Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #310
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluating the Impact of Chaining Methods on Skill Acquisition and Treatment Integrity
Sunday, May 26, 2019
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Hyatt Regency West, Lobby Level, Crystal Ballroom A
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kate E. Fiske Massey (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)
Discussant: Laura L. Grow (Garden Academy)
CE Instructor: Kate E. Fiske Massey, Ph.D.
Abstract: Behavior chains are a commonly used teaching strategy within applied behavior analysis, especially for teaching vocational and self-help skills to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. However, little guidance is provided by the literature with regard to the conditions under which chaining procedures are effective and efficient (Donnelly & Karsten, 2017). Variations in chaining procedures such as prompting and reinforcement have the potential to impact not only student skill acquisition (e.g., Libby, Weiss, Bancroft, & Ahearn, 2008), but also the treatment integrity of staff implementation (e.g., Donnelly & Karsten, 2017). In the current symposium, we will present a review of the literature on chains to guide our implementation of this complex teaching procedure. We will then present evaluations of three procedural variations of chaining and the effects on either the skill acquisition of learners or the treatment integrity of staff implementation. This symposium will provide guidance for practitioners in behavior chain implementation and also present a call to the field for increased research focus on defining and evaluating the effectiveness of chaining procedures.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Behavior chains, Skill acquisition, Treatment integrity
Target Audience: Behavior analysts and other professionals implementing chaining procedures to teach complex skills to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) summarize the body of research on implementing behavior chains; (2) identify components of behavior chains that are subject to procedural variation, and (3) describe the impact of some programmatic variations of skill acquisition or treatment integrity.
Evaluating the Replicability of Chain Procedures in Published Literature
SHIN TEH (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), Catherine Kishel (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), Kate E. Fiske Massey (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)
Abstract: Chaining procedures are commonly used in promoting skill acquisition among those with autism and other developmental disabilities. However, there is a relative lack of guidance in the literature regarding procedural administration. To help guide implementation of chains in a clinical setting, in the current study we reviewed peer-reviewed publications that used chaining procedures. Our goals were to determine whether studies 1) reported procedures in a replicable manner and 2) taken together, could inform a consistent protocol for various chaining procedures to enhance both research and clinical consistency. For our preliminary review, we examined 20 articles published between 1988 and 2018 that used forward, backward, or total task chaining procedures. Each article was coded for the presence of 33 components of chain implementation. Overall replicability was determined for each study by calculating the percent of components that were clearly described in the methods. Preliminary findings indicate only 30% of reviewed studies achieved greater than 80% replicability. This result highlights the inconsistency regarding procedural implementation across studies, which is a concern that should be brought to the attention of the field as it limits our ability to use research to inform our practice.
The Effects of Different Behavior Chain Strategies on Treatment Integrity
HYEIN LEE (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), Kate E. Fiske Massey (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), Meredith Bamond (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), Catherine Kishel (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)
Abstract: The use of chaining procedures is effective for teaching a sequence of skills and is widely used for individuals with developmental disabilities. The literature suggests that when teachers implement behavior chains with a high level of error, or with low treatment integrity, skill acquisition stagnates. By comparison, high-integrity teaching often leads to rapid acquisition (Donnelly & Karsten, 2017). Errors commonly identified when teaching forward chains include prompting steps out of order, incorrectly delivering the reinforcer, and failing to provide appropriate prompts (Donnelly & Karsten, 2017), but we do not know whether these findings also extend to other types of chaining procedures. This project aims to identify the frequency of different types of staff error across three different chaining strategies: backward, forward, and total task. We sampled 34 to 36 trials each of forward, backward, and total task chains across multiple skills, students, and teachers. Preliminary results indicate that teachers were more likely to make errors for certain treatment integrity components regardless of chaining strategy used. Results will be discussed in the context of training teachers to implement chains effectively.

Evaluating Backward Chaining Methods on Vocational Tasks With Adults With Developmental Disabilities

ASHLEY MARIECLAIRE KOBYLARZ (Caldwell University), Ruth M. DeBar (Caldwell University), Kenneth F. Reeve (Caldwell University), Linda Sue Meyer (Linda S. Meyer Consulting, LLC)

Backward chains are widely used to teach complex skills to individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Implementation of chaining procedures may vary and there is little to guide practitioners in the selection of chaining procedures. Moreover, there is a dearth of research evaluating effectiveness and efficiency of procedural variations of behavior chains. The purpose of this study was to extend previous research by evaluating the effectiveness, efficiency, and preference for procedural variations (i.e., teacher-completion, participant-completion, and no-completion) of backward chains across vocational tasks for three adults with developmental disabilities. Data will be presented across the percentage of independent and correct steps completed in addition to efficiency measures of errors and trials to mastery. We will also discuss participant preference for instructional strategies, maintenance across one- and four- weeks post-mastery, and socially validity measures as well.


The Effect of Prompt Assignment on Treatment Integrity and Skill Acquisition in Total Task Chains

CATHERINE KISHEL (Rutgers University-New Brunswick ), Olivia Heck (Ripon College), Meredith Bamond (Rutgers University-New Brunswick), Kate E. Fiske Massey (Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

Little research exists regarding the assignment of prompts used within chains. Prompts have considerable impact on total task chains, in which each step of the chain is taught simultaneously. The current study evaluated the effect of prompt assignment on staff treatment integrity and student performance. Phase 1 evaluated the ability of three teachers to implement two prompting methods with integrity across three adult clients with ASD. In the multiple-prompt (MP) method, the prompt required to occasion the correct response for each step of the chain during a probe was assigned to those steps during teaching. In contrast, using the single-prompt (SP) method, the most intrusive prompt required on any step of the chain during the probe was assigned to every step of the chain during teaching. Results showed that teachers implemented the MP and SP methods with equally high levels of treatment integrity but that lower average levels of prompting were used during MP. Phase 2 of the current study seeks to evaluate the effects of the MP versus SP method on skill acquisition of two of the clients from Phase 1. Initial results suggest that the MP method may be more effective in promoting skill acquisition and independence.




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