As of April 6, 2020, officials in all 50 states issued orders for school closures through the month of April in response to COVID-19. Such closures are an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19 through antecedent/preventative measures such as social distancing. At present, many states have school closures through the month of May. However, some states have closed schools for the remainder of the academic year, whereas other states such as North Dakota and New Jersey have closed until further notice. Officials in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, have also issued closures until the middle of April (Peele & Riser-Kositsky, 2020).

As a result of the nationwide closures, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) trainees completing their supervised independent fieldwork in public and private school settings abruptly lost the ability to accrue hours at rates available prior to the pandemic. Because supervision in function and nature is to support trainees in relation to ethical practice, quality of services, professional growth and competence, and work productivity (Kazemi, Rice, & Adzhyan, 2019), supervisors should continue to perform ethical supervision even under the present conditions and provide opportunities for their trainees to continue to accrue hours for both restricted and unrestricted activities.

Given the limited number of contact hours trainees currently have with their students, those contacts may not even provide the opportunity to engage in behavior-analytic activity. As a result, it is crucial to provide a means of accrual for this specific group of trainees to continue to engage in a comprehensive supervised experience during this unprecedented time. The purpose of this article is to present 50 ways trainees can accrue experience hours that are linked to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) 4th and 5th Edition Task Lists (BACB, 2012, 2017).

Overview of Potential Unrestricted Activities

Given the constraint on student (i.e., client) contact, which eliminates the ability to accrue restricted hours, we emphasize BCBA trainees focus on unrestricted activities aimed at building skills related to developing programs and plans for implementation with their students. Unrestricted activities are vital for the preparation of behavior analysts. Table 1 provides a detailed listing of potential activities, Task List linkage, and sample supporting literature for selected activities. Moreover, supervisor observations of and contacts with trainees can occur with many of these activities using various web-based conferencing technologies.

Table 1. Examples of Unrestricted Trainee Activities Linked to the BACB 4th and 5th Edition Task Lists

Analysis and Use of Data

Despite nationwide school closures, trainees may continue to have access to data and support plans that were in place prior to the pandemic. These data provide multiple opportunities for unrestricted hours. First, instructional/acquisition data that were collected prior to school closures can be graphed and analyzed to provide a summary of skill acquisition to be discussed with parents and other school staff. The graphed data can also identify future skill acquisition rates. Reviewing these data may result in data-based modifications to the current plans to facilitate skill acquisition. Trainees can also research the literature regarding data-based decision making and how data inform instructional strategies to be used.

Additionally, trainees can analyze functional behavior assessment (FBA) data that were collected prior to school closures and summarize the data in graphical displays. A review of these data may result in a summary report that identifies conditions under which the behavior was occurring and related recommendations.

Data sheets that trainees modify after analyzing preclosure data, or data sheets that are developed in conjunction with instructional or support plans, can be used to demonstrate interobserver reliability prior to use.

Modifications to Instructional Plans and Behavior Support Plans

As trainees review data and make data-based decisions, they can complete modifications to plans, as well as develop additional behavior-analytic instruction and related data sheets. Trainees might also review the literature to identify instructional strategies, such as response and stimulus prompts, and to learn how to plan for skill maintenance and generalization and include these methods in instructional plans. This research might aid trainees in developing plans for their learners to promote maintenance and generalization of skills through remote-learning procedures being implemented.

Similarly, analysis of FBA results can then be used to develop or modify behavior support plans. Additionally, research can be conducted on relevant antecedent and consequence strategies, as well as for planning for maintenance and generalization. Just as generalization and maintenance strategies might be used in remote-learning procedures related to instructional plans, they can also be used in remote delivery of services related to behavior support plans.

Development of New Instructional Plans

Trainees can continue to develop and write new instructional plans for their learners’ continued skill acquisition via the virtual-teaching format or for use upon school reopening. Supporting literature for instructional plans can also be researched, read, and applied to instructional plans. This research can focus on any number of behavior-analytic strategies such as response prompting, shaping, chaining, modeling, and video modeling. Some of these strategies may be new to trainees and might require scripting and role-playing so they may demonstrate competency prior to use with their students.


Research of the literature can also be conducted regarding preference assessments for students, and resulting scripts, data sheets, and other corresponding materials can then be prepared. Using these materials, trainees can role-play preference assessments with a supervisor, or in a virtual group supervision session, allowing trainees to demonstrate competence with the task prior to conducting it with a student.

Although it is impossible to conduct direct observations of student behavior in the school setting when schools are closed, trainees might prepare for conducting certain assessments upon the reopening of schools. For example, they may work on indirect assessment methods linked to conducting an FBA to lay the groundwork for conducting antecedent-behavior-consequence analyses of behavior.

Trainees might also conduct assessments related to the identification of skill strengths and weaknesses for instructional planning. For example, most standardized adaptive behavior instruments (e.g., Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales) are done via a third-party respondent and do not require direct observation. Trainees can complete such assessments; score, summarize, and identify skill strengths and weaknesses; and use these results to plan for future instruction.

Research and Design of Supports Delivered via Telehealth

Despite the limitations of applied service delivery via telehealth, there are opportunities for trainees to accrue hours for unrestricted activities. For example, trainees can research literature that demonstrates effective modalities of parent training and use the methods during role-play situations during individual and group supervision sessions. Additionally, trainees can demonstrate competence using parent-training methods during the delivery of telehealth. Likewise, literature related to effective staff training methodologies (i.e., behavior skills training) can be researched and the methodologies role-played by trainees in various scenarios in order for them to demonstrate competence prior to implementation in a telehealth delivery format. Following competent performance, trainees can utilize the methods to deliver staff training to paraprofessionals and other school staff related to their learners’ support plans. Last, trainees can contact the literature and derived ethical activities created by their supervisors related to the practice of behavior analysis under the present pandemic conditions. Additional material can be acquired from various organizations, such as the BACB and the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts, who are providing practice guidance through this unprecedented time.

If telehealth delivery is deemed ethically appropriate, trainees can provide instruction via this format to accrue hours for restricted activities with their learners. The appropriateness of this technology should be gauged in a risk/benefit analysis and implemented only with learners for which the delivery will lead to effective instruction. Table 2 provides a potential restricted activity, Task List linkage, and sample supporting literature.

Table 2. Restricted Trainee Activities Linked to the BACB 4th and 5th Edition Task Lists

Consideration of Labor Laws

When assigning and supervising the unrestricted activities described in this article, give careful consideration to all applicable labor laws. If trainees were working in an hourly paid position to perform these unrestricted activities before the COVID-19 crisis, then labor law may require that they get paid to do these activities now, in which case doing them voluntarily may be unintentionally violating labor law. Therefore, care must be taken to make it clear to everyone involved that the unrestricted activities are not part of any paid job and are purely for training/academic purposes. It is, of course, the responsibility of all BCBAs providing supervision to ensure they and their supervisees comply with applicable laws, and no article—including this one—could possibly give specific guidance that would be relevant to all labor laws in all regions.


Despite the unexpected impact of the nationwide school closures due to COVID-19, trainees accruing hours in the educational setting can continue their supervisory experience using the 50 tasks described in this article. Although this list is not inclusive of all opportunities for hours, it provides an easy reference for relevant activities for supervisors and trainees linked to both the 4th and 5th Edition Task Lists (BACB, 2012, 2017) and relevant literature for selected activities that could be used during this unexpected time.