Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


PSYC110 Research Design and Data Analysis 1 AND (PSYC200 Life Span Development OR PSYC213 Individual Differences OR PSYC212 Abnormal Psychology OR PSYC227 Social Psychology )


PSYC214 Learning and Behaviour

Teaching organisation

3 hours contact per week over 12 weeks or equivalent

Unit rationale, description and aim

Understanding the principles of learning, and how these can be used to generate behaviour change enables students to improve their own lives. In undertaking this unit, students will develop knowledge that can be applied in a wide range of careers where teaching new behaviours or changing existing ones is important. This unit focuses on the contribution of models of learning to the understanding of behaviour change. It spans topics from classical to operant conditioning, and includes modern approaches to the quantitative analysis of behaviour. The methodological paradigms and philosophical implications of behaviourism will be covered, with a strong emphasis on experimental approaches to the development of theories of behaviour. In addition, the unit will also cover applied behaviour analysis approaches to interventions in real world settings. The aim of this unit is to provide an in depth understanding of the topics, theories and methodological paradigms in the field of behaviourism, and their applications in real world settings and in behaviour modification.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome Description
LO1Describe the methodological paradigms that underpin the study of classical and operant conditioning processes, including comparative psychology approaches
LO2Compare and contrast different theoretical models in the topic areas, with an emphasis on the empirical evidence that supports or refutes the models
LO3Evaluate and interpret findings from basic and applied research in the areas of behaviour analysis and behaviour modification
LO4Analyse behaviour in its context by identifying the stimuli that controls behaviours and the consequences that maintain those behaviours
LO5Develop an understanding of behaviour modification interventions and articulate the operationalisation and measurement of the target behaviour and associated ethical issues


Topics will include: 

  • Introduction to learning and behaviour
  • Overview of philosophical and experimental approaches to the study of learning and motivation
  • Habituation and sensitisation 
  • Classical conditioning (CC): Basic principles, variables affecting classical conditioning, theories of associative learning and motivation (Rescorla-Wagner model, theories of effectiveness of the Conditioned Stimulus)  
  • Operant conditioning (OC): Basic principles of operant conditioning, schedules of reinforcement, avoidance and punishment  
  • Theories and research on operant conditioning 
  • Behavioural economics 
  • Stimulus control (absolute vs relational) 
  • Concept formation and stimulus equivalence 
  • Learning by observation 
  • Theories of choice behaviour (matching, melioration, optimisation, momentary maximisation) 
  • Self-control 
  • Applications and interventions including behaviour assessment, ethical considerations when planning interventions to increase and decrease behaviours and generalisation of behaviours to other settings 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The unit has the equivalent of 3 contact hours per week over 12 weeks, which includes lectures and tutorials. This mode of delivery is designed to enhance discussion and engagement in the content covered in the unit. The lectures are to aid students with the acquisition and understanding of knowledge while the tutorials are designed to enhance application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of that knowledge. Learning and teaching strategies include active learning, case-based learning, individual and group activities, cooperative learning, web-based learning, and reflective/critical thinking activities. This range of strategies will provide students with appropriate access to required knowledge and understanding of unit content. These strategies will allow students to meet the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit. Learning and teaching strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within class activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, students must:

  • complete and submit all of the assessment tasks listed in the table below
  • obtain an aggregate mark of at least 50%
  • demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome

To best enable students to demonstrate unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes, standards-based assessment is utilised, consistent with University assessment requirements. A range of assessment strategies are used. The online quizzes are designed to scaffold understanding and application of the unit content. Students will also complete a behaviour change portfolio which provides them with an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of the content covered in the unit, and to demonstrate their ability to apply their understanding to hypothetical and applied situations. The final examination provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the unit.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1 -Online Quizzes

The weekly quizzes are designed to scaffold student understanding and application of the content of the unit


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Assessment Task 2 - Behaviour Change Portfolio

The portfolio provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the unit. As part of the portfolio students will analyse a behaviour in its context. Students will then design, implement and measure an ethical intervention to change the behaviour using the learning principles addressed in the unit. 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5

Assessment Task 3 - Final Exam 

The exam provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate understanding, consolidation and application of the content covered in the second half of the unit.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Chance, P. & Furlong, E. (2022). Learning and behavior (8th ed). Cengage Learning.

Domjan, M. (2020). The principles of learning and behavior (7th ed). Cengage Learning.

Symbaluk, D., Powell, R., & Honey, P. (2022) Introduction to learning and behavior (6th ed). Cengage Learning.

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