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 #68
CE Offered: BACB
The Genius in All of Us: Building on Hart and Risley
Saturday, May 26, 2012
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
618/619 (Convention Center)
Area: EDC/DEV; Domain: Theory
Chair: Susan M. Schneider (University of the Pacific)
Discussant: Ronnie Detrich (Wing Institute)
CE Instructor: Susan M. Schneider, Ph.D.

In their seminal longitudinal study Meaningful Differences (1995), Betty Hart and Todd Risley established that, across a range of demographic variables, infants and toddlers in enriched language environments were far more likely to develop excellent language skills. These important findings have been widely publicized, helping to contribute to what appears to be a trend toward more behavior-analytic methods in mainstream pre-K and K-12 education in the United States. In this symposium, reviews of3 mainstream trade books offer an integration of educational developments, nature-and-nurture advances, and expertise studies (such as Anders Ericsson's), and how they build on Hart and Risley's classic. Schneider covers Shenk's The Genius in All of Us, which makes the case for the extensive malleability of behavior that we behavior analysts have long known to exist. Watkins summarizes Tough's Whatever It Takes, a history of the early years of the Harlem Children's Zone projects, based explicitly on Hart and Risley. And Slocum brings us the adventures of much-honored inner-city fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith, author of There Are No Shortcuts, as he (unintentionally) discovers and incorporates behavior analysis methods into his teaching. Detrich will discuss how we can build further on these encouraging developments.

Keyword(s): early enrichment, K-12 education, nature-nurture, teaching

Shenk's The Genius in All of Us: Nature-Nurture and Behavioral Potential

SUSAN M. SCHNEIDER (University of the Pacific)

David Shenk's bestseller, The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ is Wrong, makes the case for the extensive malleability of behavior that behavior analysts have long known to exist. Citing Hart and Risley's Meaningful Differences early on, Shenk integrates research on: enriched early environments, nature-and-nurture relations, the modifiability of "intelligence," problems with interpretations of "heritability" and the twin studies, and Anders Ericsson's research on the development of expertise through practice (as opposed to innate "talent"). Shenk even includes a brief chapter on epigenetics. In short, the book is a primer on (a) why genetic determinism fails, and (b) the inspiring implication for education and parenting: We all have far more potential than we'd dreamed. While Shenk does not include behavior analysis principles explicitly, they are implicit throughout.


Whatever It Takes: The Harlem Children's Zone and Geoffrey Canada's War on Poverty

CATHY L. WATKINS (California State University, Stanislaus)

Whatever It Takes is the operating principle at the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). It is also the title of Paul Tough's book describing HCZ President and CEO Geoffrey Canada's comprehensive and controversial approach to education reform. According to Canada, "There's no reason that all of our children in this country are not able to learn at higher levels." Making that happen is the goal of Harlem Children's Zone, which provides a complex set of educational and social services and supports for children and their families. For example, based in part on the work of Hart and Risley, the HCZ includes programs such as Baby College and Three Year Journey, which teach parents about developing language skills, and Harlem Gems, a preschool program that emphasizes language. Dobbie and Fryer (2009) published an evaluation claiming that the HCZ "is enormously effective at increasing the achievement of the poorest minority children." Whitehurst and Croft (2010) offer an alternate analysis. Paul Tough states, "There aren't yet air tight data to prove that Canada's model works." However in 2010 the U.S. State Department of Education awarded 21 organizations planning grants of up to a half million dollars to create plans to reproduce the HCZ.


Esquith's There Are No Shortcuts: How a Teacher of the Year Tests the Limits

TIMOTHY A. SLOCUM (Utah State University)

Rafe Esquith, a 5th grade teacher at an inner city elementary school in Los Angeles, is one of the most widely recognized and honored classroom teachers in America. His books, including There Are No Shortcuts and Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire, are best sellers and articulate a distinct approach to improving education. Esquith offers no easy answers; the titles of his books epitomize his main themes—the educational mission must be engaged with unrelenting urgency and total dedication. He extends his teaching day to more than 11 hours and his school year with summer school and multiweek field trips. He constructs his own curriculum in academic subjects as well as social skills and character. Esquith's vision of education overlaps behavioral approaches in their shared focus on academic achievement and social behavior outcomes, increasing academic engaged time, the importance of building skills, and the great power of supportive environments for behavior change. Esquith also departs from behavioral approaches in important ways: For him, the critical variables in education are more in the character, intelligence, and dedication of teachers.




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