I was born near Sacramento, California on 28 October 1955. My father was a high school teacher at the time, and later went on and obtained his doctorate at the University of Arizona and eventually became a professor at Youngstown State University (YSU) in Ohio. My mother was an elementary school teacher at various schools until she retired in 1994. We welcomed my brother Doug into the family in 1958. Over the course of the next couple of decades we moved to many different states and venues, including living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada for two years (1967-1969) until settling in Youngstown, Ohio.
I went to Liberty High School in the Youngstown area. In 12th grade I took an advanced biology course that covered Psychology during the final 9-week term. Intrigued, I decided to major in Psychology when I started at Youngstown State University in the summer of 1973 shortly after I graduated from high school. Eventually, I took several courses from a young professor named Dr. Stephen A. Graf. In Dr. Graf’s “Applied Reinforcement Theory” course in 1975 he taught us the Standard Celeration Chart, as well as the basics of precision teaching. I majored in Psychology and graduated from YSU with a 4.00 grade point average.
After graduating from YSU I went to graduate school in the Behavior Analysis in Human Resources (BAHR) program at West Virginia University (WVU). My major professors were Dr. Ernest A. Vargas (my doctoral dissertation chairperson) and Dr. Julie S. Vargas. Because Julie is B. F. Skinner’s daughter, I had the good fortune to meet and become acquainted with Skinner. As a high point early in my professional career I asked Skinner to serve as Discussant for a symposium at the Association for Behavior Analysis (ABAI) convention that I chaired, and he agreed. Although I took some time off from graduate school, I completed my doctorate in 1988. My dissertation consisted of developing a “celeration-based” instructional system for teaching intraverbal behavior skills that ran on Macintosh computers.
After graduating from WVU. I worked primarily in the private sector as an instructional design specialist. That time span included working for Aubrey Daniels & Associates International. Later, after briefly working for Applied Behavior Consultants in Sacramento, California in 2006-2007, I returned to Illinois when Dr. Charles Merbitz hired me as a professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP). I remained at TCSPP until retiring on December 14, 2020. Chuck appointed me to teach the Observation and Measurement course, and by my informal reckoning, that assignment enabled me to teach the standard celeration chart to about 500 graduate students, both master’s and doctoral. The first PhD that I supervised was that developed by Dr. August Stockwell, who also happened to be the first PhD at TCSPP (previously TCSPP had offered only a PsyD doctorate).
During the preceding time I became a member of ABAI in 1977 to the present, and became a founding “charter” member of the Standard Celeration Society in 1990. I got married to Cathy Lynn Vail in 2004, and we continue living in western Illinois near the city of Galesburg.
In the course of my life I have lived in Willows, California; Seattle, Washington; San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Youngstown, Ohio; Kent, Ohio; Bowling Green, Ohio; Morgantown, West Virginia; Library, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh); Denton, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Tucker, Georgia (Atlanta); Monmouth, Illinois; Sacramento, California; Galesburg Illinois & Lisle, Illinois (Chicagoland). This geographic range and scope has, I think, led to me being aware of and appreciative of a variety of cultural differences and to not be parochial in my outlook. I add to that an extended, two-month trip that I took to Perth, Australia in 2001 for the express purpose of helping develop a precision teaching curriculum for a family that has a son diagnosed with autism.
In my early life my parents encouraged and nurtured an interest in science, which carried on through my high school, college and graduate school days and beyond. Related to that, I have traveled to many ABAI and precision teaching convention venues as well as those of other organizations, which has always to help keep my perspective broadened.
It is indeed a high honor for me to have been nominated to the Board of Directors of the Standard Celeration Society (SCS). If selected, I would want to get to work right away to help the Society meet its existing goals as well as consider some new initiatives.
Background Approach and Conduct
I have the expertise, dedication, and the flexibility to meet the needs of the SCS as we grow. I have also been a long-term user of the standard celeration chart (SCC) – since 1975, having been mentored by Dr. Steve Graf, Dr. Julie Vargas, Dr. Ogden Lindsley, and Dr. Charles Merbitz. Moreover, I have been a long-time contributor to the field of Precision Teaching (PT), as my curriculum vita attests. For example, during my tenure at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology I supervised or served on the committees of over 100 master’s theses or doctoral dissertations that entailed either use of SCCs or were about PT. In my research methods course I taught the SCC to over 500 graduate students during my tenure. I have twice served as Vice-President of the SCS (under its previous structure). I was also a founding member of the SCS in 1990.
As a personal dedication and commitment, a first priority for me would be to learn about the methods and procedures by which the Board works and conducts business so that my actions align with and abide by the by-laws of the Society. I believe it’s important to be a team player and work in common with the other members of the Board with honesty, transparency, and harmony. This is something that I have done throughout my career and could readily bring to the SCS team.
Further, I will familiarize myself with the Society’s present mission and goals. I would evaluate if these goals are (1) sufficient for a rapidly changing landscape of both educational and social needs, (2) how they are prioritized with respect to whether they are attainable, and (3) whether goals should be added or deleted or otherwise modified. As policy, I trust that the Board is open to discussion about any or all of the Society’s existing goals.
There are several initiatives that I would like to promote which I think would be beneficial to the Society and to the field(s) that it serves, affiliates with, and represents.
Developing the SCS
Under the broad goal of developing the SCS, I have three initiatives that I think cohere well with the present mission of the Society. These are:
(1) Continue the process of reaching out to, welcoming, and bringing in persons from marginalized communities, including persons from various neurodiverse communities. This process will emphasize the independence of the SCS. Doing so will continue the process of enabling genuine listening and responding to the valid and unique needs of persons from various communities to the mutual benefit of both these communities and the SCS. For example, in the past year much anti-ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) sentiment has arisen in certain sectors of the autism community. The goal here would be (a) to have the SCS be mindful of these issues and also be mindful of how written or spoken policies or expressed viewpoints can have a deleterious effect, and (b) to not have the SCS or the precision teaching community in general fall into the same possible socio-political traps that existing behavioral organizations may have fallen into. To effect this initiative, discussion by the Board would be required as well as perhaps issuing a policy statement or revising existing policy statements as needed.
(2) Revisiting the structure and by-laws of the SCS as needed; assessing what has worked with the current system since it was enacted several years ago and evaluating where room for improvement exists. I think that such strategic planning has been an ongoing task, and if it is, then it probably needs further and more regular as well as transparent consideration. The improvement could be with revision of by-laws, policies, organizational structure, operations, and attention to what has worked and what is not working, as well as to needs and desires of the membership, always from a considerate and equitable perspective. As a deliverable, I think that initiating a discussion among the Board members and existing officers, and perhaps adding a focus group of members of the SCS, would suffice as a starting point at the present time, with a resulting report made to the membership of the Society. Obviously, in considering this goal, there should be no rush to judgment.
(3) Revisiting the SCS web page for user friendliness, with perhaps a goal of making it into a more active, dynamic, frequently updated site and in general a thriving concern. Ideas could include including weekly updated news, one or more blogs, reviews of books, videos, websites, photos from events, an article of the week, and much more. Any such revisiting would entail getting input and advice from the membership. I would propose a similar revisiting of the SCS Facebook page and other social media sites. An effective approach to consider and discuss would be to have multiple and cross-platform presence, including attention with due diligence to any Wikipedia entries related to the SCS and its associated activities, especially with respect to ensuring correct and factual information about the Society, and about the SCC and precision teaching.
Promoting Celeration Science
I would want to promote several initiatives that will support the Standard Celeration Chart (SCC) and its affiliated science activities and connections. Again, there are three worthy goals under this general heading:
(1) Toward the goal of supporting what I term celeration science, I would like to sponsor a project to compile and publish a complete database of all precision teaching/SCC references to publications (journal articles, books, chapters, monographs, newsletter articles, unpublished and other documents) from 1965 to the present. In the past both Dr. Abigail Calkin and I have independently built databases of such references. I understand that the SCS currently has a project to compile a database that reaches back 10 years or so. I think that researchers, students, scholars, and members of the community would benefit from a complete database that records and documents the many contributions to science and humanity that persons in the charting community have made. It would also better document the history of the field as well as serve to indicate the incredible variety of contributions.
(2) Further promoting celeration science, I think a discussion should be held regarding exploring movement towards behavior synthesis. Synthesis is the next level up above and beyond analysis in Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Moreover, when behavior scientists in the mid-1960s were discussing the then-upcoming applied science journal, Dr. Ogden R. Lindsley suggested naming the publication as the Journal of the Experimental Synthesis of Behavior (JESB), which lost out to the name Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) by one vote. The ensuing history of the field would have taken a radically different course had the emphasis been on synthesis, which includes analysis. Many of the inexorable and intractable problems facing applied behavior analysis today concern those that could be resolved at the synthesis level. For example, there are few studies of the shaping of behavior that appear in the behavior analytic literature, possibly because the field concerns itself mainly with analytic goals, has few synthesis goals, and has few or no practical ways of illustrating data pertaining to the shaping of behavior. I would want a committee or task force to study this redirection, for which the SCS could take the lead if adopted. I think that in the long run that such a movement will position the SCS at the front edge of the human sciences.
(3) Additionally, in building celeration science further, discussion should be held of a revival of the Journal of Precision Teaching and Celeration (JPT&C). This should be a frank discussion about what worked and what did not work in the three previous iterations of the journal. In any reviving of the journal, following the same formats of existing academic journals may not need to be replicated necessarily. Such a requirement may have contributed to the three-times demise of JPT&C. But, bold new ideas and plans could be entertained, including a different name for the journal, taking into account proposals and ideas that have been made by Dr. Lindsley (e.g., in the book Skinner on Measurement) and by others, or made in the past. A discussion that results in an evaluation of the pros and cons of reviving the journal in some new and different form and format could be one deliverable.
Targeted Expansion and Promotion to Behavior Analysis:
The SCS and users of the SCC have always maintained something of a difficult and at times precious relationship to the larger field of behavior analysis. There have ben periodic efforts to reintegrate standard celeration charting and precision teaching back into behavior analysis. Perhaps some added or different directions may assist towards a better and possibly more equitable and sustained relationship. I have two ideas about this:
(1) EAB and SCC’s. Given that the roots of precision teaching began in the basic science known as the experimental analysis of behavior (EAB), one point to consider would be to entertain discussion of how EAB might benefit from use of the SCC. The basic science made great strides with the cumulative record ancestor to the SCC. I have seen usage of the SCC in at least one basic science laboratory that could help strengthen the relationship between celeration science and the basic behavior analytic science if expanded upon.
(2) Opportunities with culturo-behavior science. As behavior analysis itself evolves above and beyond its present focus, one growing area in the field concerns the behavior analysis of cultural evolution, selection, and variables. The SCC can be applied to this developing area wherever relevant data exist. Charting cultural data on SCC’s may prove beneficial and would expand the presence of both the chart and the SCS. A discussion and feasibility report would be one possible goal.