Confessions of an Equestrian Instructor in the Pursuit of Excellence

By Jane Jackson, Level 3 TAGteacher

In my pursuit of excellence (for myself and my students) I discovered TAGteach. This teaching approach has added many effective new tools to my tool box and has provided me with ways of becoming a better instructor. The first three (of many) things which pop into my head when I think about how TAGteach has helped me are: 

  1. observation
  2. breaking things down and; 
  3. reinforcing successes.  

I tend to prefer the term instructor over the term trainer when talking about teaching people to ride. For the purpose of this article, I’ll use “instructor” when talking about teaching people, and “trainer” when talking about teaching horses. 

Observation Skills are Critical

We all have favorite exercises we use when we teach, but a canned approach only takes you so far. We also have to watch the student and see what needs help: position, confidence, comprehension, something different? We may start with an exercise such as riding a square by halting in each corner and doing a partial turn on the forehand to line up with the next side of the square. Observation comes in if the horse and rider pair do not execute the exercise correctly. Why not? Is the rider’s leg in the correct position? Is she using her seat correctly? Does she understand how to use her aids to ask for the turn? Does the horse understand the leg aid? Maybe all of those things are in need of help! 

Breaking it Down

That brings us to breaking it down. As trainers, we know that the aids must be correct in order for the horse to understand what we are asking. We naturally want to make all of it correct so the tendency is to say, “next time slide your leg back and don’t lean over and make sure you maintain the bend but don’t pull on the inside rein….”. As instructors, we’ve also been in the saddle when someone else was barking orders at us (and boy do we have stories to tell about how rough WE had it when we were learning). So in order to make it easier on our students and to help them be successful- which of course helps us look good-, we can use TAGteach. We can break it down and only work on one of those skills at a time. “But!”, you say, “you have to have all those things in order to get it right”. Well, yes, but does anyone do it correctly the first time? Or even the tenth time? Better to break it down and make progress in one aspect of the skill, than to keep repeating yourself while your student gets frustrated trying to remember all the different things at once and still not getting it right. You can even take it out of the context of the turn. Focus on the leg position while she’s riding down the long side and have the student practice putting it in the correct place and back until she feels confident and can easily put her leg where you want it repeatedly. Tag each time she correctly places her leg.  Then you can focus on the seat while leaving the leg out of the picture for a bit. Focusing on each component individually allows to the student to feel and experience each before trying to put them together.

Reinforcing Success

Finally, reinforcing the student’s successes helps nail the skill down. A reinforcer is defined as something which will make the behavior more likely to happen in the future. While training animals, food is a great reinforcer because most animals like food. My young students are reinforced by receiving stickers or little plastic ponies for their efforts (we keep track of each tag and they barter them for prizes afterward). For many riders, simply being able to execute the skill correctly is reinforcement enough. That is, after all, why they are taking lessons- they want to become better riders! Being able to ride away from a lesson and say, “I can ask for and get a turn on the forehand” for the first time is sweet! But we want to help our student get to that point. So little reinforcers along the way, for each step of that process, is what I have learned is invaluable. First, you have to mark that correct performance of the skill. While a clicker is best for the accuracy and non-judgmental tone, you can also use your voice: “there!” when the rider gets the leg in the right place. Repeating the skill so that the affirming marker is heard repeatedly is what will create an easier and easier performance. So whether you have students pull down beads on a tagulator for each successful repetition or they simply get to hear and feel the little successes, keep that “rate of reinforcement” high.

An Example

Here is an example. In the first photo the rider has her heels down properly, but her leg is too far forward. When I ask her to move her foot more to the back, she moves it too far and now her heel has come up into the wrong position (see photo 2). So we have two things to fix: the position of the heel (should be down below the stirrup) and the position of the heel relative to the hip (should be aligned). Deciding to work on only one aspect (the heel/hip alignment), I put a piece of purple tape on the hip and the heel and give the tag point “tape to tape”. The rider will get a tag when she lines up the tape horizontally. Success!

Video Examples from Webinar with Jane

The Bonus?

Observing, breaking things down and reinforcing successes are three critical components of using TAGteach and as such, they are some of the initial skills taught at a TAGteach Seminar or the online course.  The bonus? I feel I have become a better trainer and rider myself through this process of careful examination. 

Webinar with Jane

The recording of this webinar will be available from the same link as the live event

Do you see promise and potential in your students, but wish they would progress faster? This webinar will show you how to boost your student’s performance. You’ll learn how to make simple changes to your teaching approach. You’ll learn how to talk less, say more and motivate your students to do their very best. You’ll learn about a powerful new approach to giving structured, perfectly timed positive reinforcement. This is a practical webinar that will show you exactly how to use TAGteach. TAGteach is teaching method that uses the principles of behavior science for precise, efficient, effective teaching. Elite orthopedic surgeons are trained this way as reported in Scientific American. Your students will be thrilled to know that they are being taught like surgeons!

Raise the bar for your teaching and for your student’s performance.

In this webinar you’ll see creative ideas for removing the horse (and his stress) from the picture and using just a few minutes on the ground before the lesson to minimize unnecessary errors.

More About Jane

For more information about Jane, visit BookendsFarm.com and check out her blog at bookendsfarm.blogspot.com

Read a TAGteacher Spotlight article about Jane

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TAGteacher Spotlight: Jane Jackson, Riding Instructor

By Jane Jackson, Level 3 TAGteacher

I was at a clinic with Alexandra Kurland (I had been clicker training horses for many years) when she mentioned that since I taught kids as well as adults, I should try TAGteach. When I asked what that was, she used the following example, “you ask them to keep their position around a 20 meter circle and if they do, then click them and they can go jump the cross rail”. I think my jaw dropped. What a brilliant idea. I remember saying that I could have left the clinic right then and there and I would have gotten my money’s worth (but I’m glad I didn’t because there was more great stuff to come). My mind went wild with the possibilities. I couldn’t wait to get home and try it. Kids love to jump – they don’t like to work on position so much. There was a perfect way to work them together.

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TAGteach – “You had me at click, click…”

By Tony Harvey, Guide Dogs for the Blind UK

Reprinted from Visionary Magazine, April 29 Edition

I have worked with visually impaired people for the past 15 years, and guides dogs for the last 10. We have to the train people how to work with their dogs in order for then to have the best mobility possible. There is a lot to learn so I have been using TAGteach to really break down these processes and turn them into easy to learn chunks.

TAGteach was great for me as I didn’t have to process a lot of words. I just knew if I hadn’t heard the click, I had something else to do. Thank you for understanding me.

Vision Impaired Client

TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance and it’s teaching and communication method that combines positive reinforcement with an acoustical event marker. It’s an application of behavior science that makes the science of positive reinforcement accessible.

TAGteach relies on breaking behaviour down into small pieces, looking for desired behaviors and giving positive reinforcement to increase those moments of great behaviour. In that regard it is the same as guide dog training, or all animal training.

For me it’s like telling a story or painting a picture. Teach a single tag point, and then add on one more part and then another until you have the whole picture.

One client I recently worked with has memory issues and finds it difficult to process information. When she qualified with her dog, she said to me “TAGteach was great for me as I didn’t have to process a lot of words. I just knew if I hadn’t heard the click, I had something else to do. Thank you for understanding me.”

I was hesitant to use it at first. it seemed complicated and to be honest I was not sure of the benefit. Anyway, as a huge advocate of anything positive-reinforcement based I decided to put myself through the course, so I could really learn about it and apply it correctly. It’s far more than just “clicking a person”.

It’s primary use has been with sighted people, and children in particular. It has also had success with kids with additional disabilities such as autism. In order for me to use it successfully with the guide dog client base I had to make some adaptations. My first adaptation was to mostly drop the demonstration stage. Obviously this is not so relevant, but there are still times when I manage to do a form of demonstration by utilising a sighted guide or something similar. My second adaptation was on what to use as a marker in the presence of clicker savvy guide dogs! TAGteach puts a lot of emphasis on the potential emotional baggage a vocal marker can bring so I opted for a shoulder tap. Since then I have found an alternative acoustical marker that is different to the clicker.

There are no mistakes for the person to make, only opportunities for success.

Tony Harvey

The advantages I have found using TAGteach have been really positive and not just based on the clicker but on how I now really break down tasks into small chunks. There are no mistakes for the person to make, only opportunities for success. If people are not getting the tag points, all we have to do as practitioners is adapt our tag point, no telling them it’s wrong, just a new opportunity for successful results. We all know behaviour is driven by successful outcomes. I do a lot of work prior to the dog being involved, this means I can really hone the skills first. Then the client is more fluid and confident when the dog arrives and he dog experiences a more similar style of handling to what it is used to and so hopefully less stress. It creates fluid sessions as there is no conversation required during the learning. Once they hear a tag the know it’s right and can continue. No tag means keep trying. I have found quick learning with great retention using this method, as well as as added bonus of increased focus on the tasks which I think is due to lack of conversation and task orientation once you say, “The tag point is….”

So why isn’t everyone doing it? It’s fairly new, some people see the clicker and think it would patronise people using a “dog” training device on humans (although I have never found this when I have used it). People like what they know and it’s a leap of faith for us to try something new, also people are good trainers and coaches so they already do a great job. Anyone with reservations, I would advise them to go to tagteach.com and youtube.com/tagteacher where there is a collection of information and videos on its application.

Learn Tony’s Best Training Tips

Join us for a live webinar with Tony to learn all his best secrets for top level training. After the live date it will available as a recording at the same link.

The Tagulator! Behavior Change Technology for Under $5

I want to introduce you to a fascinating and inexpensive piece of low-tech equipment that can help you effect magical behavior change in yourself or others. It’s called a tagulator. A tagulator is a specially strung string of beads that you can use to reinforce your own or someone else’s behavior. There’s something appealing and comforting about the way the beads slide down the string that makes everyone love to pull the beads.

The tagulator is a wonderful adjunct to the actual tagger and you can also use it with or without a tagger. Each pull of a bead is effectively a tag.

Unfamiliar with TAGteach? Click here to learn about the basics.

In Pursuit of Domestic Bliss

In pursuit of domestic bliss, TAGteacher Leslie Catterall turned to TAGteach and the tagulator to teach her husband to take the recycling off the kitchen counter and into the bins.  “I explained my situation and my understanding of his. He told me that there was no malicious intent in his forgetting to recycle; he’d simply got into the habit of leaving the bottles there, a behavior that was hard to change when he was tired and focused on other things. What an eye-opener that was to me. And since then I am seeing more and more how much of the behavior with which we are dissatisfied stems from patterns of repetition that are hard to break simply through being told.” Leslie and Martin engaged in a mutually agreed upon experiment where Martin would tag his own behavior and pull down a bead on a tagulator mounted in the kitchen every time he took the recycling out to the bin. The experiment was a raging success and Martin quickly accumulated 67 tags recorded on a set of 2 tagulators. Asked why he still continues to do it he said, “it’s about presence of mind, committing to the whole process breaks the habitual behavior”. When pressed further he put it this way: “even though I’m the only one recognizing it, it gives me a nice feeling that I am being recognized for doing it.”

Here’s a video showing how you can use a tagulator in this sort of situation. The couple in this video each have their own tagulator placed in strategic locations to help promote desired behaviors that they have identified. Whoever finishes a tagulator first gets to pick the next movie or TV show.

How to Make a Tagulator

Here’s a video that shows how you can make your own tagulator.

Tagulator Mechanics

Sometimes just pulling a bead down is enough reinforcement to strengthen a new behavior, but sometimes tangible reinforcers are required. Some learners need to have a candy or token or other tangible item after every bead, after every few beads or at the end of a tagulator. If you’re giving tangibles after bead pulling, you can make patterned tagulators to modify the rate of reinforcement. Here’s a video that shows how tagulators work with Skittles as reinforcement. There’s no specific behavior being reinforced in the video. This is just a demonstration of the tagulator mechanics. The sequence is teacher tags > learner pulls a bed > teacher delivers a Skittle. You can see how different bead patterns modify the rate of reinforcement with the Skittles.

Not Just for Errant Husbands

Tagulators are not just for adults. Kids of all ages love them too!

Here’s a video that shows how to introduce the tagulator to increase teaching efficiency. This child has up until now received a reinforcer after each tag. Sometimes it has been stickers, beads or melon pieces, but he’s most interested in Skittles. It’s often disruptive to the smooth flow of a lesson to stop and eat a Skittle after each tag. The tagulator provides a great way to reinforce without stopping to deal with the primary reinforcer. Lear is 4 and this is his introduction to the tagulator. Notice that he has no problem with the drastic reduction in the number of Skittles he’s getting. Formerly he was getting 1 Skittle per tag, now he’s getting 1 Skittle per 10 tags. Clearly it’s more about the game than about the candy for Lear now.

He sometimes wants to stop and count remaining beads to see how far he still has to go to get a Skittle, but he doesn’t object to the the 10-fold reduction in Skittles. The tagulator is fun too.

Note how matter-of-fact the teacher is here. She doesn’t cajole or ask him if he wants to use the tagulator, she just tells him that this is what we are doing now and then she does it. She has a good history of reliability with Lear and he likes and trusts her. He also respects her because she sets the expectations, she’s clear and she’s consistent. Lear is tag savvy and is very clear on the concept of TAGteach.

The Applications are Endless

People are using TAGulators all over the place. TAGteacher Amelia Bower posted on one of our Facebook groups recently:

I had two lovely TAGteach-inspired moments this week and wanted to share.

1) At the ABA clinic where I work, we started a Direct Instruction program with a young learner. She seemed a bit bored by the instructions at first, but when I added a clicker and a tagulator, her interest was piqued and the program ran very smoothly.

2) I also tried out a tiered reinforcement system, with staff members! I needed to increase the frequency of checking to see if workspaces are clean before leaving a session. I added a visual prompt, asked therapists to initial a poster before leaving the room clean, and I’m collecting initials and awarding puzzle pieces as we accumulate each week. When the puzzle is complete, management will provide a huge snack stash to therapists. We rolled out this intervention yesterday, and the feedback has been very positive!

I’m so glad I pursued this training!

Veterinarian and TAGteacher Linda Randall told us about her use of the tagulator in the vet clinic:

There is a tagulator by one of the telephones. My initial idea for this tagulator was to use it  for myself. I wanted to slow down and truly listen to my clients rather than rushing to tell them what I wanted them to hear, then getting on with my day. When I relaxed my shoulder muscles as I listened, I would “pull a bead”. After 10 beads I would do something rewarding for myself. Soon this morphed into “pulling a bead” every time I overheard a staff member say something compassionate or service-oriented to a client when using this particular phone. Then anyone could “pull a bead” for anyone else for a client or pet-centered phone phrase. The tagulator became a team effort and we needed a second tagulator to mark the completion of the first tagulator so we could get pizza after 100 secondary beads! It worked, and is working, wonderfully.”

Employers are using tagulators in the workplace, therapists are using them instead of giving a primary reinforcer for every trial, parents and spouses are using them at home, sport coaches are using them and people are using them for self-tagging to help remember to eat healthy foods, choose a behavior to replace smoking and adhere to exercise programs.

Share Your Tagulator Stories and Photos

Tell us in the comments what you use your tagulator for. Please post photos of your tagulators and stories about how you use them on our Facebook page.

Learn More from Our Experts

Join us for a live webinar on Wed July 1, 2020 and Let’s Talk Tagulators with TAGteach Cofounder Theresa McKeon and TAGteach Faculty Instructor Eva Bertilsson. This will be recorded so if the date is passed you can still access it.

What Do a Caterpillar and Einstein Have in Common?

Editor’s note: We are often asked why it is that TAGteach works so well and so fast, sometimes yielding behavior change or learning that seems magical. There is no magic involved, except that which goes on in our brains. TAGteach Faculty Member Luca Canever presented a fascinating webinar about how the brain learns and why TAGteach works so well.

By Luca Canever – TAGteach Faculty

The answer to the question in the title is this: They both learn the same way!

Working Memory and Cognitive Load

The TAGteach mantra “talk less, teach more”, seems counter-intuitive, but there is sound science behind this. The role of working memory is to catch things from environment to ensure our survival. We can think of the working memory like a window from which our consciousness looks at the world. Also the working memory creates the memories for the long term memory. If we overload the working memory with too much information it won’t be able to pass on the memories, and the learning will stop. Too much information it’s not good for the learning. TAGteach, indeed is.

Associative Learning: What a Caterpillar and Einstein Have in Common

Earth had 3 billion years of bacteria, before life discovered associative learning. Life had blossomed about 540 million years ago when the first multicellular organisms discovered associative learning. If you know (and you can remember) where you can find food, mating opportunities and where your predator is waiting for you, your survival chances will increase. Organisms have learned by association for millions of years, so the argument that TAGteachers sometimes hear from parents: “Don’t treat my child like a dog!” makes no sense. From the lowly caterpillar to the brilliant Albert Einstein, we all learn in the same way. What is different is the complexity in the brain. Recent findings indicate that our (human) brains are not brand new. On the contrary they use pieces and parts that already exist and adapt them to our new requirements.

Maps in the Brain – Why My Car is not Like Yours

In his book “Thinking fast and slow“, Daniel Kahneman says that each of us has his/her own, clear idea of what a car is. But if you ask two people to draw a car what you get is two different things. At the same time we can understand each other because we “share” the idea of “car” or “table”. We can develop a common language because my representations in my brain are similar to yours. The memories in the brain are not “single-folder” kind. Memories are maps in the brain with different pattern for everyone. TAGteach helps because application of the WOOF rules creates a crystal clear tag point that is clearly understood by both teacher and learner.

References

Cognitive Load:

MILLER (1956) – The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information
COOPER (1998) – Research into cognitive load theory and instructional design
BINDER (2002) – Fluency achieving true master in the learning process

Associative Learning:

GINSBURG (2010) – The evolution of associative learning A factor in the Cambrian explosion

FIORILLO (2008) – Towards a General Theory of Neural Computation Based on Prediction by Single Neurons
About the 3D Grid in the brain

Maps in the Brain:

WINKIELMAN (2002) – The hedonic marking of processing fluency
REBER (2004) – Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure
MORE ABOUT TAGTEACH AND SCIENCE:http://www.tagteachitalia.com/scienza/

TAGteach Principles Applied in the Classroom:

Webinar with Luca: How the Brain Learns

Learn more about the science behind how the brain learns in this webinar with Luca Canever.

TAGteacher Tale: How to Use Positive Reinforcement in Basketball Coaching

By BJ Mumford, Basketball Coach, Level 1 TAGteacher

Imagine a 3rd grader dribbling up the basketball court in a live full-court 3on3 game, driving to the basket, reacting to a defender and making an assist to a teammate. Now imagine that this player had never played basketball before 6 weeks ago….

Unthinkable you say? Well, not with TAGteach!

I have spent 14 years coaching basketball in a variety of roles, but have always returned to player development as my favorite way to provide lasting value to kids. I grew up being homeschooled, and have always been an advocate for self-directed learning, free play, and experimentation as the best method for kids to motivate their exploration of the world. The most rewarding thing I can do is to guide an already motivated learner on their path to achieving their goals! I have always been very positive and encouraging of player attempts, but like most coaches I always struggled with the ability to concisely communicate instructions to young players when teaching complex concepts and skills, inevitably leading to their boredom, and my frustration.

I have always been very positive and encouraging of player attempts, but like most coaches I always struggled with the ability to concisely communicate instructions to young players when teaching complex concepts and skills, inevitably leading to their boredom, and my frustration.

I started my own business called Play>Practice Basketball in 2018 to address the need for precise 1on1 coaching for all ages (we have worked with ages 3 to 42 so far) and to specifically focus on the K-5th grade age groups which I found to be most underserved by basketball instruction. The primary issue I discovered for the younger age group is that the average volunteer parent or coach has no way to translate high-level basketball skills and concepts into the most basic parts without contradicting what they would later teach the same players as they progressed (e.g. learning to dribble around cones placed on the floor, later being chastised for not having eyes up).

Being a stickler for consistency, I set out to solve that problem through experimentation….

The TAGteach Adventure Begins

My TAGteach adventure began in May 2018 when I completed my Level 1 TAGteach certification, and I that fall I began an after school enrichment program teaching basketball skills through a games approach, combined with tag points. The philosophy was based on a book by Alan Launder titled Play Practice, detailing a method of teaching all major sports through the games approach. I made it my own and added what I call the “Practice Sandwich”, modeled after the whole-part-whole method, by starting and ending each session with a game and breaking down the skills used in that game during the middle, or “meat” of the practice. This format accomplishes several things, A) it gives players an incentive to arrive on time to get in the first game, B) allows the pent up energy from a day in the classroom to be used constructively, and C) gives the coach a chance to evaluate which skills and concepts have been retained from previous sessions, and what still needs work. The final game of the day is always the favorite, where players are able to apply what they just learned (and whatever else they come up with) during a semi-formal game with the coach acting as referee. We made our Play>Practice logo a bit ambiguous to support the games approach concept by using the “greater than” sign between play and practice and leaving the reader to interpret it as they wish – most commonly “play before practice” or “play is greater than practice”.

The Learning Experience Continues

The last 2 years have been a great learning experience for both myself and my assistant coach as we have experimented with various game structures, tag points, prizes, and progressions of skills. We found that our coaching approach had to drastically change to ensure that all drills, games, tag points, etc were always game-relevant, and would not be contradicted at a more advanced level of play. Working with ages that are easily overwhelmed in a chaotic sport, and may have difficulty performing the basic skills even in a calm environment, we discovered that by starting with the conceptual context of a game (beginning with 1on1), we were able to quickly increase the player’s enjoyment of basketball practice. By presenting skills in a practice setting as solutions to the problems recently encountered during play, players were very motivated to sustain a focused effort practicing skills that would otherwise seem boring. The need for “tagging” an individual skill in a controlled practice setting was eventually overtaken by the positive reinforcement of achieving success in gameplay, allowing a rapid progression across multiple skills within a 6-week program.

What’s Next?

What’s next? We have recently undertaken to codify our work into a curriculum that will be used to standardize our practice pedagogy for K-2nd and 3-5th grade age groups, and we are reaching out to elementary school teachers to begin their training through the TAGteach online course, followed by our own coaches training curriculum and hands-on training during our summer camps to prepare them for the fall school season.

If anyone is interested in basketball or TAGteaching individual or team sport concepts, please get in touch with me at info@play-practice.com I am always happy to discuss anything relate to this topic!

Learn More With Us!

Join us for a live webinar with TAGteach Co-founder Joan Orr and Coach BJ Mumford This will be recorded, so if you miss it you can access it from the same link. The live version will be priced free-$20 and the recording will be $5-$20 (pay what you can in both cases).

TAGteacher Tale: A Winning Approach to Transforming Your Instructor

TAGteacher Joey Iversen has successfully introduced TAGteach to the tennis world, although she said it’s for selfish reasons. “I want to be the best tennis player I can be and that will happen faster if my coach uses TAGteach!”

“I explained a few of the tools to my coach Grant Grinnell (USPTA) and he was willing to give it a shot. After just a few tries, he was totally sold on the value of TAGteach and the powerful learning it facilitates. He commented that there was more improved play in my game within a single lesson. He also noticed that although it was easier to get information to me with the marker, it also required a different focus. In a group lesson he is usually trying to take in what each of the players is doing. To tag me for the skill, he had to momentarily keep his focus on just me or he would miss the marker timing. Both of us had complete focus and that brought about immediate improvement.”

Read More

TAGteach® Terms

Here is a list of the official TAGteach terms showing their proper spacing and capitalization. The term TAGteach is a registered trademark and should include the registered trademark symbol ® the first time it’s used in an article.

This list shows the way that the terms should be written in a sentence. Regular capitalization rules apply if they’re used in a heading or title.

TAG (as acronym for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) and TAGteach are interchangeable. Please note that TAGteach is written as 1 word with the TAG in upper case and the teach in lower case. TAGteacher and TAGteaching are also written this way, but other terms such as tag point are written in lower case as two words. When used as a noun or verb, tag is written in lower case.

TAG (as acronym for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance)
TAGteach®
TAGteacher
TAGteaching
tag (as noun or verb)
tagger
tag triangle
tag point
tagulator
focus funnel
point of success
three try rule
peer tagging
tag phrasing
TAGteach script (click here to download)
WOOF (What you Want, One thing, Observable, Five words or less)

Learn About these Terms for Free

Take an hour and learn about the basic terms and how they all work together as part of TAGteach in our free online course: Fundamentals of TAGteach.

Glossary of TAGteach Terms and Phrases

Download the glossary in English as a PDF
Download the glossary in four languages (English, French, Italian and German)

Applied Behavior Analysis

The field of science from which TAGteach and other reinforcement-based teaching and training technologies have been developed.

Behavior

Physical activity in general; or a specific movement or group of related movements (‘a behavior’).

Conditioned Reinforcer

Any stimulus that has acquired positive reinforcing properties through association with other reinforcers such as food, praise or success.  [The tagger is a conditioned reinforcer -providing a positive stimulus that occurs simultaneously with a desired act or response.]

Focus fatigue

Mental fatigue that occurs when a tag session is too long for a particular learner.

Focus Funnel

A technique used in planning and teaching.  Beginning with a broad lesson, information is reduced into more concrete directions and then reduced again to a precise tag point. (Also see reverse focus funnel)

Incompatible behavior

Short for differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI). Eliminate a designated behavior by strengthening other behaviors that are incompatible with it.

Operant Conditioning

Any procedure by which a behavior becomes more or less likely to occur, depending on its consequences. [In TAGteach, the consequences are always positive and desired responses become more likely to occur.]

Peer Tagging

Student-to-student tag configurations and activities.

Point of Success

A behavior to start or to repeat, for which the student is guaranteed a tag.

Positive Reinforcement

A procedure in which a behavior is paired with a desired stimulus or event that will increase the chance of the behavior happening again in the future.

Reverse Focus Funnel

Deliver the least amount of information necessary for success first (tag point). Once the behavior has been accomplished, and the learner is more confident, additional information can be delivered.  This is useful in situations where too much information may overwhelm the learner and cause a loss of concentration. 

Shaping

An operant learning procedure in which small increments of a desired response are reinforced.  By reinforcing some small response, and then selecting stronger or longer occurrences, one can ‘shape’ or build a more elaborate behavior.

Stimulus

Something in the environment that can be sensed – a sound, an object, a color, etc. A discriminative stimulus is something the learner can perceive which indicates an action to be taken (for example a red light is a stimulus to step on the brake).

Marker

Something which “marks” or identifies a desired action. Typically a TAGteach marker emits a brief, distinct, uniform stimulus used to pinpoint movement as it is happening; a click from a ball point pen, a clicker, hand clap, a finger snap. Some Smart phone applications provide appropriate marker tones.

Tag

As a verb it is the action of marking someone’s correct behavior (as in “tag for each blink”).  As a noun, it means the mark that is placed on a correct behavior (as in “You got 5 tags today!”). (see Marker)

Tag Phrasing

The wording used for preparing and delivering tag points (see WOOF)

Tag Point

The specific aspect of a behavior that when/as performed will receive the audible mark (tag). (see WOOF for tag point criteria)

Tag Triangle

The three components of the TAGteach process: Identify, Mark and Reinforce.

TAGteach

TAGteach is a protocol that promotes positive interactions for increased productivity and success. The acronym TAG stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance and refers to the audible marker, a key tool used in the system designed to highlight success. The TAGteach protocol also includes tools to deliver information, reduce inefficient language, assess performance, create confidence and deliver positive reinforcement.

Tagulator

A device made from beads that slide on a string that allows the teacher or learner to keep track of the number of tags they have earned or given.

Three Try Rule

If a learner fails to perform the designated tag point three times, the teacher creates and delivers a more achievable tag point.  The three try rule is more of a guide than a rule. Some learners want to work things out for themselves and will try several times without getting discouraged. Others would rather take very small steps forward and succeed nearly every time.

Value Added Tag Point

A single tag point in which more than one problem may be resolved.  (e.g., The tag point “keys in pocket”, would keep the keys from being misplaced and from being locked in the car.)

WOOF

The acronym defining the four criteria for a tag point: What you want, One criterion, Observable and definable, Five words or less 

(Some technical definitions are adapted from Learning and Behavior.  Third Edition, by Paul Chance, Ph. D.  Brooks Cole, Pub. Pacific Grove, CA.  1994)  

Behavior Analysis – Where a Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

By Michael Maloney PhD

Almost every classroom has at least one obstreperous student, many have several. Some teachers have or develop ways to deal with these students, other don’t. These students are often removed from class, sent to the principal’s office, suspended or even expelled. In many cases, they will be diagnosed with some condition, emotionally disturbed, ADHD, etc. Such a diagnosis plants the problem squarely inside the child and relieves the school of any real responsibility.

Sometimes, behavior modification is recommended. A program is designed and implemented and in many situations has little, if any, effect and after a brief sojourn, is discontinued. Behavior management programs are then discounted, put on the shelf and deemed not to work.

If one takes a closer, even more critical look at the process, a number of features typically stand out.

  • First and foremost, the program that was implemented was not a replication of one that is among the almost 100,000 reported research studies in the journals using behavior analysis to solve classroom behavior management problems.
  • Secondly, the proposed program sprung full-blown and untested from the mind of some teacher, special education specialist or other consultant who in most cases, turns out not to have an extensive background in applied behavior management.
  • Thirdly, and most critically, no data is associated with the procedure to determine its effectiveness.
  • Finally, this is not a “behavior management program” at all, just an attempt to mimic what its originator thinks behavior management to be based on their limited knowledge and belief.

If you want to know whether of not the attempted remediation is, in fact, a “behavior management program”, ask to see the data.

No Data – No Behavior Management Program

Here’s the rule: No recorded data equals no behavior management program. Full stop. No exceptions.

More About Michael Maloney

With 40 years of teaching experience, 25 learning centers around the globe, & 34 books to his credit, it’s no wonder he was named Canada’s Literacy Educator of the Year in 2001.

Michael Maloney is an educator, researcher, writer and speaker with over 50 years of hands-on experience in both the private and public education sectors. He has used this experience to pursue his dream of sharing his highly effective teaching methods with people around the world.

Michael’s methods have taught over 100,000 students to read. He’s a global leader in effective education strategies and he’s dedicated his career to ending illiteracy.

Why “Good!” is not Good Enough for Your Learners

By Joan Orr M.Sc.

Why Did She Get a Better “Good” Than Me?

There was a time, when we had much less experience than we have now, that we suggested to people that they might use the word “good” or another verbal marker to signal success to the learner. In practice this has turned out not to work as well as using a clicker or other non-verbal signal. We have used taggers with elite athletes, tiny tot ballerinas, commercial fishermen, kids with autism, kids with Down syndrome, business professionals, prison inmates and medical students to list a few examples. Using the tagger absolutely works and it works with every population of learner that we have encountered.

The verbal marker becomes very repetitive and annoying very quickly. It seems condescending in a way to say “good, good, good” over and over especially to another adult. It’s also very difficult to keep the tone of the “good” the same each time. People tend to want to convey additional information with the verbal marker. They tend to vary the tone and give a more expressive “good” if there is a particularly good effort. It’s hard to avoid the big excited “YES” when they finally get it, or the desultory “yes” when you’re tired, hungry and have a headache.

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