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.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #101
CE Offered: BACB
Graduate Program Course Content: Implications for Education and Training for the Field
Saturday, May 27, 2023
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center 406/407
Area: TBA; Domain: Translational
Chair: Caitlyn Peal (University of Nevada, Reno )
CE Instructor: Jana M. Sarno, Ph.D.
Abstract: Graduate training programs in behavior analysis are tasked with developing well-rounded and competent behavior analysts. To help ensure the quality of education in behavior analysis, professional organizations such as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) provide standards, guidance, and oversight of courses and educational training. However, within the guidelines and standards set by the BACB and ABAI, there is significant leeway in terms of the what material is covered and how it is taught. In this symposium, we will present data from three projects that sought to evaluate the content and approach to teaching in behavior analysis graduate training programs. Caitlyn Peal will present data gathered from a survey of Verified Course Sequence (VCS) instructors on what philosophical topics are included in graduate courses. Leonora Ryland will present the results of a review of syllabi from VCS programs regarding instruction on norm- and criterion-referenced skills assessments. Jana Sarno will then present data from a survey study that assessed the education and training experiences of behavior analysts in administering standardized skills assessments
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): assessment, graduate training, philosophy
Target Audience: intermediate
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe the importance of teaching a breadth of philosophical topics in behavior analysis graduate training programs (2) Explain the utility of norm- and criterion-references skills assessments (3) Describe the importance of specific training in conducting standardized assessments
The State of Teaching Philosophy in Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Training Programs
CAITLYN PEAL (University of Nevada, Reno), Bethany P. Contreras Young (University of Nevada, Reno), Matthew Lewon (University of Nevada, Reno), Nicholas L Vitale (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: While many graduate training programs likely place a focus on the applied domain of the broader field of behavior analysis, many would argue that training in philosophical issues is just as important. This is reflected in the requirements for both Verified Course Sequences (VCS) and Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) accredited programs – both require at least 45 hours of instruction in topics related to the philosophical underpinnings of behavior analysis. While these requirements attest to the importance ascribed to training in philosophy, they allow significant leeway in terms of the material that is covered. In light of this, the purpose of the present study was to assess the state of training in philosophy in VCS programs, which train the majority of behavior analytic practitioners. We sent a survey to all VCS program coordinators and asked them to report on the importance of teaching philosophical issues, commonly assigned readings, and topics included in courses. We found that instructors generally ascribe importance to training in philosophical topics. We also found that, while a range of philosophical topics and assigned readings were reported, the majority of VCS instructors seem to be including a narrow range of topics and readings in their courses.

Assessment Training in Behavior Analysis: A Review of Syllabi

(Applied Research)
KRISTEN L. PADILLA (Baylor University), Leonora Ryland (Baylor University ), Benjamin N. Witts (St. Cloud State University), Ryan Farmer (University of Memphis ), Shane McLoughlin (University of Birmingham-Edgbaston )

Due to the increased usage of norm- and criterion-referenced assessments in the field, it is crucial that programs integrate more comprehensive assessment education and training. Behavior analysts have an ethical obligation to accurately administer assessments and understand reliability and validity evidence to support the use of assessments. Behavior analysts need proper education and training in the administration, scoring, and interpretation of assessment data along with the psychometric properties of assessments. The purpose of this study is to identify the breadth and depth of assessment coverage in behavior analysis graduate training programs. Twenty syllabi from Association for Behavior Analysis International Verified Course Sequence (ABAI-VCS) registered programs were reviewed and analyzed. Data were extracted on program components, such as geographic location, type and format of program, and degree area. Data were also extracted on types of assessment content (e.g., norm- and criterion-referenced), semi-structured/standardized types of assessments, psychometric properties (e.g., reliability, validity), readings, assignments, and incorporation of task list items from the BCBA Task List (5th ed.; BACB, 2017). Results indicate that the majority training programs lack educational content and training experiences external to the assessment content and evidence typically covered in behavior analysis (e.g., social validity, interobserver agreement, functional behavior assessment).

State of Current Practice and Training with Norm-Referenced Assessments: A Preliminary Analysis
JANA M. SARNO (Hopebridge ), Kristen L. Padilla (Baylor University), Leonora Ryland (Baylor University ), Monserrat Austin (Baylor University)
Abstract: With the increasing prevalence of developmental disabilities, in particular autism spectrum disorder (ASD), coupled with the rising popularity of ABA and related assessments, there is a growing need for research in this area to evaluate assessment training, coursework, and supervision of assessment use. Historically, assessment education and training has primarily focused on functional behavioral assessments to determine functions of behavior and to develop appropriate intervention plans. Moreover, behavior analysts working in the field are expected to now administer norm-referenced assessments as required by insurance policies (Padilla 2020). The state of standardized assessment training has yet to be evaluated in the field of ABA. This study sought to identify the training experience and competency of behavior analysts in the administration, scoring, and interpretation of norm-referenced assessments. Preliminary results of the survey indicate a small number of respondents (N=212), with a majority of respondents being practitioners (58.1% are BCBAs [N=119]; 25.4% are BCBA-Ds [N=52]; 16.6% are current students [N=34]). With regard to the perceived purpose or usage of norm-referenced assessments while practitioners disagreed that data obtained from norm-referenced assessments provide no clinical use for practice (63% Strongly Disagree/Disagree), many identify that “many behavior analysts have not used norm-referenced assessments” (44.3% Agree/Strongly Agree). Additional results and future directions will be discussed.



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