How Behaviourism Can Lead Your Learners To Success

Behave Yourself: How Behaviourism Can Lead Your Learners To Success

Behaviourism And Learning

Let’s get one thing straight: behaviourism might sound like a no-nonsense school of thought, or perhaps a technique to use for training your unruly puppy, but it’s actually a powerful ally in the world of eLearning. Have you ever considered utilising the rules of behaviourism in your eLearning experiences?

In this article, we take a little look at how adopting a behaviourism approach in your learning experiences could really help you achieve great things.

So, What Is Behaviourism In An L&D Context?

Psychology Today says: “Behaviourism is a psychological school of thought that seeks to identify observable, measurable laws that explain human (and animal) behaviour.”

Put simply, it’s the study of how controlled changes to an environment impact someone’s observable behaviour.

So, why should we care about behaviourism in eLearning? Well, it’s an important theory to understand anytime you’re looking to create a change in behaviour. It might be the approach you’ve been looking for, and it might help you achieve the success you’ve been seeking.

Cause And Effect

Behaviourism is all about cause-and-effect relationships. You do something, and something happens in response. It’s like pressing a button and getting a treat (or not)—simple, right?

For eLearning, understanding how this relationship works helps you create laser-focused interventions to achieve specific learning goals. You can bring the cause-and-effect principle into your learning design, for example, by ensuring you include immediate feedback and by incorporating repetition.

Immediate Feedback: The Behavioural Magic Sauce

Remember when you were a kid and you touched a hot stove (ouch!)? You quickly learned not to do that again. That’s immediate feedback, and it’s the secret sauce of behaviourism.

In eLearning, it’s all about telling learners how they did right away. This helps them connect the dots between their actions and the consequences. And yes, it’s like a game. Make a move, see the result, learn from your mistakes, and level up your skills.

Repetition Is Key

Practice makes perfect, and behaviourism is all about this. Learners need to keep practising new skills to get better or more confident. By incorporating repetition into your learning experiences, you’ll give learners multiple times to practise the skill (cause) and reinforce the result (effect).

So, how does it work in real-life eLearning scenarios? Let’s take a look.

Example: The Bank With A Heart

Imagine a bank that wants to make sustainability its middle name. This is their mission, and they want everything they do to reflect and impact this mission. They aim to redefine how they do business, making people and the planet just as important as economic growth.

The Solution: A Scorecard That Needs Balancing

In this eLearning solution, learners dive into real-life scenarios. The scenarios mirror the complex business world, with crucial decisions at every turn.

As learners make choices, they can see the impact of their decisions start to tally up on a scoreboard. The scoreboard shows how each decision positively or negatively affects people, the planet, and economic growth. Which means they are earning or losing points against each of these three “buckets.” This visual and powerful aid helps them understand how the consequences of their decisions impact each key aspect (people, planet, and economic growth).

The Science: Why Does This Work?

By showing learners the consequences of their choices, it encourages them to make decisions that align with the bank’s sustainability goals. It’s all about rewards and consequences, just like a game.

If they prioritise people, they earn “people” points. If they prioritise economic growth over people, they’ll learn points in the “economic growth” pot but lose “people” points. It’s all about finding the right balance and understanding how one choice affects another.

The use of behaviourism in eLearning also makes it safe for learners to practise shifting their mindset. It’s like having a friendly coach saying, “Try again, you’ll get the hang of it!”

Behave Yourself And Learn On!

At Kineo, we apply behaviourist learning theory thoughtfully. It can work incredibly well in gamified scenarios, where you deduct points for lower scores and celebrate high scorers with badges and accolades. Or when you want to balance a scorecard, as in the example above.

Often the concepts we’re trying to teach or the skills we want to develop are more nuanced than simple cause and effect, and we need our learners to engage with the concepts on a deeper level. For that, we often favour alternative learning theories, like cognitivism and constructivism, to craft engaging and impactful learning experiences.


Kineo helps the world’s leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We combine quality in learning with award-winning customer service and innovation. We’re here to take on your learning and performance challenges – and deliver results.

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