Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Congratulations New TAGteachers!

Our congratulations to the following new and advancing TAGteachers. We are proud of your accomplishments and honored that you are taking this journey with us!

New Level 1’s
Jennifer Nash LRSD, BCBA
Lisa Knighten, OT
Dr. Jennifer Hennessey, BCBA, Behavior Intervention Consultant
Shelia Smith

New Level 2
Madeline Gabriel

Seminar Feedback from Educators

One of the areas in which we think TAGteach could have a profound impact is in the classroom, so we are thrilled to have been able to conduct seminars for educators from the Alternative Organizational Structure 94 Board Special Services in Maine and Arkansas Department of Education - Special Education Unit. In attendance were behavior analysts, early childhood behavior specialists, school psychology specialists, speech pathologists, and other specialists. TAGteach cofounder Theresa McKeon said:
Every state should be lucky enough to have a group this educated, dedicated and open-minded.
Here are some comments from attendees at the first training session in AK:
It truly was one of the best trainings I have ever had the opportunity to attend. Not only will help me in my professional world, but my daughter also learned to tie her shoes without the normal frustration we would experience. Thanks so much! - Sheila Smith

I agree with all Shelia said! I never believed I could teach my daughter to tie her shoes in less than an hour! I'm excited to see how I can use all I learned professionally. - Jennifer Hennessey

Thank you for investing your time bringing your training to AR. I agree with Shelia and Jennifer. Definitely was one of the best 2 days of training in 15 years. I look forward to applying the strategies at work and home and expect amazing results. - Laura McKenzie Cooke

And some comments after the second session:
Once again, the training was amazing!!! One of the most practical trainings I have ever attended. I highly recommend it to others in the field of education. Can't wait for the advanced training! - Sheila Smith

I agree with Shelia. I got positive feedback from all attendees. One sent me a text saying "I LOVE TAGTEACH" Thanks for another awesome training! - Jennifer Hennessey

If you are an educator and you have a training budget give us a call. Your teachers and specialist educators will love TAGteach!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Continuing Education Credits for TAGteach Seminars

Attendees at TAGteach seminars qualify for continuing education credits from the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers and from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board


A TAGteach seminar falls under the description for Type 3 Continuing  Education:

Completion or instruction of a seminar, colloquium, presentation, conference event, workshop or symposium not approved by the BACB, or engaging in supervision activities, only if they relate directly to the practice of behavior analysis. A maximum of 25 percent of the total required number of hours of continuing education may be applied from this category during any three-year certification period.


The TAGteach online course qualifies for 9 CE credits from CCPDT. Just make a copy of your certificate and submit this. There is no need for any other form.

TAGteach live seminars qualify for 13 CCPDT credits.  We don't apply for these every time, since each seminar requires a separate application. If anyone whats these credits please tell us ahead for time so that we can do the application.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Self Assessment - Developing an Athlete's "Inner Eye"

By Theresa McKeon

The customary way to put a nail through a board is to pound it with a hammer. It’s fast, forceful and hammering can be a physical outlet for frustration. But what if there was a superior nail that with a little guidance would pull itself through the board and hold longer and stronger? Could you put down the hammer?

The following techniques are designed to help athletes build a repertoire of problem solving skills and a path towards self reliance in place of coach reliance.

Reinforce the Process

Step 1

Although feedback from the coach is imperative, an athlete who can self-assess will ultimately decrease his dependency on an instructor and increase his desire to look inward for answers. The process of handing over some of the reins may take a bit of time. At first athletes may be stymied by the prospect of being part of their own coaching staff. They have been programmed to take corrections directly from their coach, not to look inward. Coaches may initially fear wasting practice time while athletes find their ‘coach within’, but the results are very motivating.

Success is motivational so athlete and coach need to find immediate reinforcement opportunities. The techniques used in the TAGteach methodology are very helpful in providing organized opportunities for reinforcement in combination with self assessment. This can be valuable in the transition from passively being coached to participating actively in the process. With TAGteach, (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance) feedback from the coach is transmitted audibly with a simple device that produces a sharp click sound. This sound, called a 'tag', marks a single response, action or position called a tag point. The tag means "yes, correct". The absence of the tag means “self assess”. This binary feedback eliminates the need for immediate verbal performance feedback from the coach which can be loaded with social and emotional nuances. It allows the athlete to make the judgment "I did it right" or "I need to try something else next time". The athlete focuses on the results of the performance of the specific tag point and not on the tone of voice or other irrelevant information that often accompanies verbal corrections.

To make this work, the coach creates a single issue task that is set up for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Take for example a volleyball player who has trouble remembering to bend her knees before she bumps the ball. The coach sets up a single issue task (tag point) that can be judged as correct or not correct. “The tag point is…knees bent.” If the athlete bends her knees before the bump, the coach tags. The athlete, conditioned to identify that sound as, “yes”, captures the mental snapshot of this correct placement and immediately moves on to assess any internal feedback of the position.

If the athlete does not hear the tag he uses this information to self assess:
“No tag? What was the tag point?

It was…knees bent.

My knees must not have been bent.

I will focus on the bend next turn.”
The athlete self assesses before the coach provides additional feedback. This fosters accountability and may decrease the athlete's dependence on commentary from the coach.

To stave off frustration, the guidelines of TAGteach recommend that if the learner hears ‘no tag’ in three successive tries, the coach lowers the criterion for the tag to a level where success is more certain. The coach then increases the difficulty gradually with ever more challenging tag points. This creates a climate of success for the learner and keeps frustration to a minimum.

Step 2

Now that the act of self assessing has been made reinforcing for the athlete (the sound of the tag is associated with success) and the coach (less corrections, more athlete accountability and faster skill acquisition), the next step is to develop the athlete’s problem solving skills.

First the athlete must be given problems to solve. The tagging technique gently introduces problem solving. The final answer can always be found in the clearly stated tag point.
“I didn’t receive a tag…why?” “The tag point was...toes touching in the handstand” “If I’m not getting tagged it must be because my toes are apart.” “I’ll put my toes together” (athlete hears the tag) “yep, that’s what it was!”
Step 3

Say an athlete attempts a tag point three times and does not succeed. Instead of automatically giving an easier tag point the coach may ask the athlete, “this is what we are trying to accomplish, what you think the new tag point should be?” Depending on the athlete’s age and skill level, the coach can quickly shepherd the athlete to a new tag point or allow a more extended dialogue. For example,

Coach: "The tag point was swing the tennis racket parallel to the ground. You didn’t receive a tag on the last three swings. Do you know why?"

Athlete: "No! I understand the tag point but I really felt like I was swinging the racket parallel."

Coach: "OK, what should we do?"

Athlete: "First we should find out if we mean the same thing by ‘parallel’."

Coach: "Great idea. Show me what parallel feels like to you?"

Athlete: (Athlete demonstrates)

Coach: "Aha! There is the problem. The racket head needs to be tilted farther forward." (Coach tilts the athlete’s racket to the correct spot and marks it with a tag)

Athlete: "OK, that’s different from what I thought the tag point was. Can we tag this position a few more times without the swing so I can get used to it?"

Coach: (Tags the corrected racket placement and the athlete feels more successful and confident)

Athlete: "OK, I am ready to put it back into the full swing.”
This scenario illustrates how useful athlete input can be and that with a little guidance the athlete can solve problems and ultimately shorten learning time. If the coach had simply kept repeating, “Parallel…the racket needs to be parallel…why are you ignoring the correction?” both parties could have become frustrated resulting in stalled progress. By creating a concentrated formula for delivering information (the audible tag), the TAGteach methodology reduces the time spent on external feedback, allowing for increased attention to internal feedback. Now it is possible for athletes to be part of the process and to take a cognitive role in their journey to accomplishment.

The nail, with a little guidance, can pull itself through the board.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TAGteacher Tale - Toddler Tagging Follow-up

Thanks to TAGteacher Denise Lacey for keeping us updated on her toddler tagging adventures. Denise is a clicker trainer and TAGteacher who has been tagging her young son with great results.

My son is almost 27 months old. Focusing on the stuff I want him to do is working really well. He is currently the only kid in his "social circle" who does not use the word "no" as a general response/statement. He has used it a couple times to decline when I asked him if he wanted something. That to me seems really reasonable.

He is helpful in getting dressed and feeding himself. He (usually) is cooperative with having his teeth brushed. He holds my hand when we go in the street and will insist on holding other peoples hands if they are nearby. He also makes wonderful "piggy noises", has learned to blow "raspberries", and is generally a fun little guy. We're getting good with all sorts of things using positive reinforcement. And usually I can ignore the bad stuff and redirect with other behaviors I want.

But this evening I found it impossible to ignore him kicking a plate of stew left from lunch off the kitchen table. Management issue: I suppose I will have to improve my table clearing skills for the near future.


p.s. Lest you think my child is really a wild beast in a zoo, I confess that I don't think the plate was intentionally kicked. I was turned away finishing wrapping a gift for a cousin's birthday party and had left him happily eating pretzels in a chair so the dog couldn't "help." I believe he climbed on the table and began dancing (a behavior which has earned him a great deal of attention/reinforcement lately so why not try it out on the table) and accidentally dislodged said plate with all contents to the floor. And my response, while I couldn't ignore it, consisted of sitting him on the bottom step so I could clean up the mess without him running through it. Our "bottom down" cue worked pretty well since he seemed to still want to go dancing. Meanwhile, my husband will enjoy our son's impact on my housekeeping skills. I bet I even get clicked for the prompt cleaning!

Check out our previous blog posts about toddler tagging

TAGteacher Spotlight - Helix Fairweather

Helix Fairweather is Certified Level 2 TAGteacher and an accomplished clicker trainer. Helix is a faculty member of Clicker Expo and the Karen Pryor Academy for Dog Training and behavior. She was the first to apply TAGteach techniques in the instruction of dog handlers, developing tag points for the front cross and other agility-related maneuvers.
I first learned of TAGteach through something Karen Pryor wrote some years ago. I tried so hard to chase down more information searching the internet, looking for books and so on - there was nothing out there at the time! Imagine how happy I was to then be invited to be on the first year's Clicker Expo faculty. Finally, I had first-hand information about TAGteaching!

One of the most joyous uses of TAGteach for me currently is in presenting seminars. My co-presenter, Megan Cruz, KPA CTP, and I bring bags of small candy bars and Werthers to our seminars. As people ask good questions or make observations about dog body language, we give them a bone cut out of cardstock, redeemable for the candy of their choice. It's really fun to see the seminar attendees start indicating "oh! she should get a tag for that" as they pick up on noticing the behaviors we are reinforcing. 

Sometimes someone will run up to our table on a break and grab a bone to hand to someone who just did something great.
Find out more about Helix from her blogs and wesbite: (How to raise a puppy the clicker way)