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.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #132
CE Offered: BACB
Individualizing and Optimizing Instructional Procedures to Achieve Best Outcomes
Saturday, May 25, 2024
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 113 C
Area: AUT/EDC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Erick M. Dubuque (Autism Commission on Quality; Council of Autism Service Providers)
Discussant: Tom Cariveau (University of North Carolina Wilmington)
CE Instructor: Tom Cariveau, Ph.D.

A critical component of applied behavior analysis (ABA) involves ensuring services are optimized and individualized to meet a client’s abilities, needs, and context. In this symposium, the presenters will provide an in-depth analysis of instructional procedures used to teach new skills and discuss how performance criteria can be set to determine when those skills are achieved. During the first presentation, the authors will describe how teaching methodologies can be made responsive to individualized client needs to promote the most learning in the shortest amount of time. During the second presentation, the author will present a historical review of the concept of mastery and share a model demonstrating how the field may be better served by considering performance criteria. Both presentations will emphasize the responsibility behavior analytic service providers have to continually evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the procedures they employ. Following these presentations, discussion will center around strategies and considerations for delivering and measuring efficient individualized services.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): individualized services, instructional procedures, mastery criteria, performance criteria
Target Audience:

This presentation is appropriate for credentialed masters-level behavior analysts currently overseeing clinical services.

Learning Objectives: (1) Describe the benefits of adapting and individualizing instructional procedures. (2) Compare the impact of different instructional procedures on client progress. (3) Identify various approaches to conditional discrimination training. (4) Think critically about terminology used to describe reaching learning goals and the ways in which they can be applied. (5) Describe recent research regarding performance criteria and recognize the lack of empirically support for current clinical lore. (6) Discuss how the terminology used to describe learning goals relates to decision making about what criteria to utilize in clinical practice as well as the necessity for future research.
Comparative Research Examining the Effectiveness of Skill Acquisition Procedures
KAITLYN SLACK-HANNA (40299), Molly Dubuque (LittleStar ABA Therapy), Kristin M. Hustyi (LittleStar ABA Therapy)
Abstract: Instruction of auditory-visual conditional discrimination has been examined using two primary methods: the simple-conditional and conditional-only approaches (Love et al., 2009). The former method consists of a nine-step instructional procedure that increases in difficulty across steps (Grow et al., 2011). Alternatively, the conditional-only method employs a single step, which is identical to the final step of the simple-conditional method, where an array of visual comparison stimuli is presented, and the target stimulus alternates across trials. Additionally, a modified simple-conditional method was introduced by Grow and Van Der Hijde (2017) which eliminates the three steps from the simple-conditional method involving isolated target presentations, resulting in six steps. Comparative research has shown that the relative efficacy and efficiency of these different teaching methods can sometimes vary among participants. However, clinicians can apply the same assessment methodology to identify a personalized and optimized instructional approach for their patients. This may lead to a greater number of skills that can be taught within a shorter timeframe, enhancing outcomes for patients and their families. In this symposium, we review the extant literature comparing procedures for teaching conditional discrimination, present our own empirical analysis, and discuss implications for systems-level strategies to promote best practice and outcomes.
“Mastery” as a Misnomer: A Closer Look at Current Research on Performance Criteria
SARAH M. RICHLING (Auburn University)
Abstract: A number of objective criteria have been developed to establish when a skill being trained has been learned. These evaluative performance standards have historically been referred to as mastery criteria. However, the term "mastery" as used in these contexts is a misnomer. We propose an alternative, more fitting term: performance criteria. Accurate labels notwithstanding, additional skepticism and investigation into the lore surrounding the use of performance criteria in practical settings is necessary. The purpose of this presentation will be to: 1) provide a brief introduction to performance criteria historically and contemporarily, 2) discuss some issues related to mastery criteria terminology, 3) discuss the various dimensions of performance to which criteria can be applied, 4) provide a comprehensive review of literature related to performance criteria across various practice areas, and 5) provide a model for establishing performance criteria while recognizing the lack of sufficient direct empirical research in the area of mastery criteria and its relationship with response maintenance. Finally, a comment on considerations for future directions for research and clinical practice will be provided.



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