Thursday, January 19, 2012

TAGteach vs Clicker Training

By Karen Pryor

Are you a TAGteacher? Add some clicker savvy to your tool kit.

Are you a clicker trainer? Add TAGteach know-how to your dealings with people.

What's the difference?

Clicker training is a name for marker-based training with animals. TAGteach is a name for marker-based training with people.

For the past eight years, these two branches of reinforcement technology have been maturing side by side. Both systems use reinforcement instead of correction. Both teach you to use clear and consistent cues, sharp observation, and excellent timing. Both break down behavior into small units, and reinforce one step at a time. Both teach new behavior in fast, brief, and intensive sessions—not in long repetitive drills.

The big difference is that dogs can't talk and people can.

Clicker trainers rely on the fundamental tools of operant conditioning, such as shaping, primary and secondary reinforcers, behavior chains, reinforcement schedules, and conditioned stimuli or cues.

TAGteachers can talk to their students. TAGteaching uses conditioned reinforcers as feedback. The information itself is reinforcing, so 'backup' reinforcers (food, money, etc.) are often not needed at all. TAGteach shows you, the teacher, how to control your own verbal behavior. We learn to deliver instructions, TAGpoints, and verbal reinforcers using minimal, specific, and consistent wording in a reinforcing way. 
What more do we need?

What's been coming home for me lately is that we need each other more than we knew. Clicker trainers are sometimes baffled by how to get cooperation from human beings, yet every animal we train has people attached: owners, shelter staff, zookeepers, veterinarians. We also have co-workers, supervisors, and recalcitrant offspring, just like the rest of the world. Clicker trainers really benefit when they learn more about TAGteaching.

TAGteachers could use some clicker input, too. What exactly we TAG folks need to know depends on what we are teaching. For example, musicians receive huge benefits from skilled use of back-chaining, but don't need complicated reinforcement schedules. Working with people on the autism spectrum involves capturing, building duration, and using variable schedules to extend new skills into real-life situations. Sports coaches need to learn more about shaping—how to break down behavior into separate elements, to focus on just one element at a time, and to sequence those elements effectively.
Where can we learn more?

I'm finding that groundbreakers in new areas of application do especially well if they have both a TAGteach exposure and a good clicker exposure. And guess what? Now there's an easier way to get that.

Learn TAGteach

TAGteach International offers an online course for independent TAGteach learning.

The course has been upgraded and newly designed, and it's easy and fun. An online mentor is available for questions and help. The course is designed to take about four weeks of your spare time.

Learn clicker training

Last month Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) launched a Dog Trainer Foundations course, an online course for learning clicker training independently. This course is also easy and fun. There's an online teacher, and a bulletin board for help from other students. The Dog Trainer Foundations course is designed to take about eight weeks of your spare time.
Start the New Year with a new adventure

Are you a TAGteacher? Add some clicker savvy to your tool kit.

Are you a clicker trainer? Add TAGteach know-how to your dealings with people.

Want more?

Become a KPA Certified Training Partner with the professional-level Dog Trainer Program. Become a certified TAGteacher with the TAGteach International certification program.

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