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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #167
Exploring the Continuum From Problem Solving to Creativity
Sunday, May 27, 2012
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
611 (Convention Center)
Area: EDC/TPC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Ginger L. Kelso (Stephen F. Austin State University)

Research within the area of applied behavior analysis has spanned the gamut from teaching the most basic functional skills to individuals with severe disabilities to teaching typically developing children to be more creative in their responses to academic or functional problems. In both of these areas, the individual encounters a problem that must be solved. However, a ready solution is not apparent. The individual must then choose between known responses to determine what will work, or the individual may have to create a response in order to solve the problem. Because there is not always one correct answer to every situation, training these skills can be complicated. In this symposium,4 studies will be presented. First, a review of behavioral literature will be presented pertaining to problem solving and creativity. In this presentation, the history and trajectory of the literature will be examined and areas of future research will be suggested. Second, starting at the more basic end of the continuum will be a presentation on a research study in which individuals with developmental disabilities will be taught to solve problems while completing independent living and vocational tasks. These individuals will be taught a finite series of responses to choose from in order to solve the problems encountered. The third presentation will extend problem solving into the realm of what is typically deemed creativity. In this presentation, elementary age children will use various materials to represent fractions during a math lesson. Children who can already identify fractions will be asked to take various materials, such as clay, marbles, or water, and divide these materials into sections in order to show the correct fraction. The fourth presentation will extend creativity to functional problems. In this study, preschool children will be presented with a task, but will not be given the correct tool to complete the task. These children will have to substitute materials for the tools or even combine materials to make a suitable tool. Overall, this symposium will focus on the topics of problem solving and creativity.

Keyword(s): Creativity, Improvisation, Problem-Solving

Creativity and Problem-Solving in Behavior Analysis: What Have We Learned?

GINGER L. KELSO (Stephen F. Austin State University), Glen L. McCuller (Stephen F. Austin State University)

While much of the behavioral literature has to do with teaching what is considered functional or academic skills, concepts such as creativity or problem-solving have not been overlooked. Winston and Baker (1985) wrote a critical review of the creativity literature available at that time. They reviewed twenty studies and discovered several patterns. First, they found that behavior analytic methods did produce increased creativity. However, creativity was defined and measured in a widely variable manner across studies. This prevents a clear line of research on the topic. Also, there is still controversy about whether reinforcement of creativity will actually decrease creativity in the future. Finally, the available research does not allow for a detailed analysis of what normally goes on when we engage in creative activity (p. 203). This presentation will update this review of literature. The behavior analytic literature on creativity and problem-solving will be reviewed to determine whether progress has been achieved in recent years. This review will also result in recommendations for future research in this area.


Problem-Solving in Functional Living and Vocational Skills

CAROL BRADLEY (Stephen F. Austin State University), Glen L. McCuller (Stephen F. Austin State University), Ginger L. Kelso (Stephen F. Austin State University)

One skill area with critical implications for the successful transition from school to post-school activities for individuals with disabilities is problem-solving. Salzberg, Lignugaris/Kraft, and McCuller (1988) identify skill deficiencies related to problem-solving as reasons for job termination. These deficiencies also have ramifications for independent-living. While problem-solving skills appear to be a critical skill area for individuals with developmental disabilities, there has been little research on how best to promote social or functional problem-solving skills with this population (Agran, Blanchard, Wehmeyer, and Hughes, 2002). Problem-solving requires a range of not only discriminations, but also responses. To sweep a room, besides a missing broom there could also be water on the floor, the broom could be defective (e.g., straw missing), a door locked blocking access to the room, or the dustpan is gone. Moreover, each of these situations requires a topographically different response such as asking for assistance, finding the broom or dustpan, or getting the mop. In this presentation, a study will be described in which individuals with developmental disabilities are asked to complete vocational or independent living skills. However, each task will contain a problem (e.g. missing item). The individuals will be taught to use a picture prompt system in order to attempt a sequence of solution responses beginning with the least intrusive (look for the missing item) to the most intrusive (ask someone for help). Individuals will attempt the least intrusive first and only proceed to the more intrusive options upon failure to solve the problem. Participants include individuals with autism who are served in life skill classrooms and whose Individual Education Program (IEP) contains a goal pertaining to independent living or vocational skills. This study will show whether the use of picture prompts is an efficient method for teaching problem-solving skills to this population. See the attached Table for baseline data on one individual for a floor sweeping task.


Creativity in Fractions: Teaching Children to Represent Fractions Using Diverse Materials

BETTY KYLE (Stephen F. Austin State University), Ginger L. Kelso (Stephen F. Austin State University), Glen L. McCuller (Stephen F. Austin State University)

Creativity can be demonstrated by increasing the diversity of behaviors. Goetz and Baer (1973) increased the diversity of forms in blockbuilding for preschool girls. In this study the girls played with blocks and the observers recorded the numbers of new forms constructed with the blocks. During baseline few new forms were demonstrated. However, the number of new forms increased once reinforcement was made contingent on producing new forms. The current study will explore a different kind of form diversity. In this study, elementary age children in a math class will use various materials to represent fractions. For example, a child will divide a ball of clay into four equal sections and indicate that one section is equal to one fourth. These children will have already learned to identify fractions using typical materials (e.g. pie form and blocks). The children will be expected to use available materials to create new ways to represent each fraction. Each new material used appropriately will result in social reinforcement the first time it is used. If the child fails to produce new forms, training will begin. During training, representation of fractions using new materials will be modeled. Materials used during training will not include those used during test trials. This study will show whether diversity of fraction representation can be increased with reinforcement or whether a modeling intervention is necessary. See the attached table for baseline data for Participant 1.


Improvisation of Tools for Preschoolers: A Replication and Extension to Group Instruction

GLEN L. MCCULLER (Stephen F. Austin State University), Ginger L. Kelso (Stephen F. Austin State University), Betty Kyle (Stephen F. Austin State University)

Another form of creativity can be demonstrated through improvisation. In 1978, Parsonson and Baer published a study in which preschool children were trained to generalize improvisation of tools. These children were presented with a variety of tasks such as pounding a wooden peg, carrying marbles in a container, and tying a shoe. However, the most obvious tool was not available in each situation. The children had to use other objects in order to complete these tasks. In some cases the children were able to use single objects such as using a hat turned upside down in order to carry the marbles. The children could also create complex improvisations by combining available materials such as combining a cotton spool with a long rod in order to make a tool capable of pounding the wooden peg into the bench. However, in this study the methods required intensive individualized training. The authors suggest that in order to develop effective classroom curricula it will be necessary to devise efficient programs that would establish widely generalized problem-solving skills applicable to a variety of problems in a variety of contexts (p.380). The current study replicates many of the procedures used by Parsonson and Baer. However, the training is conducted in a group setting. The purpose of this study is to begin to develop an efficient program that could be implemented in typical preschool settings. Preschool children without identified disabilities will be asked to complete a task, but will not be given the correct tool. After the child has ceased to show new forms of improvisation, a new form of improvisation will be demonstrated to the class as a whole group. Demonstration materials will not be the same as those available during test probes. Training will continue each day until the children either attempt every possible improvisation or ten demonstrations are complete. This presentation will include the results of this study and will begin to reveal whether the type of training used in Parsonson and Baer can be adapted to fit a group instruction model. See baseline data in the attached Table for Participants 1 and 2.




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