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Joe Joins the Circus (or Elephant Love)

A Case Study in Learning Theory


Author(s)

Jennifer Feenstra
Department of Psychology
Northwestern College
jfeenstr@nwciowa.edu

Abstract

In this interrupted case study, students cover concepts and terms related to classical and operant conditioning as they read about how "Joe," an animal trainer for a circus, trains the two elephants in his charge. Joe sets about his task using concepts he learned in a psychology class before dropping out of college to join the circus. Students work in small groups to answer the questions associated with the case, then, as individuals, take a series of quizzes designed to check their understanding of key concepts and terms including conditioned/unconditioned stimuli and responses, positive/negative reinforcement and punishment, shaping, and partial/continuous reinforcement schedules. The case can be used in upper-level psychology courses as a way to remind students of learning theory concepts. It could also be used in an introductory psychology course following a lecture on learning theory.


Objectives

  • To learn (or recall) learning theories concepts, specifically the difference between classical and operant conditioning.
  • To learn (or recall) the meaning of the following terms: unconditioned stimuli, unconditioned response, conditioned stimuli, conditioned response, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment, shaping, partial reinforcement schedule, continuous reinforcement schedule, and discriminative stimuli.
  • To demonstrate mastery of learning theories through application.

Keywords

Learning theory; unconditioned stimuli /response; conditioned stimuli /response; positive/ negative reinforcement; positive / negative punishment; partial reinforcement schedule; continuous reinforcement schedule; discriminative stimuli

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Psychology  |  


Date Posted

1/15/2009

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