Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Symposium #377
Teaching Behavioral Development in a Non-Behavioral World: Development Across the Lifespan
Monday, May 26, 2008
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
Area: DEV/TBA; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Gary D. Novak (California State University Stanislaus)
Abstract: Child Development, Adolescent Development, and Life-Span Development, or one of their variants, is a core of most college or university curriculum. These often reside in psychology, child development, or even home economics departments, but they are seldom taught by behavior analysts and they are seldom taught with any behavior analytic content. Most available materials and most developmental colleagues are abehavioral, at best, and antibehavioral at worst. This symposium explores four different developmental courses taught by behavior analysts at four different institutions. Speakers will describe the challenges they face in teaching courses that teach behavioral principles in courses where non-behavioral approaches are the norm. They will provide information about what works for them and their students, and the challenges that remain.
Teaching Child Development with Fidelity to Behavior Analysis.
SCOTT T. GAYNOR (Western Michigan University), Alison R. Moses (Western Michigan University), Marchion Hinton (Western Michigan University), Andrew R Riley (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: This presentation will provide an overview of the approach taken to teach child development at Western Michigan University. At WMU, Child Psychology (Psy 1600) is a large lecture course that serves as a prerequisite for both psychology majors and minors, but is also taken by many who do not aspire to the major or minor. The course surveys major developmental domains (e.g., cognition and language) and introduces numerous traditional developmental theories (e.g., Piaget and Chomsky), but counterbalances these with behavioral accounts that demonstrate the broad applicability of basic concepts and principles in the analysis of complex behavior. A course in development is also an ideal place to introduce the concepts of phylogeny, ontogeny, and epigenesis (gene-brain-behavior-environment interactions), a reasonable understanding of which can help counter commonly held either-or (e.g., genes or environment) and proportional (e.g., 60% genes, 40% environment) notions of causation. The size of each section (75-175 students), the mix of students (some aspiring majors, but many who are not), and the placing of the course within the curriculum (at a time when most have had only General Psychology) pose some challenges. Attempts to address these challenges will also be described.
Teaching Adolescent Psychology from a Behavioral Perspective.
PATRICE MARIE MILLER (Salem State University)
Abstract: Teaching a course in adolescent psychology from a behavioral perspective presents a challenge. Most textbooks, except Novak and Pelaez (2003), confine learning ideas to the chapter on theories of development. If the research summarized in the content chapters within the standard textbook is to be believed, learning plays a negligible role in adolescence, because it is rarely mentioned. Because a majority of behavioral work has been done with infants, young children and children with special educational needs, this also presents difficulties. Here I propose what a behavioral approach to adolescence might look like. I examine three concepts that have been key in the field of adolescence: (a) the effects of the onset of puberty on behavior of adolescents; (b) changes in problem solving and reasoning during adolescence (including changes in demand, support and reinforcement); and (c) changes in what, in tradition developmental psychology, is called “self-concept.” As will be proposed, a complete behavioral theory of adolescence must incorporate data biological changes in the brain (including those related to pubertal changes and to changes in reasoning) and it must have a way to explain the many qualitatively distinct behaviors that are seen in adolescents.
Teaching Human Development for the Helping Professions: Toward an Evidence-based Practice, Natural Science Approach.
PETE PETERSON (Johnson County Community College)
Abstract: This presentation discusses the challenges of teaching a lifespan Human Development course from a behavior-analytic point of view while providing balanced coverage of other theoretical positions. Many students taking Human Development at Johnson County Community College are on certain professional tracks (e.g., registered nursing program) that require knowledge in areas other than behavior analysis (e.g., Erikson’s psychosocial stages of personality development). One challenge is to present a “fair and balanced” approach to meet the needs of students. The presenter argues; however, that this approach enhances students’ appreciation of a behavior-analytic view point.
Teaching a Graduate Seminar in Lifespan Development from a Behavioral Systems Perspective.
GARY D. NOVAK (California State University, Stanislaus)
Abstract: This paper will describe a graduate seminar, Advanced Human Development, taught at California State University, Stanislaus. The syllabus for the course, including assigned readings, will be described. Special attention will be paid to the semester-long group project that involves developing a “chapter” on adulthood and aging that parallels the behavioral systems approach followed earlier. Methods for involving non-behavioral students will be discussed. Examples of student work will be presented.



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