Classical Conditioning Examples in the Classroom

Classical Conditioning Examples in the Classroom

Classical conditioning is one of the most effortless methods of learning for anyone. Even in the classroom or school setting, many such behaviors can lead to learning intentionally or unintentionally.

While the technique mostly gets used for positive and constructive learning by the teacher, sometimes, conditioning can even be negative. So here are some examples of how classical conditioning takes place in a classroom environment.

What Is Classical Conditioning?

Classical conditioning is a method of learning introduced and discovered by Ivan Pavlov. He discovered it by experimenting with dogs. In the experiment, he always rang a bell sometime before he gave them their meal.

If we refer to the scientific definition, Classical conditioning is associative learning that happens with two stimuli. The first stimulus gets subconsciously related to the following stimuli by the learner. So a neutral and unrelated stimulus induces a response from the learner.

Then he noticed how the dogs started salivating when the bell rang. Thus, he concluded that the dogs learned that after the bell it is their meal time naturally. It is one of the most used methods of learning even now and is used by many educators. 

It is especially very applicable for young learners who can attach two separate actions and facilitate learning. Since their minds are getting actively shaped, It can influence their learning greatly.

Some Examples of Negative Classical Conditioning in the Classroom

Various types of conditioning and learning methods got discovered and developed for better education. But it doesn’t mean that they are always positive. It can also happen negatively, although it isn’t intentional or purpose all the time.

However, it is still very harmful to the learner. Here are some examples that display negative classical conditioning in the classroom:

  • A child develops the fear of asking questions due to a negative or humiliating response. Imagine a child who has many curiosities about the subject, and not all of them make perfect sense. When that child asks a question in the class in front of the teacher, he/she/they get greeted with stifled laughter. She/he/they might be resilient to such ridiculing a couple of times, but after a few times, they will keep quiet rather than ask such doubts. As bad as peer pressure is, a teacher’s harsh comments or scolding isn’t as far behind. If children try attempting questions that they do not know the accurate answer to, the teacher might scold them for the wrong answer. 
  • Another toxic example of classical conditioning is the onset of exam season and consequent stress. Many students get anxious and stressed when exam season comes by due to the competition. There is such fierce competition, and children feel they need to keep themselves on the top of the list to be recognized. Such expectations cause them to feel stressed and worried whenever the exams season comes by, leading to worse health and mental health.

Some Examples of Positive Classical Conditioning in the Classroom

Just like there is negative classical conditioning, there is also positive conditioning taking place in a classroom. It is usually intentional, and teachers try on their side to initiate it. Such classical conditioning methods can help in improving the behavior and overall performance of the children.

Here are a few instances of positive or beneficial classical conditioning in the classroom setting:

  • Children become more motivated to answer and perform well after receiving words of encouragement. Receiving rewards after doing well on tests or evaluations is great, but even by receiving positive remarks on their performance, students can get motivated. Before starting a test, or even a mini quiz, if the teacher encourages the students and says positive remarks about their performance, their spirit gets lifted. Such students then give their best in the test and exceed their previous performances.
  • Children becoming prepared for learning and stopping moving around when the teacher enters the classroom. Everyone knows the time when the class is lively, but everyone becomes serious once the teacher enters the class. It might be seen negatively, but it is an ideal positive classical learning instance. Since children are in playful mode, organizing oneself is ideal, to learn well. So the teacher entering the classroom immediately signals to the brain that the learning period has begun, and the child must pay attention and organize themselves.
  • Children becoming quiet when the teacher steps away from the desk and board when they are being too noisy. Every teacher knows how noisy children can be. They are at an age where they are bursting with energy and excitement. But such noise can interfere with learning and create an inefficient environment for fellow learners. So, when the teacher steps away from the board and desk area and stands to the side, the students understand that they were too noisy. Thus, the students stop talking amongst themselves and focus on what the teacher is teaching.


Classical conditioning is a learning method discovered long ago which is present in multiple settings. Due to its effectiveness, it is the go-to method for many educators. Thus, it isn’t surprising to witness such learning in school.

In the classroom, there are multiple instances of classical conditioning in the students and teachers alike. By referring to the examples of such classical conditioning in the classroom, you can understand them better.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How does classical conditioning work?

Classical conditioning works by relating an action with another action before it. So after a few repetitions, the first action makes the person expect or prepare for the second action. 

  1. Is classical conditioning an ideal learning method?

Yes, classical conditioning is a widely preferred method for learning habits. Especially while teaching things to kids or training pets, this method is the best one.

  1. Can classical conditioning happen subconsciously?

Of course, classical conditioning can and most usually does happen subconsciously itself. Since your mind relates two actions together, the first action makes you prepared or expect the second one automatically.

Classical Conditioning Examples in the Classroom

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