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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Special Event #167
Presidential Address: Designing Effective Instruction to Teach Micro-credentials . . . Or Any Instructional Objective
Saturday, May 25, 2024
6:00 PM–7:15 PM
Convention Center, 300 Level, Ballroom B
Instruction Level: Basic
Chair: M. Christopher Newland (Auburn University)

Presidential Address: Designing Effective Instruction to Teach Micro-credentials . . . Or Any Instructional Objective


A new approach to documenting the skills and repertoires of professionals is emerging in several fields of study, including education, medicine, and information technology. The technology is called micro-credentialing. According to the Mozilla Foundation, micro-credentialing refers to “digital certification of assessed knowledge, skills and competencies which is additional, alternate or complementary to, or a component of, formal qualifications.” A micro-credential is an award, based on a short, verifiable presentation that demonstratesthat a scientist-practitioner has mastered a specific skill in a content area. An individual with a micro-credential can demonstrate competent, mastery-level performance of its corresponding skill—on demand. Here are some examples of micro-credentials relevant to behavior analysts:

• conduct a reinforcement preference assessment

• shape behavior in an operant chamber

• conduct an organizational needs assessment

• design a Precision Teaching program for a specific skill

• analyze delay-discounting data

Notice that micro-credentials are much narrower in scope than typical recognitions of study endeavors like M.S. or Ph.D. degrees, Continuing Education Units, and licenses or certifications like a BCBA. As important as these traditional recognitions are, they do not concretely indicate an ability to engage in ANY specific skill or expertise.Further, the latter recognitions emphasize only clinical skills rather than the broad array of skills that characterize diverse behavior-analytic jobs (e.g., laboratory skills, instructional design). Establishing skill-based credentials across the field of behavior analysis would provide additional reassurances about the skills of potential employees or supervisors and may provide a data-based way for individuals to demonstrate specific expertise in an area.

In my address today, I’ll describe a behavior analytic view of the concept, micro-credential, focusing upon micro-credentials for intellectual skills and repertoires—those related to “doing” vs. recitation or “saying” repertoires, as in the examples I listed above. Intellectual skills require teaching for generative responses. The learner must go beyond what has been taught and demonstrate mastery of responding in new situations, those never seen before. Then I’ll use the context of intellectual skill development to describe some “best practices” in instructional design that one could incorporate in a micro-credential learning program. I will focus upon micro-credentials relevant to three kinds of intellectual skills—concepts, principles, and strategies, highlighting evidence-based protocols for teaching each kind. Then I will describe and illustrate explicit generalized imitation training procedures to teach component intellectual skills, and procedures for practicing component skills to fluency. Finally, I will relate my discussion of intellectual skills to a new analysis of generalization, breaking it into two kinds of active processes—simple and complex generative responding.

Whether or not you agree with me about the benefit of establishing a micro-credential program in behavior analysis, no matter our everyday responsibilities and functions, every behavior analyst is a teacher who desires to engage in effective instruction and help their learners master everything they teach. So, I hope that my description of some best practices in instructional design will guide improvements to any instruction you provide in your work as a behavior analyst.

KENT JOHNSON (Morningside Academy)

Kent Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Morningside Academy and Co-Founder of Headsprout, received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1977. Morningside Academy operates a scientifically driven “catch-up” program for children and youth with learning and attention problems and a “get-ahead” program for average and above-average middle school youth, as well as provides a laboratory for developing instructional methods and materials. Morningside’s exemplary science-based approach has had global impact and serves as a beacon of hope for many, transforming lives and demonstrating what high-quality behavior analytic education can offer. Dr. Johnson’s commitment to and success in developing and disseminating innovative and highly effective behaviorally based educational practices have been recognized by his receiving the Award for Public Service in Behavior Analysis from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis, the Edward L. Anderson Award in Recognition for Exemplary Contributions to Behavioral Education from the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, the Ogden R. Lindsley Lifetime Achievement Award in Precision Teaching from the Standard Celeration Society, and the Fred S. Keller Behavioral Education Award from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association.




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