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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #420
Constructional Approaches to Organizational Change
Monday, May 30, 2022
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Meeting Level 1; Room 153C
Area: OBM/AAB; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Jonathan Amey (AIMS Instruction)
Discussant: Barbara Heidenreich (Barbara's Force Free Animal Training)

The efficacy of personalized instruction in improving the quality of life for professional and natural caregivers has received little attention. The vast majority of literature seeks to improve areas often considered problematic, dysfunctional, deficient, or non-normative for learners with medical and academic diagnoses. This is representative of pathologically-oriented cultures within behavior analysis. Goldiamond's constructional approach and non-linear analysis allow the field to break from this trend and move toward naturally occurring contingency analysis to focus on the development of meaningful outcomes for all learners. This symposium will explore the use of the constructional approach and non-linear contingency analysis to foster ethical and less coercive interactions with team members during training, professional development, and organizational change procedures. The presenters will provide constructional exemplars of training and organizational systems of improvement across large and small organizations that provide caregiver training across numerous species. These will highlight the universal application of contingency of analysis to both human and non-human learners.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Constructional Approach, Constructional Coaching, Nonlinear Contingency, Team Building
Application of the Constructional Approach and Iterative Instructional Design to Caregiver Training
IAN BURRUSS (Advanced Behavioral Care, LLC)
Abstract: Applied behavior analytic staff training curricula routinely begin with the content to be taught. The Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) handbook, BCBA Eligibility Requirements, and the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Eligibility Requirements help to outline the minimal training standards of certified professionals in our field. The handbook indicates “competence” as “one of the primary…requirements” for RBTs. There is no similar training standard for BCBAs. Trainers are left with task-list for BCBAs without any criteria for behavioral outcomes. Looking at the content and design of the training being provided to our current and future colleagues can provide a better path. Well designed curricula are essential to the development of high-quality professionals that strive to use science to improve their understanding and impact on the natural world. The tools for the development of high-quality interventionists exist. These technologies allow the newly established behavior or transfer of stimulus control to rapidly come into contact with naturally occurring and program specific contingencies. Findings and examples from the application of Tienmann and Markle’s (1990) instructional design model and Goldiamond’s (1974, Layng et al. 2021) Constructional Approach and non-linear contingency analysis within a staff-training context will be discussed.
Built to Last: The Constructional Approach to Organizational Values
JOSEPH HACKER (Key Autism Services)
Abstract: The focus of Israel Goldiamond’s Constructional Approach (1974) on building repertoires and expanding response alternatives gives individuals the freedom to achieve their goals in less costly ways. Oftentimes, this is conflated with the application of positive reinforcement, resulting in a linear approach that disregards existing contingencies. The expansion and maintenance of consistent staff performance must move beyond the simple application of a cursory positive reinforcer to staff behaviors to encompass naturally produced, or program intrinsic, contingencies. In 2021, a large-scale applied behavior analytic service provider took the constructional approach to staff performance, resulting in profitable and equitable gains on an organizational basis. This talk will focus on the gradual integration of the nonlinear contingency analysis inherent in the constructional approach to day-to-day operations of the organization. Through this, it will examine the subsequent increases in alignment between staff performance and values of the organization by providing real life examples of its successful application.

Constructional Team Building: What We Can Learn From Four Institutions Over 14 Years and Hundreds of Human and Animal Competency Assessments

LISA CLIFTON-BUMPASS (Behavior by Design)

The Constructional Approach to nonlinear contingency analysis was introduced into zoo animal training in 2006 at the Oakland Zoo in California. It was immediately apparent that animal training knowledge and training behavior repertoires did not match the required skill sets needed to build new and complex behavioral repertoires for a disabled giraffe. We needed to construct a team of trainers from the keeper staff and volunteers which leveraged their incongruous repertoires, levels of training skill, experience, and knowledge. This presentation will describe the evolving process of team building at four separate zoo facilities committed to both changing the animal training culture and methodology to meet the welfare and medical husbandry needs of the animals in care. The process also addressed the goals and needs of zoo keeping staff and zoo management executives in a change resistant culture. Key factors for building an Inclusive animal training culture are management buy in, the analysis of training experience, the training skill set mechanics, expanding skilled training repertoires, building cohesive team function, uncovering, and understanding the function of resistance, reinforcing the converging qualities for increasing competency, and problem solving. As a result of the Constructional approach, we experienced the building of team driven solutions, the increase in essential skill set competencies, priority consensus between employees and managers, and the creation of durable resilient behavioral repertoires.

The Constructional Approach to Team Building and Organizational Culture Change: Case Studies From Two Zoological Institutions
AMY ANDREA PHELPS (San Francisco Zoo)
Abstract: The constructional approach to team building and animal training was used at the Oakland Zoo in 2006 to identify training solutions required to address the medical needs of several disabled giraffes. Diversely skilled teams were formed, bringing together constructional training protocols from both domestic and exotic animal training fields. In 2017, this constructional approach was developed within two animal training teams at the San Francisco Zoo with a diverse species group, and has met critical success, creating measurable advancements in the development of choice and control animal training protocols. This presentation will describe how we use the constructional approach to build highly effective and inclusive animal training teams to meet the medical husbandry needs of the animals in our care. Cultivating institutional support is key to the development of successful teams. Clearly defined desired behavior, coordinated with the institution’s core values, supports successful animal training on both the individual and institutional levels. This presentation will detail key components in successful institutional culture change, addressing both the human behavior aspect of change acceptance, and the tangible value of these animal programs to senior management across all roles.



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