Did Skinner Miss the Point about Teaching?
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The Darwinian metaphor, to which Skinner was an early contributor, has been a commonplace for several years. Operant learning is seen as an interplay between response emission (variation) and reinforcement (selection). In applying his ideas to teaching, Skinner emphasized selection almost exclusively. But the real puzzle posed by non-rote learning, in both animals and humans, is not selection but the sources of variation that cause an action or an idea to appear for the first time. It is in this sense that Skinner’s whole discussion of teaching may have missed the point.