+1(978)310-4246 credencewriters@gmail.com


your design of an intervention for a behavior with which you are familiar (e.g., for yourself or a family member) and that uses techniques discussed in this course (


: You are not to implement the intervention, just design and justify the use of one.)

Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
Design for Change
with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhD
Program Transcript
STEVEN LITTLE: Hi everybody, and welcome to our most recent podcast. I’m Dr.
Steve Little. I’m joined by-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I’m Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little. And we’re super
excited today. You have a real treat with today’s podcast. We’re very lucky, very
lucky to have Chris Skinner with us.
STEVEN LITTLE: Yeah. We’re going to be talking with Dr. Christopher Skinner,
who is a professor of school psychology and a very behavioral professor of
school psychology at the University of Tennessee. And let me just give you a
little bit of background on him. I won’t go through all of it, because then he won’t
have a chance to talk, because he’s incredibly accomplished. Dr. Skinner
received his PhD in school psychology in 1989 from Lehigh University. And since
that time, he has had faculty appointments at the University of Alabama,
Mississippi State University, and the University of Tennessee. He does have a
rule that he only takes jobs in the Southeastern Conference.
STEVEN LITTLE: Just to give you a few of his awards, he won the Lightner
Whitmore Award from the Division of School Psychology of the American
Psychological Association in 1995. That was for early career contributions. And
he became a fellow of APA in 1999. And then, to round things off, he won the
Senior Scientist Award. What year did you to get the Senior Scientist Award?
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: I don’t remember. I have to pull up my vita.
STEVEN LITTLE: I think it must have been 2009 because I know I nominated
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: We were in New Zealand. But anyway.
STEVEN LITTLE: He made it from the early career to the later career
accomplishment categories.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
STEVEN LITTLE: He’s been very, very consistent across his career. Now, the
vita he sent me, he sent it to me last week, so it’s probably changed since then.
But as of last week, he had four books, 191 peer reviewed journal articles with
one in press, 42 book chapters, 192 national presentations. That’s just peer
review. That doesn’t include the stuff in newsletters and things like that.
There’s 129 state and regional presentations. He’s chaired 49 dissertations. His
dissertation– I mean his curriculum vita, his CV alone is 89 single-spaced pages
long. So I’ll leave it at that, because if I went through everything, as I said, I would
never get a chance for having Dr. Skinner talking to him.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Chris, are you any relation there BF Skinner?
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: First of all, can everyone hear me?
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So as you might have guessed, I’ve been asked that
question many times. So I’m from eastern Pennsylvania, which isn’t really far
from where BF grew up. And my father actually read BF’s father’s book– it’s
about unemployment compensation in the coal mines– when he was in school.
My father’s name is Carl Frederick, and BS dad’s name is William, and my
father’s brother’s name is William.
So of course, we’re interested. So when my father retired, this was before the
day of the DNA and the technology. He started to look it up in our family tree. He
thought for sure we were related. And then, recently my wife gave me one of
those DNA tests for Christmas or my birthday. And it turns out we aren’t related
at all. Actually, we are in the sense that– Darwinian sense that we’re all related.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I like that. But yeah, right. The molecules. We’re all
connected to every [INAUDIBLE]
STEVEN LITTLE: If nothing else, they are related in terms of their
accomplishments both being extensive.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.
STEVEN LITTLE: And they’re both behavioral.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: We’re both behavioral, but it’s going too far to say
we’re related with respect to our accomplishments. I wish that were true.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I want to say that that reminds me, before we get
started, you telling the background too, Chris, I want to say I have a personal
experience with Dr. Skinner, with Chris Skinner. When I was looking around for
graduate schools back in 1995, I don’t know if you remember this at all, but you
made– I applied to Mississippi State. I applied to University of Southern Miss.
And I’ll never forget that you made a point to telephone me and talk to me about
what the best fit would be for me. You said you, we’d love to have you at
Mississippi State, but USM’s APA accredited.
And I’ve just never forgotten what a– you’re a great researcher, but you’re a
really good person too. I just– I don’t know if you remember that, but I’ll always
remember the care you took with students, with somebody who was just coming
into the field. So well done on that. I wanted to make sure I got that part out. And
yes, Chris can see us, and there’s a cat now who’s sitting [INAUDIBLE]
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Thank you, Angeleque. That was sweet.
STEVEN LITTLE: We’ve been visited by dogs and cats during some of these.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Thank you so much, Chris, for that care you’ve
taken with me. And I’ve never forgotten it, and I know the care you take with all of
your students. So it’s really phenomenal.
STEVEN LITTLE: One of the things that I didn’t mention, with all those
publications he has, so many of them are with his students.
STEVEN LITTLE: And of all the people that I know in academia now, I don’t know
of anybody who takes more care in nurturing and bringing along his students. He
does an incredible job working with students, and hey, we’re just [INAUDIBLE]
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Well, wait. I think you do the same. I do think you
do the same, but not at the same level.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: No, no. And of course, we were honored to play
some small role with the Senior Scientist. We thought you deserved that for a
long time, and we were certainly honored. But let’s get you talking. And we would
like to know as much as you want to tell about your background, and that
includes– we already know you’re from Pennsylvania, but your family, where you
grew up, and then, of course, your academics. So we’d love to hear from you as
much as you want to talk on that.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Sure. I’m from Easton, Pennsylvania. There is a
famous behaviorist from there. Anthony [? Kubo ?] or Tony Kubo is from Easton.
And you’ll come across his name in your studies. It’s a small city on a river. Either
side of the Delaware is New Jersey. So we are all the way on the east of
Pennsylvania. I went to elementary school two blocks from my house. I walked to
my junior high, but I had to cross a creek over a pipe bridge and through a
graveyard. High school was first– high school was the only place I couldn’t walk
to. I went to Lafayette College, which was six blocks from my house. My mother
was a secretary there, so it was free.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So I really didn’t get out of Easton until I went to grad
school in Vermont. I went to Johnson State, but my behaviorism probably started
there, although I was exposed to it in undergrad. I lived in Barre in Montpelier,
and they shut down the last big mental hospital there and de-institutionalized
people who had mental illness. And they were the last people out.
And someone got a grant to provide services, and it was behaviorally oriented.
So I got a masters there with a heavy focus on applied behavior analysis. And I
really liked it. I really liked it a lot. It worked. I think I ran my first study that got
published there. And then, from there I went on to Lehigh. They had a program
where you could go and– it was the same program, but you could go school
psych or special ed for your concentration for your PhD.
I went school psych because I already had the special ed background. But at
Lehigh, Ed Shapiro was a professor, and he edited it’s School Psych Review.
Bud Mace was a professor. He edited the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Ed [INAUDIBLE] was a professor.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Ed [INAUDIBLE] is one of the smartest guys in the
world. Diane Browder-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Chris, do you know that I– before you ever said
that, I completely agree. The article on reductive procedure, I remember reading
that in grad school and thinking, this guy takes complex ideas and makes me
understand. I thought he was– really, I agree with you with Ed [INAUDIBLE].
Always have. Really something.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah. Well, and Diane Browder is huge in the more
severe and profound literature. So I was surrounded by some huge– people who
were young and became hugely accomplished. And it was really exciting. The
graduate students I worked with, I learned a ton from them. We were all engaged
in research. We used to stop at a bar called Manny’s on Friday and talk research
and drink beer. I still a bar napkins from Manny’s with research ideas on them.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So Lehigh was really exciting. While there, I taught
EBD students 10th grade, and I also taught elementary school. They were
students with autism. None of these students were verbal. Autism’s a lot broader
now. So they were all elementary, non-verbal. And I learned a ton from those
experiences. And applied work has been real valuable to me.
So when I ended up at Alabama, they had a EBD school there, so I continued
that work and moved to Mississippi State because the program was supported
better. And they wanted to get APA approved, and we did. And that went well.
Then, frankly, I came to Tennessee because my wife graduated and we just
needed to move for a place for both of us.
I love it here. I’ve been here since– I’ve been here 19 years.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: That can’t be true.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah. I’ve been a professor almost 30 years now, so
I’ve been at this for a while. Yeah.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
STEVEN LITTLE: Yeah, that’s right.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: OK. That’s probably-STEVEN LITTLE: I came out in ’87, and you came out in ’89, right?
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Yeah. And can we go back a step? You said when
you were in grad school you taught school. So what did that look like? We’ve got
people who are managing full-time jobs and taking– sorry. Excuse me. We’ve got
people managing to go to graduate school. So what did that look like? Did you
have to get a teaching credential? Did you already have one? Or how did that
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah. Well, back then, there was a pretty good
shortage of people to teach, especially EBD. But I had my master’s, so they
could– my master’s was in special ed, so they could accelerate through the
credentialing. The way– it was hard, though. But I was at a lab school, so there
were opportunities to do research as I worked. And so it was good for the
research requirements for class. We typically had to run studies. And we had the
place to do it. It was hard, though. It was hard keeping up with schoolwork when
you work full time. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The experiences were
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: No, I come from a teaching background before
graduate school. And some of that was in special ed, although I wasn’t– I only
had teaching credentials. But as I recall, there was such a shortage of SPED
teachers that they did some training with us and let us go in and teach with basic
credentials. But I do think we’ve had that conversation with others about-Well, Steve and I will talk about– we’re BCBAs, but we’ve never actually done
discrete child training. We’ve done other things, but we’ve never done that, and
how valuable that direct line work is, especially when you’re supervising other
people doing it or trying to train others, that we’ve never actually sat down and
done no-no prompt or discrete child training. We’ve had a lot of discussions
about that. I think it’s really valuable.
STEVEN LITTLE: And you are a BCBA, aren’t you?
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: When did you get that? When did you do that?
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: I just to re-upped my credentials. So two years ago
Christmas I got it.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Because now it’s every two– well, OK, you know
everything. Believe it or not, I did mine in ’07, and I made Steven do it in ’08. And
I’m really glad because I don’t think we could do that today just based on
coursework, even though my program is really ABA focused, Tulane– Steven
went to Tulane. It wasn’t as ABA focused as [INAUDIBLE]
STEVEN LITTLE: She always brings it up.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Steve is cognitive behavioral, witch at USM we
always called that an oxymoron [INAUDIBLE] cognitive behavior.
STEVEN LITTLE: And you’re trying to use Ron Edwards
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: You knew Ron Edwards. Hey, Chris, you knew Ron
STEVEN LITTLE: So through this whole– I don’t call it journey, but through your
experiences overall, how have you I’d say evolved in your thinking in how
behaviorism has affected your research? And what underlies everything that you
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: That’s a good one.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah, it is, but let me talk about my thinking about
behaviorism. A whole– first of all, my first experience with behaviors– well, we
all, probably when we are infants, we experienced it. But in school, I had a
magazine train a rat. So I go to the lab and train it to press the bar. And it was
really great. I loved it. It was better than book learning.
But what really– in that master’s program, I had people who needed real help.
And the behaviorism was working OK, and I was just exciting to see something
work. So for me, behaviorism has been an outgrowth of working with people who
have problems. So at least 50% of my studies, I don’t go out looking for subjects.
I’m working with people who are having a problem, and we try to do a study while
we solve the problem.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
So if it weren’t for a single subject design, I wouldn’t be very well published. But
it’s a methodology that allows you to do research while you’re also practicing.
And it was developed by practitioners so they could contribute. So that’s been
really important to my career. When I look through my published studies, most
are intervention studies. Most are designed to address a presenting problem, and
most or single-subject design.
My feeling about behaviorism is I think we know a lot, but like a lot of people
who’ve been at this awhile, we get the feeling that it gets too narrow. So the
things that have been fascinating to me have driven two lines of research to
some– I really like the idea of operant methods, but I get frustrated over some
things associated with it.
For example, we have people– we deliver consequences based on people
performing a behavior to a criteria. And we’re very scientific, but we have no
scientific method of setting a criteria. And that bothers me. So I’ve been told all
the time, you’ve got to have goals. You’ve got to have goals. You’ve got to have
goals. So one of my lines of research was to try to do things where we didn’t set
criteria, where instead, we randomly selected them.
Because in all honesty, as a faculty member, I don’t really know how well I have
to do what specific things to get a raise or get rewarded. They don’t lay it out that
cleanly. And I don’t know if that’s good or bad, because I think people tend to
work to criteria. So if you know, if I do this, then I get this, you work right up to
that criteria, and then you stop.
In fact, there’s a research design called the changing criterion design. It totally
depends on that. If people don’t stop when they reach the criteria, you lose
experimental control. So one of the things I think that behaviorism would benefit
from is maybe being a little clearer about some things that are limitations. So
since I’ve got a little time to talk, let me tell you where this came from.
I was working with group contingencies. And as a teacher and with some
experience, I had some ideas how to set a criteria, the art of it all. But you could
also find where people made recommendations to set a criteria. And at the time,
the behaviorist, the brief solution focused therapist, everyone was saying, 10%
improvement over baseline. And I’m suspicious of anything that’s round numbers.
So what you find is, when you start looking for the support for that 10%, there’ll
be citations when people say that. And then you look up the other thing, and
there’ll be a citation they’ll have. And then you go back to that paper, and they’ll
cite another paper. And at the end, there’s no data. So it’s just someone made up
a number, and someone else cited it. Now there’s probably 50 cites that say– or
probably 150 that say 10% improvement.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
So if I have any advice to anyone, it’s when you see a number like that that’s nice
and round, don’t trust it. What number can you trust? Pi. You don’t make up that
number. That’s a real number.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Chris, when you say 10% over a baseline, you
mean that’s your degree you’re measuring success when you see that?
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: You’re not setting criterion-CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: That’s what you should-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Over baseline, right?
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Set criteria 10% improvement over baseline. That’s
what they say.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Really? Now, Steve and I may be– because we’ve
talked about we like to see– and you may completely excoriate it. We like to see
base criterion set a little below baseline in order to encourage delivery of the
reinforcer. Does that make sense? That’s what we’ve talked about.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: It does. And other people have schemes where you
take the– get rid of the bottom quartile and the top quartile and use that, and
then take another mean after so long on 25%. All that stuff sounds good, but no
one’s run research on how to set a criteria that’s worth a darn. So I don’t know
how to set criteria.
Now, here’s where it gets bad. I know a lot about consequences.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I’ve really got to think about that. And I want to go
back– and I promise I’ll let you talk about it. I want to go back when you said talk
about later possibly I’ll remember. You set no criteria how that went when you
just– but say what you’re saying first.
STEVEN LITTLE: I know some of your research [INAUDIBLE] you used random
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: In a random– that’s your [INAUDIBLE]
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So the first study that was published with that, I used
it in my classroom a lot to stop people from working to criteria. But we had kids
going from one class to another, and they were averaging about 300 seconds.
And hallways are– by some estimates over 50% of the serious inappropriate
behaviors occur during transition.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Of course. Transition. Of course.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So if we could reduce that time in the hallway, we
can get rid of a lot of nonsense. Anyway, we ran a study, and we didn’t know
what criteria to set, because how do you set a criteria for the hallway? It depends
on how far it is. We did walk-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: How fast you walk.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah. Well, we walked the distance from place to
place and [INAUDIBLE]
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I was just going to ask you that. I was just going to
ask you, did you have grad students walking? I was just going to say-CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: We did. So what we ended up doing is we took I
think 30 times number of seconds. And they ranged from like 100 to like 400.
And we would randomly pick one out of a hat. So we didn’t tell them how fast
they had to go. They didn’t know how fast had to go. They just knew if they did
the best they can, they were more likely to earn a reward.
So the way that– so on day one, they went from 300 to 100 seconds. They really
didn’t get much better– they didn’t get much better than that. But if we had gone
10%, it would have been 270 seconds. We would have run that for a week. Then
we would’ve run– and you could see how long it would take to get to 100.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: You know what? What strikes me is, perhaps this
criteria is related to– or criterion. I don’t know. I always get– criteria. It’s related
to the type of behavior too, isn’t it? And if you’re doing a group versus individual,
those may be some variables that affect-CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: I think all do. But I think we’ve just got to admit we
don’t know how to set a criteria. So I decided I wouldn’t set one at all. And then,
the idea is, as the study goes on, you remove some of the longer transition times
and put some shorter ones in. And I did that with my 10th grade EDB students for
a whole lot of target behaviors. And it was fun, and the kids liked it, and they
were earning rewards.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
But if I tried to set a kid’s criteria, typically what we do is we underestimate what
they can do. So we did the same thing with grades with middle school EBD kids,
and we started– there’s like six or seven kids in the class. And the teacher starts- the whole consultation is started by a teacher saying, I think the material’s too
hard. And when we ran the contingency, first we targeted math.
In a seventh grade EBD room, one kid has got an independent seat work at a
second grade level. Another kid’s taking an algebra test. They all have different
activities each day in each grade for each kid across grade levels. And they all
went up to A’s or B’s immediately. The work wasn’t too hard. It was probably too
easy. Then we added another. Then we added spelling. We started with spelling,
then we added math.
But the point I’m trying to make is now they didn’t know whether they were going
to reinforce for doing well in math or doing well in spelling, so they did well and
both. Then we added a third. I think it was language arts. So I like that model,
because I don’t know how to set criteria, so randomly pick it. But I also like the
idea of randomly picking the target behavior, because sometimes kids do lousy in
the beginning of the day and they give up and they check out.
My EBD kids taught me this. But they’ll rally. And so a kid might blow off math but
perk up for English, because what if he picks English? What I like most about
these contingencies, the kids support each other rather than sabotage each
other. Because with these interdependent, group-oriented contingencies, I’m
more likely to earn a reward when I do well and my classmates do well. So for
the most part, they stop trying to sabotage their classmates’ performance.
But that’s one thing I thought was fascinating. And I still think it’s fascinating. And
I’d like to do more research on it, but it’s really hard to do research on for the
reasons you said, Angeleque.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Do I understand? So are we talking mostly when
you’re doing this it’s setting criteria for these– criteria. Criterion. Whatever One or
more. For group contingency type research instead of, say, a home school note
where you do need some kind of clear– do you know what I mean? We were
always taught, all right, make it a little low so they’re getting the points on a daily
basis, and then the hard part is increasing that. But go ahead, Chris or Steve.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Well, I will say this. I think criteria for a bonus reward
are different than criteria for a grade. So I really like the idea of bonus rewards,
but they can’t be high stakes rewards. They need to be powerful. But I don’t like
giving grades based on group performance. You don’t want to give money. You
don’t want to punish. You don’t want to do anything high stakes.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
Because remember, if a grade’s based on how I did and how the rest of my class
did, it can literally end up in a situation where you’ve got a parent in your
classroom threatening to file a formal complaint because their kid isn’t going to
get a scholarship because they got a B not because their kid did bad but– grades
are pretty high stakes consequences.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Completely understandable. But think about it. If
you’re getting kids through transitions, you’re getting better work anyway. You’re
getting more time on task. If you’re getting the transitions, at least when I was a
teacher, it was transitions. That was-CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: It is.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: If you’re managing those, you’re managing the
other too. You’re increasing time onto our academic time. Go ahead.
STEVEN LITTLE: I wanted to ask [INAUDIBLE] when you were dealing with
regular education students or students who are of average or above average
intelligence, I can see how this can work. But have you done any research with
those who have more moderate to severe disabilities that may [INAUDIBLE]
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah, good question. Steve, we just did it with steps
and post-secondary education for students with autism and ID. And it worked, but
they were confused for a while. The random nature of it was confusing. The
group and calculating an average was confusing. Which day we were going to
select was confusing. And it took a while before it clicked in.
I suspect that students with emotional and behavior disorders– there’s some
research done by one of my colleagues, Stuart Watson and– I can’t remember
her name. But there there’s the idea that they’re more responsive to
contingencies because of their experiences. And if you– when I explain these
schemes to my kids, they get it right away. If there’s a hole in the contingency, if
there’s a loophole, they’ll exploit it.
STEVEN LITTLE: That’s what we thought.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: And the things– what you were saying– Steve,
great question. And the things you were saying about your kids with, what,
comorbid [INAUDIBLE] and ID, there’s probably an anxiety component that you
have to be careful not to exacerbate, because they– what day is it? When is–
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
how many points? That kind of thing. At least, the kids with whom I’ve worked,
there’s an anxiety component to that diagnosis a lot of times.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah. And it might make them more anxious, but
compared to an individual or independent where it’s all based on their own
performance, probably less anxious because it’s based on everyone’s. And
nobody knows how everyone else else is doing. And then, even less anxious
when they don’t know how well they have to do. It’s like a game. It’s randomly
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: That’s right. Yeah.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So the game format of it, you win or lose based on
your performance and others’ performance. So you don’t control everything. Oh,
what number are they going to pull out?
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Oh, that’s right. That variable nature. The variable
nature of, like, the slot machine, whatever. Yeah. That’s basic. Of yeah, I really
like that. I like that.
STEVEN LITTLE: One thing I can say about Dr. Skinner’s research is that they
all answer practical, everyday issues that are dealt with in schools and in other
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Oh, yeah. I think as opposed to other– I used to
read a lot of– I read other things now, but I used to read a lot of literature. And
some of it’s, for me, sort of esoteric and– Chris, your stuff has always made me
go, I wish I’d read this when I was a classroom teacher. This is something I could
have used. This I understand. This is something I could take to my classroom,
and I could have used that there. And that’s what I’ve always appreciated about
what you do. It’s real. It’s real. It’s real world. It’s– yeah.
STEVEN LITTLE: Because it really illustrates-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: You’re trying to interrupt me, man.
STEVEN LITTLE: All the time. I think that really illustrates that research to
practice [INAUDIBLE]
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I totally agree with that.
STEVEN LITTLE: As opposed to sometimes I read research from some really big
names, and I go, what’s the point? And your research is always– it makes a
difference in kids’ lives.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: You’ve had teachers as part of the article.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Oh, yeah. And sometimes, they don’t want to be. But
I prefer if teachers are co-authors and help all the way through. So yeah, I’ve
published with a lot of teachers and some principals and things like that. I
checked the school psych literature in a study I think all the way back to ’95. I
should probably do it again. But over 90% of the authors were university
We don’t have enough practitioners contributing to our research. In my opinion, it
might even be worse at the federal funding level. So we end up– researchers
identify the problems. They recruit subjects. They solve a problem that might not
even exist. I think we’re better off when we’re dealing with problems identified by
the people in the front line.
And I much prefer to do that because, boy, sometimes I look at things and say,
that is interesting, and the poor kids and school system that participated, I don’t
see where anyone’s better, but it’s interesting. I can see where it’s going, but right
now, they had to be recruited, because that wasn’t a problem they wanted to
address. They had 50 other problems more important than that one.
So I think that research is important, but it’s really fun when people are saying,
here’s a problem. This student is struggling with this, this, this. And that’s what
you do your research on. And it doesn’t always work. And IRB is so slow now
that there are so many layers. Sometimes you can’t do it.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Oh, my gosh. Where Steve is, he can’t even– the
students are not allowed to do intervention research at Walden because of the
legal ramifications. So [INAUDIBLE]
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: He gets around it.
STEVEN LITTLE: I get around it.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: You better-STEVEN LITTLE: I won’t go into that.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: This is for Walden. Wait. You don’t do that at all.
You never did that. Say it now.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
STEVEN LITTLE: I never do anything. Everything is done by the book. The other
thing that I wanted to mention to Chris is that when I’m teaching students applied
behavior analysis and they are– they’re probably sick of me because I do
lectures every week in each one of their classes, all six of their BCS classes. But
it’s to get them to start thinking that every single case that they work on should be
conceptualized as a single case design and recognizing that each one is a mini
research study, where you are using– you’re collecting baseline.
At least, it’s an AB design. And that if they can do enough of these together and
can see some patterns going along in what they’re doing, that for them, at their
level, presenting it at a state conference or something is something I think that
they can do do bring some of the– because they can come up with some great
innovations in practice. But I’m trying to get across [INAUDIBLE] a master’s level
BCBA who’s working out there may not come up with 200 and some-odd
publications like Chris, but they can do it on a lower scale just by doing their jobs.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So I will reinforce that. What Steve just said, the
timely transition scheme that I was describing where they went from 300 to 100
seconds, that was a consultation case. AB design. No cause and effect. But we
loved it. Next time someone had transitions problems, we ran a more formal
study. It was published. I can’t tell you how many followups have been done. Not
as many as you think. I think seven or eight studies have been published on it
It all came from an AB design. And people in practice for interventions, you guys
have such good ideas. You just think everyone knows about it already. The truth
is, I don’t think anyone knows about it. I believe if I took a sabbatical and spent it
in elementary school just watching teachers and asking them questions, I’d come
away with hundreds and hundreds of intervention ideas that are effective.
So I don’t think we have lack of ideas. We need to validate, and we need to run
them through the cause and effect research ringer so we can say they’re
evidence-based and things like that. But I think we’re better we think we are. I
really do I’m. Pretty positive about being able to effect change and increase prosocial behaviors, decrease inappropriate, and enhance learning. I think we’ve
been pretty good at it.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: That’s really something too. Decrease– increase
pro– and increase learning. And the respect you show for teachers, I think that’s
important too. That’s one thing we talk about a lot, is it’s not the problem with the
intervention, it’s a problem with integrity. And if you don’t have respect for the
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
person who’s implementing that intervention and you don’t have that engaged,
trusting relationship, there’s where that integrity could be decreased. But I want
to go on. I know we don’t have a ton more time. Sorry, Chris. Go ahead.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Let me followup to that, because this– I agree with
exactly what you said. When people don’t– when a teacher doesn’t do something
with integrity, it’s my fault, not the teacher’s fault.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I totally agree. 100%. And that’s something we have
to tell them.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So what I’m trying to get people to do is think about
contextual validity. The best intervention, if it doesn’t fit the context, if it can’t be
done there, then don’t do it. So one way we develop new interventions is we
tweak them for context. So I’ll come in. Well, I can’t do that here. I have to
change it because of this, this, and this. And then, before you know it, you tweak
something enough and you have a whole new intervention.
But I actually am 100% in disagreement against the people who want systematic
replications. I think if you’re going to do exactly what someone else did in a
different context, you’re probably screwing up. You probably-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I know.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: –some things about it to make it work.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Anyway, I’ve been writing about that recently, so I
wanted to spit that.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: No. But listen, we just– because we do a lot of
these podcasts, and we just talked to a former student of Steven’s. And she’s
been 21 years at a mental health place.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: And she’s been working in autism for 21 years now.
She’s the clinical director. And we talked a lot about context, about how an
intervention needs to fit that context, that environment. So I love that word of
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
context, not less because I’m always telling Steve, give me more context. I don’t
understand what you’re saying. Give me some [INAUDIBLE].
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: So I teach consults-STEVEN LITTLE: [INAUDIBLE] you think she’d understand.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: I need more context. I can’t let you go without
asking you– and I want to ask everybody this. But in a perfect world– and ABA
really has– is associated a lot with, at least as far as I know, with children on
spectrum or maybe children with disabilities. But if it was a perfect world for you,
where would you see applied behavior analysis? How would you see it working?
And I’m thinking mostly of teacher ed programs and the full spectrum of
education. What are your ideas about that?
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Yeah. Well, I think somebody wrote an article of
what would happen if we woke up and there was no more autism. I can’t
remember who wrote it. I was about a year or two ago. And they were pushing
the idea that behavior analysis can be applied to a lot of things. So I’ve done four
studies on putting golf balls. I know it’s applied a lot in human performance. I
know it’s applied in speech and language path a lot.
I wish it were applied more in pre-school. A lot of them are really anti-behavioral.
And it makes me sad, because I think that a lot of behavior problems are caused
by children establishing bad behavior habits in school at a very young age. And I
think that’s, frankly, caused by “let kids be kids and do what they want.” And
then, when you try to say, no, we need to pay attention, we need you to sit here,
we need-So one of the things that– and I’ve been talking with people about this, is I’d like
to see more behavior analysis younger so we could prevent problems. In all my
work with EBD kids and adults, the adults had pretty serious problems, but most
of the students I worked with would probably be classified as conduct disordered.
They didn’t have serious emotional problems. And I think their behaviors were
shaped and could have easily been prevented.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: But behavior analysis needs a broader reach,
absolutely. And I hope with this big boost we’re getting that we can knock down
some of the negative perceptions with behavior analysis that are, frankly, wrong.
I’m tired of telling people, no horn, no tails. I’m not the devil.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Listen, we just– Steve and I listen to a lot of
podcasts ourselves, and we were listening to Krista Tippett. She does apply cast
called On Being. It’s talking about spiritual or religious topics. Anyway, she’s of
interest. She was talking to a neuroscientist for the LA school system. They
invited her there. And we had to stop listening because out of her mouth was, oh,
well, you know, behaviorism, and that’s what was happening in schools.
And the point was when you have behaviorism, you can’t have kindness and love
in schools. And we just had to stop listening as we were screaming at the radio,
because that’s clearly someone who doesn’t understand behaviorism but who
has a voice and people listen to her. And then people go, oh, yeah, that’s right.
That behaviorism, that’s that mechanistic “press a lever” stuff. And to combat
that, that should be a life goal for all of us, probably, to combat that sort of
inappropriate, just plain old wrong thinking.
STEVEN LITTLE: Chris and I had one similar experience in our background that
we both thought at the University of Alabama. And I followed Chris there. And I
can remember that, when I was there, in addition to me doing a debate with the
one person on the ed psych faculty, behaviorism versus constructivism– and by
the way, I just wiped the floor with them.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: [INAUDIBLE]. Where are your data? Where are
your data?
STEVEN LITTLE: OK, it’s my self-evaluation. But the dean wanted to put a onehour classroom management course into the undergraduate-ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: [INAUDIBLE]
STEVEN LITTLE: I know that. But this is just an illustration. He wanted for a onehour classroom management course in because he had asked me to develop the
course as a requirement for all undergraduate teacher education students. And
the teacher education faculty threw such a fit that he backed down.
STEVEN LITTLE: Chris is still in the School of Education. Has it changed?
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Well, I will tell you what I’ve found. A lot of people
are taught in education that they’re going to be such an awesome teacher of their
subject matter that kids will never misbehave.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Yes. I’m that person. I know.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: It’s not fair. I’ll give you my example. I paid over
$100 a piece for my wife and I go hear Jerry Seinfeld do his comedy act in
Knoxville. It lasted less than an hour. He spent about a year preparing it and
practicing and refining it. And I didn’t pay attention the whole time. In fact, I got a
little bored. When I looked around, other people weren’t on task either. If Jerry
If Jerry Seinfeld can’t keep us on task after we volunteered to go– not only that.
Paid $100. Not only that. He spent a year working on it. If he couldn’t keep us on
task for an hour, how is a teacher going to do it for 180 days, five hours a day?
It’s absurd.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: It’s so unfair. It’s so unfair.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: And coming from a teacher training program that
was San Francisco State, which was a really good teacher training program, and
never even hearing classroom management, never even hearing that mentioned,
only hearing it when you went to graduate school in psychology– it’s not right. So
my idea in a perfect world is I would take over all the teacher training programs.
That’s my-[LAUGHTER]
When the world goes– when whatever happens and winter comes, it’s Game of
Thrones time, and I’m in charge– which I think that’s [INAUDIBLE]. I’m in charge.
That’s the first thing I’m doing. I’m in charge of all the teacher training program.
That’s right. Charge. But I will say, Chris, if you like Jerry Seinfeld, we watch-he’s got a thing about Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It’s pretty good.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: I wanted to plug my university. They started
requiring a teacher– a classroom management course for teachers.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: I think they still require it. But I’m not sure it’s
required. And both people who teach the course are behavioral. So it’s good.
They’re special ed folks.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: This has been great for us. But we can’t leave you.
You’re talking to students who are pursuing their BCBA or their master’s degree
[INAUDIBLE] the way these courses to be able to sit for the BCBA test exams.
So we’d love for you to give them– I was going to ask you for three bits of advice,
but you give as much advice as you want to. And I’m thinking, though, you’re
talking to your undergraduate going to your master’s program self. What three
things might you tell yourself? Think back to the young Chris and what kinds of
things you think would be important to tell yourself.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Sure. First of all, your very basic behavior analysis
course and your single subject design course, don’t blow them off. That basic
behavior analysis course is huge. And everything else will be easier if you really
apply yourself to that course. The single subject design course will really help in
how you think about problems and approaching them. And hopefully, you’ll
consider measuring the effects of your remediation procedures.
I think about a plumber. They always turn your water back on, make sure the
leak’s plugged. But a lot of human service people never check to see if their
interventions or their treatments are effective. So I think it’s really useful.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Oh, the third thing is write down your ideas in a
notebook. Keep a little idea book.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: That’s a great idea.
CHRISTOPHER SKINNER: Because if you’re out there in the real world, you’re
likely to have better ideas than most people. But lots of times, they’ll bubble up
during class. Someone will say something. So I just encourage you to do that,
even if you never go to school again. It might turn out to be a useful idea for
practice and for who knows what. So that would be my advice. And always,
always, always be respectful of the Dr. Littles.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: No, no, no. Thank you. [INAUDIBLE] Well, Chris,
that’s been great. That’s really good advice. I love that writing things down.
STEVEN LITTLE: I tried that once, but my treatment integrity wasn’t real good.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhDF
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: Yeah. That’s a great idea. Thank you so much for
spending this time with us. It’s been really great. And I’m going to think a lot
about setting criterion. Criteria. Whatever. One of those.
STEVEN LITTLE: We really thank you so much for doing this.
ANGELEQUE AKIN-LITTLE: It’s great. It’s going to be so– it’s going to be really
meaningful for students. It really will be.
Design for Change
with Steven Little, PhD, Dr. Angeleque Akin-Little, PhD
and Christopher Skinner, PhD
Content Attribution
SC_Light&Bright06_T32 and/or SC_Business01_T41
Credit: Studio Cutz
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
Design for Change
Program Transcript
STEVEN LITTLE: Hello, and welcome to week 11 of psychology 6734,
Introduction to Behavioral Assessment Intervention. Today, we’re going to be
doing our course review.
First of all, congratulations. You’ve made it through another course. You’re that
much closer to becoming a BCBA, and I’m very proud of all of you. I may not
have met you face to face, personally, but I am, as developer of this program, I
am very proud of everyone who gets through these courses.
And here you are in week 11 of the third course in the six-course VCS sequence
at Walden University. It’s a great accomplishment to get through all of them.
There’s a lot of material that went into this course. There’s a lot of stuff that goes
into all of these courses.
What I want you to reflect on today is primarily this course, but also through
where you were when you started the first course in the Walden University VCS.
Think of your knowledge base at that time. Think how it has progressed, and
now, how we’ve gotten into the first of our two assessment and intervention
Think of that important aspect of assessment and intervention. Think about even
your knowledge of the concepts that we have already talked about, and how, in
this course, we went into more detail. Sure, there was some redundancy. There’s
quite a bit of redundancy. But in some of the things that we talked about here, I
went into some fairly great detail, especially when talking about a functional
Think of your vocabulary, and how your vocabulary has changed over the course
of this course. I probably shouldn’t say the course of this course, I probably
should say over the time you have spent in this course. But also, from the
beginning of you entering this program. Think of your vocabulary, your
understanding of things, your understanding of behavior, and how you’re getting
closer and closer to implementing these techniques, these procedures to use
your understanding of behavioral principles in the betterment of individuals’ lives.
Whether you decide to work with children who are on the autism spectrum,
whether at the lowest functioning on the autism spectrum, who are pretty much
getting discrete trials and some very basic concepts, to individuals high on the
spectrum who may just have some social skills deficits that you’ll be working with
them on, your understanding of working with teachers, working with RBTs,
working with BCABAs, working with parents overall, and how you can take these,
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
and how you can use the knowledge, but also use your vocabulary wisely in how
you talk to people.
Think back on all of this as we basically enter the midpoint of your program. The
end of your third course out of six in the VCS. So reflect back on all of those
things. And I’ll ask you to reflect back on some specific things as we go through
what we covered each week in this course, starting going way back to week one.
Where were you in week one when this course started? Where were you with
your understanding of things? Because in week one, we focused more on an
introduction to both behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention. Starting
that link, emphasizing that link between assessment and intervention.
I brought in some of the things that there is redundancy with some other courses.
And also, we started getting into some punishment procedures, so there are
those redundancy. And hopefully, you find the redundancy useful. I mean, these
are important concepts that you’re going to be using throughout your career as a
behavioral analyst, which could be 20, 30, 40 years.
And as someone who has been working at the postmasters level for 40 years, as
someone who is more than 30 years past their doctorate, I can tell you, that goes
by real quick. But getting back to this, think on how you will be using these
things, and the knowledge that you are gaining and that you are or will be gaining
in your independent fieldwork.
Because yes, it is OK to have already started your independent fieldwork. You
can do that as you’re taking the educational component. So some of you may be
doing your fieldwork right now. Others will be getting it after you finish and you
have your master’s degree. However you do it, we’re getting to the point of
implementation, of you being competent to implement these various techniques
that we call applied behavior analysis.
So in that first week, we talked about the whole thing overall. The assessmentintervention link, something that we cannot not think of, because assessment is
so important. We don’t do assessment for diagnosis as behavior analysts. Now, I
do that in my role as a psychologist, as a licensed psychologist. I do assess.
And I do assess individuals for autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities,
learning disabilities, all sorts of different things. But that’s my role as a
psychologist. As a behavior analyst, we do not do assessment. So we’re talking
about behavioral assessment. We’re talking about collecting data so that we can
understand the function of the behavior so that we can better make, design an
implementation. And implement whatever program is most ecologically valid
based on the function of the behavior and the environmental conditions.
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
So we talked about that. Also, assessment, we’re always doing assessment.
You’re doing baseline assessment before you implement an intervention. But all
through the intervention, you are continuing to assess data. That’s how we
assess the efficacy of the intervention.
Unfortunately, in some areas, say in medicine, the doctor may do a diagnosis,
give you a treatment, a pill, but they don’t assess your improvement. Basically,
the only way they’re going to know is if you come back and complain I’m not
getting better, you need to do something else. We don’t work that way. We are
constantly working with the individuals with whom we are designing
assessments. As a BCBA, you won’t be implementing most of your assessments,
somebody else will be doing the implementation for you, but you have to be
involved in it.
You have to be constantly involved in the assessment, in the evaluation of the
data that are collected during that process. And we don’t know of the
effectiveness of an intervention unless we are continually gathering data. And
that is a hallmark of what we do, continuous assessment. Not just assessment at
the beginning to call somebody something– in other words, diagnose. So this
assessment-intervention link, which I’m sort of beating to death, is very important.
And I don’t want you to ever forget that. As many times as I’ve gone over it, I
think you’ll have a hard time forgetting it.
One of the things we do in behavior analysis, we focus on operant learning and
operant interventions, interventions that– and even the conceptualization of
behavior that’s mostly based on the work of B.F. Skinner and others who have
been researching this for decades. And that’s where the efficacy of a lot of what
we do is, is in implementing or doing behavioral assessments and implementing
behavioral interventions based on operant conditioning.
But what I find in my interactions with behavior analysts is they sometimes forget
the important role of classical conditioning, sometimes called respondent
conditioning. In that first week, we did go over that. Unfortunately, there’s not
going to be a lot more in your other courses that’s going to focus on classical
But try not to forget the importance of classical conditioning, especially if you’re
working with somebody who may have some sort of anxiety related to especially
specific objects or people, because it may have been classically conditioned. Its
origins may have been classically conditioned. So recognize the importance of
classical conditioning. And we did that in week one. We talked about that. And of
course, went into the basics of operant conditioning, which we had gone through
before, we’ll go through again.
And we talked about the Akin-Little and Little chapter on the effect of extrinsic
reinforcement on intrinsic motivation. There’s two books, 2009, which is the first
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
edition of the Behavioral Interventions in Schools book, and the second from the
2019 second edition of the book, which updates that chapter.
But it doesn’t really matter which one you read. The fundamental components are
the same in both of them. And there hasn’t been any research since the 2009
chapter was written that would change anything. Maybe there’s a little bit more
support, but even then, it’s not an area that has a ton of research. It just doesn’t.
So we talked about that. And whether you read it in the 2009 book or whether
you read it in the 2019 book, it’s pretty much the same thing. And the concepts
are the same thing, the discussion is the same thing. This is Angeleque, Dr. AkinLittle, who you’ve heard in all the podcasts, which I hope you’re enjoying. This
was her main area. This is where her dissertation was. This was her initial
research when she started post-PhD. So it is a very important area to both of us.
I hope you found that interesting.
So that has us in week one. We’re now in week 11. How many things have
happened in that time, in almost three months since you started? Again, think of
how much progress you have made in your understanding of these concepts, of
your ability to start formulating interventions based on all of this.
In week two, something else was redundant from 6731, but in more detail we
talked about systematic observation of behavior, starting with operational
definitions. Don’t forget the importance of operational definitions. We cannot
really understand what’s happening unless we have fully defined that target
behavior in terms that anyone can understand.
Angeleque and I have talked about– sometimes we’ll see something on TV. We’ll
possibly listen to a Ted Talk or something, and we think, what are they talking
about? They’re talking about hypothetical constructs, but they’re not defining
what that is in terms that we can really understand. If somebody talks about
motivation, somebody talks about anxiety, somebody talks about all sorts of
things, resiliency, what does then mean without a clear operational definition?
And what you’ll find frequently is that you will have people talking about concepts
without fully defining them. We do not do that as behavior analysts, as we talked
about in week two.
We operationally define behaviors. And why do I go over it and over it? Because
over the years, in the 30 plus years I have worked as a university professor, in
the 30 plus years that I have taught operational definitions, I’ve seen so many
people have difficulties. If you are one of those people who just got it right off the
bat, great. That is wonderful. Still doesn’t hurt to have some redundancy. If you’re
not, hopefully you’re gaining that understanding as I go through it multiple times.
So, operational definitions.
© 2019 Walden University

Design for Change
We then talked about observation. And we’re going to talk about this more in the
next class, 6735, which is the research methods, because how do we collect
data? Once we’ve identified what the behavior is and we’ve operationally defined
that target behavior, we need to observe it in order to measure it, because that’s
where we get our measurement from. But it’s not as easy as you may think, as
we talked about in week two. But we talk about the importance of observation,
but some problems with observation.
Now, you go into a room, you have changed the environment. Your presence, if
they’re not used to having you in that environment, then you’ve changed things.
So that’s one of the problems we talked about, reactivity. We talked about
problems. We talked about methods of observation. How do you systematically
observe behavior? What methods do we use? Are we looking at a duration
recording? Are we looking at an event recording?
If we’re going to do some sort of time sampling, what are our options in doing
that? We talked about all these things, and putting them into a specific design.
And that’s what’s coming up next. It’s possible some of you were doing it
simultaneous with this one, in which case you know a lot more about it than I’m
talking to right now. And hopefully I went into some additional detail now so that
you all have a better understanding of observing behaviors.
In week three, way back in week three, we talked about FBA and FA, functional
behavioral assessment, functional analysis. While we talked about them before,
we talked about the ethics involved, especially with functional analysis, we
defined them again. What is an FBA, and what is an FA?
The FA, the functional analysis, being the more experimental manipulation.
Actually conducting a mini experiment to test the function of the behavior.
Whereas FBA, functional behavior assessment, is the larger category that will
include an FA, but also includes things such as a descriptive functional
assessment. So we talked about all of that.
We talked about functions of behavior. And what are the functions of behavior?
Did you use my old one or did you use some of the new ones? OK, what I was
originally taught was positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, stimulation
slash automatic reinforcement. And it’s since been broken down by different
people. The most common way to break it down is taking that positive
reinforcement and breaking it down into tangibles versus social reinforcers. So
there are other things, and there are other ways to do it.
Now, how you talk about it, the terminology that you use will, in large part, be due
to where you’re working, and how those others around you, and who may be
supervising you when you first start out– be it in your fieldwork, be it in your first
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
job– how they discuss it, they’re all valid. It’s just a matter of being on the same
wavelength, using the same vocabulary as those who are working with you.
We talked about the ABCs, the analysis of behavior. Again, something we’ve
talked about before. We’ll talk about it again. The antecedent, the behavior, the
consequence. Most of what we’re going to start off talking– well, we started-well, the course is over. Of course it is. What we did discuss, we started talking
about more the C things. We talked about positive, negative reinforcement,
positive, negative punishment, which were focusing more on the consequence.
Then we got into stimulus control and motivating operations to talk more about
the A. But don’t ever forget the importance of that A in the sequence, the
antecedent, behavior, consequence, because what goes on with motivating
operation, what goes on in the environment has a large effect on the target
behavior because it’s going to signal whether that C may be or may be not
present. The consequence, what is the likely consequence it’s going to happen?
Those cues are provided prior to the engagement in the target behavior. We
talked about all this. You know all this stuff. So recognize the importance of those
We talked about FBA in assessment, how to develop an assessment based on
the results of your FBA. And as you know, if we know the function of the
behavior, we can better address it in our intervention than if we don’t know the
function of the behavior. Now, I’ll be the first one to admit, there may be
situations where you can develop an intervention that may be effective even
without knowing the actual function of the behavior. But we don’t want to take
that chance that what we’re going to be using is going to be effective, so it’s best
to do some sort of FBA.
We focused a little bit more on the FA. We talked about advantages of doing a
functional analysis, as well as some of the limitations involved in doing a
functional analysis. We talked about descriptive functional assessment. And what
is a descriptive functional assessment?
Good. And we’re using indirect measures to get an idea of the function of the
behavior. Asking others, using rating scales, things like that. And I talked
specifically about those rating scales related to doing an FBA. And there are
scales out there that may help you identify the function of the behavior without
going into a full functional analysis.
Risk assessment and the importance of a risk assessment, especially if you’re
thinking about doing an FA, a functional analysis. And then I talked about my
suggestions, my recommendations for doing an FBA. As I have in other classes.
One thing you’ve probably already discovered, I’m not short on opinions on these
things. I think behavior analysis is a great field for you to be in. I think that you
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
will enjoy hopefully a long, productive career as a behavior analyst, a successful
But recognize also that maybe I influence you a little bit overall, although I think
your field training supervisor will probably have the greatest influence over how
you approach things. Where you’re working, how they do it will have it. But some
of my ideas are mainstream, some of them are not quite as mainstream.
So the key thing is don’t take my word for anything. Think about it yourself. Get
data yourself. Draw your own conclusions. And some of the things that I
recommend may be more appropriate in some situations than others. That’s
where you, as a thinking, intelligent human being are able to really have an
effect, is by knowing when to do something, when not to.
I think I mentioned in this class that my favorite saying of all time was by William
James, the father of American psychology, “the art of being wise is knowing what
to overlook.” Recognize that here, too. As a good behavior analyst, you don’t
necessarily have to do everything. You have to be able to understand what’s best
in that situation to collect the data that you need, not data that you don’t need.
Some things you don’t have to focus as much attention on as others. And that’s
what really separates the good behavior analysts, the smart behavior analysts,
from those who may not be as effective, is recognizing the environment. But that
is what we do. We look to the environment for cues, which leads us into week
Week four, we talked about other assessment techniques and procedures. When
we are doing assessment, for the most part, as behavior analysts, we are doing
behavioral assessment. We are observing behavior systematically. We are
recording it. We’re doing a baseline. We’re following up, doing observations
throughout the intervention procedure and the follow-up to make sure that the
intervention is working. If it’s not, we use those data to guide us in developing an
alternative intervention.
That’s what we’re doing for the most part for assessment. And it’s an essential
component, but there are other assessment procedures out there that are
sometimes more frequently used in the diagnostic process, which we don’t do as
behavioral analysts, but I do as a psychologist. And I think it’s important that,
even if you’re not doing these things, even if you’re not using some of these
measures, that you’re aware of them and how they can be used, both for a
diagnostic purpose, as well as what we do with the intervention, development
and monitoring.
So I talked about some guidelines for assessment overall. Again, I went into that
assessment-intervention relationship. An assessment that doesn’t lead to an
intervention is kind of a waste of time. What we need to do– well, as a
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Design for Change
psychologist, I need to do assessments that lead to a diagnosis so an individual
can get the interventions that they need, get the treatments that they need. Even
if that diagnosis doesn’t lead to effective interventions and an improvement on
the individual’s life, then it’s a waste. So that whole link between assessment and
intervention, I mean, I cannot emphasize enough.
But in week four, we talked more about norm referenced assessment. Norm
reference assessment, very simple. It’s just that somebody has collected a whole
bunch– developed a test, collected a representative sample of people, possibly
throughout the entire country, and maybe more restricted, but most of the largescale tests have a national sample, and then they have– what you are doing is
you’re comparing the score that the individual with whom you administered the
scale relates to that norm group.
And you get some sort of derived score. For example, in a cognitive assessment
test. So let’s say the WISC, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, now on
the fifth edition. But you’re using a WISC 5. It gives you an IQ, an intelligence
quotient that has a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, so that we know,
if somebody scores a certain score, receives a certain IQ, we know where they
stand relative to the overall population. That’s what norm reference measures do.
And we get that derived score.
But I think we can also use these scales for other purposes, especially behavior
rating scales, be they specific to one area or be they general for all behaviors,
both internalizing and externalizing behaviors, because we can look through
them and we can pull out, oh, parent seems to indicate that this area is a
problem, this specific behavior is a problem. But then I can go in and I can
question them about that. Like in essence, do an ABC analysis.
When’s the last time you saw that behavior? Think back. What did you see
beforehand? What happened just before they engaged in this behavior? How did
you respond? How did others respond?
So you can get a rough idea, and you may be able to more effectively identify or
operationally define the target behavior, you may know when to do the
observations. But it guides you in that process. So we’re not using the score that
these tests come from, but we’re using aspects of them, which is something I
have done for many years, and I find very valuable.
But if you are getting a score, one of the key things we’re interested in is the
reliability and validity of those scores. Reliability is basically just consistency. If
you give the test today, give it next week, is the score going to be consistent?
Barring any other major changes in their environment or their functioning, it
should be relatively consistent.
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Design for Change
Validity, as we’ve talked about, does it measure what it’s supposed to measure.
How confident we are saying that this measure– this is a measure of autism
spectrum disorder, that it really is measuring autism spectrum disorder. And
reliability is necessary, but not sufficient for validity. So we could have a reliability
scale. I could have a scale on measuring the length of this finger. Don’t worry, I’m
holding up– it’s not that finger. I could very easily reliably measure that, but I
can’t say, OK, the length of that finger is a measure of my intelligence or my
ability to give a lecture.
But it’s reliable. I can measure that finger, and it’s going to come up the same
measurement, long I’m using a ruler that’s true. It’s going to come out the same
way every single time. So it’s reliable, but it’s not a valid measure of my ability to
give a lecture or my intelligence or anything like else. All it’s a measure of is how
long that finger is.
So the relationship between reliability and availability– we talked about that. I’m
just doing some summaries right now to try to emphasize some of the most
important parts. And I’ve talked about behavior rating scales. Some general,
some specific to ASD, because those are the ones that we, as the behavior
analyst, are most likely to see, those that are specific to ASD. But let’s talk about
general ones, such as the BASC, Behavior Assessment System for Children, the
CBCL, the Child Behavior Checklist. But there’s many of them also in ASD.
Now, in your sixth class, the last class in your VCS, we’re going to go into ASD in
great detail. That’s the course, is on ASD. And as someone who has done
assessments in ASD, someone who’s done research in the assessment of ASD,
we will go into diagnosis, because I think it’s important for you as individuals who
may be working with children who have been diagnosed with ASD to understand
how that assessment process works to result in a diagnosis, even though you
don’t do it.
So in reliability and validity and those concepts and the derived scores are very
important. So we’ll go over them again then. But here, we talked about some of
the behavior rating scales– again, general and specific– which leads us to week
Week five, we finally started getting into the more consequent aspects. We’ve
talked about positive reinforcement before, but in week five, we went through it in
more detail than ever. So yes, a lot of it was redundant, but I talked about
positive reinforcement in the context of operant conditioning before, just as one
part of operant conditioning. We spent a whole week on it here, on positive
reinforcement. Why is positive reinforcement one of the first things I talked about
and so important to you?
Well, positive reinforcement, as you know– because I think you all just got it
right– is the foundation of what we do. Positive reinforcement forms the
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
foundation of what we do as behavior analysts. We’re doing more positive
reinforcement aspects than anything else. We want to increase the rate of
positive behaviors, increase the rate of pro social behaviors, increase the rate of
positive academic behaviors. So positive reinforcement.
And remember the terminology, positive, negative, reinforcement, punishment.
Good. Positive means present. Negative means take away. Reinforcement
means increases the frequency to behavior. Punishment means decreases the
frequency of the behavior. Very good.
So we talked a lot about positive reinforcement. Again, some redundancy with
what we talked about before. Talked about the vocabulary of reinforcement.
Touched on, again, is reinforcement bribery, because it’s something I wanted to
get into your psyche, your memory bank early, and how to deal with that,
because you will run across individuals who say, oh, you’re just bribing people.
So we went through that again. Types of reinforcers, be they tangibles, be they
activity, be they social.
Talked about effectively using positive reinforcement, how to select reinforcers to
use. And that included things such as a stimulus preference assessment, and
how to do that. I give you two things. Which one do you prefer? That is like the
simplest preference assessment you can get, but talked about different types of
stimulus preference assessments.
And how to thin the schedule, because we don’t want our clients to be dependent
on any type of contrived or non-natural reinforcer. We may need to do that to
jumpstart things, but we are not– we want them to engage in behaviors based on
naturally occurring reinforcers. And so we need to thin our schedule. And I talked
about some cautions in using positive reinforcement.
Week six, negative reinforcement. Probably the most misused term in all of
psychology. Negative reinforcement. What is negative reinforcement? Right. You
got it, and you’re going to be able to correct all those people who get it wrong
over and over again and use it instead of punishment. You know that negative
reinforcement is the removal of a stimulus, which increases the probability of that
behavior that led to its removal.
And we talked about factors influencing the effectiveness of negative
reinforcement. Excuse me. Factors that influence the effectiveness of negative
reinforcement. And I talked about escape avoidance, because a lot of times we’re
talking about negative reinforcement, especially how it occurs in the naturalistic
setting, is we’re talking about escape and avoidance.
Something is aversive to you. You experience it, you escape it. Your escape
behavior is negatively reinforced because you get away from that behavior, or
© 2019 Walden University
Design for Change
that stimulus, that noxious stimulus. Or you get to the point of avoiding it, which
also negatively reinforces the avoidance behavior. Excuse me.
And I went back all the way to Maurer’s work with dogs in the 1940s, and talked
about two-factor theory on how especially fears– he was talking about fears-fears can be established via classical conditioning and maintained via operant
conditioning, negative reinforcement, that escape-avoidance paradigm.
I also brought in here some of the work of Gerald Patterson, because Patterson
uses negative reinforcement as a key component in how he discusses the
genesis of certain coercive types of behaviors. Some problem behaviors.
Patterson has done great work in oppositional defiant disorder, in conduct
disorder. And he calls the home basic training for problem behavior. And we
talked about that. We talked about how negative reinforcement affects all that.
And finally, in week six, we talked about negative reinforcement being used to
promote behavior. I gave some examples and some research. There’s not a ton
out there, but you saw how it can be used. And week six as kind of our hump
week. And you say, Wednesday is our hump day in a workweek?
Week six is our hump day because we now are more than halfway through. It’s
all downhill from here. And of course, hopefully, it is nice and stable for you
throughout the entire course, that you’re enjoying all of it, from week 1 to week
11, to now. But we do have most of it behind us by the time we get to week
And we talked about schedules of reinforcement in week seven. I’m not going to
define everything again for you here. You probably know this. We talked about
schedules of reinforcement in 6731. We went into more detail here. We talked
about continued versus partial schedules. We talked about some specific, like
fixed ratio schedule, variable ratio schedule, fixed interval schedule, variable
interval schedule. And I talked about advantages and examples of each.
I’m not going to go through all those right now. You had just a few weeks ago, in
week seven. This stuff comes from Skinner’s initial work with pigeons and what
we call the Skinner box, but it is very applicable to everything that we use also.
Our interventions that we develop, how we thin our reinforcers, all of those
So we talked about when to use the appropriate schedule, what to use– overall,
you want to establish a behavior, you start off with a continuous schedule. You
want a behavior that’s more resistant to extinction, you use a variable schedule,
most likely a variable ratio schedule. And so on.
I also talked about some other things, such as response duration schedules,
which you now can define what a response duration schedule is. When I did my
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Design for Change
introduction, when I said, hey, we’re going to be talking about response duration
schedules, you were probably going, huh? This is something that wasn’t
redundant. So you probably now know that. And I talked about thinning
schedules of reinforcement.
Which brings us up to week eight. Woohoo! Week eight. Notice we first talked
about reinforcement, positive and negative reinforcement. So week eight, you
remember what we talked about? Yes, positive punishment. Again, positive
means presentation, so punishment by stimulus presentation, or presentation
We talked multiple times, in this class and other classes, about if you use the
term positive punishment, fine to use around other behavior analysts, but if you’re
talking to a parent, you’re talking to a teacher, it can lead to confusion because
they think positive, that means good. It means it’s good punishment. But no. We
try to avoid positive punishment. We try to avoid punishment by stimulus
presentation if we can.
So we defined all that. We defined the different types of punishment. We talked
about unconditioned and conditioned punishers. Pain, for example, being
unconditioned. You don’t have to learn. That’s all it is. Remember, you see the
word condition, it just means learn. We talked about the parameters influencing
the effectiveness of punishment, guidelines when using punishment. It’s really
important to have guidelines when you’re talking about something such as
punishment. That is something we don’t want to use if we can avoid it.
There are side effects, which we talked about, and there are problems with the
use of presentation punishment. And I talked about some specific types of
punishment procedures, from electric shock, lemon juice in the mouth, water
spray in the face. All presentation punishments that you may run into at times,
depending on where you work.
Probably not going to work someplace that is administering electric shock.
There’s not very many places that do. There are still some places that do. We
talked about that, especially in the ethics class. But stimulus presentation as a
punishment. That’s what week eight was all about.
Which leads us to week nine. See, we’re getting done. Almost there. Week nine.
We’ve talked about positive punishment, and we’ve talked about positive and
negative reinforcement, so that leaves only negative punishment. Again, another
term I don’t like to use because it has a wrong connotation to the lay public.
Negative, we know, means removal. Means taking away. So we’re talking about
punishment by removal of a stimulus. And in this week, we reviewed some things
on punishment, but mainly went into response cost, because that’s another way
to talk about this, response cost. Your response is going to cost you something.
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Design for Change
And you’re probably thinking, how many times he’s going to tell us that? Well, I’ll
probably tell you again.
But it is something, if you’re going to use a punishment procedure, think about
the response cost procedures, negative punishment, as being much better to use
than a positive punishment procedure. Now, sometimes it won’t work. The
positive punishment procedures are used probably more likely with someone
who may have, like, an SIB, whereas most other times that need a punishment
incorporated into the program, you should be able to use a negative punishment
procedure, response cost procedure.
And I talked about implementation of response cost procedures within a larger
contingency management system, such as a token economy, which we also went
into detail on, because response cost can be an important component of a token
economy. And what better place to fit it in than now? Because it also includes
positive reinforcement, which we want as our focus.
But we talked about both response cost procedures within this larger contingency
management program, such as a token economy, and using it independently.
And you’ve all probably experienced a response cost procedure. You all weren’t
total angels, say, when you were a teenager, and your parents grounded you or
took away some privilege. That’s a response cost procedure.
And I also started talking about differential reinforcement. When we get in the
advanced behavioral assessment and intervention, I’m going to go into
differential reinforcement in much greater detail. But can you remember any of
the differential reinforcement procedures that we talked about? So if I say DRL,
you’re now thinking– or you could be talking out loud– differential reinforcement-so we say DR, it’s always going to be differential reinforcement– of low rates of
behavior. That’s the DRL. But you got it.
DRO. O is other. Differential reinforcement of other behavior. And basically, what
you’re doing here is, if you have the negative behavior, you may be implementing
some sort of punishment procedure on. Any other behavior that’s not the
negative behavior could be reinforced. Anything but that behavior. That’s DRO.
There are two other ones that I mentioned, DRA and DRI. DRA is alternative
behavior. You’re reinforcing a behavior you want to see replace the behavior
that’s being punished. So alternative behavior. And then DRI, which is kind of an
alternative behavior, but it’s incompatible. DRI is incompatible behavior. Behavior
is incompatible.
You can’t sit and stand at the same time, for example. Sitting is incompatible with
standing. So if you reinforce, say, somebody who’s getting out of their seat in the
classroom and moving around too much, you reinforce them sitting down, that
would be a DRI because it’s incompatible with the behavior you want to see
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Design for Change
reduced. And as I said, we’ll spend a whole week talking about differential
reinforcement later on.
Week nine. We’re talking just a couple of weeks ago now. Week nine. Oh, wait a
minute. I’m talking about week nine. What are we doing? So we’re only a couple
of weeks before this lecture, which leads us to week 10, when we started talking
about not just the operant factors– positive reinforcement, negative
reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment, the C in the ABC
equation– we now start focusing on that A, antecedents. And we talked about
motivating operations in stimulus control.
Went into a little history, establishing operations, and how that was the term that
was first used, and now how we tend to use motivating operations, and have
them in two types. And what are those two types? Good, establishing operations
and abolishing operations. EO and AO. So we talked about those, and how
important it is to think about those things. And we also talked about conditioned
and unconditioned motivating operations.
We talked about stimulus control. Now, what is stimulus control? Yeah, it’s
basically a cue or a signal that you’re more likely to be reinforced or punished in
the presence of some other stimulus. Could be another person. Mother, father,
different teachers, different aides. Peers, certain peers all could be discriminative
stimuli for different things. So we talked in detail about stimulus control. We
talked about stimulus classes and stimulus equivalence. And we talked about
factors affecting stimulus control.
You just had that last week, so I’m not going to go into great detail. But again, I
think it helps to just review things in your mind from all of those 10 weeks of this
course, to think about how you have progressed from week 1 to now week 11.
You have progressed a tremendous amount, that you have learned a
tremendous amount.
If you’re doing your fieldwork simultaneously with the educational component,
then you’d start getting the opportunity to implement some of these things, see
some of these things in practice. If you’re going to do your fieldwork after you
have finished your coursework, then you will get to see these things in action.
But what we talked about this course were those basic fundamental aspects of
assessment and intervention, what really drives us in developing our
interventions, and understanding the behavior of the clients with whom we work.
So where do we go from here? And now we’re going to get into some more
specific aspects.
Now, I personally think that every client with whom you work should be a single
case design. And that’s what we’re going to talk about. Its single case design.
And it starts with writing research questions, developing hypotheses. You’re
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going to get me lecturing on that. You’re going to get the opportunity to do some
of this.
We’re going to talk about measuring behavior, reliability and validity, but a little bit
different than just the reliability and validity I mentioned back in– I can’t
remember what week that was when we talked about other methods of
assessment, when we talked about norm reference scales, norm referenced
We’re going to talk about reliability and validity within the context of single subject
design. And we’ll talk about single subject designs, from reversal designs, such
as an ABAB design, to a multiple baseline design, which I usually recommend if
you’re going to be doing systematic behavioral research. And other designs.
Every case that you work with is going to be at least an AB design, baseline
intervention. I’m going to talk about visual analysis, because mostly what we do
is we look at the graph data, and we look for patterns. We do a visual analysis,
and we interpret the data based on that. I’ll also do some things such as
calculating effect size.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to do anything more than pretty much a mean and a
standard deviation. And you can do basic arithmetic, too. That’s all. And you’re
going to write a proposal in that class. And you may even use some of what you
write in that proposal when it gets to your capstone study. But you will actually
develop a study. You don’t have to implement it, but you’re going to develop that
I hope you enjoyed this class. It’s been a great opportunity for me to spend this
time talking with you. I know you could say talking to me, because I don’t actually
get any feedback, but it’s such a pleasure that I have the opportunity to do this. I
hope you find these interesting. I hope you find all the courses interesting.
Congratulations on reaching the end of another course. I wish you the best in
your next course, and in the rest of the courses in this program, and with your
career. So take care, and as always, I wish everybody good behavior. Bye.
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