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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #429
Teaching Contextualism & Contextualistic Teaching: Philosophy, RFT, & ACT in the Teaching of Psychology
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
Williford B (3rd floor)
Area: EDC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Laura Ely (University of Mississippi)
Discussant: Thomas L. Sharpe, Jr. (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Abstract: Learning to see human behavior at the individual level, and at the broader level of the science of psychology, from a contextual perspective is fundamental to understanding Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This contextual perspective is also useful in developing an understanding of all the various theories and activities within the broad field of psychology. In addition to learning contextualism as a concept and its application to the activities within psychology, ACT techniques can inform teaching in ways that allow students to observe and experience their own behaviors from this perspective. With these techniques, teaching and learning move from focusing on the content of a course to focusing on the context within which students learn and teachers teach.
A Contextualistic Teaching Strategy: Teaching Psychology Students to Know the Knower
LAURA ELY (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: We propose a method for teaching psychology which serves to heighten students' awareness of both the content of psychological theories and of the context in which those theories emerge. Introductory level psychology students can be taught an extremely simplified version of the four basic models of philosophy of science advanced in Steven Pepper's World Hypotheses (1942/1970). When this is accomplished, all subsequent content may be scrutinized in terms of the perspective from which that instance of psychological theorizing is being carried out. This activity lends itself, quite naturally, to somewhat skeptical attitudes on the part of the students. If a given researcher can be said to be asking a question, students are trained to ask questions about the activity of the questioner (i.e., asking metaquestions). This teaching method also lends itself to more general questions about the knower (psychological theorists in this instance), as students are trained to never accept the "facts" at face value, but to always investigate the perspective of the knower. I suggest that in identifying and describing the philosophical ground upon which much accepted theorizing stands, questions about other contextual variables (e.g., social, cultural, gender biases) naturally emerge. Through this process, students can gain a richer understanding of the data produced by, as well as of the process of doing, psychological science.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in an Academic Setting
CATHERINE H. ADAMS (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has been used to treat a variety of clinical phenomena (Bach & Hayes, 2002; Wilson, unpublished; Dahl, Wilson, & Nilsson, in press). However, only recently has ACT been used to address educational issues, such as poor grades, test anxiety, and poor study skills (Wilson & Ely, unpublished). Many academic difficulties present themselves as skills deficits. Treatments for skills deficits have traditionally been skills training. However, following the provision of skills training, presenting difficulties often still exist and may be related to motivation. From an ACT perspective, the solution to motivational struggles is values and valued-driven goals. The purpose of this presentation will be to discuss data collected from an undergraduate Abnormal Psychology course. During the first half of the semester, course content was directly trained via lectures and group activities. During the second half, however, ACT techniques were applied to service the value of changing the stigma of the mentally ill, without focus on course content. We will present data regarding differences between halves.ReferencesBach, P. & Hayes, S.C. (2002). The use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to prevent the rehospitalization of psychotic patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70 (5), 1129-1139.Dahl, J., Wilson, K. G., & Nilsson, A. (in press). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the treatment for persons at risk for long-term disability resulting from stress and pain symptoms: A preliminary randomized trial. Behavior Therapy.Wilson, K.G. (1998). Relational stimulus control in substance abuse. Unpublished dissertation.Wilson, K.G. & Ely, L. J. (in progress). ACT for academic success. Unpublished.
Teaching RFT with RFT: Emphasizing Relations Among Abstract Concepts in an Online Tutorial
ERIC J. FOX (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Behavioral approaches to concept learning have traditionally focused on generalization within and discrimination between stimulus classes. This view has led to powerful instructional strategies emphasizing multiple-exemplar training and classification performance. There are limitations to relying solely on categories or stimulus classes to account for how a word or concept is used in natural language settings, however. This can be particularly true for complex abstract concepts that are defined more by verbal relations than the physical properties of their instances. The research on derived stimulus relations and relational frame theory (RFT) would suggest a general shift in emphasis from categories and stimulus classes to multiple stimulus relations and contextual control. Several strategies that go beyond classification training and emphasize multiple stimulus relations have been offered in the educational literature. These include teaching with analogies, providing inference practice, and using concept maps or hierarchical diagrams of the instructional content. This study examined the effects these newer strategies, both alone and in combination with traditional classification training, have on three different measures of concept learning (definition identification, classification, and application). A Web-based tutorial on RFT served as the instructional content, and over 200 undergraduate and graduate psychology students served as participants.



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