Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Evolution of TAGteach

Recently we held our first official TAGteach webinar. The title of this was "TAGteach Update" and the purpose was to bring TAGteachers up to date on changes in practices since 2003 when we first got started. Many examples of innovative TAGteach applications were presented and it is interesting and exciting to see how far we have come from our first experiments with gymnasts and dancers.

This webinar is available free to TAGteach members at the member area of the TAGteach website. Non-members may purchase access to it for $19.97 in the TAGteach store.

We strongly encourage all TAGteachers to watch this webinar.

The "Tag"

One of main aspects of the evolution of TAGteach is our change in focus from the "tag" part to the "teach" part. At first we were simply isolating key skill components (creating tag points) and marking them with an audible tag for successful completion. This in itself made a big difference in athlete performance and comprehension but we have continued to refine our approach so that it is even more powerful and effective.

The "Teach"

Now we are more focused on the "teach" component that precedes the tag point delivery. We have continued to simplify and reduce our language to allow for even greater learner comprehension and success and less and less frustration for both learner and teacher.

One of the main tools that we have developed is the focus funnel. This gives a clear mechanism for the teacher to define the lesson, create clear directions and distill the teaching goal to one specific tag point for the current teaching moment. Within the framework of the focus funnel we include qualifiers or contingencies within the directions and not within the tag point. For example, in the past we might have said to a learner, "while you jump arch your back, the tag point is arched back". Now we would include the qualifier (the instruction about "when" to arch) in the directions. We would say, "the directions are perform a high jump and arch your back at the top of the jump; the tag point is arch back".

We have come to recognize the importance of success itself as a powerful reinforcer. Our current methodology focuses on setting up the learning environment for success and reducing the reliance on external reinforcers (stickers, food etc).

Collaboration with Animal Training

TAGteach has its roots in clicker training, which has been used effectively with animals since the 1940s when B.F. Skinner first discovered the role of reinforcement in influencing behavior. When we first started to introduce TAGteach to the parents of young dancers and gymnastics, we had some parents reacting with horror that we would train their children using animal training methods. A change of name to TAGteach and distancing ourselves from an association with animal training did the trick and allowed us to make inroads with TAGteach without the stigma of treating kids like animals. Of course we retained our close personal and professional ties with the animal training community and we continued to learn from them and to use what we learned to improve the TAGteach methodology. Now TAGteach is a recognized approach by the human behavior analysis community and is in used in hundreds of applications around the world. We are once again able to celebrate our roots in animal training and to collaborate with animal trainers openly and to recognize that human teachers have a lot to learn from the skills and techniques of animal trainers.

In this vein we held our first TAGteach Certification Seminar with the theme of collboration between human teachers and animal trainers. We were lucky enough to have the inestimable Karen Pryor speak at this seminar on the topic of the evolution of TAGteach and the collaboration with animal trainers that has contributed strongly to this evolution. Clips from her speech will be comping soon!

The TAGteach Update webinar is available free to TAGteach members at the member area of the TAGteach website. Non-members may purchase it for $19.97 in the TAGteach store.

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