Friday, November 21, 2014

TAGteach in the Classroom: Managing Group Reinforcement

By Luca Canever

Managing the reinforcement for a group of people is one of the major difficulties that we may encounter. Especially if the people in question are 20 kids, 11 years old, with interests and personalities different from each other.

For the last two months I’ve been working in a school as a teacher. For the first time, I have the chance to use the marker with a large group — a group with no particular desire to be at school! How can we reinforce them? Some of the kids enjoy candies, some others like beads or extra time for recess. There are (they exist!) students who find study itself reinforcing, but, they are very, very, very rare.

What I have decided to do is to take a continuous rotation between different schedules of reinforcement: today we work for extra time for recess; tomorrow we will earn beads and bracelets; after that we will earn points for watching a movie, or to enjoy some favorite activity. It may seem an insurmountable obstacle and demoralizing at a first glance to find reinforcers suitable for a group of people. I think it could be done with a little imagination and desire to come up with new strategies. The more we become able to grasp behaviors to reinforce the easier it will be to reinforce these behaviors.

I used TAGteach in different situations; and even if I’m not using the marker, the principles of the methodology are always present (or at least I hope so…).

TAGteach for Writing Skills


PEN HOLDING: Many students have an incorrect pen holding habit. This can cause problems with the joints of the wrist, and difficulty in writing that could translate into, “I do not like to write,” or “I cannot write.” So if we want to educate future Shakespeares properly, holding the pen properly is the first step.

In this case I used two tag points:
  1. Squeeze your thumb and forefinger
  2. Push with the middle finger

The pen must be taken between thumb and forefinger and then it should rest on the middle finger. I found two good targets for these behaviors on YouTube.

First: put the pen on the table with the tip facing you.

Second: use the index and middle fingers of the left hand to position thumb and index of the writing hand to the correct height on the pen: exactly on the edge indicated by the index finger. The two photos show the two targets.


TAGteach for cursive writing and improving cognition


DYSGRAPHIA: One of my boys has some (fortunately light) cognitive problems. He writes in a disorderly manner and has few skills in the area of working memory. Instead of using some fallback strategies such as writing in capital letters or writing with the computer, I decided (respecting the personality and the expertise of the student), to have him write in cursive. I started with a tag point “Letters on Line,” to improve correct writing.The picture shows the first session we had. The red line shows his “standard” writing. Notice all those ups and downs? The blue line shows where I started marking (tagging “Letters on Line). The tagging session lasted throughout the green line. Then he continued on his own.

The difference is immediately obvious. 15 days after this intervention, the writing is still stable on the line, without me having to do other sessions. Not only that. I noticed that the way the boy is able to organize his thoughts for writing is becoming more streamlined and flowing — as if being able to write in order helps him think in order.

TAGteach for reading


READING SKILLS: Punctuation is not something that my kids are confident with. But reading with expression helps with understanding the text; and the positive experience of reading, according to the motto that I’ve just invented is, “If you can read, then you like to read.” Reading without difficulty means having the skills to study better, faster and more proficiently.

So I started to teach how to respect the pauses of punctuation with peer tagging. In peer tagging, two students work together from the same material. The exercise took place as follows: the first student reads, the second student tags his correct reading of punctuated text. The first tag point is “breathe on commas.” But it could be, at the next level, “Pause on dots,” After five tags the second peer starts reading and is tagged by the next student. That’s if you want the whole class to follow along. If you want to liven it up, just form groups of two or three students, setting shifts for the reader and for the markers with the kids doing the tagging!

About Luca

Luca Canaver is a Level 3 TAGteacher from Italy. Visit his website at: http://www.tagteachitalia.com/



Monday, November 17, 2014

TAGteach: Better than a Jedi Light Sabre!

This is an account by Seany Fdm Pogson, the father of a non-verbal child with severe developmental delay. Seany has been shaping new behaviors with his daughter, Tink, using TAGteach. Former efforts by therapists to teach Tink using hand-over-hand methods had not worked well and in fact Tink had rebelled against this touching by refusing to cooperate and regressing in some previously learned behaviors. Seany has had huge success with shaping many new behaviors and Tink is very tag savvy (and Seany is an excellent shaper!), so when Tink got sick and required oral antibiotics via syringe, Seany was able to avoid force and shape Tink to accept the syringe and happily take her medicine. Here is his account of this process:

TAGteach Jedi moments


Tink's not well and has an ear infection and the flu. Having an ear infection is also amplified by sensory processing problems, so making sure she has her medicine on time is important. Normally Tink's very good at taking her medicine but this morning not a chance. She pushed the syringe away. I tried once more this time Tink pushed the syringe away and avoided any further attempts by hugging her pillow in her play pen and biting it. This she will do when excited, stressed or if she just needs a hug and gets a hug from her pillow because sometimes she can't cope with the sensory of being hugged. So it was a no go, I couldn't even get anywhere near her mouth. Then I had a Jedi moment and a calm reassuring voice popped in my head like Ben Kenobi (Martha Gabler) "use the tag Seany". Straight away my own voice of determination popped in to my head and said "I can do this shit".

So I got the clicker from my pocket and sat near the playpen for a moment till Tink calmed down a bit from her rocking and biting on her pillow. Then I calmly reached over the to her with the syringe of medicine till I was about foot away from her face were she was burrowing it in the pillow whilst biting it. This was the first tag point and clicked and I paired it with praise "did it " (the clicker now has become a conditioned reinforcer). So I moved it forwards again a bit but waited till a brief pause in the biting as I moved the syringe closer and tagged again (clicked ) and verbal praise. This time as I tagged I noticed a brief sideways eye movement in my direction at the sound of the tag, so I seized the day and moved the syringe closer, tagged again and rewarded with "did it". Tink then moved her head up a bit sideways off the pillow, so again I moved the syringe closer about 2 inches from her mouth and tagged her. Then I moved the syringe to her lips were she grabbed it and put in her mouth and I was able to get over half in and tagged her and rewarded her with "did it yeyyyyyyyy ". At this point I was confident that she would do the same as the last time so I moved the syringe to her lips and she did exactly the same and she emptied the syringe so tagged and big "DID IT " and passed her drink to her.

This is how TAGteach and Applied Behaviour Analysis is teaching me to think. As I use it more, the more effective it and my thinking become. It's teaching me to think on my feet and apply it on my feet. This is far greater than any light sabre and more useful than any force. This is teaching me and my daughter at the same time.

Read more about Tink:

TAGteach Tale:  From Sensory Avoidance to Self-Feeding – Tink’s journey to success
TAGteach Tale: Tink rocked her blood tests!

Find out more about teaching a special needs child with TAGteach:

Martha Gabler (autism mother) TAGteach blog - free tips and step-by-step descriptions 
Free ebook by Martha Gabler: Behavior Basics - A Primer for Parents - ABA terminology explained in simple terms for parents

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Can students learn too fast?

By Fanna Easter CPDT-KA, ACDBC, KPA CTP, ABCDT-L2


It sounds like a good problem, right, but I wondered if my students were learning as much as they should.  After adding TAGteaching into my classes, either teaching pet parents or Dog Trainers, I noticed we zoomed through our daily course material.  Interestingly, this allowed additional break periods, which increases learning, I think.  Was I doing something wrong?  But why were we moving so fast?  Were students learning and retaining?  What to do with all that extra time?  

Why were we moving so fast?


Since learning about and adding TAGteaching, to classes I teach (entire world actually!), I speak less and practice more.  Now, I’m a talker, really, I am! Speaking less means I need to be very prepared, so I don’t ramble on, to make my point. Rambling is very reinforcing to me, as it redirects my “non-prepared” energy somewhere else, however, I see my students’ eyes glaze over (not very reinforcing to me).  Now, on average, I speak/instruct 30-40% of the time, during a four week class session.  Before, I spoke/instructed 75% of the time - eek! Usually, there’s more chatter on the first day, as everyone is excited and we have a new things to cover.

During a one hour class, I divide into “review” and “new” sessions, with “well used” tag points for common learning curves (think loose leash walking, there’s a lot going on and tag points are fabulous).  During “review”, we cover what was taught last week, or if teaching fellow dog trainers during a seminar, what we covered the day before.  We have plenty of time to practice, add duration, distance and distractions and create behavior chains to strengthen previously learned cues.  Then we move on to the “new” session covering four new behaviors, with practice, under using distractions, adding duration and distance.  Now, I don’t “over do” practice sessions, as it can get boring quickly.  If I see students are successful 80% of the time, during a 1-2 minute practice session, we move on, either to the next “review” or “new” behavior.

Are students learning and retaining?  

Well, I closely observed my students, to confirm they are learning and retaining.  On week one, I explain “if you don’t understand something, this is my fault, I’ve not explained it correctly”, and pet parents interrupt this as “if my dog is confused, I’m not clear, so I need to take a moment and figure this out”. And I do think this calms students, by teaching that the pressure off, I’m not judging, we are in this together.  By Week 3, students were answering their own questions. Ah ha, they are learning and retaining! A pet parent may ask about loose leash walking, in a park, and then say “Oh, that’s right, I need to move slower and reward often in a new situation. Never mind, I think I got it!”  YES!

Hum, so then I looked at class retention.  I would start a new class with 7-8 students and end with 7 students by graduation day, some dropped due to personal reasons, which is normal. 88% retention, on grad day, is not bad!  I remember my 50% retention rate, back in 1998, and I thought that was good! Now, I have clusters of 100% retention, and then I know I was rocking it and review my previous notes so I continue this great behavior!  Hum, so retention is good, they are learning at lightning speed, is this success?  My gut says yes, and classes fill quickly, within one week of advertising, but I wanted to know more.

After class, we always ended with “questions for Fanna” time and no one had any questions! Now, that freaked me out, as someone always has questions. I assumed most would stay after class, to ask their question in private.  Nope!  They thanked me, hugged my neck and left- WOW!  I remember the old days, when people lingered and asked multiple questions, which I know we covered in class already.  And, no “email questions” during the week either - DOUBLE WOW!  

What to do with all that extra time?

Usually, we ended each class session 10-15 minutes early.  Yikes, what to do?  Folks want that extra 10-15 minutes they paid for, right?  This puzzled me, we could practice more, I guess. We added games, but my gut was saying I was “overdoing it”.  Oh Oh, I noticed people sitting down, not participating as much, and offering a “we’ve done this already” face.  Speaking less and practicing more has worked, but practicing too much was punishing. Now what???  We started voting!  If you want to leave early, you are welcome to.  If you want to stay and practice a new trick, you are more than welcome to stay.  WOW - this really seemed reinforcing to students, and usually one person would stay, and was usually the overachiever.  But by Week Three, even the overachiever did not stay after class.  The only question, on graduation day, that pops up  “what class should I take next, we want to keep going”.  Music to my ears!  

I’ve learned, students staying after class, was reinforcing to me. I do miss the long line of students, waiting to get a few “extra” minutes of my time; it makes me feel rather important, like a Rock Star.  And I’m a bit jealous, gazing at the long line my fellow dog trainers accumulate after class.  Then, there I am, alone, left with sticky treat fingers and dog hair fluff, from class. Guess I need to reward myself with going home early too!

Fanna Easter, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, KPA CTP, ABCDT-L2, is very passionate about the power of positive training for dogs and humans! With her past experience, as PETCO’s National Dog Training Expert, where Fanna and her team, tirelessly developed and launched positive reinforcement training methods in all PETCO's 1250 stores and training over 2000 Dog Trainers. Fanna is currently teaching at Dogs and Kat Behavior Counseling and Training Center, in Nashville TN. She teaches everything from Positive Puppy Manners to Relaxed Rovers classes.  Fanna is the Managing Supervisor of Dog Training Nation, and launching their website soon at www.dogtrainingnation.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Effects of Using TAGteach™ to Promote Earthquake Safety for Children in School


By Luca Canever, Elisa Casarini and Eleonora Galanti

Obviously, the more you train the more skilled you get, or at least, you should get. We wished to find out if, given the same amount of training time, using an event marker (like the box clicker we use in TAGteach) could make any difference in terms of learning quality. We wished to find out if a marker based teaching could be a more effective way to improve learners' retention, endurance and application of new skills.
Retention, endurance and application are, according to C. Binder the indexes for how well we are in doing something and how skilled we are in always performing a task quickly and correctly.

  • Retention and maintenance of skills and knowledge is the index of how we remember a learned skill. For example most of us have high retention in riding a bicycle.
  • Endurance or resistance to distraction is the index of how easily we can perform a learned skill. If I can perform a given behavior effortlessly it will be easier to repeat this even in more challenging environments. We shouldn't but we can drive a car AND speak to the cell phone.
  • Application or transfer of training: Once we master a skill we can easily apply it into other context. Learning to swim in a swimming pool is helpful to swimming into the sea.(C: BINDER (1993), Behavioral Fluency new paradigm)

We tested the effects of a TAGteach-based procedure to train safety behavior in case of earthquake for children in a primary school in Italy. We also compared this teaching technique with the traditional lecture + practice protocol. Participants were first grade students of four classes in a public secondary school (aged 11). A national mandatory protocol for earthquake safety in public buildings was used for the training. Two groups were taught with a traditional method and two groups were taught with TAGteach. The dependent variables for this study were the percentages of  correct and incorrect behavior emitted by all the children during each earthquake simulation and the total time needed for the protocol execution (starting from the teacher giving the alarm signal to all children leaving the building and reaching a safe meeting place). Post-probe and follow-up data suggested that TAGteach can be an effective teaching strategy in order to increase retention and automatic execution of safety behaviors both immediately after the training and over time. 

We had the chance to work with four classes. We trained and  tested them right after the training and after 3 and 5 months. Consistently, the TAGteach classes were better, as illustrated in the graph below.

The three months test shows a huge difference between correct behaviors. In this test the correct behaviors exhibited by TAGteach Class equals the results of control class right after the training.

Overall the persistence of behaviors is more consistent and it looks like the use of TAGteach can improve the rate and the quality of the memorization of learned behaviors. The students perform better and remember better.

One teacher who took part to the research (she was one of those who taught the protocol in one of the control class) told me that during one of the tests the school runs during the year the TAGteach Classes were far more better than the others.

Apparently it's the use of TAGteach as a positive-marker based methodology that improves the quality of students' performances.

The marker delivers well timed positive feedback. Furthermore the TAGteach Methodology always focuses both teacher and student's attention on something to do, not the contrary. Students are allowed to focus on what they should learn not on what they should avoid doing. In this way their memorization is helped because no useless information are given, and the retention of the learned behaviors improved.

Thanks to Elisa Galanti and Eleonora Casarini for writing the research with me. Thanks also to the School which hosted us, to the researchers who took the data and to the students.






Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Upcoming TAGteach Seminars and Workshops



TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar  - Meet Karen Pryor!
Date: Oct 25-26, 2014
Location: Cambridge MA
Get more info and register
Download Seminar Flyer

TAGteach Advanced Workshop - 1 Day (Certified TAGteachers only)
Date: Oct 27, 2014
Location: Cambridge MA
Get more info and register  
Download Seminar Flyer

TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Nov 1-2, 2014
Location: Denver (Lakewood) CO
Get more info and register
Download Seminar Flyer

TAGteach Advanced Workshop and Level 1 Certification (Certified TAGteachers only)

Date: Nov 3, 2014
Location: Denver (Lakewood) CO
Get more info and register
Download Seminar Flyer

TAGteach Primary Certification and Training Seminar
Date: Nov 14-15, 2014
Location: Silver City NM
Get more info and register 
Download Seminar Flyer

Friday, June 27, 2014

TAGteacher Tale: Success After a Seminar

One of the great things about a TAGteach seminar - attendees go straight home, put the techniques into practice and see success right away.

Below is an example of how fast you can implement TAGteach in your lessons.
From Dagmar, an attendee form a seminar in Switzerland:

Dear Theresa: 
This morning, I had great success using the things I learned  at the TAGteach seminar in Sornetan.
It was the second lesson with the handler of two young dogs (16 and 18 weeks old). I knew her from a seminar I gave about calming stressed dogs. 
We worked on a holding the leash in a manner that may help calm her dogs.  Several behaviors including: taking hold of the leash, standing on one point, and relax as you hold the leash were put together and called "Standby". To simplify her focus, I attached a green piece of tape to her leash hand, and another piece of tape on her stomach. When she performed the "Standby" sequence, she just had to touch the two green pieces of tape together to have the perfect leash position. 
The instructions were: "Standby" and The tag point was "green to green". First, I demonstrated and tagged myself, then I let the client tag me, and finally they tagged themselves. 
First she felt a bit strange as she came from the hardcore dog training in German and Swiss dog places (Schutzdienst)...but then they realized how easily THEY learned the skills. I was so happy.
I repeated the mantra: “green to green”  and as the students became more relaxed with their behavior, the dogs also began to settle. 
Dear Theresa, dear Joey (Iverson), I thank you so much for opening up a world of giving training.
I hope I will see again soon
Dagmar (the musician )www.hundelongierschule.ch

Upcoming TAGteach Seminars 


            



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TAGteach for Parents of Children Age 3-10

By  Luca Canever


TAGtots! What A Blast!




The TAGteach methodology has been used many times with  kids, (as you can see in this video), but this was the first time an entire TAGteach Seminar was dedicated to parents and educators of children aged 3 to 10 years. The seminar was presented by TAGteach co-founder Theresa McKeon. Theresa introduced us to TAGteach tools and the laws of behavior and how they can be used to communicate with our children in a positive, caring, and empathetic manner.



We were also able to discuss and watch videos demonstrating how to change an emotion by changing physical behaviors as seen in this video. Here the child’s attitude towards swimming was changed by reinforcing the desired physical behavior.


Practical Applications


During the afternoon session we worked together on three different projects to identify behaviors that can be identified, highlighted, and reinforced in everyday situations.

EATING VEGETABLES: One group chose to use successive approximations to introduce vegetables to their children. They could reinforce looking at vegetables, then smelling, touching and finally taking small bites, observing the child's body language to establish when they are ready for the next step. Theresa also suggested that parents initially play tag game together “ignoring” the child. The parents could start with the same approximations (looking, smelling, touching, tasting) that are to be ultimately be performed by the child. In this way the child is gradually introduced to the practice in a playful manner and with a low emotional impact.

RAISE YOUR HAND (Before speaking in the classroom): In this scenario a single, specific behavior was requested by a teacher. A focus funnel was used to provide context for the tag point.

The instructions are: Raise your hand before speaking
The tag point is: Raise your hand

Theresa suggested initially giving the taggers to the students and having them ‘tag the teacher’ each time the teacher performs the tag point, ‘Raise hand before speaking’. This process could help the children participate in the learning process and  pay more attention to the teacher. The students could have tagulators hanging from their desks and pull a bead each time the teacher raises her hand. After a few repetitions, the teacher would collect the taggers and begin tagging the student’s behavior of ‘Raise hand before speaking’. When all the beads have been pulled, the students could choose a favorite activity as an added reinforcer. 

HUDDLE ROUND: The purpose of this project was to discover a positive way to gather children back together as quickly as possible after being separated by activities within the classroom. The process had to be compatible with a class of children ages 3 to 6 years.

The process started with the teacher taking the hand of one child and proclaiming “Tag!” That child grabs another student’s hand and calls “Tag!” and so on and so until everyone is holding hands in a circle. They end with everyone raising their clasped hands in the air and proclaiming “Tag!” In this way the children are part of the process of gathering together physically and mentally with the benefit of having the children part of the process.

A special thank you to all the participants who have chosen to accept the challenge of finding new and positive ways to interact with their children.

To Theresa McKeon who has accepted this new challenge ... thank you is not enough!

P.S. Success!


Two days later I've got some news. One of the teachers has already began to experiment the marker in her classroom and one of the dads has already taught his son to tie his shoes!