Material Type:
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
  • Classical Conditioning
  • Insight Learning
  • Learning
  • Observational Learning
  • Operant Conditioning
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  • oss01521
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    Education Standards

    Learning - Course Map and Recommended Resources


    How to Use this Guide

    This guide provides information and resources on teaching learning concepts in an Introduction to Psychology course. All resources are Open Access and can be downloaded or added to a Course Management System (LMS) via the hyperlinks.

    • According to the TAG, Lifespan Development falls within Pillar 3 (Development) and is a required topic for all Ohio Introduction to Psychology courses, along with Lifespan Development. These two chapters meet the APA recommendations for Strengthening General Psychology (Gurung, et al., 2016).


    This section introduces students to the basic principles that govern learning.  Specifically, students will be introduced to the concepts of classical and operant conditioning.

    Learning Objectives

    1. Identify the different types of learning
      1. Explain classical conditioning
      2. Explain operant conditioning
      3. Explain observational learning
      4. Explain insight learning
    2. Explain classical conditioning
      1. Explain the neutral stimulus, unconditioned stimulus, unconditioned response, conditioned stimulus, and unconditioned response
      2. Distinguish between generalization and discrimination
      3. Understand extinction and spontaneous recovery
    3. Explain operant conditioning
      1. Define Thorndike’s law of effect
      2. Differentiate between positive and negative reinforcement, and positive and negative punishment
      3. Understand the schedules of reinforcement and their effect on behavior
      4. Understand extinction
    4. Explain observational learning

    Cross Cutting Themes


    1. Describe the ethical concerns related to Watson’s Little Albert study, and how those concerns are addressed by the APA in today’s “Responsible Conduct of Research”.
    2. Discuss research on corporal punishment (e.g., spanking) and drawbacks with using such punishment on children.


    1. Describe how classical conditioning can create conditioned emotional responses (such as fear of certain objects or situations).
    2. Discuss applications of classical and operant conditioning in psychological treatments.   (Consider integrating the unit on learning with Treatments to highlight how these principles can be applied to treat psychological disorders.)
    3. Ask students to identify applications of classical and operant conditioning.
    4. Design a simple behavior modification plan to change one of your own behaviors through the use of the principles of operant conditioning.
    5. Ask students to identify schedules of reinforcement in retail loyalty programs they participate in, or in applications on their phones or mobile devices. How do the different schedules influence their behavior with respect to those apps or retailers?
    6. Discuss the myth of "learning styles".

    Variations in Human Functioning

    1. Discuss the Premack principle.  (There will be individual differences in what people prefer, so not all reinforces will be equally effective with all individuals.

    Cultural and Social Diversity

    1. Discuss cultural differences regarding the use of corporal punishment.
    2. Discuss how some cultural differences may be a result of learned associations.  (Show students familiar corporate logos and ask how they learned them.)
    3. Discuss similarities in learning. (For example, what aspects of learning are universal or consistent across individuals and cultures?)

    Recommended Resources

    Classical Conditioning

    This is the OpenStax section on classical conditioning.  It provides a basic overview of Pavlov’s original study, the process/terms associated with it, real-world application, and the Little Albert study.

    Conditioning and Learning

    This is the Noba module on classical conditioning.  Another basic overview of Pavlov’s study, and the process/terms.  

    Operant Conditioning

    This is the OpenStax section on operant conditioning.  It covers the basic principles, as well as schedules of reinforcement.  

    Supplemental Resources

    Classical Conditioning - Ivan Pavlov (Video)

    This is a short video clip that explains the basic principles of classical conditioning.

    How to Train a Brain (Video)

    The first 6 minutes of this Crash Course video explores Pavlov’s career, principles of classical conditioning, and also discusses the Little Albert study.  At 5:55, the video explores operant conditioning. It might be a good approach to show students each half of the video when discussing each type of conditioning, rather than showing the whole video at one time.  This is the same link as above, but beginning at 5:55,

    The BoBo Beatdown (Video)

    This is a good CrashCourse video that describes associative learning and touches on social-cognitive theory.

    Baby Albert Experiments (Video)

    This is archival footage of Watson’s Little Albert study.  

    Bobo Doll Experiment (Video)

    This is archival footage of Bandura’s Bobo Doll study.  

    Classical Conditioning Classroom Exercises

    This website provides some classroom activities that can be done quickly to help students see classical conditioning in action.  

    Rat Basketball - Shaping (Video)

    When discussing shaping, show a video of animals who have been shaped to perform complex behaviors (for example, these rats playing basketball) then do a shaping demonstration with your class, or discuss how animal trainers use operant conditioning.

    Reinforcement Theory (Video)

    This video, featuring Professor Mahzarin Banaji from Harvard University, gives a thorough overview of reinforcement and Skinner's impact on Psychology.