That’s me. Really, truly, I am a scientist.
Well, OK, I may not be fully there, and do everything as scientifically as a real scientist, but Applied Behaviour Analysis is a science. I almost don’t think about it in this way, because I think of myself as a teacher, first and foremost. Plus, I have actual scientist friends, and I don’t know or understand as much about the scientific process as them, but I do get what they are talking about… sometimes.
I also figured this was a timely blog post to upload because I recently listened to a very interesting blog post which I initially was all defensive about, however after re-reading this post, I feel I can rationally think about what I listened to, and help me understand what I do, even more so.
Anyway, in ‘the bible’ / the white book / seriously, one of my most referred to books ever – Applied Behaviour Analysis Second Edition, the Attitudes of Science is the first thing, in the first chapter – even before the characteristics of ABA!
Attitudes of Science – particularly according to Behaviour Analysts
6. Philosophic Doubt
Similar to my blog about the 7 Dimensions of ABA, I figured this could be a little review/study session for me
“The assumption that the universe is a lawful and orderly place in which phenomena occur in relation to other events and not in a willy-nilly, accidental fashion.” Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).
I like this because it fits well with my personality, and how I like things ordered and structured. It also helps make understanding the A,B,C’s of behaviour, and the ideas behind reinforcement, easier (Although, I don’t really know how scientific ‘willy-nilly’ is, but the white book hasn’t steered me wrong yet).
“The objective observation of the phenomena of interest; objective observations are ‘independent of the individual prejudices, tastes and private opinions of the scientist… Results of empirical methods are objective in that they are open to anyone’s observation and do not depend on the subjective belief of the individual scientist. (Zuriff, 1985.)'” Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).
I don’t know if I am being naive, or I am really only sticking to good sources, but I feel that most of the research I read and come across is very objective, and people’s personal beliefs are set aside. I wonder if I am not seeing it completely though, in particular, a lot of the anti-ABA people, or anti-Phonics people, but I understand the basics of reading and interpreting research, and I can see the overwhelming evidence for both ABA and phonics. I think sometimes some people (myself included) can just get very worked up when people ignore the evidence. I get it can be extremely frustrating!
“The process of a carefully controlled comparison of some measure of the phenomenon of interest (the dependent variable) under two or more different conditions in which only one factor at a time (the independent variable) differs from one condition to another.” Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).
When I first started doing much further study into ABA, I realised this was definitely a weakness of mine. I am not in a lab, and therefore have no strict ability to conduct experiments – ABAB, ABA, BAB… and all the other experimental designs.
While I still feel this is a weakness, and there is a whole other blog post in here about the translation of science to practice, I realised I was inadvertently ‘conducting’ experiments in actual sessions with kids, just not in the strictly scientific method. I would take baseline data on a behaviour, implement a plan (including antecedent changes, replacement behaviour, reinforcement and response strategies) and monitor through data collection, to see if there was a change in behaviour. It wasn’t as tightly controlled as it could be, but I feel I use a variation of this process all the time, to ensure that I am on track with programs and behaviour change.
“Repeating whole experiments to determine the generality of findings of previous experiments to other subjects.” Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).
I like this part of the attitudes of science. I like to think that if there are multiple people out there, in all different parts of the world, able to replicate the same thing, and end up with the same results, the better chance it is of being successful.
“The practice of ruling out simple, logical explanations, experimentally or conceptually, before considering more complex or abstract explanations.” Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).
I love this attitude. I think I need to be a bit more methodical about this process. It needs a bit more practice, and I think will tie in nicely with my “think before you speak” part.
6. Philosophic Doubt
“An attitude that the truthfulness and validity of all scientific knowledge should be continually questioned.” Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007).
This is probably my favourite attitude of science. I think it is extremely important as it is making us continually question that what we are doing is working. I think it is extremely important to continually question, read more, speak to different people, experience different things, and avoid resting on your laurels. I hope I always have this inquisitive mind, and I know I am actively trying to ensure I keep this up, by surrounding myself with good people who will encourage this, and motivate me, and being open to new experiences and learning new things.
I really should try and remember these explicitly (I’m sure they will come up on the BACB exam… eventually… when I get around to it!) but I feel, overall, I tend to consider these throughout my work and life, inadvertently. I think a do a lot of things inadvertently!
I also stumbled across this awesome resource on twitter – How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists by Jennifer Raff. I think this would be helpful for teachers who are just starting out, or teachers who may have forgotten all the research reading they did at uni… or anyone interested in thinking more critically.
Cooper, J., Heron, E., & Heward, W. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis 2nd Edition.