quiz demonstrates comprehension of the correct sequences and classifications in the practice, the instructor cannot determine if the user can actually physically perform the yoga asana practice. Supplementing with a field where the user can ask questions or upload videos of their practice that a teacher could review would not fit within the bounds of a behaviorist learning theory, but could prove to be a better experience.

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