Skinner Teaching Machine

Description
From the 1920s, psychologists have explored ways to automate teaching. In the 1950s, the psychologist B. F. Skinner of Harvard University suggested that techniques he had developed for training rats and pigeons might be adopted for teaching humans. He used this apparatus teaching a Harvard course in natural sciences.
The machine is a rectangular wooden box with a hinged metal lid with windows. Various paper discs fit inside, with questions and answers written along radii of the discs. One question at a time appears in the window nearer the center. The student writes an answer on a paper tape to the right and advances the mechanism. This reveals the correct answer but covers his answer so that it may not be changed.
Skinner's "programmed learning" was refined and adopted in many classrooms in the 1960s. It underlies techniques still used in instruction for the office, the home and the school.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
teaching machine
Date made
1957
maker
Skinner, B. F.
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 17.5 cm x 48.6 cm x 37 cm; 6 7/8 in x 19 1/8 in x 14 9/16 in
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, Cambridge
ID Number
MA*335539
accession number
318945
catalog number
335539
subject
Science & Mathematics
College
Education
Sputnik
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Sputnik
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of B. F. Skinner

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.