Monday, February 24, 2014

Interview Skills Project Update

Hello all!
In addition to our own projects this semester, we are still collaborating with Dr. Corey Stocco on the Interview Skills project. Sessions began last week to insure that the skills developed in training were maintained at appropriate levels over time. This is an important feature of behavior change therapies known as generalization; the skills developed in training should extend across time, setting, people, and similar behaviors.
If there are skill maintenance issues, then the project continues as extra training sessions. If the participants can display acceptable levels of skill maintenance, the project moves into the next phase. In the next phase, participants will be interviewed by someone other than Dr. Corey Stocco, in a completely unrelated setting to his office (where sessions have been conducted up until this point). This phase is also being used to assess generalization.

It is exciting to see participants taken through the entire process (baseline-generalization) and this project exemplifies the characteristics of quality behavior change procedures just as we are learning in class this semester. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

We are back into the full swing of things with our spring semester here at BCU. We have lots going on with practicum this semester, including the implementation of my pitching mechanics project. Writing and conducting my own behavioral change project under close, guided supervision has given me invaluable hands-on experience. I feel like I have learned more about the behavior change process on a more meaningful level than I ever could have in just a classroom or by completing random (though still valuable) projects to fulfill my practicum experience hours.
One of the most important characteristics of behavior change treatments we are covering in classes this semester is social validity. Social validity includes implementing behavioral change procedures that address participant goals, implementing procedures that are acceptable to all persons involved (e.g. you would not add a punishment component using hands downs methods if parents did not want to use that method with their child), and implementing procedures that are effective.

After conducting 2 sessions of the mechanics project during pitching practice, the participants, and coaches, agreed that the procedures as they were were not acceptable. In order to adjust this, we moved sessions to outside of regular practice times. This simple (though more time consuming) change made the procedures socially acceptable for the participants and the coaches. Nothing like a real-world example to share in class and bring context to the classroom material!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My future professional goals not only include teaching, but coaching softball as well. I am presently working in conjunction with Dr. Corey Stocco to develop a behavioral coaching project.  The project will test the effects of Teaching with Acoustical Guidance (TAG) on pitching mechanics. This project is personally relevant to me and is developing not only my skills as Behavior Analyst (writing projects proposals, conducting background research, developing treatment procedures, etc.) but also as a coach. If the project yields significant improvement in pitching mechanics, I will have an invaluable tool in my coaching arsenal to bring about effective change in my players.

            The research on TAG and behavioral coaching are both still emerging. This means that this project could not only be relevant to me and my life, but has the potential to help shape the knowledge of both of these topics throughout the field. Talk about meaningful experiences!
As part of my intensive practicum experiences, I am collaborating with Dr. Corey Stocco on a research project that is focused on improving the interview skills of college students. My responsibilities include analyzing and collecting data on participant performance during simulated interviews. We are using Behavior Skills training methods within our sessions. This type of training includes instructing, modeling, practicing performance, and receiving feedback. Sessions can either be in a mock interview style or training session style. During training sessions, participants are given explicit instruction on how to improve specific interview skills while also writing reflections and discussing performance with Dr. Stocco. After only a few training sessions, participants are providing answers that make me want to hire them! It is very fulfilling to be a part of a project that not only helps me improve on my professional skills (e.g., data collection, graphing, professional collaboration, etc.) but also helps our participants with their professional goals. This is why I love ABA; behavior analysts help clients improve on skills that have a meaningful impact on their clients’ lives! 
Since I entered the ABA program in hopes of teaching children with behavior disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorders, our practicum experiences at the Pier Center are exactly what I was hoping for. Briar Cliff University has a working relationship with the Pier Center for Autism here in Sioux City and our practicum experiences allow us to get hands on experience working with children with Autism and their families!
I spend my time at the Pier Center working with a girl with Autism who is developing her communication skills (verbal and non-verbal) along with other academic skills. Her treatment plan involves using Discrete Trials Training, a teaching method including errorless teaching and reinforcement techniques. She is also working on manding for items with her PECs book, a small three-ring binder with small, removable pictures of items she can request by handing the picture to the instructor. She has made a lot of progress in her academics and communication skills even in the short time we have been observing her.

I look forward to working with her every week. (I was feeling very deprived as full-time graduate student and missed working with children like I did in my undergraduate.) The experience is also helpful because our instructor can give us immediate feedback on how we are doing and can give us suggestions on how to improve our practices as we are implementing them. The hands-on experience is invaluable and I am gaining confidence as a professional before I have even graduated!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One of the best experiences I’ve had this semester was attending the first annual Iowa Association for Behavior Analysis (IABA) conference. Todd Knealing, Corey Stocco, my classmate Katie Gill, and I attended the conference as a group. Josh Cobbs, head of the Pier Center, and his wife Tina, another student in the MAE ABA track program also attended the conference. The BCU crew drove down the night before and had dinner as a group at Proof, a new restaurant in Des Moines. 
The drive and dinner were very insightful experiences. Being confined in the tiny space of the BCU company car gave all of us a unique opportunity to get to know each other on a more personal level.  Katie earned her nick-name of “Tour guide Katie” since she explained all of the nuances of driving in Iowa (like how gas stations are advertised when they are miles from the exit!)  and we all learned about the mean streets of Minneapolis from Corey. Dinner was very good. Proof had a distinctive Greek/ Mediterranean menu (different from foods you’d find in Sioux City) and the stories from the car continued.  Between personal accounts of conferences past and even some professional experiences, we developed more personalized relationships as professors and graduate students.
Four speakers presented on a variety of behavior analytic topics. Dr. Travis Thompson presented on managing anxiety. Dr. David Wacker focused on how to train school personnel in functional analysis assessments. Nicole Gravina discussed the role of behavior analysis in the business world. Dr. Pamela Niedert presented data on her and her colleagues’ paper on the Assessment and Treatment of feeding problems in pre-school aged children.

Overall, the conference was enlightening. It was also an excellent professional opportunity and gave me insights into the field I might have missed if I didn’t go.