After you have completed the Reading, and without reviewing your classmate’s responses, post your initial response to the following Discussion. Your post should be at least 400–450 words in length and should extend the discussion of the group supported by your course materials and/or other appropriate resources. Evidence Based Staff Training Acme Behavioral Consultation, Inc. has another new client. This time, you are asked to join a team of consultants who have been working with Global Ed Charter School. Global Ed is a for-profit organization in Washington, D.C. serving a diverse group of students, culturally and economically. Global Ed president has reported that behavior incidents have increased since the beginning of the school year in all classes. The president has been lobbying the board for the last two years to develop a behavior management services unit at the school. In addition, she believes that the staff require additional training on basic behavior analytic tactics. Your Acme Behavioral Consultation, Inc. supervisor has tasked you with providing initial ideas for an effective staff training program to be implemented at Global Ed. For your Discussion this week you are asked to discuss potential staff training plans for Global Ed: Identify a specific model for evidence based staff training.Describe the necessary components of your selected staff training model.Discuss why the components in your selected model are necessary and why your staff training model is the best choice.Discuss other potential reasons for the increase in inappropriate behaviors at Global Ed. Is staff training the only solution? What are other considerations and environmental variables to evaluate? References Redmon, W., Johnson, M., Mawhinney, T. (2001). Handbook of organizational performance behavior analysis and management. Routledge, 20130403. VitalBook file. Morgan, D. L., & Morgan, R. K. (2009). Interobserver agreement. In Single-case Research Methods for the Behavioral and Health Sciences. [62–67} Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc. Parsons, M. B., Rollyson, J. H., & Reid, D. H. (2012). Evidence-based staff training: a guide for practitioners. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5(2), 2–11.


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Evidence-Based Staff Training: A Guide for Practitioners
Marsha B. Parsons & Jeannia H. Rollyson
J. Iverson Riddle Center, Morganton, North Carolina
Dennis H. Reid
Carolina Behavior Analysis and Support Center
Behavior analysts in human service agencies are commonly expected to train
support staff as one of their job duties. Traditional staff training is usually
didactic in nature and generally has not proven particularly effective. We
describe an alternative, evidence-based approach for training performance
skills to human service staff. The description includes a specific means of
conducting a behavioral skills training session with a group of staff followed
by on-the-job training requirements. A brief case demonstration then illustrates application of the training approach and its apparent effectiveness
for training staff in two distinct skill sets: use of most-to-least prompting
within teaching procedures and use of manual signs. Practical issues associated with applying evidence-based behavioral training are presented with
a focus on providing training that is effective, efficient, and acceptable to
staff trainees.
Keywords: behavioral skills training, evidence-based practices, most-to-least
prompting, staff training
ehavior analysts often share the job
duty of training support staff in
human service agencies to implement intervention plans for challenging
behavior (Macurik, O’Kane, Malanga,
& Reid, 2008) or teaching strategies
(Catania, Almeida, Liu-Constant, &
Reed, 2009; Rosales, Stone, & Rehfeldt,
2009) with consumers. In addition,
staff are often trained in general principles and practices of behavior analysis
(Lerman, Tetreault, Hovanetz, Strobel,
& Garro, 2008). Disseminating information about effective practices among
caregivers in this regard has become a
professionally expected responsibility of
behavior analysts (Lerman, 2009).
The importance of training human
service staff was recognized early in the
history of behavior analysis as it became
clear that making a large-scale impact on
consumers required effective training of
support staff (Frazier, 1972). Behavioral
researchers then began investigating
staff training procedures (see Miller &
Lewin, 1980; Reid & Whitman, 1983,
for reviews of the early research on staff
training). Researchers have continued to
examine the effects of staff training strategies to allow for more effective and efficient use of behavioral procedures with
individuals with disabilities. Despite this
existing research, many staff in human
service agencies often do not acquire the
skills that the procedures are intended to
train (Casey & McWilliam, 2011; Clark,
Cushing, & Kennedy, 2004; Sturmey,
1998). Hence, if behavior analysts are
to successfully fulfill their staff-training
responsibilities, additional guidance on
best-practice implementation of staff
training strategies is warranted.
The purpose of this paper is to
describe an evidence-based protocol for
training human service staff. Although
this training technology has been discussed from several perspectives (e.g.,
Reid, O’Kane, & Macurik, 2011),
the focus here is on describing the
basic components of the training protocol for behavior analyst practitioners.
Suggestions are also provided for effectively implementing the protocol based
on our training experience. Following a
summary of the evidence-based training
protocol, a brief case demonstration is
presented to illustrate its application.
Practical issues often related to the
overall success of staff training are then
offered for consideration.
Before describing the evidencebased training protocol, it should be
noted that the focus of this training
model is on training performance skills.
Staff are trained to perform work duties
that they previously could not perform
prior to training. The model stands
in contrast to approaches that focus
primarily on enhancing knowledge or
verbal skills, which would allow them to
answer questions about the target skills.
Though knowledge enhancement is
clearly an important function of certain
training endeavors, the goal of this protocol is improved performance (Parsons
& Reid, 2012). The distinction between
training performance versus verbal skills
is important because of the different
outcomes expected as a function of the
training process and because different
training procedures are required. Early
behavioral research demonstrated that
staff training programs relying on verbalskill strategies (e.g., lectures, presentation
Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5(2), 2-11
of written and visual material) are effective for enhancing targeted knowledge, but often are ineffective for teaching trainees
to perform newly targeted job skills (Gardner, 1972). Thus,
programs that rely heavily on verbal-skill training approaches
typically prove ineffective in creating a meaningful impact on
the job performance of human service staff (Alavosius & SulzerAzaroff, 1990; Petscher & Bailey, 2006; Phillips, 1998).
A Protocol for Evidence-Based Staff Training
Evidence-based staff training consists of performance- and
competency-based strategies (Reid et al., 2003). The phrase performance-based refers to what the trainer and trainees do (i.e.,
actively perform the specific responses being trained) during the
training. The phrase competency-based refers to the practice
of continuing training until trainees competently demonstrate
the skills of concern (i.e., meet established mastery criteria).
Specifically, the training is data-based; observational data are
obtained to document that trainees demonstrate the target
skills at established proficiency criteria. More recently, this approach to staff training (i.e., instructions, modeling, practice,
and feedback until mastery is achieved) has been referred to
as behavioral skills training or BST (Miles & Wilder, 2009;
Nigro-Bruzzi & Sturmey, 2010; Sarokoff & Sturmey, 2004).
The procedures and literature described here are generally
consistent with the research and procedures described as BST,
though the specific procedural steps may vary slightly. A basic
protocol for conducting a BST session is presented in Table 1.
The protocol consists of six steps, each of which is described
in subsequent sections. This protocol is designed for training
staff using a group format; however, the same basic steps can be
used when training an individual staff member though some
variations may be needed for individual implementation such
as with behavioral coaching (Rodriguez, Loman, & Horner,
2009) and when all training occurs in-vivo or on the job (Miles
& Wilder, 2009).
Step 1: Describe the Target Skill
The first training step involves the trainer providing a
rationale for the importance of the skill being trained and a description of the behaviors required to perform the skill (Willner,
Braukmann, Kirigin, Fixsen, Phillips, & Wolf, 1977). This step
is generally referred to as instructions in the BST model. To
adequately complete this step, trainers must behaviorally define
the target skill using a tool such as a performance checklist of
necessary staff actions (Lattimore, Stephens, Favell, & Risley,
Step 2: Provide a Succinct Written Description of the Target Skill
Following a vocal description of the target skill, trainers
should provide each trainee with a written description of the
target behaviors that constitute the skill. The performance
checklist referred to in Step 1 often serves this function. The
trainer may also need to provide a written summary of precisely what staff should do in different situations (Macurik et
al., 2008), such as when being trained to implement a plan to
Table 1. Behavioral Skills Training Protocol for Conducting a
Training Session With a Group of Staff
Training step
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Trainer action
Describe the target skill
Provide a succinct, written
description of the skill
Demonstrate the target skill
Require trainee practice of the
target skill
Step 5
Provide feedback during practice
Step 6
Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to mastery
reduce challenging behavior. The description should be succinct and focus on exactly what needs to be done to perform
the target skill.
Many trainers fail to provide a succinct, written description of the target skill (Reid, Parsons, & Green, 2012, Chapter
4). Instead of providing staff trainees with a written summary,
they are referred to a lengthier document (e.g., a formal behavior plan) available in a central location. Our experience
suggests that a number of staff typically will not access the plan
to review the information when needed. Documents such as
plans for challenging behavior frequently contain much more
information than what staff need to implement the plan (e.g.,
background consumer information, assessment processes used
to develop the plan), though the information is important for
other purposes.
Step 3: Demonstrate the Target Skill
Once trainees have heard and read a description of the actions to perform the target skill, the trainer should demonstrate
how to perform the skill. This step, referred to as modeling in
BST, can usually be readily accomplished by using a role-play
process (Adams, Tallon, & Rimell, 1980), and particularly
when two trainers are present. One trainer plays the role of a
staff member and the other trainer plays the role of a consumer
(if the target skill involves interacting with a consumer). It
is critical that role-play demonstrations be well-scripted and
rehearsed prior to the training session to ensure an accurate
and fluent demonstration of all key components of the target
skill. If a second trainer is not available, a trainee can assist in
the demonstration. In the latter case, the trainer must provide
detailed instructions to the trainee to ensure the trainee knows
exactly what should be done during the demonstration. We
have also found it helpful for trainer(s) to stop or “freeze” at
certain points and describe what is being done and why to help
trainees attend to key actions being demonstrated. Alternatively,
video models have been effectively incorporated into BST as the
demonstration component for teaching staff various skills such
as conducting discrete-trial instruction (Catania et al., 2009;
Sarakoff & Sturmey, 2004) and use of picture communication
systems (Rosales et al., 2009).
Step 4: Require Trainee Practice of the Target Skill
After demonstration of the target skill, trainees rehearse
performing the skill in a role play similar to the trainer demonstration (Adams et al., 1980). Instructions are given to organize
trainees such that one can play the role of the consumer (again,
if relevant) and one can demonstrate the target skill while
other trainees observe. All trainees must practice performing
the target skill.
The trainee practice step, referred to as rehearsal in BST,
is frequently omitted during staff training (Reid et al., 2012,
Chapter 4). In many staff training programs, only vocal and
written descriptions of the target skill are provided, perhaps
supplemented with a demonstration. This omission likely
occurs because the practice component requires significant
time investment for each trainee to practice the skill. However,
practicing the skill is a critical feature for the success of BST
and should be required of each trainee to produce effective
performance (Nigro-Bruzzi & Sturmey, 2010; Rosales et al.,
Step 5: Provide Performance Feedback During Practice
The fifth step of the training protocol is for trainers to
provide feedback to the trainees as they practice performing the
target skill. Trainers should circulate among the trainees to observe their performance and provide individualized supportive
and corrective feedback (Parsons & Reid, 1995). Supportive
feedback entails describing to the trainee exactly what s/he
performed correctly and corrective feedback involves specifying what was not performed correctly. Corrective feedback also
involves providing instruction about exactly how to perform
any aspects of the target skill performed incorrectly in order to
facilitate proficient future performance of the skill. Generally
we recommend providing feedback following completion of a
given role play in contrast to interrupting an ongoing role-play
activity to provide feedback.
Observing trainees and providing feedback to each trainee
requires time and effort on the part of trainers. This is another
reason that it is often beneficial to have two trainers present,
and especially if the number of trainees exceeds four or five.
Providing individualized feedback is as critical to the training
process as the trainee practice component, and must involve
each trainee.
Step 6: Repeat Steps 4 and 5 to Mastery
correctly (Miles & Wilder, 2009) or perhaps a lower percentage but with identification of certain critical steps that must
be performed at 100% proficiency (Neef, Trachtenberg, Loeb,
& Sterner, 1991). This final step represents the essence of the
competency part of BST. A staff training session should not be
considered complete until each trainee performs the target skill
On-The-Job Training
The group training protocol is designed to train staff at
one time in a situation that differs from the daily work situation. The format is commonly used in human service settings
where behavior analysts practice. However, because the training
involves a simulated situation (e.g., role plays, no consumers
present), the overall training process is not complete. The session must be followed by on-the-job training.
On-the-job, or in-vivo, training increases the likelihood
that performance of the target skill acquired during the training session generalizes to the usual work situation (Clark et al.,
2004; Smith, Parker, Taubman, & Lovaas, 1992). On-the-job
training involves trainers observing each trainee applying the
target skill in the regular work environment and providing
supportive and corrective feedback as described in Step 5 of the
training protocol. Observations and feedback should continue
until each trainee performs the target skill proficiently during
the typical work routine.
The on-the-job component is another aspect of the training process that can involve a substantial time investment by
trainers because they must go to each trainee’s worksite for
observation and feedback. In this regard, we have found that
the amount of time trainers will have to spend at trainee work
sites will be minimized if each trainee has previously demonstrated competence during role plays in the training session;
proficiency in demonstrating a target skill on the job often
parallels the level of proficiency demonstrated during previous
role plays.
The on-the-job training component completes the training
process. However, it should also be emphasized that although
completion of training is often a necessary step to promote
proficient staff performance on the job, it is rarely a sufficient
step (Reid et al., 2012, Chapter 4). Newly acquired job skills
must be addressed from a performance management perspective
(Austin, 2000) to ensure they maintain, and particularly with
continued presentation of feedback by supervisors and related
personnel. Describing effective on-the-job performance management is beyond the scope of this paper; however, a number
of resources describe evidence-based approaches to managing
daily work performance of staff (e.g., Austin; Daniels, 1994;
Reid et al., 2012).
Case Demonstration of Evidence-Based Staff Training
The final step in a BST session is to repeat Steps 4 and 5
To illustrate how BST can be applied to train staff in a
until each trainee performs the target skill proficiently (Nigro- group format in a human service setting, the following case
Bruzzi & Sturmey, 2010). Trainers should establish a mastery demonstration is presented. The demonstration involved traincriterion, such as trainees performing 100% of the target steps ing two sets of skills deemed important by the staff supervisor.
Setting and participants. The demonstration occurred during ongoing services at an education program for adults with
severe disabilities. The primary locations were classrooms in
which instructional services and paid work (e.g., contract work,
retail manufacturing) occurred. Seven teachers and one teacher’s
assistant served as participants; six of these participants were
women. Participant ages ranged from 30 to 53 years (M = 45
years) and their experience ranged from 1 to 30 years (M = 14).
Each teacher was responsible for services in a given classroom
and the teacher’s assistant worked in one of the classrooms.
Each teacher was licensed in special education. Four teachers
had a bachelor’s degree and three had a master’s degree.
Behavior definitions and observation systems. The skill sets
targeted for training were selected by the supervisor of the program (experimenter) based on her view of relevant skill targets.
The first skill set pertained to using a most-to-least (ML) assistive prompting strategy (Libby, Weiss, Bancroft, & Ahearn,
2008) while teaching consumers. All participants had previously mastered using a least-to-most assistive (LM) prompting
strategy (Parsons & Reid, 1999), which was the most common
prompting approach used in the adult education program. The
supervisor’s intent was to expand the participants’ teaching
skills by training them to also be able to use the alternative, ML
prompting strategy. The second targeted skill involved the use
of manual signing in interactions with certain adult students.
Only seven participants were involved in this training due to a
medical leave. Each participant interacted, or potentially could
interact, with a student who responded to and/or used manual
signs for communication. However, the participants had not
received formal training in manual signing for at least several
years, if at all.
The ML prompting protocol involved five teaching components based on previous research on LM prompting (Parsons
& Reid, 1999). First, correct order was defined as teaching the
steps of a student program in the exact sequence specified in
the program task analysis. Second, correct reinforcement was
defined as providing a consequence after the last correct step
in a program and not providing the same consequence for
any incorrectly performed step by the student. Reinforcement
could be provided for correct student completion of any step
but must be provided for the last correctly completed step.
Third, correct error correction was defined as the teacher interrupting a student’s error and providing increased assistance
sufficient such that the student then correctly completed the
step. Correct prompting (modified from prior research to target
ML) involved two components. The first component, full
physical guidance on the first teaching trial, was defined as the
teacher physically guiding the student through all steps of the
task analysis. The second component, less assistive prompts on
subsequent trials, was defined as the teacher beginning at least
one step on the target trial by guiding the student through the
step, stopping the guidance at a point earlier than on the previous trial for that step, and not providing more assistance on any
step for the target trial relative to the preceding trial. Hence,
there were five overall components constituting correct teaching: the three components pertaining to order, reinforcement,
error correction, and the two prompting components.
The five teaching components were observed for each participant’s teaching session and each component was scored as
correct or incorrect for each instructional trial conducted during the session. To be scored as correct, a component had to be
performed correctly for each step of the task analysis with which
it was used. If a necessary component was omitted (omission
error) or a component was performed …
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