Thursday, January 19, 2012

TAGteach vs Clicker Training

By Karen Pryor

Are you a TAGteacher? Add some clicker savvy to your tool kit.

Are you a clicker trainer? Add TAGteach know-how to your dealings with people.

What's the difference?

Clicker training is a name for marker-based training with animals. TAGteach is a name for marker-based training with people.

For the past eight years, these two branches of reinforcement technology have been maturing side by side. Both systems use reinforcement instead of correction. Both teach you to use clear and consistent cues, sharp observation, and excellent timing. Both break down behavior into small units, and reinforce one step at a time. Both teach new behavior in fast, brief, and intensive sessions—not in long repetitive drills.

The big difference is that dogs can't talk and people can.

Clicker trainers rely on the fundamental tools of operant conditioning, such as shaping, primary and secondary reinforcers, behavior chains, reinforcement schedules, and conditioned stimuli or cues.

TAGteachers can talk to their students. TAGteaching uses conditioned reinforcers as feedback. The information itself is reinforcing, so 'backup' reinforcers (food, money, etc.) are often not needed at all. TAGteach shows you, the teacher, how to control your own verbal behavior. We learn to deliver instructions, TAGpoints, and verbal reinforcers using minimal, specific, and consistent wording in a reinforcing way. 
What more do we need?

What's been coming home for me lately is that we need each other more than we knew. Clicker trainers are sometimes baffled by how to get cooperation from human beings, yet every animal we train has people attached: owners, shelter staff, zookeepers, veterinarians. We also have co-workers, supervisors, and recalcitrant offspring, just like the rest of the world. Clicker trainers really benefit when they learn more about TAGteaching.

TAGteachers could use some clicker input, too. What exactly we TAG folks need to know depends on what we are teaching. For example, musicians receive huge benefits from skilled use of back-chaining, but don't need complicated reinforcement schedules. Working with people on the autism spectrum involves capturing, building duration, and using variable schedules to extend new skills into real-life situations. Sports coaches need to learn more about shaping—how to break down behavior into separate elements, to focus on just one element at a time, and to sequence those elements effectively.
Where can we learn more?

I'm finding that groundbreakers in new areas of application do especially well if they have both a TAGteach exposure and a good clicker exposure. And guess what? Now there's an easier way to get that.

Learn TAGteach

TAGteach International offers an online course for independent TAGteach learning.

The course has been upgraded and newly designed, and it's easy and fun. An online mentor is available for questions and help. The course is designed to take about four weeks of your spare time.

Learn clicker training

Last month Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) launched a Dog Trainer Foundations course, an online course for learning clicker training independently. This course is also easy and fun. There's an online teacher, and a bulletin board for help from other students. The Dog Trainer Foundations course is designed to take about eight weeks of your spare time.
Start the New Year with a new adventure

Are you a TAGteacher? Add some clicker savvy to your tool kit.

Are you a clicker trainer? Add TAGteach know-how to your dealings with people.

Want more?

Become a KPA Certified Training Partner with the professional-level Dog Trainer Program. Become a certified TAGteacher with the TAGteach International certification program.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TAGteach Glossary of Terms

Applied Behavior Analysis
The field of science from which TAGteach and other reinforcement-based teaching and training technologies have been developed.

Physical activity in general; or a specific movement or group of related movements (‘a behavior’).

Conditioned Reinforcer
Any stimulus that has acquired positive reinforcing properties through association with other reinforcers such as food, praise or success.  [The tagger is a conditioned reinforcer -providing a positive stimulus that occurs simultaneously with a desired act or response.]

Focus fatigue
Mental fatigue that occurs when a tag session is too long for a particular learner.

Focus Funnel
A technique used in planning and teaching.  Beginning with a broad lesson, information is reduced into more concrete directions and then reduced again to a precise tag point. (Also see reverse focus funnel)

Incompatible behavior
Short for differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI). Eliminate a designated behavior by strengthening other behaviors that are incompatible with it.

Operant Conditioning

Any procedure by which a behavior becomes more or less likely to occur, depending on its consequences. [In TAGteach, the consequences are always positive and desired responses become more likely to occur.]

Peer Tagging

Student-to-student tag configurations and activities.

Point of Success
A behavior to start or to repeat, for which the student is guaranteed a tag.

Positive Reinforcement
A procedure in which a behavior is paired with a desired stimulus or event that will increase the chance of the behavior happening again in the future.

Reverse Focus Funnel
Deliver the least amount of information necessary for success first (tag point). Once the behavior has been accomplished, and the learner is more confident, additional information can be delivered.  This is useful in situations where too much information may overwhelm the learner and cause a loss of concentration. 

An operant learning procedure in which small increments of a desired response are reinforced.  By reinforcing some small response, and then selecting stronger or longer occurrences, one can ‘shape’ or build a more elaborate behavior.

Something in the environment that can be sensed - a sound, an object, a color, etc. A discriminative stimulus is something the learner can perceive which indicates an action to be taken (for example a red light is a stimulus to step on the brake).

Something which "marks" or identifies a desired action.  Typically a TAGteach marker emits a brief, distinct, uniform stimulus used to pinpoint movement as it is happening; a click from a ball point pen, a clicker, hand clap, a finger snap. Some Smart phone applications provide appropriate marker tones.  

As a verb it is the action of marking someone's correct behavior (as in “tag for each blink”).  As a noun, it means the mark that is placed on a correct behavior (as in “You got 5 tags today!”). (see Marker)

Tag Phrasing
The wording used for preparing and delivering tag points (see WOOF)

Tag Point
The specific aspect of a behavior that when/as performed will receive the audible mark (tag). (see WOOF for tag point criteria)

Tag Triangle
The three components of the TAGteach process: Identify, Mark and Reinforce.

TAGteach is a protocol that promotes positive interactions for increased productivity and success. The acronym TAG stands for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance and refers to the audible marker, a key tool used in the system designed to highlight success. The TAGteach protocol also includes tools to deliver information, reduce inefficient language, assess performance, create confidence and deliver positive reinforcement.

A device made from beads that slide on a string that allows the teacher or learner to keep track of the number of tags they have earned or given.

Three try rule
If a learner fails to perform the designated tag point three times, the teacher creates and delivers a more achievable tag point.  The three try rule is more of a guide than a rule. Some learners want to work things out for themselves and will try several times without getting discouraged. Others would rather take very small steps forward and succeed nearly every time.

Value Added Tag Point
A single tag point in which more than one problem may be resolved.  [e.g., The tag point “Put keys in pocket”, would keep the keys from being misplaced and from being locked in the car.)

The acronym defining the four criteria for a tag point: What you want, One criterion, Observable and definable, Five words or less

 (Some technical definitions are adapted from Learning and Behavior.  Third Edition, by Paul Chance, Ph. D.  Brooks Cole, Pub. Pacific Grove, CA.  1994)                                                 

Friday, January 13, 2012

TAGteach Terms - The Official List

Developing TAGteach required us to make up some new terms so as to give TAGteachers a way to discuss what we are doing and to allow us to communicate more effectively with our learners.

This is the first of a two-part blog post about the TAGteach lexicon. This first part simply lists the terms the way the terms should be used. The second part will include definitions of these terms and some additional terms used by TAGteachers.
TAG (as acronym for Teaching with Acoustical Guidance)
tag (as noun or verb)
tag triangle
tag point
focus funnel
point of success
three try rule
If you are writing an article for publication in print or online these terms should be followed with the TM (superscript) to show that they are trademarked terms. This only needs to be done the first time a term is used in the document.