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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Paper Session #291
Dispelling Myths about Behavior Analysis in Education
Monday, May 28, 2012
9:00 AM–9:20 AM
618/619 (Convention Center)
Area: EDC
Chair: George H. Buck (University of Alberta)

Myths and Marginalization: Misconceptions Hindering the Application of Behavior Analysis to Education

Domain: Theory
GEORGE H. BUCK (University of Alberta), Judy Cameron (University of Alberta)

While applied behavior analysis has been researched and implemented for over 50 years, the application of behavior analysis in general education has largely fallen out of use, with the exception of students with special needs. This eclipse has extended to many teacher education institutions, where radical behaviorism and applied behavior analysis are often misrepresented because of poor understanding and criticized as being obsolete. We analyze why this has occurred, and identify5 major misconceptions that have not only hindered the application of behavior analysis to education, but continue to ensure that the approach remains marginalized. These misconceptions are: (1) applied behavior analysis is concerned solely with overt behavior; (2) punishment was sanctioned by Skinner and his followers; (3) rewards destroy student's intrinsic motivation and performance; (4) behavior analytic approaches over-simplify instruction to the point of meaninglessness; and (5) structured environments are aversive and devalue the individual. By means of our own studies and those of others, we address these misconceptions, and make the case that a scholarly reconsideration of applied behavior analysis would result in the approach being repatriated from, as Skinner put it, "the Devil's Island to which it was transported for a crime it never committed."




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