Applied Behavior Analysis as a Teaching Technology

Applied Behavior Analysis as a Teaching Technology

Amoy Kito Hugh-Pennie, Hye-Suk Lee Park, Nicole Luke, Gabrielle T. Lee
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2838-8.ch015
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Applied behavior analysis is known as an effective way to address the needs of people with autism spectrum disorders. The layperson may also associate behavior analysis with forensic psychology through their experience of crime dramas such as Criminal Minds: Behavior Analysis Unit. However accurate or simplified these portrayals they are a very narrow view of the larger field of behavioral science. Behavior analysis has a host of applications in the real world. Some of these applications include but are certainly not limited to the determination of social policies, advertising, policing, animal training, business practices, diet and exercise regimens and education. In this chapter the authors will focus on how applied behavior analysis can be used as a teaching technology from the behavioral and educational literature that has the potential to help lead the way out of the educational crisis faced in the United States of America and abroad.
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Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a science traditionally tied to solving practical problems based on the discoveries from the basic science of behavior. It is the application of behavioral principles to change socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree through careful observations and systematic experimentation (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968). Webster's Dictionary (n. d.) defines technology as the use of scientific knowledge to solve a practical problem. One of the defining characteristics of ABA as “technological” is that its effects are replicable and available to others via precise descriptions of procedural operations (Baer et al., 1968). Thus, not only any instruments, apparatus, or techniques, but also strategic methodological processes developed within the behavior analytic tradition, are included in the definition of technology (Layng & Twyman, 2013) herein described in this chapter. Simply, ABA is a technology which is used to change behavior.

Lattal (2008) further distinguished technologies developed within the behavior analytic discipline as endogenous technology (e.g., the operant chamber) while those developed outside of this discipline as exogenous technology (e.g., the iPad™). Assimilating or merging exogenous technology with endogenous technology can produce powerful effects on evaluation in our society, particularly when applied to our education system (Escobar & Twyman, 2014).

Endogenous technology can be defined as the applications of discoveries from the laboratory to solve student learning problems in the classroom via systematically sequenced educational outcomes with frequent measures to mastery, learner-centered active responding opportunities, and individualized pacing toward the ultimate goals. Pedagogy has always been an integral part of the research tradition of behavior analysis (Keller, 1968; Lindsley, 1991; Skinner, 1968). Despite the existence of empirically validated pedagogical practices shown effective in facilitating student learning, advances of exogenous technology applied in the classroom seem to remain independent of and ignorant of endogenous technology.

For example, in a review of evidence-based online instructional strategies, it was reported that online instructions involving multi-media did not produce superior effects in student performance (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010). Such results were not surprising, as those studies compared lectures delivered via either in-person or video formats. Both instructional methods were literally identical and consisted of passive learning without active student responding. Advanced exogenous technology alone, without integrating endogenous technology as the foundation, yielded no significant educational outcomes. ABA offers many benefits if implemented in the classroom. These include ways to teach, ways to organize teaching materials and objectives, and ways to think about schooling in general.

Unfortunately, adapting exogenous technology without endogenous technology in the education system is common. In its 2016 National Education Technology Plan, the Office of Educational Technology defines technology as those tools that a classroom has for learning such as: laptops, computers, iPads™, and phones (US Department of Education, 2016). This definition does not fully account for the essential learning process necessary for successful educational outcomes and ignores the role of teachers who serve as scientists to apply scientific knowledge to solve practical learning problems. Such a prevailing notion has contributed to an ongoing culture that dismisses teachers as valued and technological, which has become a barrier when discussing practical solutions to a serious problem. As a result, ABA is not being consistently used in schools and this may pose a problem.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Modeling: Providing visual examples of an individual or group performing a skill or set of skills accurately and fluently for the purposes of teaching others through the visual medium.

Exogenous Technology: Hardware, software, and other downloadable applications for use on computers, smartphones, or tablets used for advancing learning and/or assisting in behavior change.

Operant Conditioning: A type of learning that occurs through the consistent application of a set of consequences in relation to antecedent stimuli. This is done using the principles of behavior: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment.

Task Analysis: The observation of a competent individual or group completing a task for the purposes of breaking the skill down into smaller components to teach a novice.

Response to Intervention: A multi-tier approach to identify students who require academic, social and behavioral interventions in general education classrooms and school settings. The effectiveness of such interventions subsequently measured to determine the need to refer the student for additional academic, social and/or behavioral supports via special education services.

Applied Behavior Analysis: The application of evidence-based intervention strategies used to change socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree such that the interventions applied can be shown through experimental manipulation to be responsible for the change of behavior that occurred.

Behavior Chaining: A chain of complex behaviors broken down into small incremental steps that build upon each other to complete a task at varying levels of difficulty. Each step in the chain builds upon the other serving as both antecedent and consequence to student behaviors. Each step is differentially reinforced resulting in a completed task. (e.g. reciting the alphabet or brushing one’s teeth.)

Discrete Trail Training: The delivery of instruction that breaks down each unit of teaching into a three-term contingency such that there is a teacher delivered antecedent followed by student behavior and teacher applied consequence as a means of delivering individualized instruction.

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