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.

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

TAGteacher Tale: Helping Animal Shelter Volunteers Have a Great Experience

By Marissa Marino

Volunteers are one of my favorite parts about working for animal welfare non-profits. The community that is generated for a single mission can sometimes be astounding. There are a variety of reasons why people engage in volunteer activities. Some people volunteer to give back to their community, others volunteer since they cannot have pets of their own and others hope to develop friendships along the way. One common thread I see is people longing to learn new things and expand themselves.  So let’s give them what they want! My philosophy is to empower volunteers through education in order to develop a dedicated and helpful team for the staff as well as the animals.

Read More