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

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autism, TAGteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

Here’s the answer:

  • Learning organized in small steps

To review, the three essential conditions for effective learning are:

  1. Immediate Feedback
  2. Student Learns at Own Pace
  3. Learning Organized in Small Steps

We’ve discussed the first two conditions described by Dr. B.F. Skinner, Immediate Feedback and Student Learns At Own Pace. This post will address the third condition.

Learning Organized in Small Steps

The third essential condition for effective learning is a carefully constructed program where the skill is taught in many small steps. The reason for this is to ensure that the child experiences success in the learning progression. Many successful small steps result in a confident, motivated learner.

So, how does TAGteach deliver learning in small steps?

With the “tag point” process.

The tag point describes the exact physical movement which will earn the “tag” and reinforcement. The tag point must meet four criteria:  What I want, One Criterion, Observable, Five Words or Less. Also, the first tag point must be set at the “point of success.” This means that you start reinforcing a child for performing a behavior she can already do.

Let’s go back to the example of teaching eye contact. We tend to think of eye contact as two people locking their eyes in a mutual gaze. Yet, this girl may not be able to do that; in fact, she may keep her head turned away from people. The first tag point would not be “Looks at me,” but may be, “Head turns ¼ to front.” So, every time she moves her head slightly towards her mother or an instructor, she earns the “tag” and reinforcement.

Break down the goal into small intermediate steps: the tag points

With time, practice and patience she will regularly turn ¼ to the front, then slightly more, until she is comfortable facing people directly. Once she is comfortable facing people, the tag points can be set for a progression such as “Eyes on my neck/chin,” “Eyes on my cheek/nose,” “Eyes on my eyes.” After she is comfortable with the “Eyes on my eyes” tag point, you can work on duration, until she is comfortable with maintaining eye contact. These many small steps take a child from avoiding eye contact to being comfortable with appropriate eye contact, thus mastering an important learning readiness skill.

With the tag point process, any parent or instructor can start teaching a child a new skill. Start out with something the child can already do. When that is mastered, add one very tiny step to the process and reinforce that until the child is comfortable. Keep building from there.

TAGteach delivers on all three essential conditions

Dr. B.F. Skinner, with many years of research, pinpointed the three essential conditions for effective teaching. When these three conditions are in place, learning is vastly improved. The three essential conditions are:

  • Immediate Feedback
  • Student Learns at Own Pace
  • Learning Organized in Small Steps

TAGteach, with the acoustical signal from the “tag” delivers all of these requirements. This is the reason for the success of TAGteach.

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 reinforcement


For more information see the TAGteach website.

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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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