University Series 014 | Cal State LA

Join Operant Innovations as we talk with Dr. Hank Schlinger about the undergraduate program at Cal State LA.

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Shauna Costello (00:00):

You're listening to operant innovations, a podcast brought to you by ABA technologies this week on the university series. We're talking with Dr. Hank Schlinger from Cal state LA about their undergraduate program. Dr. Schlinger is primarily interested in encouraging students to think critically and skeptically about all claims relating to the behavior of humans and non-humans. In a related manner, his teaching research and writing are all geared towards promoting psychology as a natural science of behavior. He teaches graduate courses and applied behavior analysis, as well as introductory psychology and history and systems of psychology. His goal is to train competent behavior analysts and critical scientific thinkers. His research interests include basic learning processes, schedules of reinforcement issues and child development, conceptual issues, and behavior analysis and psychology and verbal behavior. So without further ado, Dr. Hank Schlinger. We are here with Dr. Hank Schlinger from Cal state. So thank you for joining us.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (01:06):

You're welcome.

Shauna Costello (01:07):

And I'm going to hand it over to him because just like some of the other programs we've been talking to, we won't be talking about a graduate program today. We'll be talking about an undergraduate. So can you give us a little bit of an, just a general overview of the program?

Dr. Hank Schlinger (01:25):

Sure. Um, we started the program about four years ago. Um, and, um, we actually had a graduate, um, ABA program in the psychology department, but that was discontinued in 2014. Um, we still had undergraduate ABA courses on the books, um, and they were being taught, but they weren't part of any kind of course sequence. Um, and, um, I have some former students, uh, who have PhDs who are working at various supervisory levels at Easterseals of Southern California. Um, and I began talking to the CEO of Easterseals, Southern California about, um, beginning a partnership between Easterseals and Cal state Los Angeles, the psychology department in particular, um, to, um, allow undergraduate Pysch students to take, um, the five core sequence.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (02:26):

Um, and the last of that core sequence would be, um, a field experience class that they would do at Easterseals and then Easterseals would, um, almost guarantee them a job upon graduation. So, um, so the, the program benefits Easterseals, obviously because, um, normally they would hire behavior interventionists right off the street. And typically those are people who have no knowledge or, or very little knowledge of the behavior analysis and no training. So they would have to start from scratch from ground zero as it were and provide them with RBT training or whatever their, their, you know, introductory training is. Um, so it'd take those, those, those, those individuals a while to be able to hit the ground running and, you know, be productive employees. With this program however, um, they get students who have already taken five courses or four courses in, um, applied behavior analysis or behavior analysis.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (03:29):

So they get, um, you know, much better trained and more knowledgeable people than they would if they were hiring off the street. Um, it benefits our students because, um, if, uh, well it benefits them because they have an almost guaranteed job in their discipline when they graduate from college, which is not very easy to do with a bachelor's in psychology these days. Um, and it introduces them to, to a, um, to a way of, of using their degree and their, their knowledge and training, um, with kids, um, which, you know, when I mean, my, my introductory introduction to, to behavior analysis came in the same way many years ago, um, working with kids with autism, um, and as an undergrad, it was an extremely powerful experience for me as a really untrained, naive undergraduate student to find myself sitting in front of a kid with autism.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (04:29):

And back then there were no ASD. So they were all classic autism, and they were just, the kids were bizarre. And, and, you know, as an undergrad, I found myself sitting in front of one of these kids. Um, and, you know, that's something that I guess I never thought, you know, anyone in my level would ever do, you know, it's something a trained professional would do. And so I was trained to work with the kid. So I remember what a powerful experience that was be able to actually work with a live human being. And of course, in using applied behavior analysis, you get to see pretty quick results, pretty quick changes in behavior, which is an extremely powerful event. If you're, if you're the one working. So our students get that experience, um, the Easterseals gets trained students. And so it's kind of a win, win situation for, for all of us.

Shauna Costello (05:21):

And so what does the core sequence look like? I know that you mentioned, you know, the last class is the experiential class, and I know that, you know, we can all go online and figure out what are the requirements for the course sequence, but what's making the core sequence, you know, more unique.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (05:37):

Three of the courses were already on, well, actually that's not true. Four of the courses were actually already in the catalog. Um, three of them were part of the graduate program that we had, these undergraduate courses, our, our, um, our high level undergraduate classes. So they're, they're 400 level classes when we had our graduate program, the 400 level classes counted as graduate classes for the graduate students. Um, so they're on the, on the books and I've, I've been teaching them. So the first course of the sequence is a class called introduction to analysis and behavior. Um, and whether we have the, the, uh, the Easterseals partnership or not, I still teach the class cause it's one of the classes that I like to teach and it's my expertise. Um, and actually in that class, we, um, I actually use the, uh, the Keith Miller program textbook, which I don't know if you're familiar with that book, but, um, it's, it's a little dated, but it's an, it's really an excellent example of programmed instruction.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (06:42):

Um, and students have never experienced a book like that ever in their academic careers. Um, so not only is it just a great teaching tool, but it's an example of the application of behavior analysis to teaching. And so, um, so that's the book we used in that class. Um, that's, that's the first class and that's taught in the fall semester. The other class that's taught in the fall semester is of course on single case research design. So those are, those are the first two classes, um, that, um, that are part of the sequence in the spring semester, they take three classes. Uh, and so one of them is a class called psychology of learning and behavior, which is more of a basic research class, but it's designed for undergrad. So it's not, you know, it's not that sophisticated or, or, or, or complicated. Um, and then they take a class called behavior analysis in autism.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (07:40):

Um, now with the new task lists, the fifth edition task list, we are going to have to add a class because we're, you know, we have to expand the number of hours. So we have a fifth class, a classroom class that we're going to add. I don't really know what it's going to be called right now, or exactly what the content is going to be. Cause we have to make sure we cover all of the, all of the task lists items, but starting, starting next next year, the next academic year, um, that class will be added the, the, but right now the fifth class is a class called field experience. Um, and in that class, the students, um, go to Easterseals and Easterseals, um, has an on ground class where they, I think it's one day a week for two hours, and then they have to shadow a behavior interventionist, um, for 10 hours a week.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (08:31):

So, so they get so, so that's that, that class is the training that Easterseals would normally give their RBTs, but now they're giving it to our undergrads, but by the time our undergrads take that class, they've already had introduction to analysis of behavior. They've had single case research design. They've had, um, an experiment, a lower level experimental analysis course, uh, and behavior analysis and autism class. So they're already, you know, that last class just, it is just enough to put into practice what they've been learning. And then, you know, many of them are offered a position at Easterseals. And, um, yeah, so it's, uh, you know, it's a good, it's a good program.

Shauna Costello (09:14):

And I know I'm a little bit familiar with Easterseals just because it is a nationwide company. And so there were Easterseals, um, in Michigan while I was there. Um, but I know that California is a little bit different and what a lot of the behavior analysts do, and maybe some of the locations that they're at. Um, can you describe some of the experiences that the students could be shadowing on? Like, is it schools, is it homes? Is it clinics?

Dr. Hank Schlinger (09:43):

Yeah, no, these are, these are almost exclusively in the kids' homes. Okay. And Easterseals has, has many different locations in Southern California and our students come from all over. Um, I mean, some of them live close to campus, which is sort of, um, East a little bit East of downtown LA. Um, but there are some students who live in what we call the inland empire, which is about an hour, hour and a half East, um, of, of Los Angeles and some live in South Bay. I don't know if you're familiar with all those terms, but, but some students live, you know, a pretty far distance. One of the nice things about the Easterseals is they, they have locations all over Southern California, so they try their best to give students, um, uh, locations, you know, homes where the kids live that are close to where the students live. Um, the class that they offer in the field experience class, that's at a location fairly near our campus. So students, you know, just plan on that on a day when they're going to be a campus. So they, they really try to, to, to make it easy for the students not to have to travel very far. One of the requirements obviously is that students have to have car because they're driving to the, to the kids, to the family's houses. So that's, that's kind of how it works.

Shauna Costello (11:04):

Yup. And I know that, you know, that's kind of a typical requirement of many RBTs as it is if you're working in home, but that is really nice that they're really trying to work with the students. Cause I know that, I mean, I did, Metro Detroit is not even near the size of Metro LA, but at the same point, if I had, you know, people that lived in the Northwest, I'm going to try and give them clients that are more in the Northwest. So it's nice to know that that's, even though they're in this, you know, university program in this huge metropolitan area that they're still able to get that, you know, kind of individualization to make sure that they're not running ragged because

Dr. Hank Schlinger (11:45):

Yeah. And here's just an interesting fact that that just recently happened. Um, the instructor of their field experience class is actually a graduate of our undergraduate program. Um, she, but we didn't have the Easterseals partnership when she graduated, but she took all my classes. Um, you know, she's one of those undergrads who came in just like I used to be not knowing anything about behavior analysis. Um, and then, you know, I'm happy to say I turned her onto it. Uh, and she went to Cal state Northridge and got her master's degree and began working at Easterseals. And so now she's an instructor for the field experience class for the undergrads, which is a cool, you know, kind of thing to see, you know, kind of things, you know, kind of coming full circle, you know, student. So she came and gave a talk to, to my class to talk about the program. Um, and you know, I was proud to say, you know, here's, here's a graph, here's, here's someone who was just like you a few years ago and here's what she's doing now. She's got a master's degree she's teaching this course. And, you know, I think that shows the undergrads, that, that there's a path, a path to some, you know, higher, higher level things that they could do.

Shauna Costello (12:56):

Yeah. And I mean, that is another question that I always like to ask is, you know, because this is an undergrad program, um, you just gave one example of where some of your students are going, um, are there, I mean, are they going all over or are they, are they staying, you know, maybe to practice? Is that something that you,

Dr. Hank Schlinger (13:16):

I, I, we, we take data on the number of students who are offered positions at Easterseals, the number of students who accept and then the number of students who are working there. And then the number of students who stay there, I don't have the data in front of me, but, um, it, you know, I would say that a majority of the students, we have about 15 every, uh, every academic year. Um, and I would say that a majority of them are offered positions. Some of them are not offered positions simply because, um, they don't have the transportation or it's, there's some logistical reason, but many of, most of them were offered positions, not all of them, accept, um, some actually ended up working at other agencies. Um, and you know, that's, that's just, uh, that's just part of the, of the, of the, the logistics for Easterseals.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (14:08):

You know, they know they're not going to get every student who they offer a position to, but there are some students who have actually been working there now for, for, for three or four years. Um, and you know, obviously those, those students, I, I assume I am not really in touch with many of them, but I assume that they're, um, well, let me, let me just tell you something else about the program. Cause it's kind of implied in what we've been talking about. You know, we have the five core sequence, so, um, and that's been approved by the BACB. So I hope and assume that students who go through the program that began working at Eastersealsare getting supervision hours and planning to take the BCABA exam because that's, that's kind of part of the, of the point of the program. Um, so, you know, for the, for, for the undergrads, it, you know, they get, you know, I think it's a pretty good deal for them. You know, the classes are already part of their, of their undergraduate curriculum. You know, we didn't have to add any classes. Um, you don't, they get get, they get a pretty decent paying job working in their discipline, right, right out of graduation. And they get the opportunity to become certified by a national certification agency, get a raise and a promotion. Um, so I don't have any data on how many students are actually working toward that, but that's probably a good thing to get as well.

Shauna Costello (15:26):

No, and I assume that, you know, having, I mean, even with the students that I've worked with before, that that was their goal is because once they get that BCABA, they can do so many more things and become more of a supervisor and put more in a supervisory role rather than just the straight RBT role. So I assume that, you know, having that option, I also am assuming that many of them are probably taking that opportunity.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (15:54):

Yeah, I think, I think also, you know, just as happens many, many, many times across the country, um, at some point they might, you know, realize that they could get paid even more money and get promoted even into a higher position if they, if they matriculate in a master's program. Um, so, you know, I, I, I'm not sure how many are, you know, are thinking about that. I know a couple of, a couple who've done that. Um, many of them are the first in their family to go to college. Um, we have a very diverse student population, you know, it's Los Angeles. Um, we have a lot of Hispanic students and Asian students, um, actually very few Caucasian students. Um, and, um, so we have a lot of students whose, whose, whose trajectory in life when, you know, when they're born is not, not so great.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (16:46):

And so they, they go to college. Many of them go to college just to get a job, but, but once they come to college, then you know, all kinds of vistas opened up to them. And so the students who go through this program, you know, it's just, it's cool to see them when they, you know, when they come in and they're just the first in their family to go to college and then they graduate. And then all of a sudden they're working in the field is, you know, behavior analysts. And, um, you know, it's, it's a very rewarding thing to, to see, you know, they're, they don't, they're not born with silver spoons in their mouth, you know?

Shauna Costello (17:19):

Yes. And it's very good to hear because I like hearing, cause we talked to Georgia state as well to hear about just all the different types of, you know, cultures and the diversity that's coming into a lot of these programs. It's only going to make our field a better field in general. And, um, I mean, that makes me like what else is in the program? So we've talked about, you know, the course sequence, but you know, this is a bachelor's degree. So, you know, what, who the other faculty that you know are helping teach and what are some of the other courses maybe outside of the core sequence that they could be taking or, you know, could be an interest to them.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (18:01):

Yeah. All the other courses are, are basic psychology courses. So I'm the only full time, um, behavior analyst in my department. Um, but I don't teach all the courses. I only teach two of them. Um, the, um, single case research design course has been taught by a few people. Um, two of who got their PhDs, one with me and one at Western Michigan, he got his master's with me and then went to Western Michigan for his PhD. Um, and then there's another one of my former students who got her PhD with me at the Chicago school, which is where I teach part time. Um, uh, and so she's going to be teaching one of the other courses. So, so it's also kind of nice for me to have some of my former students, um, who have earned PhDs, teaching some of the courses as well.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (18:51):

And, you know, just between you and me and whoever listens to this, I like, I like getting my, you know, my former students who are really good behavior analysts kind of into my department teaching part time because they also have the opportunity to teach, um, you know, standard psychology courses if they want. And they're, uh, you know, I like, I like having my former students teaching part time in the psychology department, rather than other people who are not critical, you know, analytic behavior analysts teaching in the department. So that way they can kind of spread the word, you know, just through teaching nominal psychology classes, which I do when I teach, you know, intro to psych and stuff like that. So, so there's, there's a little bit of method to my madness there too.

Shauna Costello (19:39):

No, I mean, and there has to be, and you know, I've talked to a lot of people before about, I mean, this is how we slowly bridge those gaps into, you know, these other similar fields. So no, I completely understand that. And I know that even when I'm, you know, I had the opportunity to teach and LBCABA course sequence when I was in Michigan. And, um, it was, it was my goal to, you know, I knew what they were going. I knew what they were in this program for, in Michigan. They were going to get their BCABAs. Um, because in Michigan they have BCABAs. I have some more, you know, they have those higher responsibilities, um, in the autism realm. But just because I know that that's, you know, why they're in this program, that doesn't mean I was going to stop at just that.

Shauna Costello (20:29):

I was like, no, I'm going to tell you what behavior analysis is and tell you what it can be and what it can do. And actually it actually, I loved hearing some of the students say that they actually declined to go into a master's program, that they were going to go into in search of something else because they were interested in gerontology and they wanted to go out and do that, or they're interested in this and they wanted to go out and do that. So I, yeah, no, I liked hearing that too. So I completely understand.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (20:59):

Did you go to Western?

Shauna Costello (20:59):

I did. Yup. Yup. Studied under dr. Jessica Frieder. Um, I know you talked about campus and the, and LA and the greater Metro LA area. What can people, I mean, what can people expect with LA? Cause I know that living in Detroit people assume a lot of things. Um, and I can, I I've actually never been to California. I can't speak about it at all. So tell us about LA and the greater Metro area.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (21:31):

Well, I came out to California. It's hard to believe, but I came out here 20 years ago, um, on a sabbatical from Western new England university and I never went back. So, um, you know, I mean, I, I think it's probably highly unlikely that any undergrads are gonna come out here for this program. Um, you know, all, all of our students come from the local area, very few come from outside of Los Angeles or California. Um, but of course, you know, what you can expect is great weather 365 days of the year. Um, and like I mean course with global climate change, you know, today it's going to be 95, which is a little ridiculous in the middle of October. But, um, but you know, there's great weather within an hour of where you are, you can be at the beach or you can be in the mountains or you can be in the desert.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (22:25):

And they're really, I can't think of any other place in the country where you have access to all those things within a very short, I mean, in the winter time, you can be in the beach where it's, you know, the seventies or eighties, and then you can drive another hour and you can be in the mountains, snow skiing. Um, and so it's, and, and the culture in LA is pretty much probably only rivaled by New York city. Um, I mean, anything you want to do here, classical music, pop music, art, theater, there's just more stuff than you could ever do in a lifetime. Um, and you know, so when people ask me about Los Angeles, I just tell them it's the best of places and it's the worst of places. And, um, you know, the traffic is ridiculous. They're way too many people here. Um, you know, there's always the threat of earthquakes, fires now, you know, but so far, at least for me and my family in the best of places outweighs the worst of places.

Shauna Costello (23:30):

Yep. And I can, I completely understand that you bring up weather and you know, I'm from Michigan and October right now. Like I've, I've actually seen pictures of the beaches in Michigan right now. Cause my mom works out there, but I'm looking at the forecast right now at where I'm at in Florida. It's 90 degrees and feels like 99.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (23:51):

Because of the humidity I've been to Florida in the summertime. Oh yeah. And, um, you know, and so the temperature is going to be similar here, but the humidity is very low, so it doesn't, and it gets to, it gets into the fifties, low sixties at night. So yeah, it's very, it's very nice. You know,

Shauna Costello (24:12):

It'll still be a few months before we get to those temperatures. Um, so yes, I can completely respect having, you know, the mountains so close and you know, I've never even been to a desert, so the desert would be cool.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (24:27):

I would recommend you try to come out here for a couple of weeks and experience.

Shauna Costello (24:32):

I, yes, I need to, I need to get out and go explore West. I don't think I've been been to Texas.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (24:41):


Shauna Costello (24:43):

Um, but no, that's great. And I can just imagine the amounts, like you brought up music and I know that you're big into music. Um, and then also I can imagine food and events and almost anything you want,

Dr. Hank Schlinger (25:02):

Almost anything you want and a lot of things you don't want so

Shauna Costello (25:06):

Well, I mean, you take the good with the bad, like you said. So, um,

Dr. Hank Schlinger (25:10):

You have to, you know, I mean there's too much stuff to do, you know, even if you just did nothing, but do everything that you could do, there's still too much to do, but there's so much that you can be selective and really, you know, a lot of it's extremely high quality, you know, I mean New York used to be the cultural center of the country. I think LA has overtaken New York. I mean, whatever's in New York. We, you know, we have it in LA and it's just as good or better in many instances. And it hasn't always been that way. You know, people think of LA as LA LA land. And, you know, I mean, were, I mean a lot, obviously a lot of people, the people here work in the movie industry. Um, and, um, but you know, we have Caltech out here, you know, we have USC, UCLA. I mean, we have three incredible, you know, Caltech is we have the jet propulsion laboratory, which is run by Cal tech. Um, last weekend we went to a chamber music concert at Mount Wilson observatory in the Angeles national forest. So we're in the mountains at about 6,000 feet. And we're at the observatory where Edwin Hubble discovered the expanding universe, listening to chamber music and in the dome with a a hundred inch telescope, you know, there just aren't many places where you can do something like that.

Shauna Costello (26:22):

No. And that's yeah, that's absolutely, that'd be crazy to hear that, probably one of the best concerts I'd probably ever go to.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (26:31):

Yeah, that's pretty cool.

Shauna Costello (26:33):

Um, and I know that you mentioned that, you know, you get most of the people that are from the area, but I know that in our field, a lot of people travel to California to work, and so, I mean, hopefully this reaches them and they have friends or family that even end up moving out there to do it. Um, cause I know that, you know, there are a lot of good programs out there as well on top of not only the work, because I know that, you know, California in general has always been more progressive in where behavior analysts are, than other areas of the

Dr. Hank Schlinger (27:10):

Yeah. Yeah. There are a lot of programs, you know, within a 10 mile radius and more agencies than you can shake a stick at. And, and you know, a few of them are outstanding. Most of them are good to mediocre, you know, just, there's a wide range of quality, which that's a whole other discussion we can have. But, um, you know, I've been recently thinking of expanding the program. Um, because right now it's only with Easterseals or three or four other agencies out here that are really outstanding. Um, I've been considering talking to them, um, and then advertising the program more at Cal state LA. And you know, if I got 40 or 50 students, instead of having, you know, all of them go to Easterseals, they could sort of pick where they wanted to go and all, all the places could provide their own, um, field experience training. Um, and, but, you know, that requires a lot more work on my part. I'm not sure right now, if I'm willing to go to do that right now, it's nice and easy and settled and, and with Easterseals. So, but, um, but that's a possibility for the future.

Shauna Costello (28:19):

Well, I mean, and it's a lot of work for the one and only full time behavior analysis faculty member at

Dr. Hank Schlinger (28:27):

It is. But you know, I would rather train people than have somebody else train them. That's it? So, yeah.

Shauna Costello (28:33):

Yeah. And it's great to hear the goals of where, you know, you would like to potentially see the program going. What else about the program that we haven't mentioned yet that you want to make sure people know about?

Dr. Hank Schlinger (28:46):

I can't really think of anything, you know, I just, um, I think they, they, they get really high quality instruction if I say so myself, you know, for that level, um, it's, it's not what I would, you know, it's not what I, what I was able to provide master's students when we had a master's program. Um, cause in that program, we had a course on conceptual issues. We had a course in verbal behavior. We had a course where they just read JF articles, um, which would be my preference for any behavior analysis program. I can't do that at the undergraduate level. You know, they're just, they don't have the background and training. So, you know, we try to give them the best training we can.

Shauna Costello (29:23):

Well, I mean, and it sounds like they're leaving the program really ready to, if they want to, like you said, matriculate into a master's program that they're going to be set up really, really well to go into a master's program, but they are going to have a, they're going to have that good conceptual behavior analysis background, but then they're also going to have, you know, that, that general cognitive psych background as well, and it's not going to they'll have a better, you know, a more well rounded

Dr. Hank Schlinger (29:50):

And everyone who teaches in the behavior analysis program, um, they're all conceptually pretty sophisticated. So, so I'm, I'm pretty confident that the undergrads are getting as good a conceptual foundation as they can given the limited, you know, um, range of courses and the topics covered. So that's really, that's about it. You know, I don't really have anything else that I can add to it.

Shauna Costello (30:12):

Yeah. And I mean, I know that even for my undergrad experience at Western Michigan, like there's only so much, like there's only so much that you like the undergraduate program can do, I didn't really start getting into and diving deep into those concepts and those principles until I was in the master's program. Like you said, the focus is just different when you're in the master's program, but to make sure you're setting up your students for that is absolutely phenomenal.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (30:44):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I hope I do.

Shauna Costello (30:47):

Fingers crossed right? I have no, I have no doubt, but thank you so much for chatting.

Dr. Hank Schlinger (30:54):

Of course. You're welcome.

Shauna Costello (30:56):

Thank you for listening to the university series from opera innovations. As always, if you have questions, comments, or feedback, please feel free to reach out to us at


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