Training Solutions are Evolving…With or Without Behavior Analysis


By Nicholas Weatherly, PhD, BCBA-D ([email protected])

bSci21 Guest Author

As the field of behavior analysis was evolving from fundamental theory and experimentation to advanced principles and widespread application, the training technologies at our disposal were also evolving. As we’ve moved from Teaching Machines to paper-based programmed instruction to PowerPoint presentations we have now entered a full-blown training and eLearning revolution. Training-delivery has become vibrant and exciting, programs are intuitive, and you can even take an entire training course from your phone while waiting in an airport. But with a $60 billion and rising eLearning industry at center stage in the world’s training purview, it is important for the behavior-analytic foundation behind learning and performance to keep a close proximity with training technologies.

As in typical business and industry, there is an ever-present place for training in both the academic and applied areas of behavior analysis. Along with the training of new behavior analysts in our graduate and undergraduate-training systems, training is an essential component in the procedural integrity of research and it is often part of typical practitioner job duties regardless of your area of practice or your role within a company. Thus proper training techniques and “best practice” must be within the boundaries of ones competence. This means that behavior analysts should have an understanding of training standards and the training provided under the purview of behavior-analytic work should be based on research. In a 2011 review of articles in the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management over a 5-year period, Johnson and Rubin found that only approximately 3% of the 65 articles addressed training solutions. If these data maintain then this paints a picture in which training platforms are evolving and the use of these training platforms is increasing, but research supporting training solutions is dwindling.

With each new eLearning product, training start-up, and market survey it’s extremely apparent how integral applied behavior analysis is in the evolution of training technologies. The popularity of new instructor-led fads and eLearning trends does not guarantee that the principles of behavior responsible for learning and performance are embedded within promises for training efficacy and ROI. Even with new online delivery systems and advancements in animation and technology, typical text-driven and instructor-led training is still stringing together numerous long antecedents without frequent response opportunities to demonstrate learning and without contingent feedback. The visual value of an automated video still overshadows the lack of a demonstration of learning, response requirements, and feedback in most innovative eLearning programs. Even some of the most highly rated simulations and scenario-based programs still lack contingent feedback, instead opting for the user to move on within the sequence, only to eventually find out that a previous response was incorrect and resulted in a poor sequence of events. 

There is a place for behavior analysis in the rapidly evolving and expanding training world. The foundation, experience, and empirical growth of behavior-analytic training principles can provide a large service to populations in need of effective training solutions. Behavior analysis has a role to play in guiding this training evolution based on our science. Our science can guide specific and generalizable antecedents, evoking the right response using motivating operations based on relevant learner needs and clear SDs developed from real-world scenarios. Our science can program and track clear demonstrations of learning, with frequent, immediate, and contingent feedback and reinforcement to accelerate learning. Our science, as it currently stands, can add value and get things started. We just need to grow and not lose sight of the needs of our colleagues and those whom we serve.


Johnson, D. A., & Rubin, S. (2011). Effectiveness of Interactive Computer-Based Instruction: A Review of Studies Published Between 1995 and 2007. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 55-94.

About the Author:

Nic WeatherlyDr. Nicholas Weatherly is a consultant with Aubrey Daniels International and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral. He received his Ph.D. from Western Michigan University’s Applied Behavior Analysis Program where his research and studies centered on performance management interventions, behavior-based safety, behavioral systems analysis, and programmed instruction. Prior to joining ADI, Dr. Weatherly spent 5 years as a university professor, conducting research and teaching courses across a variety of areas of experimental and applied behavior analysis. He has provided consultative services across a number of industries, specializing in organizational assessments, fluency training, eLearning, and coaching systems. Dr. Weatherly is the incoming President of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts.

Over the years, Dr. Weatherly has held advisory roles and served on the board of directors for a number of professional associations, advocacy groups, and service facilities including the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis, the Minnesota Northland Association for Behavior Analysis, the Georgia Association for Behavior Analysis, and was the inaugural chair of the Kentucky Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Board.

For more information on Performance Management, Continued Education, and Precision Learning please see or email [email protected].

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