University Series 026 - Johns Hopkins University Post Masters Program

Join Operant Innovations as we talk to Dr. Tamara Marder about the Post Masters Program at Johns Hopkins University and how they expanding the applications of behavior analysis to education and beyond.

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Dr. Tamara Marder -

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Post Masters Certificate @ JHU -


Shauna Costello (00:01):
You're listening to opera innovations, a podcast brought to you by ABA technologies this week on the university series, we're talking with Johns Hopkins university and . Dr. Marder serves as an associate professor for the applied behavior analysis, autism, and severe disabilities program. A licensed psychologist and a board certified behavior analyst, doctoral level. She has worked in the field of applied behavior analysis since 1994 and has extensive experience working with children with developmental disabilities and families in a variety of settings, including schools, homes, and hospitals. Her research interests include improving learning outcomes for students with developmental disabilities and autism through effective training and preparation of educators and professionals who provide educational services. This includes training educators on implementing evidence-based practices with fidelity and preparing special educators in the field of applied behavior analysis. In 2015, she received excellence in teaching award from the Johns Hopkins university alumni association without further ado, Dr. Tamara Marder.

Shauna Costello (01:16):
We are here today with Dr. Marder from Johns Hopkins University to talk about their post-masters program. So thank you for talking with me today.

Dr. Tamara Marder (01:25):
Thank you.

Shauna Costello (01:26):
And I'm going to pass it over to you to just start with a general overview of the program.

Dr. Tamara Marder (01:35):
I can definitely do that. So we have at Johns Hopkins University School of Education we have a post-master's certificate in applied behavior analysis or post-masters or PMC in ABA program. And this program is housed in our school of education in our special education department. And the courses are set up. We have our seven courses that are part of, you know, aligned with the fifth edition task list. We just received our verification from ABAI for the fifth edition. So we offer seven courses or seven core courses that align with the fifth edition task list. The practicum courses are electives. So students can graduate from our program with just taking the seven courses and they can choose to do the practicum with us. The practicum is aligned with a concentrated experience, so that's that 1500 hours. And so students can also elect to do the practicum with us, which takes about two to three years for students to complete the program. So it's two years. If students are just doing the seven courses and it would be three years for students who are doing the practicum coursework with us. It's also important to note that the majority of the folks who enroll in our program are working full time. So this is considered a part-time program. And it is really designed for full time teachers and educators who are then going to school in the evening. So all of our courses are, are offered after 5:00 PM through the evening. So students who are working full-time and then going to graduate school.

Shauna Costello (03:12):
And that's something too that I just want to, you know, put out there for everybody. I know things are weird in the world right now, but typically is it online? Is it in-person? Is it a hybrid model? What does that look like?

Dr. Tamara Marder (03:26):
Our courses are all offered face-to-face on our campus. We actually have a campus. We have a few campuses to understand how Hopkins works. We have our main campus which is in Baltimore, in the city of Baltimore. And this is what we call our Homewood campus. We also have the medical campus, which is separate from the main campus in Baltimore, where we teach our special education courses and our ABA courses is in Columbia, Maryland, which is South of Baltimore. It's about maybe 20 to 30 miles South of Baltimore. And this is really great that we can offer our courses there as opposed to in the city, because we have students come from all across Maryland to be able to attend our program. So they're working during the day and then they all drive to Columbia in the evening to take the courses. So that means we are pulling from people from all the way up to Baltimore city or North of Baltimore city to all the way down, almost close to Washington DC and then East and West, of course, of Maryland. So we have folks coming into our program from across the state of Maryland, which is pretty exciting.
New Speaker (04:30):
So all the courses are face-to-face, they're about two nights a week, typically Mondays and Wednesdays, but that schedule can change. And students are typically in class from about 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. It's just one course a night, but it's twice a week, each course is once a week.

Shauna Costello (04:49):
So how about the faculty?

Dr. Tamara Marder (04:51):
Great. So faculty I will say that within the school of education, I am the sole board certified behavior analyst. And I am the coordinator for the ABA program. But we have a wonderful group of adjunct faculty who teach for us. They have been with us since the start of the program. So our program began I feel like we've been around for a while, but really when I look back at it, we have in it, it was 2013.

Dr. Tamara Marder (05:18):
So we actually, this fall 2020, we are starting our eighth cohort of the program. So I'm super excited that we're getting close, close to 10 years. But we're still a really young program, but the majority of our faculty have been with us since 2013. And the really great thing about our faculty is that, of course they're all BCBAs and they're all doctoral level BCBS, but they're all working in the field every day as behavior analysts. So we have two folks who are clinical directors, program directors of schools, serving kids with autism or multiple learning needs. And then we also have one faculty member who also is works through Kennedy Krieger through their outpatient unit. So so we have folks who are out in the field, practicing ABA every single day, and then they're bringing that into the classroom and all of their rich experiences into the classroom.

Dr. Tamara Marder (06:12):
So especially our teachers who work in the schools, our adjuncts, who work in the schools, they really are sharing the struggles and the challenges that BCBAs find and working in educational settings. I think that's one thing also I wanted to mention about the program is that our program is really geared towards folks who want to get that experience and bring ABA services into a school setting. Not to say that that's the, you know, we only have special educators in our program. We have lots of different educators in our program from school psychologists, which I am trained as a school psychologist. So I'm very excited to see people getting board certified in behavior analysis through who have a background in school psychology. Cause those are the folks who are writing the functional behavior assessments and behavior intervention plans in schools. Then we have special educators. Then we have teachers who are teaching in inclusion settings. We also have coordinators of programs. So they may oversee a bunch of classrooms or they may oversee autism programs or severe disability classrooms. We also have folks that work at agencies. So not everybody works at a school, some folks work at different ABA agencies or clinics or even hospitals. So we've had a few folks from Kennedy Krieger. We've also Kennedy Krieger Institute also has a school. So we have a lot of teachers who have come through our program that also work at Kennedy Krieger schools.

Shauna Costello (07:43):
Well, and I know that you said a lot of your students are typically educators who are then coming at night, but I think it's also really good to point out too, that a lot of, even some of the students I've worked in, in the past, they want to go into that school setting. And so that your program is kind of set up to really try and help them get that type of experience because a lot of time in other programs, it's hard to get that school experience.

Dr. Tamara Marder (08:16):
Yeah, absolutely. I think one thing that I'm very excited about for this program that I think is a really good benefit is you are being trained right in that school setting. So our practicums don't start until the second year of the program our practicum courses. So we get the foundational stuff done the first year and then you start practicing with a supervisor. But the cool thing is, is you're working probably in one of the more challenging environments to bring ABA into the classroom and or into a school setting. And so you're right in there working with the challenges as opposed to being, you know, trained any more controlled setting where really practice ABA pretty easily I would say, right? So a more clinical setting and then you're, you know, then you have to go, okay, so now how do I apply it in a school setting?

Dr. Tamara Marder (09:05):
So our students are getting right in there and they're learning how to apply in a school setting from the beginning, so that and you know, I've learned a lot from my students when they talk about the challenges they have in a school setting. And that's how we get to problem solve. How do we talk about ABA in schools? Cool thing to mention is when we started this program in 2013 across the school districts in Maryland, there wasn't too many opportunities to be a BCBA in the schools over the years, we've seen an increase in the number of students or I'm sorry, the number of educators or professionals who are being hired as behavior analysts. So I remember one of the alumni from our program got hired by her school district. And I said to her, so what what's your actual job title because I've heard, you know, a lot of folks say from the school districts, I, well, we don't have a job title of BCBA like, we just don't have that. And so I remember I emailed her. I was like, so what is your actual title? I just wrote back BCBA I'm like, that's awesome. So we've seen a big increase here locally of school districts, bringing in behavior analyst and having that job title of having a behavior analyst. So we, weren't seeing that the beginning of this program in 2013, but we've definitely, and I'm not saying it's just because of our program. I think there's been a lot of different shifts across the state. But it's really nice to see that school districts are seeing the need for having that expertise within their schools.

Shauna Costello (10:35):
Yeah. And I really liked that and that kind of plays into the practicum settings as well. And you said that some of your students are getting hired in from their practicum settings. So is it, is it mostly school settings just around the area? Are those partnerships that you have with the school districts? What do the practicums look like?

Dr. Tamara Marder (10:55):
So that's, it's very unique. And I love it. I think it's great. We so sorta the history of the school of education. So we were very young school also. So the school became I think the date was like 2007. So, but prior to 2007, we offered a lot of continuing education courses for teachers. And, you know, the special education program was around before 2007. But 2007, we became the school of education, the unique thing about students who are at the school of education who are training to be teachers as that, we always say, we don't want them to lose their jobs in the schools to have to do an internship with us, right. Because we want to promote their professional development and their continuation in the school setting. So we've kind of applied that situation to our ABA students. So we assume, we don't want anybody to have to lose their current position in order to complete our program, but we want to make sure they can get the experiance. So the way that we do that is we actually have a full application process just for our practicum. We have a wonderful practicum coordinator who has done a great job over the past couple years, we would be lost without her. And what we do is our students each have to take their setting. We follow the BACB guidelines on, you know, what a practicum setting has to have from conducting assessments and behavioral assessments and interventions and supervising other people. And so each student applies to the practicum and they have to outline all the different tasks that are outlined by the BACB to show that yes, they can practice these skills within their practicum site.

Dr. Tamara Marder (12:36):
Sometimes it happens that they can't. Right. So then we have to come up with another plan, right? So, but you know, you could say you should be able to mend most school settings, be able to conduct behavioral assessments and functional assessments and conduct interventions and behavior interventions and monitor data. This is all set up in our school districts already and teach new skills and supervise other people to implement programs. So so we make sure that all of our students can practice each of those. We actually have a full rubric that we evaluate each practicum site, our practicum coordinator, then make sure that supervisors and administrators are on board with it. And that, yes, they can practice these these skills and it shouldn't impede their job or anything like that. So we make sure to check all of our boxes. And then if a student's site does not, is not approved and we do this pretty early. So if we start the first the first practicum is the fall semester. We do this in like mid March. We start planning for this. So if it's not an approved site, then we reach out to folks that we know in the community to say, Hey, this person this person needs a practicum site. Do you have availability and so forth? Really when people come into our program, we start talking about practicum at their interviews for graduate school, because we want to make sure that they will be successful and have these opportunities. So if somebody is in a site that may not be able to follow that I think I had somebody that was an undergraduate counselor, you know, counselor for undergraduate students were like, yeah, you're not really going to be able to practice ABA in that setting.

Dr. Tamara Marder (14:14):
So we started working with that person early to say, start looking at these positions. And we have relationships with folks in the community that we start making recommendations. So our students go through this whole practicum experience and practicum application. And then the other cool thing that we have is a great group of supervisors. So we have a group of BCBA supervisors. Some of them are now in the schools. So when we have students applying from specific school systems where like, Oh, we've got a BCBA there, they graduated from our program or we've worked with them in the past. And then we match people up based on their experiences, their locations, and and their needs as a student. I like to say that our, I think a benefit of our practicum experience is that we follow a curriculum for our four courses that is very specific, but we also individualize our practicum experience for our students. So just as we start out with any new behavior, we have to teach, we do an assessment of that behavior. So we do an assessment of our students, behavioral skills. They actually do a self rating. And then we also provide them with a rating. And then from there we design their practicum experience around their individual needs. So if I have a student that's coming into the program, who's done lots of discrete trial, not a problem. I got it down. I know how to do discreet trial instruction. We're gonna make sure that all of their assignments for their practicum, you don't need to do discrete trial. You've got that down. But maybe you haven't had the experience of implementing a functional analysis. So yeah, we're going to really work on you developing that skill.

Shauna Costello (15:51):
And I think that that just speaks to the quality and the networking that you're going to have with the program as well, because it sounds like you're just creating all of these, just little like networks coming out of Johns Hopkins into all of these other school districts around the Maryland area as well.

Dr. Tamara Marder (16:09):
Absolutely. So we are a cohort model and I'm also, I really love that piece of it. It's nice to see each cohort go through the program. And, it's kind of like a joke, everybody at one point in the program says, we're your favorite cohort? Aren't we? And I say, of course, as any good parent would say, of course you're my favorite. But I think the one thing is, is that that cohort model really does build that network. And we talk about that from day one, also like this is your, this is your network. This is your, your group of peers. These are the folks that you're going to commiserate with on the program. That you're going to struggle with. That you're going to say how hard this one assignment is that you're going to create study groups with. And then the other thing that's really neat with this cohort models we have folks who are coming in from different areas across the state who are sharing their experiences. So we have folks who are working in the city and it is an urban district or an urban school and the challenges there. And then we have folks that are coming from a suburban district or a suburban school or a nonpublic or a private school. So folks really bring in all those different experiences. And it's really interesting to watch the students talk about, well, we have this, you don't have that and you need this and talking about what the different resources are, but then also after students finish the program and then they start getting ready to apply for the exam these natural study groups form for preparing for the exam. And that's really nice to see.

Dr. Tamara Marder (17:37):
And then I do see them networking with each other across the board. People switch jobs, opportunities, some hire other people it's really kind of neat to see, but it does become this network. We did a recent survey of our alumni. And one of the, one of the questions we asked is what surprises you or surprised you about the program that you weren't expecting? And we had a lot of responses which were these lifelong friendships and networks that we created as part of the program. And that's really nice to see cause I as much as I'd love to say that was the intention of the program. It's nice to see that that's something that's grown out of these programs. So each cohort has created this network. That's been really nice to see.

Dr. Tamara Marder (18:21):
The other, the other piece that's really cool, that I love is and this has sort of evolved over the years. We have our, one of our final courses in the program is called applications of ABA in the school settings or in the classroom. I think that actual title is in the classroom. And in that course, half the time we spend on special topics in education. So we'll talk about ABA and PBIS. We'll talk about data collection in the classrooms. Like how do we really get people to, you know, what are all the different strategies for getting people to buy into data collection in the classroom and how do you train other people to do it and get them to do it? So lots of different, like I think we've just added in some of the ethical and practical issues of extinction in a school setting. So that's a new topic we've added into that class. The second half of that class, we talk about all the different strategies for preparing for the exam. So we talk about staff med students are practicing throughout the program, as much as the students don't like it because I'm giving them quizzes every single night. They do appreciate it towards the end of the program. And they said, yes, I practiced so many multiple choice questions. I'm ready for the exam. So we practice those questions in that class as well. We practice writing questions. How do you put a multiple choice question together? We go through the task list and really break it up and look at all the different requirements for the exam.

Dr. Tamara Marder (19:49):
But one night during that class, we have a panel discussion and I used to bring it folks who've been in the field for quite some time and behavior analysis. And it's really like ask any question you want of these folks who are out in the field. Some feedback I got over the years was I really want to hear from newbie CBAs, like, what are they, what are their experience once they, they finish a program? And so it's really been nice. It becomes a little reunion of sorts is that I bring back folks who are alumni of our program so they can share their experiences in relation to going through this program and what it's like to be a BCBA. So that's been really that's been really me. I like, I do get to have that sit back and watch and really see the folks that come back who are alumni of our program. But then also networks are then formed from current students, and then alumni of the program as well.

Shauna Costello (20:45):
Well, and that's really a year that's really neat to hear Just all the ins and outs and all the little intricacies of the program, because I often say there's only so much you can learn from a website like this. Yeah. And this isn't stuff that you're going to hear or read on a website. And so I really like hearing that, and that is something too that, you know, I noticed right when I became certified or, you know, got done with my program and got into the field, I was like, I went into a clinical setting. And so I was like, wait, I'm a BCBA now I can't just practice and bill insurance. Oh, no, that's not how that works, but we're not necessarily taught that in our programs. And so it's really, it's really neat to hear that you're trying to help bridge a lot of those gaps between what your students want and what they might need. And they'll learn that from those previous students. And yeah. And I know you're talking about data collection in the schools and I have plenty of stories of my own about that. But with all of that, are your students getting research experience in the schools? Because I know that that can sometimes be even just applied to research in general, but in the schools could potentially even be more difficult.

Dr. Tamara Marder (22:06):
Yeah. So the way that our practicum are set up is, is we actually divide the practicum experience. We have like, I guess a different focus for each practicum. So so the way that the program starts out, I think that I said the first year, you know, you got the foundational stuff. So our first semester, it's all intro to ABA. Let's read the Cooper book from start to finish and really understand it, our research methods class. So we got the foundation right there that first semester, the second semester, our students move into a course on assessing and treating challenging behaviors. And in that course, they they develop an assessment. They don't implement it yet because they're not board certified. But they develop an assessment and they come up with a hypothesis and they develop what an FA would look like. They're not implementing it, but what it would look like. And then they also take the ethics course. So the ethics course obviously is focused on the compliance code. But also we use the 25 essential skills, the Bailey and Birch book, which is amazing. And students really set up their goals and objectives for their career and what they want to do. So they have that foundation.

Dr. Tamara Marder (23:25):
Notice I mentioned, we had a challenging behaviors class, then the fall semester when they return at the second year, we have a course on behavioral assessment, instructional strategies. So those challenging behaviors and, you know, decreasing behavior and increase in behavior, go hand in hand, right. We decided to separate those two courses out so we can really focus in what are some instructional strategies that we can use that are behavior analytics. How do we collect data on it? How do we assess for it monitor and so forth? So we separated those two out. So our practicum follow that sort of sequence also. So the first semester of practicum is focused only on decreasing behaviors. Of course, increasing behaviors is also important. We don't forget about that and we still address it, but the focus is on how do I do an FA in a school setting, which is really difficult, right? So the way I was trained as you don't do an FA in a school setting but you can do an FA in a school setting. We've got all these new ways to do it and research out there that supports those, you know, trial based FA you know, a brief FA. So we've got lots of different opportunities to do that.

Dr. Tamara Marder (24:30):
So that first semester they're focused on decreasing challenging behavior. So they're doing an, you know, an assessment through intervention. And then the second semester of practicum that first year they're focusing on increasing behavior, they want to see. So I think back to your original question, it was what type of research and, and things like that. So it was a long way to me to get to although they are not research studies that we think of as like, you know, an IRB approved research study, these are students in their school settings that have these needs, they identify these students, and then they're creating plans specific for those students or a group of students. And it's not always, it doesn't always have to be one student.

Dr. Tamara Marder (25:12):
The way that we do the second the second year of practicum, the, the additional two courses. And so this is new. So this is coming into the program. The, the way that we used to do is just two courses when we were doing the fourth edition, just to practicum courses, cause we had the intensive practicum, which was 750 hours. So the way that we did that was in the second semester, they were also looking at increasing students' skills, but also adults in the classroom, their skills as well. So training them on specific skills. So that's where, you know, across both semesters, we have a lot of behavior skills training and going on with our students, they have to complete three BST projects, let's say throughout the semester, they do that in the spring semester. So what we're looking at for moving into the additional two practicum courses and the electives is that during the second year, because of the supervision course that we're adding in as part of the fifth edition the second year of practicum is going to be really focused in, on supervising others on behavior reduction the first semester and supervising others on skill acquisition the second semester.

Dr. Tamara Marder (26:15):
So the first year of practicum is really practicing your skills as a future behavior analyst on in learning those skills that are on the task list and the second year is training other people in supervising other people to do it. So I think that's a really unique piece of of our program as well. I know that you know, adding another 45 hours to the requirements is tough, right? Cause it adds more time that students have to be in school, but I will tell you that supervision course, we're actually calling it supervision and consultation. We are super excited about because having gone through the program or teaching this program since 2013, I do see it as a great need for our field as how do we supervise other people to do this and my doctoral program, I was not trained on how to supervise other people. I've learned it along the way, and I've done many CEU's on it and read many books on how to supervise other people and I've had the experience. But I think that is a really important piece for our field. And so I love that it's been added into our requirements and we are excited about being able to offer that class. And we're going to have a bigger emphasis on that organizational behavior management piece of supervision and training of others. So that is, we have a lot to look forward to coming up in our programs as we're starting this fifth edition, this fall.

Shauna Costello (27:37):
Well, that's really exciting to hear because I know that I got a somewhat similar experience, like when I was going through my practicum experience, when I actually had to ask like, Hey, can I stop being the like RBT, even though that wasn't a thing back then and can I be more of the supervisor of it and get those skills? And they're like, Oh my gosh. Yes, of course. Right. But then the supervising others piece, I mean, I'm still learning. I still supervise students and I'm still learning. And what, right when I got out of my master's program and I was, you know, building this clinical in home in school program was, you know, I was always telling them like, please come talk to me, please tell me I want feedback just as much like, please come tell me. And one of the first things I heard was, Oh, we've learned that you, we don't hear from you unless it's bad. I'm like, no! Oh, why didnt you tell me this sooner. And so then it was me analyzing contingencies around my schedule and the things that were going on so I could adjust how I was so I could be a more effective supervisor. And, Oh my goodness, that's such a really big part of it. And I mean, that just speaks to like, you know, I asked about research, but I think that it actually is better that they're getting these, I like to call them capstones cause they're like projects. They're more project-based, but you're individualizing it to their specific site and their specific experience. And it's not just doing research just to do research.

Dr. Tamara Marder (29:28):
Right. And the thing is, you know, it is very applied. So thing is that a lot of our students are coming in with different experiences. So some are special educators in a classroom. Some are coordinating classrooms. So we do have to tailor it to each one of their backgrounds and their experiences. But we also want to ensure that before you start supervising somebody on how to implement a DRO, that you actually know how to implement it yourself and you understand the ins and outs of practicing it. So it's really important to practice those basic skills as a behavior analyst before you get to train other people. So another thing from moving from intensive practicum, I'm excited that we're increasing the hours. I know that that's really hard for a lot of people that the hours are increasing because we really are doubling our hours. So we're going from 750 to 1500 with a concentrated experience. But I get nervous when students are leaving. Like we have so much more to teach you, right? There's just so much more. And we always talk about that with our students. Like we can't, we are not going to cover every single situation that you may encounter. And that's why that networking piece is so important, right? Because now you have folks that you can come back to from your cohort, but also from previous cohorts and also your professors. We love, I say, professors love to talk, call them up. If you have a question they're ready to help you. It doesn't matter if you graduated five years ago, please come back and talk to us and share your experiences. So moving from the 750 to 1500 hours gives us the opportunity to spend one year focusing on each student, each graduate students, specific skills, and then the next year working on those skills with supervision and consultation. So we added that consultation piece into that to use because not everybody's going to necessarily be supervising in a school setting. They may be consulting with team members or multidisciplinary team members as to how you do that. How do you get that Buy-In?

Dr. Tamara Marder (31:24):
I also remember the one thing that we focus a lot on in our program is the integrity of a behavior analyst. And how do we speak to others outside of our field of behavior analysis about behavior analysis? So the first year of the program, We, you know, we are speaking, Talking the talk, right? So it's every conceptually systematic term we're using all of the terms we are, you know, following where we say, we kind of make the joke that the first semester is, you know, moving to a new country and learning a new language. Then the second year of the program we start talking about, okay, now you have to talk to other people about it. So you have to know those concepts, but now you also have to define those concepts for other folks who are not in the field. We don't want to ever turn anybody off from our field by speaking with too much jargon and so forth. And so we try to really make that switch for our students. Like now that you've got this, now we have to switch to talking about it this way. But that's an, a really important piece.

Dr. Tamara Marder (32:28):
I know, I remember I was really taken aback the first year in this program that we offered this program. I had one student, I think it was like the first or second class. And she was, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a behavior analyst. And this is the first semester, right? She's like, I'm not sure I really want to be behavior analyst because I've met other behavior analysts and they walked into the room like they were the most important person in the room and it really turned me off from the field. And I was like, wow, you know, that's something we have to address. And so that's always been interwoven into our courses is, is that professionalism piece that we bring especially in school settings, you've got lots of experts at the table in a school setting. And how do you work within that group of people nobody is more than more important than anybody else at that table. So not being able to work with others is such an important point. And so that integrity we've really kept throughout the program, that if you're coming through this program, you're going to come out with a great group, great set of skills, but you're also going to be able to work within groups and talk to folks you're not any better because you got the certification, you just have an extra set of skills that you can bring to the table.

Shauna Costello (33:40):
Yeah. And it's really funny actually, when I was my student, my current students is actually writing a blog piece. And part of that blog piece is how behavior analysts come across as very snobby, and people don't. And we talk about how we want to save the world, but we don't want to collaborate with all these other fields.

Dr. Tamara Marder (34:01):

Shauna Costello (34:01):
It's, it's kind of saying that no offense but thing constantly. And I know I've walked into a school and I was coming into specifically consult on a difficult case they were having, and they were just lost. And I came in and I sat down. The first thing they said to me is like, okay, what's wrong with it? What's wrong with the behavior plan.

Dr. Tamara Marder (34:23):
Right. Right.

Shauna Costello (34:24):
And I was like, Oh, actually the behavior plan is great. They're like, wait, what? So they were so amazed that I was okay with what I was like, I don't actually want to change anything on it. I would like to see how it's like on paper, it looks phenomenal. I was like, it looks like this should be working great. I was like, let's see what's going on. Like in person that what are the barriers? And I actually jumped in and was working one-on-one with this student for an hour of the day to kind of model to the paraprofessionals and the teacher in the room and everybody else you know what I mean? and that was actually, they're like, Oh, how you just did that? Can you like, explain to me how you just did that? And so, you know what I mean? It was, it was really just, yeah, you have to, you have to go in, you're not bad. Like you're not better than them. They are. They're very good at what they do and you don't have the same experience as them. So we got to get this snobby behavior analyst persona.

Dr. Tamara Marder (35:30):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's so interesting to me when the students make that connection. Our grad students make that connection. We talked about reinforcement, right. For our students and pairing. And you know, when you come into a classroom, you're working with a new student and we talk about, you know, different reinforcement strategies and so forth. And when that light bulb goes off, when they're talking about consulting with folks and they're like, wait, I can use the same principles that I've learned about, and it's sort of a different way, but it's the same stuff. And that's really cool when I see that light bulb go off for the students and like, Oh right. It all comes back to reinforcement, you know, what are the behaviors that we want to see? And when do we want to reinforce? And that, I love that piece of it. That is what gets me really jived about teaching is seeing students click with these concepts that it's not just addressing our students, but it's really addressing everything. Right. So, you know, we have students in our program who are parents and like not only did it work in my school, but it also worked at home with my kids or people who have, you know, family members, whatever that, you know, that they're really applying all these different principles and it's sorta all clicking. That's really cool to me.

Shauna Costello (36:38):
Well, and it's one thing too, that I noticed over the years of practicing. I'm not actually practicing in a school or clinical setting now, but over the years of practicing, one thing that I noticed too, is that it's not always necessarily the student or the client that we need to be working one-on-one with and building that rapport with. We have to look at who is in the environment because behaviors are being maintained for a reason. And so when I went into that school and I was like, the pairs were like, wait, you're giving me an hour off during the day to just sit here and watch you.

Dr. Tamara Marder (37:16):

Shauna Costello (37:16):
Like that was like their first thing, like, Oh my gosh, you're going to do the work. And not just like, make me do things. Yeah. I'll do it.

Dr. Tamara Marder (37:26):

Shauna Costello (37:26):
It's, you're changing the environment around the client or student's behavior that you're working with, which can actually have a bigger impact when we work one-on-one.

Dr. Tamara Marder (37:37):
We talk about that. So we talk about, you know, when you're training, other people are trying to get that buy in. Right. So it's not just about, you know, doing a quick preference assessment with a bunch of adults and saying, okay, so what would you like for my time of emulate? I want a Starbucks card or let's have a pizza party or things like that. And that's great. You know, I'm not saying those things don't work. They do sometimes work, but you know, Starbucks card can really drain your, your own pocket. But thinking about more of like, okay, so, wow, how can we apply negative reinforcement in this situation for the adult in that room? You know, what are those different things that we can do? So, you know, there's been great studies out there that like, okay, so if you don't if you implement these behaviors, then you don't have to consult with me or you don't have to have that training session with me. That's a nice, there's a nice example of negative reinforcement. So, you know, really looking at how we apply again, apply these principles, not only with the students that we serve, but also with the adults that we work with as well.

Dr. Tamara Marder (38:36):
Another thing I just wanted to bring up about the program, cause we were really talking a lot about school settings. And so I don't, I don't want to give the that graduate students in our program are not just students that work in school settings. So we do have folks from local ABA agencies, or you've had folks who've come from outside of Maryland as well. Who've come here, you know, got a job because they do need to work full time and then go to school part time. And so it's not just for people in education, but it is you know, it is really focused on folks from K through 12. We've had folks who've worked with adults you know, in group homes or adult agencies, who've also come through our program. So it's not just limited to school setting. So I wanted to make sure that that was clear that although we do have a big focus on how do we do this in schools and our programs. We do have folks who are in different settings, who also get, you know, are very successful in our program going through our program.

Shauna Costello (39:39):
And I think that that's a very good clarification to make as well, but I mean, and there's something else too that I would like to make sure that we cover. I know that I said it when I was introducing the program, but now that we're going to start maybe talking about the application process and that this is a post master certificate program. So that means you have to.

Dr. Tamara Marder (40:05):
have to have a master's

Shauna Costello (40:07):
You have to have a master's degree already. So do you want to explain kind of the application process and deadlines and things along those lines?

Dr. Tamara Marder (40:16):
So the way that the application works, so obviously you must have a master's degree and we follow the BACB guidelines for that, which are open, which is opening up right in the past, the masters for the fourth edition was psychology, education, or ABA. And now that is open to a master's from a qualifying institution. So we follow the BACB guidelines. So you must have a master's degree before you enter into the program. When we look at that you know, as part of the application process. Standard application, so you've got references at least two references. We really like to encourage people to have somebody who's worked with you in graduate school. Since you have a master's degree, so who can really speak to your ability to be successful in graduate and a graduate program. You also have to do a written statement, essay, personal statement that really talks about, you know, I'm, I personally, the faculty are really looking for folks to talk about why they want to become board certified. So why are you why are you entering into this field? Why do you want to apply to this program? What's your background and what has sort of led you to this point for becoming a board for pursuing board certification? There was a fee, of course there's no GRE or any exams that you have to take. And I'm looking at my list. So hold on, let me make sure, Oh, you must have a 3.0 or better GPA, undergrad and grad. So we look at both undergrad and graduate school and that's it. I did say two letters of recommendation and your resume.

Shauna Costello (41:51):
And then I did read that it's a rolling applicants process?

Dr. Tamara Marder (41:56):
Rolling admissions. So you know, really we see an uptick in those applications, you know, February time period. So we usually don't see it before then. But the You know, and then, you Know, as we go on through the spring semester, we are looking at applications as they come in. When students go through the application and the faculty review, we have faculty review the applications, we then do invite students for an interview. So they meet with us as the faculty, you know, typical interview that we go through, we talk about the program, we talk about what questions they have about the program. And so, you know, the focus is really making sure that we provide good information to make sure that our program meets the students or the applicants professional goals, but also that that we meet their goals, but also that they will be able to bring to the table as well from this experience from being in an our graduate school.

Dr. Tamara Marder (42:57):
We also have some scholarship opportunities. We have institutional scholarships. One thing that is really awesome over the years, we've had a relationship with our state department here that has supported students who are working in Maryland public schools to get tuition support which we've been really happy to be able to have had every single year of the program. And so this also enables our students to get involved in some other projects at the state level. So one thing as students get partial tuition support from the state, of course we have to give back to the state, right? Cause we've got, we're getting all this learning. The students are getting all this learning. So how are they going to bring that to the state of Maryland? So a lot of we have projects which one is called a strategic collaboration project, where the graduate students who are part of the grant, it's a grant, we'll work with folks in there at the state level looking at what does the state need thinking about? You know, so like a project we're working on this year is a decision making tool for a functional behavior assessment. So there's this online system that we have that schools are supposed to use for conducting an FBA. So we have developed a decision-making tool. So do I actually need an FBA? Right. And so how do I go about not just, it's not really training on how to do the FBA, but what are the deciding factors that go into an FBA? So I'm, I'm super excited about that project that we've been working on for the state. So, you know, when we think about, you know, tuition support, there are some we have institution within Hopkins, but also we have some other opportunities and we're always looking for opportunities for our students to support their tuition. Also students who are enrolled in different agencies, or I'm sorry, are working at different agencies, but are, or also working in school systems. There is some tuition support there as well from their school districts or their employers. And it's always important to know what those are when you're considering applying.

Shauna Costello (45:03):
Well, that's really exciting because a lot of times you don't, especially just for like a certificate program, you might not necessarily expect there to be these types of financial support options available. And unless it's like you trying to talk your work or your job into sending you through something, but so that's really actually really neat to hear. I never would have even expected, like that was my, you know what I mean? That's mostly my assumption as well, a lot for master's programs or for PhD programs, but not necessarily just for certificate programs. So that's really exciting.

Dr. Tamara Marder (45:37):
It is, it is super exciting. And then you know, and then the state also sees the benefit of having more people in the school systems who are board certified. So it also helps our field as well. So it's a nice, you know, all around, everybody gets something right. Nice piece. Okay.

Shauna Costello (45:55):
And then how about the area? I know that you said a lot of your students are living and practicing, you know, in lots of different areas, but campus and what's around there and what can people from Maryland.

Dr. Tamara Marder (46:10):
Yeah. So I think that's, what's kind of cool because when you come to our program, you don't get, because we teach out of Columbia, Maryland, you don't get that like school campus experience, right? Like where our courses are as an industrial park, you know, it's, you know, a bunch of office buildings. I think when you walk in the door, it definitely feels like a school. But but outside of that what students like about Columbia is they don't have to pay for parking at the Baltimore campus, which is really kinda nice. But I think the cool thing is, is, you know, when you're, you're doing a post-master's certificate, you're an adult already, like you've been out there, right? So you may not necessarily be thinking about, you know, having that campus experience per se. Now I know I always kid with my husband that when I retire, I would like to retire to a school set like a university campus. I'm going to be like the, you know, the elderly person walking around the school campus. Cause I don't want to live in a retirement community. I want to be where all the young people are. But you don't really have that experience. So a lot of folks, you know, we're all adults, they, you know, may have families. They may not, they may be single, whatever it might be, we have, you know, full range. And if you want to live in the city, you can live in a city, you can live in Baltimore city, you can live in Washington, DC, we've got lots of opportunities. If you want to live in more of a suburban area, you've got that opportunity too. So I think that's, what's cool about this program is we're having folks come from lots of different areas.

Dr. Tamara Marder (47:36):
And in the Maryland area, if it doesn't, you know, everything takes you at least 30 minutes to get to it's, you know, and there will be traffic, you know, that's just part of where we live for sure. But I think that's, what's really cool. I was thinking about this cause I was always preparing for the podcast. I was thinking about, you know, as it's the summertime, you know, you could, you know, in the summer the beach isn't too far away, it's a good two to three hour drive. You know, there is plenty of opportunity. You've got Washington DC with lots of museums that your taxes are paying for. So you get to go there for free, which is awesome. And of course, you know, living where I live is just, I live closer to the DC area than I do to the Baltimore area. And you know, we always joke around in my family that we don't go to the museums in DC unless somebody is visiting of course. But you know, there are plenty of opportunities in this area, you know, having two cities to go to you know, and you do have the campus, there is a library on campus. You can go to that campus, you can have that experience.

Shauna Costello (48:39):
And I think one thing that's nice about it as well, is that, I mean, Maryland's not that large of a state. So you would, you have the opportunity to find a spot that you like, you can afford, you're not stuck like a lot of other on-campus programs. Like you're not stuck being in that one place. You can really look to see what going to fit.

Dr. Tamara Marder (49:04):
We definitely have lots of opportunity. You know, you get to as rural as you want to be in Maryland. And to, you know, as city as you want to be also. So really it is, it is nice. And we've had folks come from outside of Maryland into our into our area. Some of them stay and that's great. And then sometimes we have folks who are from Maryland forever and then they go through our program and then move out of state. So we do see, you know, we do the majority of folks stay within Maryland, but we do see a lot of movement also across our students.

Shauna Costello (49:36):
Well, we have covered a lot about the program. We've covered the overview, the courses, faculty, practicum, the area, the admissions. Is there anything else that you want to say before or that we didn't cover before we wrap up?

Dr. Tamara Marder (49:57):
No, I think the, you know, I think the one thing that I would want to, I would want to say is that you know, because we are pretty much a young program, we are growing and evolving every single year and, and I think that's a benefit of our program. You know, I hope that all the students and I do believe that all the students that go through our program learn a great deal from our program. But I also I think if, if I could look back and say to students how much we as a faculty learn from our students as well and how our courses have evolved over time to address all these different needs that are ever changing for our students and the, and the people that they serve, the clients that they serve. And so it's been, I've been, so I feel so much gratitude of being part of this program being able to coordinate this program but also see it grow over the past eight years. I'm excited that we're entering our eighth cohort and bringing new students in and starting again, it is, you know, I, I kind of like to geek out at the start of school. Although I don't go by my notebooks anymore. Like I used to, I do that for my own children. You know, now they get geeked out about they go into it themselves. But it is something, you know, new and exciting about a new semester starting and having a new cohort of students to be working with. So we definitely learned a lot over the years that I think has benefited our program and, and only improved it every single year.

Shauna Costello (51:33):
Well, and I mean, from what I've learned about it too, I've just seen continuous growth and improvement. And even with, you know, getting the grants from the state and even from, you know, some of the school districts and there's just been, it's not just the students coming to you that are seeing the value in the program and this education it's the surrounding school districts and the state as well. So it's really exciting to hear. Well, thank you so much for talking about Johns Hopkins and I was so happy to finally learn some more about the program.

Dr. Tamara Marder (52:10):
Well, thanks for that So much for having me on the podcast. It's been awesome to talk about this program in a different way. I think what you were saying before that you can't, you can only get so much from a website, but it's nice to have this conversation about the program and share the inner workings that sometimes we don't get to talk about until students are actually in the program, but it's been a great experience talking to you about it.

Shauna Costello (52:35):
Thank you for listening to the university series. And as always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at

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