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Identifying and Training Skill Acquisition Protocol Development: A Preliminary Investigation

Abstract

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), services commonly provided by behavior analysts include writing and revising protocols for teaching new skills. To our knowledge, there are currently no published, peer-reviewed articles or texts focused on developing skill acquisition protocols. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a computer-based instruction (CBI) tutorial on acquisition of skills related to writing an individualized protocol based on a research article. The tutorial was developed based on a variety of expert samples recruited by the experimenters. Fourteen students enrolled in a university behavior analysis program participated in a matched-subjects group experimental design. The training was separated into three modules on protocol components, identifying important information in a research article, and individualizing the protocol for a learner. Training was self-paced and completed in the absence of a trainer. The training included the following behavioral skills training components: instruction, modeling, individualized pacing, opportunities to actively respond and rehearse skills, and frequent specific feedback. The tutorial resulted in a significant increase in accuracy of protocols during posttest when compared to a textual training manual. This study contributes to the literature by applying CBI training procedures to a complex skill, as well as evaluating training in the absence of a trainer, and provides a technology for clinicians to learn effectively and efficiently to write a technological, individualized, and empirically based protocol.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code Availability

Information regarding software used in this study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Funding

The authors did not receive support from any organization for the submitted work.

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Authors and Affiliations

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Contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Allison Parker. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Allison Parker, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tina M. Sidener.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

Ethics Approval

This study was reviewed and approved by the Caldwell University Institutional Review Board and performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

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Freely given, informed consent to participate in the study was obtained from all participants.

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Freely given, informed consent to use data obtained during the study for publication purposes was obtained from all participants.

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Appendices

Appendix A

Table 6 Datasheet

Appendix B

Training Vignette

Mary Jones is a 5-year-old girl who follows one-step instructions, has a generalized imitation repertoire, mands for a variety of preferred items, and displays moderate levels of motor stereotypy and eye gazing. Her IEP goals include auditory-visual matching of objects and pictures. This will be her first auditory-visual matching program. In Mary’s visual-visual matching program with objects, errorless learning procedures are used and have been effective. She uses a token board, and tokens are established as conditioned reinforcers.

Write an acquisition program for Mary using the more effective procedure from the study. No computer is available for this program, so pictures will be printed. When writing details for your program, aside from the information provided about the client, you may include any other hypothetical details you like.

Testing Vignettes

John Douglas is a 12-year-old boy diagnosed with ASD. He has extensive experience with discrete trial instruction. He has a strong imitation repertoire, vocally communicates via simple sentences and can follow a 12-component visual activity schedule. He has had difficulty progressing with auditory-visual tasks. Errors vary with teaching targets, and he rarely demonstrates correct responding with novel generalization targets. Anecdotally, his teacher reports that his expressive skills are stronger than his receptive skills.

Write an acquisition program for John using the most effective procedures from the study. When writing details for your program, aside from the information provided about the client, you may include any other hypothetical details you like.

Matthew Jordan is a 4-year-old boy with some experience with discrete trial instruction. He has good attending, communicates vocally, has a generalized manding repertoire, demonstrates a variety of intraverbals, and has some overselectivity with listener responding activities. No challenging behavior is reported, but he has a history with prompt dependency. He loves sports and uses a Philadelphia Eagles token board with his instructor.

Write an acquisition program for Matthew using the procedure from the study. When writing details for your program, aside from the information provided about the client, you may include any other hypothetical details you like.

Appendix C

Participant Instructions Script

Shortly you will be asked to read an article and a client description and create a protocol based on the article. A protocol outlines specifically how to run a teaching program for a client. You will not be allowed to use any template, aides, or other resources to complete this task. You can use a blank Word document to write your protocol. If you need to leave the computer, you will not be able to continue your participation, so please take time now to settle in. You will be given an hour and thirty minutes to complete this task. I won’t be able to answer any questions about the task until you have completed all parts of the study. If you do not know how to do any part of this task, please do your best and submit the parts that you can complete. When you’re ready to start, please share your screen with me.

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Parker, A.N., Sidener, T.M., DeBar, R.M. et al. Identifying and Training Skill Acquisition Protocol Development: A Preliminary Investigation. Behav Analysis Practice 16, 475–489 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-022-00726-4

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