Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a widely-practiced type of therapy that has shown efficacy in alleviating or treating a wide range of disorders, including but not limited to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a topic we explored in a previous article which you can view here. By helping them to recognize and manage destructive, disruptive, or antisocial behaviors, the practitioners of ABA therapy, such as Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) and the Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who supervise them, seek to help patients achieve outcomes such as improved communication skills, improved motor skills, and ultimately, a greater degree of independence.
ABA services are generally provided by hospitals and medical centers, which can help families connect with ABA providers, or in the privacy and comfort of the patient’s own home, with telemedicine rising sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, private homes and therapist’s offices aren’t the only settings where the principles of ABA can be applied with positive outcomes. ABA methodology and applied behavior analysis interventions can also be put to work in the classroom, as we’ll explore in this article. We’ll explain how ABA and education intersect, particularly with regard to K-12 and special education; review some ABA strategies that educators can use to manage students more effectively; and, last but not least, examine some of the skills and techniques you’ll develop in an applied behavioral analysis program, such as the accredited MS in ABA at National University.
Using ABA Techniques in the Classroom: 3 Applied Behavior Analysis Strategies for Teachers
ABA is a form of therapy that seeks to strengthen and encourage positive behaviors, such as behaviors that will promote better learning, while limiting or eliminating harmful behaviors, such as behaviors that are hostile or disruptive to the learning environment. Some applied behavior analysis examples include discrete trial training (DTT), in which behaviors are requested and then rewarded with positive reinforcement; modeling, in which therapists provide in-person or prerecorded demonstrations of the desired behavior; and picture exchange communication systems, or PECS, in which verbally limited patients use images to communicate their feelings, preferences, and needs.
So how might these broad principles, or other related concepts in ABA, be successfully applied in an educational setting? Here are three examples of applied behavior analysis in the classroom.
- Contingent Observation — One tip for managing behavior in the classroom is to try contingent observation, which is an ABA-based technique specifically suitable for managing disruptive behaviors. The disruptive student is asked to temporarily leave the group and — critically — to then observe the appropriate behaviors being exhibited by other children. This distinguishes contingent observation from a simple “time-out” or other punitive forms of exclusion.
- Discrete Trial Teaching — Discrete trial teaching incorporates the concept of discrete trial training above into a classroom setting. In discrete trial teaching, or discrete trial learning, the teacher provides a prompt for the student. If the prompt results in positive or desired behavior, the student receives positive reinforcement. If not, the teacher can simply move on to another question or topic.
- Pivotal Response Training — Pivotal response training is a method of “naturalistic” teaching, which is another ABA-based approach to teaching in addition to DTT. This style of teaching “pivots” around the core factors that drive child behavior, such as motivation and emotion management, rather than attempting to prompt or reinforce specific behaviors.
We hope that these ABA-based classroom management ideas have helped inspire you to try out some new strategies with your students, whether you teach online or in a traditional classroom setting. If these are the types of strategies you’re passionate about implementing, read on to learn more about National University’s ABA program and some of the skills you’ll develop as an ABA graduate student. You might also be interested in exploring our tips on creating reward systems for online students, or our strategies for keeping students motivated to learn.
What Types of Skills and Techniques Will Students Learn in National University’s ABA Program?
Anyone can incorporate the general concepts behind ABA into their daily work routine, whether that’s teaching a history class or providing administrative leadership to an entire school or department. However, it’s important to emphasize that, in order to formally and lawfully practice ABA therapy, you’ll need to become a BCBA, RBT, or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) in accordance with the licensing laws and requirements of your state, remembering to keep in mind that RBTs require supervision under BCBAs or BCaBAs. Much like aspiring attorneys must pass the bar exam, aspiring BCBAs must pass the BACB exam, which has been administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board since 1998.
For students interested in pursuing this type of career path, it’s crucial to choose a rigorous academic program that’s focused on preparing you for the BACB exam, which you’ll need to pass as part of your certification process, in addition to completing a minimum number of supervised work hours. At National University, our accredited ABA degree program is designed to teach a variety of skills, strategies, and core competencies you’ll need to excel in this promising but competitive industry.
Our Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis is built on a challenging, fast-paced curriculum comprised of a 10-course sequence, with eight courses officially verified by the BACB. The program also meets the BACB Fifth Edition Task List requirements, with a focus on learning outcomes like mastery of the professional Code of Ethics; the ability to analyze and interpret data; the ability to assess and monitor patients using accepted practices; and the ability to apply ABA in both research and professional life, as this article has focused on with regard to education.
Upon completing the MS in applied behavior analysis at NU, students will not only be ready to sit for the BACB exam — perhaps even more importantly, they’ll also possess the foundational skills that are needed to successfully navigate the ever-evolving challenges of the profession and industry. Examples of skills you’ll hone and develop in our ABA master’s program include:
- Designing and conducting behavioral research and analyzing the data
- Effectively applying ABA theories and concepts into your work and research
- Incorporating behavior management theory into patient assessments
- Interpreting and measuring data in an experimental design format
- Mastering program evaluation methods
We take a dynamic, interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to integrate skills from various professional backgrounds into their new careers. Offered through the Sanford College of Education at NU, our graduate ABA program is ideal for K-12 educators and those with backgrounds in special education. With our flexible and fast-paced program structure, which offers dozens of classes 100% online, you can even pursue your teaching credential, certificate, or degree while you complete your ABA courses.
Not sure whether the ABA program at National University is a good fit for you? Our admissions office is here to provide all the information you need to make the right decision.
Earn Your Master’s Degree in ABA from an Accredited Program at National University
With a master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis from an accredited university, there’s nothing holding you back from achieving your professional goals. Learn more about the careers you can pursue with an ABA degree, or contact National University for additional information about our school psychology and teacher education programs. Start your application today — and an exciting new career.