Applied behavior analysis can be used in all walks of life; it’s amazing to see how beneficial it can be to enhance someone’s life such as helping to improve an athlete’s game to change classroom behaviors. For the two scenarios the rationale for each selected behavioral modification strategy will be explained, discuss behavioral chaining, using of token economies for classrooms, mastering units of behavior, and end by discussing the role of back up reinforcers. Goal: Improving Brendan’s Serve Brendan is a 17-year-old tennis player that wishes to improve his game.
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Brendan’s coach referred him to a sports psychologist to assist him with improving his serve. Achieving his overall goal of serving with the correct speed and accuracy to help him win his matches is the target behavior that needs modification. I must admit before this chapter, I didn’t even know that behavior analysis could help improve an athlete’s game. It is rather fascinating. The sports psychologist decided which behavior modification would best suit Brendan’s needs by interviewing him, reviewing videotapes of his serve, and considering which strategy would fit him personally for the task he is performing.
The result the psychologist chose was the strategy of behavior chaining. An alternative that he could have chosen was shaping reinforcement, but that is found to be time consuming and with Brendan’s competitive drive, I am sure he wanted results as soon as possible. To help improve Brendan’s serve, the psychologist would complete what is known as a task analysis of the components of the behavioral sequence or indentify all the different stimulus-response components in the chain. (“What is behavioral,” 2011). With Brendan, it was determined that each step of his serve be broken down into separate units or steps.
The units in this scenario include: the starting position, ball toss, swing of the racket back, acceleration of the racket, contact with the ball, and the final unit consisting of follow-through. There are different behavior chaining methods, for determining which method to use for each individual you must decide which procedure to use to teach the new sequence of behavior. For Brendan, I believe forward chaining, teaching the chain from the beginning to the end are taught so it flows through its naturally occurring order so that he receives training on each step as he proceeds to the next.
You could use total-task chaining, being taught all at once when reinforcement depends on completing the entire chain, but with this case it is best to get each step broken down to work on each one individually. A behavior chain is a sequence of certain responses; it can be broken down into smaller steps using task analysis. It involves reinforcing individual responses that occur in a sequence that are linked together to achieve a certain behavior and produce a terminal outcome.
After the initial unit has been reinforced, known as the primary reinforcement, then each response in the chain simultaneously serves as a secondary reinforcer for the response that produced it and as a discriminative stimulus for the next response in the chain (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007). Each step of this chain must be followed in its naturally occurring order for this task. Once each unit of the task has been achieved, then reinforcement has been acquired for that behavior in the sequence and then going on to the next unit until reinforcement has been made for each of the units in the chain.
If the targeted skill has been achieved, then the procedure is considered to be effective. Effectiveness and efficiency of teaching can be determined to be critical factors in evaluating chaining procedures. Efficiency is defined as the number of learning trials or time it takes to reach the criterion performance, as well as the number of errors that occur in order to achieve acquisition (Gast, Doyle, Wolery, & Ault, 1991).
If there is difficulty with mastering an aspect of the behavior chain, the behaviorist should allow for adjustments in the task analysis and allow for more extensive training on certain parts of more difficult units in order to achieve reinforcement to the ultimate goal of mastery. In order to achieve mastery level of unit behavior, you take the individual units in sequence and have demonstrated mastery for the completion for each unit and concrete observable criterion for mastery of each unit.
Brendan must continue reinforcement to maintain behavior or his performance may suffer. Token Economy for Ms. Riley’s Class For the case of Ms. Riley and her energetic third-grade class, an ABA professional came up with the idea for implementing a token economy system to help with a goal of trying to settle them down enough to learn. A token economy is defined as a system in which individuals can earn tokens for targeted behaviors and once a specified number of tokens have been earned, they can be traded in for an item or activity that is desired.
For a classroom that needs a behavior modification program in place, token economies can be used to meet educational and behavioral goals for children. Since no other teacher has been able to accomplish this with class, a reward system with tokens may be a way to focus their attention for meeting their desired behaviors, it clearly seems as it would be the best rationale. Tokens function as a conditioned reinforcer to achieve the target behavior. Token economies are designed using six steps.
The first step is to select the tokens that will be used; in this case it is a puzzle piece. The children will have a puzzle on the wall, each day they meet their desired behavior, they earn a puzzle piece to be glued to the puzzle. This way they can clearly see how they are progressing and how far they have to go to earn their prize. The puzzle on the wall can serve as a reminder and reinforcer to behave, which includes; no fighting, remain seated during class, raising hands to answer problems or ask a question, and completing assignments in class.
Step two consists of identifying the target behavior and rules. We already know the target behavior is to settle down to be able to learn, so the rules are as follows: there is a ten piece puzzle on the wall, for each, the class will receive a puzzle piece, when the puzzle is complete, the class will have a pizza party and no homework assigned for two weekends in a row. The third step is choosing back up reinforcers. In this case, the children seem very energetic; some backup reinforcers can include an extra long recess, watching a movie, or playing games.
Backup reinforcers can help the children to see that they can actually earn rewards for good behavior in addition to waiting to celebrate their party. In this case, in addition to the party prize, if the children go five days in a row obtaining a puzzle piece they will get one of these of the backup reinforcers rewarded. Step four is establishing a ratio of exchange meaning at first, the ratio between the number of tokens and the price of backup items should be small so the learners success is immediate, gradually adjusting the ratio exchange to maintain responsiveness of the children (Cooper, Howard, ; Heron, 2007).
Step five is specifying in writing, when and how tokens will be rewarded and what happens if the requirements are not met, basically laying out the rules. We have already established how tokens are earned, but some actions need to be focused on, such as students fighting or acting out, there will be no bonus of the backup reinforcer incentive for that week. Most children like additional recesses or extra incentives and if someone messes that up, they might use peer pressure to stop it from happening again.
The last step is conducting a field test before implementation. A few days before starting the token economy, observe the children and tally to see if they would have earned a puzzle piece without actually giving them one and decide if they system is appropriate for the children. Being a parent of three children I know kids like to be rewarded and as a parent we enjoy giving our children treats and rewards for behaving and acting appropriately.
They don’t have to be anything big, just a little extra perk now and then to thank them for being good and showing our appreciation for behaving. The same principle works for classes, what kid wouldn’t behave to receive a pizza party or no homework for a couple weekends? Conclusion Each case used different methods for behavioral modification, I hope that I was able to clearly identify the rationale behind each of the ABA professional’s choices, and discuss what they were and how and why they would help each scenario. References
Cooper, J. , Heron, T. & Howard, W. (2007). Applied behavior analysis. (2nd Edition). Upper Saddler River, NJ: Pearson Education. Gast, D. , Doyle, P. , Wolery, M. , & Ault, M. , (1991). Assessing the acquisition of incidental information by secondary-age students with mental retardation: comparison of response prompting strategies. American Journal of Mental Retardation. 1991;96:63-80. What is behavioral chaining?. (2011). Retrieved from http://www. allsands. com/Health/behavioralchain_vyl_gn. htm