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.


47th Annual Convention; Online; 2021

All times listed are Eastern time (GMT-4 at the time of the convention in May).

Event Details

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Symposium #321
CE Offered: BACB
Gilbert Goes to School: Applying a Systems Analysis to Education
Sunday, May 30, 2021
6:00 PM–6:50 PM
Area: EDC/OBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Ronnie Detrich (Utah State University)
Discussant: Cloyd Hyten (ADI)
CE Instructor: Ronnie Detrich, Ph.D.

For years there have been many efforts to reform the American educational system. These efforts have not been successful. The reform efforts have generally focused on specific educational innovations to the neglect of a systems analysis necessary to achieve the benefits of the innovation. Tom Gilbert’s seminal book, Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance (1978) provides a comprehensive systems analysis. In this session, we will present Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model and consider how it can be productively applied to the education system to improve student outcomes. Teachers are the focus in this session because they are primarily responsible for influencing student outcomes; however, for them to succeed, the educational system must create the necessary conditions for them to be effective. The Behavioral Engineering Model offers six conditions for competent performance. The first three describe environmental supports necessary. The second three conditions describe what is necessary to assure that the individual performer has the necessary repertoires to effectively educate students. In this session one of the presenters will describe the environmental conditions necessary and the other presenter will describe the personal repertoires and the responsibility of the system to assure they are present

Target Audience:

The target audience for this symposium are BCBAs that work in public schools, individuals that are engaged in systems change, and anyone interested in educational reform.

Learning Objectives: 1) Participants will be able to describe the six boxes of Gilbert's Behavioral Engineering Model. 2) Participants will be able to provide examples of system supports for each of the six boxes in the Behavioral Engineering Model 3) Participants will be able to describe the logic of the progression across the six boxes of the Behavioral Engineering Model in the process of systems change.

Gilbert’s Behavioral Repertoire and Education: Maximizing the Repertoire

RONNIE DETRICH (Utah State University)

This talk focuses on the second component, the individual’s repertoire, of the Behavioral Engineering Model. The individual repertoire is divided into three categories, knowledge, capacity, and motivation. Rather than focus on what the individual brings to the task, the focus is on developing the necessary repertoire so the individual can competently perform the tasks related to worthy accomplishments. In this conceptualization, there is an emphasis on scientifically based training to assure the individual knows what to do (knowledge). Developing job aides, adapting the work so the individual can perform the task, and a well-developed selection process to assure as close of a match as possible between the requirements of the task and the skills of the individual are subsumed under the category capacity. The motives of the individual are considered but only after all other components of the Behavior Engineering Model have been addressed. In this talk, examples of how these categories can be applied to the education system to improve outcomes for students. These recommended practices will be compared to the common current practices in education. By comparing current practices to practices recommended by Gilbert, it should provide a roadmap for increasing competent by those working in education.


Gilbert’s Environmental Supports and Education: Creating Optimal Conditions for Student Achievement

SARAH E. PINKELMAN (Utah State University)

In his book, Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance, Tom Gilbert (1978) outlines his Behavior Engineering Model, and this model provides a powerful framework for analyzing the educational system in the United States. Gilbert’s model includes aspects of behavior engineering related to a performer’s repertoire and the environment in which the individual is expected to perform. In this session, the environmental supports of Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model will be examined as they relate to the educational system in the United States. The environmental supports in Gilbert’s model include information (data), instrumentation (instruments), and motivation (incentives). Each of these supports will be described and mapped on to the U.S. educational system. From this analysis, it becomes clear that necessary environmental supports are absent or inadequate, and it is no surprise that the educational system continues to struggle in producing socially significant student outcomes. Following a discussion of this analysis, future directions for a comprehensive approach to educational reform that is informed by Gilbert’s Behavior Engineering Model will be explored.




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