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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #413

When the Stars Align: Managing Behavior-Based Interventions in a Workplace Academic Unit

Monday, May 27, 2019
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom EF
Area: OBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Douglas A. Johnson, Ph.D.
Chair: Douglas A. Johnson (Western Michigan University)
NELSON MILLER (Western Michigan University Cooley Law School,)
Nelson P. Miller is a licensed lawyer and Associate Dean and Professor at the Grand Rapids campus of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. He manages a campus academic unit of from 150 to 750 law students and 12 to 24 full-time faculty members, as part of a four-campus law school, while administering the law school’s public-university affiliation. He has published over forty books and many more book chapters and scholarly articles on law, legal education, managing firms, finances, and organizations, and related subjects. Dean Miller’s three-year project with Western Michigan University’s Instructional-Design Research Lab, implementing campus behavior-based reforms, resulted in publication of five books including Teaching Law: A Behavioral Approach and Preparing for the Bar Exam: Plans, Programs, Content, Conditions, and Skills, the latter with organizational-management expert Dr. Douglas Johnson. The Harvard University Press book What the Best Law Teachers Do recognized Dean Miller’s instruction. The State Bar of Michigan recognized Dean Miller with its Pro Bono Service Award, following substantial service to individual clients and to statewide and national professional organizations. He is a frequent speaker, blogger, and media commentator.

Workplaces challenge reform efforts to improve productivity and outcomes. While not unique in this respect, academic workplaces, especially those in higher education, present special challenges in getting faculty members to accept needed reforms, given faculty members’ high expertise and academic-freedom-based independence. This presentation, data-based in part, summarizes insights from a three-year research-lab-supported project implementing successful behavior-based reforms at one unit of a multi-unit organization. The reforms raised the unit’s critical outcome, graduate passage of a licensing exam, well above the organization’s other units. Passing a licensing exam is the organization’s primary validated outcome, the statistics for which it confirms as reliable for accreditation purposes. Under the positive influence of the project’s organizational-management initiative, half of the unit’s faculty members volunteered to participate in the reforms, and their participation further induced reforms by non-participating faculty members in the same unit. The project eschewed managing by policy and mandate in favor of recognition reinforcement, supportive change context, participant control and choice, evidenced-based practices, and knowledge showcasing. The project focused participants on the behaviors that they wished to induce and on measuring those behaviors, while fostering team approaches within a unit culture that inoculated participants against adverse conditions imposed centrally across the organization.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) predict presenting problems; (2) propose potential solutions for implementing behavior-based improvements in a workplace academic unit, consistent with recognized behavior-analytic principles.



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