Know the three essential conditions for effective teaching? Guess the first one!

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autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementHere’s the answer:

  • Immediate feedback

What are the other essential conditions, and who discovered them?

America’s most influential behavioral scientist and the founder of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Dr. B.F. Skinner, described the three essential conditions of an effective teaching program. They are:

  1. Immediate feedback
  2. Moving at the child’s pace
  3. Learning in many small steps

These conditions are as important for children with autism and other disabilities as they are for typically developing children. Luckily, we now have TAGteach (Teaching with Acoustical Guidance), so let’s see how TAGteach meets these three essential criteria. First we’ll discuss how TAGteach addresses the need for immediate feedback, then we’ll talk about the other ones.

Immediate Feedback

When learning a skill, immediate feedback on whether your response is correct or incorrect is essential to effective learning. Why? Because, when you know instantly that you did something right, you feel success! You will do that good thing again, and you will be willing to try the next step because you have a history of success.

In contrast, delays in feedback lead to delays in learning. If you’re not sure, or it you feel uncertain, you won’t know which action was correct.  You won’t feel confident when another task is presented.  The delay results in confusion and dismay, which negatively affect learning.

How does TAGteach deliver immediate feedback?

With the “tag,” the acoustical signal marks the correct action at the exact moment the child performs it!

In a TAGteach setting, the child (perhaps a child with autism or another disability) performs an action. If the child performs a desired action (for example, putting a puzzle piece in place, saying his name at an appropriate vocal level, or rolling a ball), the parent/instructor immediately “tags” the action with a tagger (the key acoustical signal in TAGteach) and follows up with a reinforcer (a treat or reward to the child’s liking).

Since the child receives the acoustical feedback (the “tag”) at the split second she performs the action, she knows exactly what she did that is right!  This is exhilarating for any child, but especially a child with autism. The “tag” signals success!  “Yes, you did it!”  She feels happy, confident, ready to repeat that great action, and emotionally ready for the next step.

Thus the tag provides immediate feedback to the learner, and TAGteach delivers on the first of these three essential conditions!

We’ll discuss Condition #2, Learning at the Student’s Pace and Condition #3, Learning Organized in Small Steps in the next two posts.

What is TAGteach?

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” the 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 and quickly. 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 can learn many new skills with TAGteach–at their own pace.

autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcementFor more information see the TAGteach website.

Join the free TAGteach listserve.

TAGteach taggers are available here.

See Martha’s book about TAGteach for Autism or ask a question (with no obligation).

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Martha Gabler

Autism parent. Director, Kids' Learning Workshop LLC. Author of Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism.

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