An ABA Practitioner’s Guide to Evidence-Based Staff Training

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Parsons, Rollyson, and Reid provided a six-step guide to providing evidence-based staff trainings for practitioners of Applied Behavior Analysis, published in Behavior Analysis in Practice.  The authors stressed that “evidence-based” implies that the training is based on performance and competency.  The performance component requires your trainees to emit behavior during the training which approximates the skills targeted for the session.  The competency component requires that the performance of your trainees meet a minimum standard for accuracy.

Step 1 – Describe the target skill. As a trainer, you should provide a rationale for why the skills are important, along with a description of the component behaviors that comprise the skill.

Step 2 – Provide a succinct, written description of the target skill. The written description should complement the vocal description given in Step 1.  Remember, the more specific you can get the better.  The authors recommend developing a checklist of necessary actions to take when performing the skill.

Step 3 – Demonstrate the target skill. Often times, trainers get caught up in didactic instruction at the expense of demonstration.  As a trainer, you should model the target skills through role playing with another trainer or trainee.  If using another trainer, ensure that everyone knows exactly what they are to do during the demonstration by scripting the interaction beforehand.  If using a trainee, make sure the trainer instructs him/her using as specific language as possible.  The authors also recommend inserting “pauses” or “freezes” into the demonstration at certain key places such that the trainer can elaborate on crucial aspects of the skill.

Step 4 – Require trainee practice of the target skill.  You will never really know how effective your demonstration was until you see how well others imitate you.  The authors recommend pairing off the trainees such that one practices the therapist role and the other the role of the client, and vice versa.

Step 5 – Provide feedback during practice. What good is a performance-based staff training without performance feedback?  Ideally, you will want to provide your feedback on an individualized basis at the end of a role play using supportive feedback (i.e., detailing the correct behaviors that you observed) and corrective feedback (i.e., detailing how to perform skills correctly in the future).

Step 6 – Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to mastery.  Practice and feedback, practice and feedback…again, again, and again, until your trainees are able to demonstrate, through their behavior, that they have mastered the skill.  “Mastered” in this case means your trainees perform the skill to 100% accuracy every time.

The full article goes on to describe a case study that demonstrates the effective implementation of the six steps to teach most-to-least prompting and the use of manual signs.

Do you have experience with evidence-based staff training?  Share them in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns and  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment on "An ABA Practitioner’s Guide to Evidence-Based Staff Training"

  1. Jeremy Wilson | August 9, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Reply

    Possible modification?:
    Step 6: Establish Accuracy
    Step 7: Achieve Fluency (RESAA Outcomes)

    RESAA outcomes would easily translate over. We need more focus on fluent implementation of instructional procedures.

    Regardless, a great article and reminder about how to train staff! Thank you for sharing!!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.