I had a professor who was a protege of B.F. Skinner, the founder of Behaviorism, and he started off one of his classes with two readings on behaviorism, one was a chapter from Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards and the other was a chapter from Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot The Dog, which is a primer on using behaviorist principles in everyday life. Since they obviously took diametrically opposed points of view on the effectiveness of behaviorism to start off the discussion he asked who was right, Pryor or Kohn? Much interesting discussion ensued.
After reflecting on the readings and the discussion for a day or two I caught that professor between classes and pointed out that all the examples given by Pryor involved a focus on one-on-one interactions whereas all the examples given by Kohn were one-on-many examples. He would not take a stand either way on his own question, but he acknowledged my point and complimented me on the insight. I concluded that what Kohn was attacking was not behaviorism as it is understood and practiced in research psychology and as advocated by Pryor, but behaviorism as it is implemented in schools by people who do not seem to understand certain key underlying assumptions of the science.
I reflected on this further to figure out what those underlying assumptions were. I went to the professor of my learning class, who was the behaviorist who later sat on my orals board, to verify that what I was thinking was accurate. Here's what the "behaviorists" in the schools may be missing about how behaviorist research is conducted: 1. the subject (child/animal) already desires (or biologically needs) the reinforcer that will be manipulated by the experimenter, 2. the desired behavior has already been “shaped” by the experimenter, and 3. the experimenter has extraordinary control over the environment in which the subject will be reinforced for the shaped behaviors.
When I reflected on the ways that my colleagues in the psychology department worked with their experimental animals I realized that they operated much more like the progressive educators that I knew than the more stereotypical classroom teachers that I had grown up with. The behaviorists I know do their experiments on animals that they know quite well and have invested time in preparing for the experiments. Most teachers have little or no time to get to know their children one-on-one before they have to implement their instructional programs which are equivalent to behavioral experiments. Classroom teachers cannot hope to achieve the consistency of results experimental behaviorists achieve under normal classroom conditions and with so little one-to-one attention to the behaviors that are prerequisites to classroom success.
So it seems that there is a problematic split in the use of the term “behaviorism” between psychology and schools. And schools are losing out since they have adopted a shallow and incomplete version of what the scientists that I am acquainted with understand. It is probably also true that there are some behaviorists who are not as open minded as the ones I know. In the community I was involved in the cognitivists and the behaviorists get along quite well and have influenced each others thinking. That may not be the norm.
The fundamental behaviorist tenet that reinforced behavior increases is still true, but what has changed is the nature of the reinforcements that must be considered in humans. Not only does reinforcement occur in the environment outside the individual, but also in the environment inside the individual. SDT added the intrinsic and autonomous regulation components to the model, so now a proper account of possible reinforcements for behaviors must also include: emotional reactions to other people, beliefs about how benefits may accrue under certain conditions, the individual's values, and their disposition for some preferences.