What is the point? With TAGteach™, a revolutionary new way of teaching, it’s a tag point. The tag point is the specific learning goal that the teacher will mark with a tag that highlights success for the learner. The tag pinpoints the exact moment the tag point is executed correctly and gives immediate and clear feedback to the learner or athlete. The most common and effective way to mark a correct response is with a short sharp sound made using a handheld clicker or tagger.
The tag becomes a positive reinforcer through association with tangible rewards (candy for example) or as a result of the good feelings that are come from success and improvement and praise from the teacher. Younger learners keep track of their tags and trade them in for beads, stickers or other prizes. Older and higher level learners often do not require a tangible primary reinforcer, since they are reinforced just by receiving the immediate and clear feedback from the tag. TAGteach is a targeted organized approach to giving positive reinforcement that facilitates accelerated learning while minimizing frustration on the part of teacher and learner.
Clarity and simplicity are key aspects of TAGteach. A tag point is defined so that the learner does not need to ask why he didn’t get a tag if the tag does not come. Tag points are never combined, since this can cause confusion, frustration and sometimes outright hostility in the learner. If a soccer player is asked to kick with the side of his foot, while looking at the target and holding his arms out for balance and the tag does not come, he will ask the coach which part he didn’t get correct. The coach will be forced to answer and this leads to verbal correction and defeats the purpose of using the TAGteach method. The TAGteacher thinks ahead, plans the succession of tag points that will be required to shape the skill and works on them one at time. As the learner becomes proficient with each piece, the entire skill naturally comes together. Sometimes a learner regresses. In this case the teacher moves back a step in the shaping plan and works back up again. Each time the learner improves more quickly than in the previous session. If a learner is having trouble, the teacher breaks the difficult aspect into even smaller increments so that the learner can succeed and earn a tag. TAGteachers learn to set their learners up for success so that learning becomes a very positive experience for both teacher and learner, with success leading to further success.
The immediacy and clarity of the feedback allows the learner to form a mental picture of the movement or position in association with the tag sound. “I can see a picture of myself doing it in my head”, said a ballet student when asked to explain why TAGteach helped to fix a problem with which he had been struggling for years. This “mental picture” description is frequently articulated by learners when asked what happens in their minds when they hear the tag. Some scientists think that the click sound is processed by the amygdala, a primitive part of the brain that controls emotion and fight or flight responses. This bypasses the complex processing of speech and allows for immediate processing and action. This may explain the rapid acquisition of skills and excellent retention rates that occur in high level competitive gymnasts taught with TAGteach.
TAGteach has been used in many disciplines, including business skills, music instruction, language instruction, sport coaching, speech pathology, physio and occupational therapy, medical student training, academic classroom, special needs classroom and more. “Tagging has taught my learners to think for themselves”, said kindergarten teacher Amy Roberts. “We saw an almost immediate improvement in skill execution and confidence in our Special Olympics rhythmic gymnasts”, said Debbie Boycott, head coach of the Oakville Butterflies from Oakville, ON Canada. “The athletes were very quick to understand and appreciate this way of teaching and were even able to teach each other using the TAGteach method”.
This teaching each other is called peer tagging, and is one of the most powerful aspects of TAGteach. Learners learn to tag each other and in so doing become caring teachers and keen observers. These learners learn twice, once by doing and receiving feedback from the tagger and once by watching and marking the correct performance of their peer. Peer tagging allows the teacher to focus on individual pairs while everyone is working. All learners receive positive reinforcement, even the “shadow child” who often gets little recognition in a traditional teaching environment because she does not cause trouble, but neither is she a rising star.
TAGteach is good for learners and teachers and it is also good for business. "Designing a safe system like this means breaking down each task into its individual components,” says Amy Duz, a corporate trainer who specializes in the fishing industry. “The process forces you to observe what goes on at every step and since everybody participates in the process, breaking something down becomes something everyone knows how to do. It's not just a job for management or the trainer, it’s everyone's job. This lends itself to more cooperation and consistency”.