SQAB Tutorial: The PORTL Laboratory
Mary Hunter (Behavior Explorer)
Biography:Mary Hunter earned an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Chicago in 2008 and a master's degree in behavior analysis from the University of North Texas in 2013. She provides animal training services to people and their pets, working mainly with dogs and horses. She also serves as president of the Art and Science of Animal Training nonprofit organization. In addition, Mary has taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of North Texas. As an instructor, her interest in teaching led her to convert an upper-level undergraduate class into an entirely self-paced, mastery-based course using Dr. Fred Keller’s Personalized System of Instruction. In 2019, Mary and Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz published their first book, PORTL: The Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab. Mary’s research interests include studying the process of shaping and finding better ways to teach people and to train animals. Her master's thesis, which examined the effects of a single reinforcer during shaping, was published in 2019.
Abstract: Laboratory experiences allow students to see basic concepts in action and ask questions about behavior. Historically, the operant chamber has been used as a laboratory apparatus by behavior analysts. It can be used for both teaching and experimental investigations. However, most students no longer have access to hands-on experiences in animal laboratories.
PORTL (the Portable Operant Research and Teaching Lab) can fill this void. PORTL is a table-top game that creates a free-operant environment for studying the principles of behavior and their application. In this tutorial, you will learn how PORTL works and how it can be used to teach concepts such as reinforcement, extinction, shaping, and chaining. In addition to its use as a teaching tool, PORTL can be used to replicate research studies and ask research questions. You will learn how PORTL provides a convenient and inexpensive way for students to gain experience designing their own apparatus and identifying and manipulating relevant variables.