Sunday, October 25, 2009

How to Study in a Board Certified Behavior Analyst Program

1. Your very least favorite (track coach, physical education teacher, driver’s education instructor) was correct: “You get what you practice.” In fact, research suggests that you get exactly what you practice. So: when you study, practice the same operant that will be tested in class or used in the field. Students are frequently dismayed when they feel they have understood the text when they read it, but perform poorly on quizzes. However, they were tested on “writing responses to a quiz,” not on “reading a quiz,” and generally most students “read” when they study. So a good first-line intervention would be practicing more “writing” while studying the texts, in preparation for written quizzes.

• Instead of merely reading and re-reading texts (Kazdin; Cooper, Heron, & Heward), devise ways of inducing ASR or “active student responding” while you read. Here are some suggestions:
• The Prentice-Hall website provides guided notes for the Cooper, Heron, & Heward text; you will prepare study guides for one another. Use the guided notes and study guides while you do your first read-through to increase your ASR.
• Learn to summarize whole chapters into very short lists of “P’s and Q’s” (Points & Questions). As soon as you finish reading a chapter (filling in a study guide as you read), put away your book and notes, and write a chapter summary of no more than five bulleted Points and three lingering Questions for further discussion with your BCBA supervisor, study group, or instructor. If your list is more than 5 P’s and 3 Q’s, you need to revise – Sorry, Polonius, but brevity is the soul not only of wit but also of adduced contingencies.
• The Prentice-Hall website also provides another resource for the Cooper, Heron, & Heward text: online quizzes. Take these after your first read-through of a chapter and then again after further study to gauge whether you are ready for the in-class quiz. Charting your progress on these quizzes is a good way to prepare for the BCBA exam. Keep at it until you are at your personal goal: 100%? 90%? 80%?

2. Behavior analysts do not communicate only by writing and reading. We also speak and listen. So, for better or for worse, your oral fluency with the “high-falutin’-est” verbal behavior of the science of applied behavior analysis is important. Some of this can be addressed through written quizzes, but speaker/listener skills are best practiced through speaking and listening. To this end:
• Sign up for and use Quizlet. There is a group set up for Manhattanville BCBA students especially. You can practice vocabulary with flashcards, vocab quizzes, games, and more:
• Tutor one another on vocabulary flashcards. Not only will both of you benefit from the exposure to the vocabulary as you tutor one another, but doing Verbal Fluency Tutoring sessions is a good way to develop your expertise with presenting discrete trial teaching and collecting and analyzing data.
• Take advantage of the fact that there are now several cable-TV shows that illustrate many principles of applied behavior analysis. Excellent examples include: SuperFetch, SuperNanny, It’s Me or the Dog, and Good Dog U. Examples that are possible to use but will provide less clear illustrations and/or more complicated operants and applications include: Dr. Phil, The Biggest Loser, and CleanSweep. What is common to all these shows is that the practitioners on these shows seldom use scientific terminology correctly, if at all, to describe the procedures they recommend. Get together with a peer or peers (motivating operations like popcorn and soda are OK, and may even be necessary!) and watch one of these shows (preferably on DVD, TiVo, via Internet connection, or some other way in which you can “pause” the action for discussion). Observe the procedures, pause, and discuss. Look through your notes and texts and tact the principles of behavior and behavior change tactics being employed in the vignettes. If you as a group cannot decide, write down the example and bring it to your BCBA supervision or to class.
3. Like it or not, you are entering this class 4/15 of the way through the program (almost a third of the way there), and you’ll leave this class 7/15 of the way through this program (almost half-way there). It is already time to be studying for the BCBA exam. Research tells us that distributed practice is superior to massed practice, so:
• The CBA modules from Behavior Development Solutions worked for me, and I had only 10 days between notification that I was qualified to sit for the test and my testing date. They have a money back guarantee if you complete all the modules to criterion before the test and then for some reason do not pass.
• Keep plugging through the online quizzes for the Cooper, Heron, & Heward text. Use a grid to mark each score and recycle until you get to 100% on each and every quiz. You will know when you are fluent!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When "Abstract" is really "Concrete"

Mid-October saw the deadline for submissions for the 2010 Convention for the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI, but we still pronounce it "ah-buh"). At the school where I work, bucketloads of social reinforcement is available for staff members who prepare and present papers at ABAI each year. There is a frenzy just before and after the actual Convention to think about papers that would be good for next year's convention, but the real work generally gets done about half a year later: at submission time for the following year's convention.

Applications require submission of the abstract to the paper to be presented. Sometimes this is easy: the study has been done, the paper is written, just send the abstract as it already exists.

Other times, the study is just a great idea, and the convention becomes to goal line for completing the study. When this is the case, a loosely assembled set of fairly
abstract ideas for a study have to be abstracted into an abstract in short order. It's time to get down to business and pull together the essential ideas of background literature, purpose, design, and expected results. The document that comes from this process, the abstract, tends to be pretty concrete in the end.

Here's a sample abstract for a study we're just putting together now:

<>AMANDA W. DOLL, Ed.M, BCBA, Tina Covington, PhD, BCBA, Rachel Sgueglia, MS.Ed., and Dana Logozio, MS.Ed.<>Previous research (Doll, Covington, Rosenfeld, & Cerrone, 2009) has identified that a subset of teaching staff do not respond to repeated observation-and-feedback cycles with a modified TPRA form fashioned after Ingham & Greer, 1992. In the 2009 study, those teachers who continued to commit instructional errors subsequently improved when they were taught how to use the modified TPRA form and then used this form in order to self-score their own teaching behavior from video samples. Teaching accuracy improved and instructional rate also improved; accuracy was a treated variable, while rate was an untreated variable. The present study seeks to replicate results from the 2009 study; to identify teachers for whom observation-and-feedback cycles are not serving to improve instructional behavior; to create a data-base for using video self-observation as a tactic when instructional practices need to be improved. Data collection is ongong.