You’re thinking about elephants aren’t you? I know you are! Despite the very explicit and clear written instruction in the title and even a carefully designed picture (worth a thousand words apparently), you are doing precisely the opposite of what I have wanted you to do. Is this a reflection of your inability to understand and follow even the simplest of instructions? Perhaps you are stubborn, slow to comprehend, lazy or just plain contrary? Or perhaps I have gone about the whole “not thinking about elephants” thing entirely the wrong way?
Professional trainers and professionals with advanced degrees in Applied Behavior Analysis know about the trainer/teacher’s secret weapon for extreme reliability. That is… back chaining. If you are a teacher, coach or parent who teaches skills to others, you need to know about this too!
Back chaining is a concept foreign to many and counter-intuitive to most who first learn of it. We want to talk about it briefly here, because it is a very effective way to build highly reliable behaviors and it is one of the key techniques that any TAGteacher should understand and apply properly. A reliable behavior is one that looks the same each time the subject performs it. For example, with forming the letter “E”, we would consider the behavior to be reliable if the child drew the letter the same way every time and the letter was drawn correctly.
by Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT, KPACTP, TAGteach Level 2
Following the amazing-as-always ClickerExpo, I headed southeast to join friends and family for a Caribbean vacation. It was delightful; home was 4 degrees Fahrenheit when I left for San Francisco, where the rainy 60s felt lovely, and 80 degrees on a sandy beach felt positively euphoric.
And I learned to surf.
Well, sort of. Our ship was equipped with a FlowRider, an artificial surf machine. I’d seen one before at a water park, but I’d never tried it, and some of us decided to give it a whirl. We joined the others, a mixture of novices and really talented surfers, and I braced myself on a board, listened to the instructor, and gave it my best.
By Ann Aiko Bergeron MFA, Level 3 TAGteacher
It all began with a Border Terrier named Ninja. Then a clicker in my hand. Now it’s simply a way of life. As a university professor who trains dancers, TAGteaching came as a natural progression of my obsessive interest in clicker training. At first I was hesitant to bring the techniques into a professional adult training program. Would my students think I was crazy? Would my university colleagues think I had gone off the deep end? Encouraged by Theresa McKeon, who sent me a box full of clickers after we had discussed the possibilities at a Clicker Expo, I told my classes that they were going to be my guinea pigs – that I had no idea where TAGteaching was going with them, but please humor me. Fortunately, I’m not known as the most conservative dance teacher, so they moved forward with goodwill and playful curiosity.
Laura Monaco Torelli, Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) and a member of the KPA faculty, is the Director of Training for Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago. She works in collaboration with veterinary behaviorist Dr. John Ciribassi at Animal Behavior Partners, and is staff with Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants. Laura is also TAGteach Level 2 certified. Since 1991, Laura has worked with and trained beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters, and penguins (at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago), primates, large cats, birds of prey, reticulated giraffes, Arctic foxes, horses, parrots, macaws, tree kangaroos, and red pandas (at the San Diego Zoo, Brookfield Zoo and Niabi Zoological Society) and of course, dogs (just about everywhere).
By Luca Canever, TAGteach Faculty
A new pupil with ADHD (I’ll call him J.) arrived in my sixth grade class a while ago. As soon as I was able to find the right reinforcement for him, I was also able to strengthen “good” (for the teacher) behaviors, such as sit, write or watch what is written on the blackboard. I was able to tag (make a click sound with tagger) in order to mark (bring to his attention) his “good” behaviors and follow up with a reinforcer (something he liked and wanted to get more of). After the first hour of practice, J. understood the significance of the tag sound and began to exhibit these behaviors more consistently. There is just one problem remaining to be solved, and that is the subject of this article… transitions.
“Shaping human behavior incrementally just makes so much sense. We do it with the animals because it’s easier for them and us both — why not for human student and human teacher?”
Laura has incorporated TAGteach not only into her professional work, for training private clients with Canines In Action, Inc and as faculty with the Karen Pryor Academy, but into her personal life as well — which finds her using TAG principles in organizing costume masquerades, in physical exercise form, in handling a firearm safely and shooting competitively, and in writing and editing. This fall she will tour the Indianapolis library system with Alena VanArendonk, teaching teenagers to dance THRILLER as part of a zombie-themed reading program and sneaking in TAGteach along the way. Check out Laura’s video, The Thrill of Tag…