Freeing up the Operant! An Experimental and Applied Demonstration of Teaching and Learning Along the Continuum of Freedom


Presenter(s): Dr. Andrew Bulla, BCBA (Georgia Southern University); Dr. Kerri Milyko, BCBA-D, LBA (CentralReach)

Abstract: Traditional practices of precision teaching (PT) often involve high-paced, rhythmic responding under a timed condition to build frequency of correct responses (Kubina, 2019). There are certain ‘precision learner’ skills that one needs to have in their repertoire for this to be an appropriate intervention (e.g., tolerates delayed reinforcers, tolerates delayed error corrections, emits multiple responses in succession, etc.). However, not all learners come with the skills ready to start such an intervention. As such, discrete trial instruction (DTI) and Direct Instruction (DI) are two commonly practiced teaching arrangements where the responding is under the control of the instructor, with the goal to build the accuracy of responding (Ghezzi, 20__). Once the skill is accurate, precision teachers traditionally move on to frequency building to establish fluent performance. The current talk serves two functions: (1) to provide a theoretical analysis of the continuum of freedom and restriction imposed on operants, and extend this analysis with a preliminary experimental investigation, (2) to provide applied practices to detail the spectrum of restriction in shaping a precision learner and freeing up the operant.

Event Level: Advanced                  CEUs: 1 

Objective(s): 1. State the common features of restricted and free operants; 2. Give an example of a teaching procedure at each level of the continuum of freedom; 3. Give an example of a behavior/program and identify the ‘free’ elements and the ‘restricted’ elements; 4. Give a free-operant meta-level example for a restricted operant