Classical conditioning is a form of learning that incorporates the body's natural physical response to stimuli. Historically, the study of classical conditioning began with Ivan Pavlov's experiment with food, dogs and saliva. Classical conditioning is also useful to improve children's classroom behaviour. Through classical conditioning, children can learn to enjoy activities that caused fear or discomfort in the past.
The conditioned response that occurs in students when a teacher announces a public speaking assignment is often fear and anxiety. To make the experience fun, the teacher can make it emotionally safe for the speakers. Establishing rules such as "No laughing at the speaker" and "Always clap for the speaker" can help students see this activity in a positive light.
Students exhibiting behaviour problems often act out without consciously knowing what they are doing or why. Teachers can note possible conditioned and unconditioned stimuli that may be setting off a child's behaviours. For example, a child may always act out after the last recess of the school day but seem fine while out on recess. Perhaps the conditioned response of the bell for the end of recess is triggering anxiety that the school day will soon be over or that a classroom subject which the child does not like is coming up. Addressing these concerns can lead to less misbehavior by interrupting the classical conditioning cycle.
Using classical conditioning activities can help in classroom management. Through positive reinforcement, teachers can help ensure that students avoid feeling humiliation or fear in the classroom. Avoiding overcorrection of reading, for example, can help a child feel more confident in his abilities. Though it is important to teach correct reading techniques, avoid correction in front of other students and instead let each student read the best he can during public reading exercises.
Children who don't naturally enjoy being around other children are put into an uncomfortable environment when they come to school. In their past, an incident out of their control may have affected their view of making friends and interacting with their peers. Conditioning a class to accept people for all they have to offer creates an atmosphere in which new friendships can form. Enforcing positive peer play with emotional rewards, such as the teacher's commenting on how well two students are playing together, allows students to learn a new response to old behaviours regarding friendships.