This question comes up often when people first learn about TAGteach.
The answer is: It depends on the learner’s profile of skills.
Before we get into a detailed explanation of the answer, let’s review the definition of a tag point, how the tag point phrase is developed, and what it is designed to achieve.
The Tag Point
The tag point is the specific aspect of a behavior that when/as performed will receive the audible mark (tag); see TAGteach Lexicon.
A tag point has four criteria, referred to as the “WOOF.” These are
- What you want
- One thing
- Five words or less
“The tag point is __ __ __ __ __”
The tag point phrase describes, in five words or less, the exact action that the learner will try next. So, the phrase might be:
- The tag point is Point Toes
- The tag point is Pull String Up
- The tag point is Place Book On Shelf
“The tag point is __ __ __ __ __” is a statement that the coach or instructor arrives at after assessing the learning goal, assessing the skill level of the learner, and determining what the learner needs to achieve in his or her next attempt. Ideally the learner and the coach develop the tag point together after discussing what they are trying to achieve next. The learner even has the opportunity to describe the tag point in his or her own words.
TAGteach Language and Procedures are Flexible
TAGteach is designed to teach all human learners, from the most sophisticated and high-functioning (elite athletes, orthopedic surgery interns, business people) to the most challenged (individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, nonverbal individuals).
Formal TAGteach language works well with high-functioning learners. Many times, the coach or instructor can have a discussion with the learner to establish exactly what the goal is and then set a tag point to achieve that goal. The tag point language works very well for learners, even very young children, who can speak and understand language.
Formal TAGteach language is not necessary with learners who have challenges. Many experienced TAGteachers never even use “The tag point is __ __ __ __ __ ” language. Children or adults who are nonverbal may not understand our words and, even if they do, they may not be able to follow the instruction. Instead, we rely on “capturing” the desired behavior by tagging the behavior and reinforcing it promptly.
Capturing a behavior
To capture a behavior, we observe the child to see what behaviors he is performing. We decide that a certain behavior is one that we would like to increase. For example, when my son had a tantrum, I decided to focus on his Quiet Mouth behavior; even in the midst of a screaming tantrum there were split seconds of Quiet Mouth. I tagged and reinforced Quiet Mouth behavior and twelve minutes later he was quiet and calm. These tag points are decisions that the instructor or parent has made about which behaviors to tag (that are based on the four criteria mentioned above). They are usually not verbalized.
So, the bottom line is, whether or not you use the phrase, “The tag point is __ __ __ __ __” depends on the learner. If it’s appropriate and helpful for the learner, use it. If it’s not appropriate and would be unhelpful for a learner, don’t use it. Instead, use strategies such as capturing, shaping, and the use of targets.
TAGteach stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
TAGteach enables extremely precise positive reinforcement of behavior by using an acoustical signal to “mark” a behavior – at the precise moment the child performs the behavior! The acoustical signal is a short, sharp sound made by a handheld device (the “tagger”). When the child performs the correct action, the parent/instructor immediately presses the button on the tagger and hands over a treat (candy, treat, token, praise, social recognition, or money) as a reinforcer.
With TAGteach, it is easy to reinforce behaviors precisely, quickly, and intensively. The immediate, accurate feedback and positive reinforcement result in the child performing the correct action more often, and for longer periods of time. With immediate feedback and learning tasks broken down into small steps, children (and adults) can learn many new skills with TAGteach — at their own pace.
For research on TAGteach, please see the TAGteach Reference List
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