University Series 034 - Teachers College Columbia University
Today we are joined by Dr. Doug Greer, Dr. Jessica Dudek, & Dr. Daniel Fienup from Teachers College Columbia University and CABAS. This is one of the oldest programs in the country and has developed into a very unique program. To quote Dr. Doug Greer, "We’re sort of like Indiana Jones. We want to get our whip, hat, and go out there and deal with it, but we don't use whips."
Contact Information -
Dr. Doug Greer - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jessica Dudek - email@example.com
Dr. Daniel Fienup - Fienup@tc.columbia.edu
Additional Links -
Programs @ TC Columbia - https://www.tc.columbia.edu/health-and-behavior-studies/applied-behavior-analysis/
CABAS - https://www.cabasschools.org/
Shauna Costello (00:00:01):
You're listening to Operant Innovations. A podcast brought to you by ABA Technologies. This week on the University Series, we are speaking with Teachers College of Columbia and Dr. Doug Greer, Dr. Daniel Fienup and Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek. Dr. Fienup is an associate professor of applied behavior analysis at Teachers College Columbia University. He received his Master's in applied behavior analysis from Southern Illinois University and his PhD in school psychology from Illinois State University. Dr. Fienup and his students conduct research on instructional design and educational performance. He has published numerous articles and behavior analytics journals. He is an associate editor at the journal for behavioral education and the analysis of verbal behavior. And as a guest associate editor at the psychological record. He also serves on the editorial board for the journal of applied behavior analysis journal, the experimental analysis of behavior, behavior analysis and practice, the journal of developmental and physical disabilities, behavior analysis research and practice and behavior development. He serves on the licensed behavior analysis, New York State board and is a past board member of the New York State association for behavior analysis. Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek is the director of transdisciplinary programs in ABA at Columbia University Teachers College. She also serves as senior behavior analyst consultant to schools implementing the CABAS model and serves as the CABAS professional advisory board, secretary and treasurer, Dr. Dudek's research interests include component analysis of successful behavior analytic models of education, teacher and supervisor training, verbally govern and verbally governing behaviors, establishment of early observing responses, verbal behavior development, conditioned reinforcement, and observational learning. Dr. Doug Greer directs the MA and PhD programs at Teachers College, Columbia and behavior analysis in education as behavior science. He has served on the editorial boards of 10 journals, published over 200 research and theoretical articles and more than 20 journals and is the author of 14 books in behavior analysis. Two of his most recent books are translated into Korean, Spanish, Chinese and Italian. Dr. Greer has sponsored 247 doctoral dissertations to over 2000 teachers and psychologists and together with colleagues originated the CABAS model of schooling used in the United States, Ireland, Italy, England. Founded the Fred S Keller School and established general education classroom models for elementary and preschool education and public education based entirely on behavioral science. He has done basic and applied experimental research in schools with students, teachers, parents, and supervisors, as well as pediatric patients in medical settings. He and his colleagues and students have identified controlling stimuli for verbal and social development cusps and protocols to establish them when they are missing and children. As well as the strategic science of teaching for general and special education. He is the recipient of the Fred S Keller award for distinguished contributions to education, fellow of the association for behavior analysis international and the recipient of the R Douglas Day in Westchester County and the Jack Michael award for contributions to verbal behavior. He has served as guest professor and lecturer in universities in China, Spain, Wales, England, Canada, Japan, Korea, India, Ireland, Italy, US and Nigeria. So without further ado, Teachers College Columbia University. Today, we're here with Dr. Doug Greer, Dr. Jessica Dudek and Dr. Dan Fienup. I'm very excited to talk to them about a couple of different things today, but I am going to pass it over to Dr. Greer to talk a little bit about the overview of the program.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:04:17):
So Teachers College is the oldest graduate and professional school in the country. It is kind of a unique institution. It is the school of education and applied psychology and health for Columbia University, but it's also an independent institution financially. It is the place where the law of effect was discovered. Reinforcement was discovered in the basement of what we now call Sanco Hall by EO Furndite. Unfortunately, it took many years before another behaviorist arrived there. I arrived there in 1969. The last behaviorist that had been at Columbia University was Fred Keller, who left the year before I came here. We've had a behavior analysis program at Teachers College since 1979. Our mission is really to develop a strategic science of teaching. So we come with a dependent variable meaning, for example you, Shauna, are getting another degree, so you can apply behavior analysis to something. Well, we started with the problem, right? The pigeon always knows best, and the kid knows best as Fred Keller said. We started with the problem, and we chose the two to be the science of behavior. The Master's program allows an individual to get four different certifications as a teacher in general education and special education. We have a doctoral program, that we have in our program, has produced 247 dissertations. We have a very active research program that's connected to our lab schools that are CABAS schools. With a comprehensive application of behavior analysis to schooling. Those schools include three preschool campuses. The Fred S Keller school and a general education program with 10 classrooms in Morristown, New Jersey. Both of these programs, which is a countywide program each. Each County in New York State has a county-wide program that includes vocational training and also includes working with children and adolescents that the school district cannot necessarily deal with effectively. We have, of course, the BCBA certification, we have the Master's program and teaching applied behavior analysis. And we have a certificate program that is available for people who are in clinical psychology, school of psychology, educational psychology, autism and developmental disabilities. And we are currently in a department called health and behavior studies, and we collaborate a great deal with school psychology, autism and developmental disabilities, and deaf and hard of hearing. We have a New York State license. We are a university accredited program to do that. We're also accredited by the association for behavior analysis international. Several other agencies are associated with teacher education. So that's it for the overview.
Shauna Costello (00:08:12):
That's a really good place to transition into faculty and research because there's no way that Teachers College can do all of that stuff without the faculty and research. So, yeah, what is going on? Who is here or who is at Teachers College and what type of research is going on?
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:08:34):
So I guess as an overview for the research, I would say that when Dr. Greer talked about the strategic science of teaching, I think that is actually what binds us all together as researchers and drives a lot of our research agenda is how do we produce that strategic science teaching so that teaching is not an art that it's based on an understanding of learning and an understanding of what a child brings to the table and how do we produce the educational outcomes that we desire. We do really focus on education and educational outcomes. I think that's contrasted a little bit with some other programs that would focus on behavior reduction for severe challenging behavior and things of that sort. We focus more on educational settings and how we teach children to learn how to learn, how to speak, how to use verbal behavior, academic reading and writing and math and all of those sorts of things. And then I think the specifics of what we're interested in sort of varies per faculty member. I guess the other big piece would be looking at the verbal development of children and how that affords how teachers should change. How they teach based on the verbal development of the child that they're working with. And so there's a lot of work done on bi-directional naming, which is, a term describing the onset of incidental language, or being able to learn both listener and speaker responses just based on hearing. Those things are modeled by instructors or teachers. And there's been a lot of research looking at how children prior to having this bi-directional naming or incidental language learning. We have to teach them in a particular way where we have to have lots of direct reinforcement and correction procedures and things of that sort, but then following the establishment of that repertoire that we can now change how we teach and they respond better to modeling of academic responses and things of that sort. I guess that would be an overview of the general things we do. Would you guys add anything, Doug and Jessica?
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:10:52):
Yeah. Most of our research is founded or stems from the verbal behavior development theory. So from the earliest types of observing responses that children can emit. All the way up through very advanced academic based, reading, writing, speaking, listening, repertoires and it is a lot about not just children can learn, but how they can learn. We know that the development of crucial cusps is what is really going to dictate what they can learn and also how they can learn. That's been really the underpinning of most of the research out of our lab. But we have many other wide variety of topics in addition to that.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:11:40):
I was just going to point out that a lot of our verbal behavior development now includes the joining of print to children's verbal behavior developmental cusps and those cusps allow children to learn things they couldn't before or learn them faster. Or in the case of new learning capabilities and allows them to learn in ways they could not before. Different kinds of observation. Either antecedent events or consequent events. We're learning more and more about how you don't need a teacher. That the stimulus becomes a teaching machine that actually allows the children to learn more and more. A lot of that work now is also going on in our general education. So we're like one of, if not the only, general education. I mean, our classrooms where we train our people, are one of the only general education programs maybe in the world that are totally behavioral. These, along with our other campuses, constitute school problems that we think that are the state of the science program and that are also laboratories. A lot of our recent work, or some of our work or particularly my interest has been in reading, writing, and mathematics and how to make the curriculum for those programs function in the sense of behavior selection. For example, acquiring conditioned reinforcement for reading content can raise a child's grade level from one to three grade levels in two or three weeks. Establishing bi-directional naming allows kids to learn from constructional presentations by teachers. Whereas if the kid doesn't have that, they're not going to learn at all from those antecedents. You just give them a question or SD, which is not an SGLT yet. They respond incorrectly. A lot of people don't reinforce. We do corrections and then if they get it correct, they reinforce. So a kid who lacks basic bi-directional naming doesn't learn anything from the teacher saying, "Oh, this is red. This is blue. This is green. See? Here's another one. This is red. This is green. This is blue." A kid with bi-directional naming will get 30 to 70% of those correct before they need a correction. So that's 21st century ABA, right? We believe more and more, at least I do, that every time you use a prompt, you're missing a piece of science. So we want the kids to enter so they can learn initially from corrections and reinforcement and antecedents. And eventually learn from students giving presentations. Our goal in CABAS is to make kids bad teacher proof. I researched that through our application. We don't have to worry about applying our research. Our research is driven by the problems and they're applied immediately all day long with the kids.
Shauna Costello (00:15:22):
Well, and I think that that really speaks to, especially what's been happening in the world the last year. Moving to more of the non-classroom style teaching as well. So I think that it can be very applicable to social issues right now as well.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:15:42):
Yes. We have right now in our school, both. We have hybrid models and we have in person, we have periodically virtual that goes back to hybrid. So we've had a lot of differences and it's not as effective yet. Although at the same time we've learned how to use, I think, technology in person in ways that we couldn't before.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:16:14):
Speaking to Dr. Greer's comment about we're constantly doing research. We actually have a student right now who's doing a dissertation. We actually have a pretty fair sense of how good we're doing in a hybrid model, because he's looking through all of the data. And we said, well, could you compare this to the last five years of CABAS. The CABAS school. And within 20 minutes, people are giving him data files of school-wide data for the last five years. And so he can make these direct comparisons between the number of learning opportunities kids are getting this year when they're in a 60/40 hybrid versus 100% in person last year. The research then kind of drives what are the holes in the system that we can then try to plug with additional resources and things of that sort. It's a pretty phenomenal system whereby the issues in the system identify the research questions that we need to solve, which are then rolled over to make the system better. And it's, I think I've heard Jessica talk about, it's a cybernetic system right now. Everything's kind of working together to constantly improve. And I mean, I've been in this program. I was at another university for my first eight years in academia, and I've been here for four years. And even in the four years that I've been here, there's been changes to the system in terms of the curriculum and the teaching procedures. And they're all based on the research that has been happening in the last five years being rolled over into more or less some kind of policy for educational practice.
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:17:52):
Well, I think that's an important maybe segway into, maybe we should talk a little bit more about CABAS. CABAS is the system in place in our schools and our schools is where all of our students train and all of our research is generated from. That CABAS system. CABAS stands for comprehensive application of behavior analysis to schooling. And it is a system that is founded in data and measurement. The dependent variables, the dependent data are, of course, the students who attend those schools. The kids that we teach and their progress, their learning, their performance is a direct measure of their teachers and the teachers' performance is a direct result of their supervisors. They have university faculty who have trained them. And so the system, all these components are tied together. And if you make a change in one component, you're going to see the effects of that change throughout the other components. And so the students drive the system and they can only learn as fast as their teachers can teach them. And their teachers can only teach them as fast as you go up the line. How much they can learn in their university classes, or that doctoral student dissertations have findings that are then applied to changes across the board in the schools, et cetera. So it is always evolving and it is always changing and hopefully always getting a little bit better because we're constantly learning and we're learning from our students. We're learning from when they don't learn something, when they reach a plateau or they reach a difficulty, that's our job to figure out why they're not learning and how we can get them through that. Then those attempts at solving those problems become procedures that we then apply to students who present in a similar way. And so on.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:20:01):
In most programs there's your graduate education. And then there's your experience. And often you're farming out the experience to local human service organizations and things like that. And you can try to make those as closely aligned as possible, but there's always some sort of disconnect because you have different people in each setting. One of the real benefits of this system is that there's no difference between the graduate education and the site where you're working. Most of the people and the supervisors have gone through the graduate program. When I have them in class and we talk about research and then I go to their site and talk about the research with them, where they're pointing, "Oh, that's the kid I'm doing." And I might be able to observe what they're doing. Doctors Dudek and Dr. Greer are both out at the sites, giving performance feedback to the students that they were teaching the night before on their accuracy of teaching and making recommendations for curriculum changes and things of that sort. And so it's not that you have the university and then you have these practicum sites. It's really that everything is very closely intertwined and you see people in multiple contexts and my previous job, I didn't really know what their clinical skills were like, but here, I think everybody understands your performance in the graduate classroom, your performance in research, your performance in your classroom or day job, because it's one system rather than a number of linked systems.
Shauna Costello (00:21:44):
All of you read my mind, because that's about where we were going to move on to next. Was the practicum sites and that experience, those experience opportunities. It's really exciting to hear that it's just the circle of it just doesn't stop. It's really, really neat to hear. What have been.. just to talk more about the experience that the students get. What does that experience mean for some of the experiences that they're getting within that system of the experiential opportunities? Yeah.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:22:21):
They get paid. Master's students make TA salaries and teachers. PhD students are teachers. They make $55,000 plus. That's why we stopped doing grants. Or I did years ago, because it was just if you got a training grant, the students made less money, even though they might have gotten some tuition. People had to pay for their tuition in the Master's program. By the time you go to the doctoral program, a lot of the tuition is taken care of. At the same time, this means that we have positions in schools and we are accountable, because they hold those jobs open. Our doctoral students get to spend three years in the school system. And if they get to dissertation, which they usually do, then they leave and they're replaced by a new doctoral student. So we have in the public school center in Morristown, we have 10 teacher slots that are open that the school district reserves for that. And after 20 Master's students, because the teacher might have to TAs because our general ed classes are also inclusion. So we have to teach the kids with autism to join that class if they have the cusps and the repertories. I guess the other point about that is, it is a way we are accountable to those school systems. So the university really, and I always say the CABAS board too, but the university is at the bottom of the organizational chart. They are accountable. The person at the top is the student. That comes from the radical behaviorist philosophical position of Skinner who said, "Now, now!" To someone who said, "Well, this pigeon's not doing it right." And Fred says, "Now, now! The pigeon always knows best." Well, then Keller got to the university and said, "Okay. Where do we have to teach our students here?" So it was the student who is always right. Well, we think of the students always right, too. If they're not learning, there's something wrong with the data picture. So the students are at the top of the organizational chart, and then the teachers are here, the supervisors next to him and the parents are here. Then underneath that is the CABAS board, which overlooks a lot of things. And then the university. So the university really. It's not, will the schools implement the procedures? How well is the university doing the job doing that? All right. So the other point is there are two things always going on with our students. Our doctoral students, we wanted to have them do a basic science and an applied science component of their dissertations. The reason being, because the basic science hasn't necessarily filled the gaps that are needed for applied applications. I guess I wanted to talk about that too, because I think I would like more universities doing that and more universities being accountable to children rather than the other way around.
Shauna Costello (00:25:53):
Well, and I like hearing that too. Just with the basic aspect and the applied aspect, because in the past couple of years, I've seen, and even just from some of the conferences I've been to, I've seen an even bigger push for this translational research and because one needs to help the other and the other will help back. And so it's kind of nice to see that you're trying to set that up in the beginning that, "Okay, well we don't necessarily have the basic research base that's filling these gaps. Well, let's create it." Is that correct? Am I hearing that correctly?
Dr. Doug Greer (00:26:31):
Yeah. I think one of the reasons that happened is because it started out with developing a strategic science for this model. We took everything that existed in the behavior analysis literature. Direct instruction, precision teaching, the Kansas ABA model, and layer the morning side stuff that they were doing, which is really direct instruction. And so we took all those things and built it in the school. And then there's a whole bunch of stuff missing. Like how do you teach reading and writing? And if you teach kids to talk, what should it be? So Skinner's verbal behavior really outlines that. It comes all the way from Dewey and from Charles Purse, but it really sets in motion what a functional curriculum is and then probably some mathematics and so on too. So in my interaction with Skinner. He'd always say, well, that's my best book. And I couldn't read the darn thing because it was.. So we started testing it and that way each chapter became understandable. So we started out and eventually it turned into not just the verbal behavior, but the development. How do kids get it? How's that related to learning? And there wasn't any basic science in that. They're in relation with Simmon's stuff and other kinds of things later, but they weren't really tied to functional approach to behavior. So I think that's how it started. And then we found all sorts of interesting stuff like Jessica's. How kids acquire reinforcement by observation and denial. If you spend time with kids doing things scientifically, they often raise basic sciences. It's really translational research. You go from the applied problem to the basic science most of the time.
Shauna Costello (00:28:46):
And I think that this might be a good place too. This is something that we do sometimes. Really talking about what is going to be the student experience within the course? The coursework. What are the types? Teachers College is kind of different from a lot of these other clinical behavior analytic programs that a lot of people are pumping out right now. What are some of the courses that your students are taking? Because I have a feeling it's going to be vastly different than what we've heard about in the past.
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:29:24):
All of our Master's students come in and they're given a set of training modules. There are three tiers. So the first tier is verbal behavior about the science. That is mainly what they've read. What they have learned from the science through readings and mastery based quizzes. The second is what we call contingency shaped behaviors. Those are the things that they learned how to do in the classroom, interacting with students, presenting instruction, consequating behavior, collecting data measurement, et cetera. The third tier is verbally mediated and that's where the analytic repertoires come in. So that's almost a combination of what they read about and the vocabulary they've mastered and the principles that they've learned about the science and the application that they have that they've learned to do in the classroom. And so the two come together. They're asked to analyze data, make database decisions, apply tactics that are based on analysis of where the problem lies in the instruction. Their coursework will fulfill some of those module requirements. For example, in the verbally mediated area, they have to do what we call data collections. Their experiments.Those data collections are done in their classrooms. The data are collected on real life children by these trainees in our classes. They do a whole write-up, which is a mini article preparation, basically. They're not only learning to work directly with the children, they're learning how to collect the data and then analyze and see the effects of what they've done. Those modules we have.. we call them teacher ranks. By the time they finish the Master's program, they're expected to have completed two ranks, which is 20 modules worth of those three tiered components. It spans all of their courses. Most of their courses in the Master’s program. I don't know if you want more detail on that.
Shauna Costello (00:31:46):
I like that model as well, too. It's a very unique model. Yes.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:31:53):
One point about that too is it's mastery-based so you could complete part of the courses, but not get the mastery somewhere else and not get the rank. We do have data on that from our program, but we also have independent data from school and psych people, and also from people in England. Part of our curriculum. Demonstrate the strongest predictor for the outcomes with children, our progress through these modules. Those modules, then, when we do it outside the university, for example, when we went to Ireland and started schools there. The school in England, or even in Spain and Italy. They go through the same training. If they don't have a university there to do it, then it's done in the school. It just takes a lot longer to get them through that. So we see those as fundamental competency for the children, because they predict the outcomes for the kids. If they don't predict outcomes for the kids, then we get rid of that curriculum. We don't do Freud, right? Only in psychology. The people still talk about Freud. They don't work. We don't use them anymore. You don't need to talk about it. Someday we'll do that with prompts. We'll bury prompts, and then we'll really be doing what we can do. Prompts are necessary with organisms that are non-verbal. If you can get your organism verbal, you don't need a clicker.
Shauna Costello (00:33:40):
This is kind of expanding on all of this as well. I'm very interested to learn where your students go after they've graduated. Where are they going?
Dr. Doug Greer (00:33:59):
Not as many go into university positions as I would like, because a lot of them go out in the agencies and get very rich, very fast. Some of them actually stay in CABAS systems or teach. We have another university now that is a replication of our model. Nicholls State in Louisiana. We want to see more of those models going and more in-teacher education too, because we want to.. The reason I have dealt with bad behavior too, a lot... the first school program that became CABAS. Dr. Dudeck was a Master's student. A doctoral student and eventually the youngest principal in the state of New York at that school. It was a residential program with behaviorally difficult kids. In fact, we used to bring kids back from the State of New York. Would bring kids back from what is now the Judge Rottenberg Center and put them in our school. And we had a sealed booth, and that was the most useful thing we ever used, which is what I learned very early. Skinner's point. If you build a better environment, then you'll get rid of a lot of bad behaviors. But the important thing that I've learned about that environment... the children's environment doesn't just consist of what people are teaching. It consists of the existing reinforcers. In their community of reinforcers. And so there is one thing somebody asked me the other day in class, what I think is the most important thing. We've learned you could do a lot for people by changing their behavior with other reinforcers. But if you change their reinforcers, you change their prognosis for the rest of their life. So in education, you get a chance particularly of our preschools to stop problems before they become problems, right? That's the other end. If you're looking at a sheltered workshop, for example, or a group home, all the things they're doing in many places are totally wrong. They're not designed around environments to teach, mentor, monitor on a continuous basis. And so you end up with Sigmund would call cohersing interactions, which he got from Don Veer. So that's really the difference we've seen. I discovered that when I first came to college, I was half in developmental psych and half in music, and then special ed started. And I came because I did this thing called behavioral modification. But one of the things I learned is if you are in the classroom teaching, you are a behavioral analyst. To me, talking about a practitioner is something from the stone age. Behavior, now applied behavior analysis is to be in the system. So if you're going to be a political science major and you're going to be working in politics, then you're an applied behavior analyst, part political scientist. We're applied behavior analysts teaching strategic scientists. Somebody who gets behavior science will get that too, right? Because the kids drive the system, not the union of ABA, not the union of special ed, not the union of teachers, but the behavior of the kids and science. Those were all messages from the guys behind me. See those two big pictures?
Shauna Costello (00:37:59):
I've been looking at those actually.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:38:02):
Frederick Skinner. Those are the things that are really important to remember. That's the difference between behavior analysis and a lot of other practices.
Shauna Costello (00:38:14):
Well, and that's something too from learning more about the program and all of this. I come from a family of teachers. And so when I got into behavior analysis... Very gung ho. Still a Master's student years and years and years ago.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:38:36):
You tried to teach your parents.
Shauna Costello (00:38:37):
I tried to teach my dad. He's like, "What do you mean if my students aren't learning, I'm not teaching?"" I'm like, "Hey, I'm just quoting here."
Dr. Doug Greer (00:38:51):
Good advice. My part in that advice to my students is you can't teach your family. You can't teach your significant other, and you can't teach people that you work with. If you do, you're in the wrong relationship.
Shauna Costello (00:39:12):
Yup. And it wasn't so much about teaching. It was more so about hearing his perspectives of this as well. It was definitely... it brings us some really good dialogues that's for sure. It really makes me wonder. I really want to see more of your students out into these other teacher programs throughout the country. In these teacher schools. I guess if you want to call them that. In universities and even in school districts or things along those lines or in administration. That's why I asked that.
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:39:53):
We do have our share of those who choose administration. It's sort of an interesting choice shall we say. The reinforcers are very different. They go into all kinds of educational fields and I think they're well sought after. They're scooped up almost immediately after graduation. But certainly from our PhD graduates, we see a lot more at higher level administrative positions, higher level school positions, in some cases. For our Master's class, many of them go into behavior analytic teaching settings, whether they're private schools, public schools. I don't know. We don't keep the best tabs on all of our graduates. We could probably do a better job.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:41:01):
At least 10 of them are still teaching in our schools or supervising probably.
Shauna Costello (00:41:08):
Well. I mean, that means that you set up a good system, especially if they don't ever want to leave. That speaks to that too.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:41:14):
I find that if they don't stay in the CABAS system, they want something akin to it. Because I think when they're doctoral students, they're doing a lot of stuff like directly teaching children and there's certain reinforcers associated with that. They're also mentoring Master's students. And so they appreciate that level of education. They're doing their own research. They're also mentoring the Master's students who are doing research in their classes. There's lots of different things they're doing each that have their own reinforcers. And I think when they're done and I had that conversation with the doctoral students about what do you want to do next? They want to keep doing this. They want to have some research. They want to have some mentoring and they still want to be working with kids. It's the variety of reinforcers that you contact across all of those that... That's what they want.
Shauna Costello (00:42:07):
It's getting me really excited about just learning more about the program in general. And I'm very happy that I got to talk to all of you today about it. We've talked a lot about the program and I could probably go on for a very long time about that. But how about the application process and the potential interview process as well? What does that look like to get into your programs?
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:42:34):
I can talk about that. I actually was on the phone earlier today with a potential student, so it's sort of fresh what I said to her.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:42:44):
We have one at 3:30.
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:42:44):
Yeah. We have another potential student meeting at three 3:30. One of her questions was, "What are my odds? How many?" And I said, "We really do not get a large number of applicants." We don't get hundreds of applicants. And the reason for that I said is we're sort of self-selective. People who apply to our program for the most part, they know us. They know of us, or they know us directly. Whether it's through conferences, whether it's by reputation, whether it's by our research, whether it's through our graduates. They usually know enough about what our program is and what we do. In the application process, I mean, we're looking for the basics. Academic performance being one of the most important, but what we're really looking for is people who have a demonstrated interest in what we do. We're not just any online BCBA certification program. We wholeheartedly disagree that that's what we are. We are teaching as a strategic science program. That we have a vested interest in teaching children in classrooms and in clinical settings. Our training is all in classroom settings. And so we want people who have really demonstrated interest in schooling and in making a difference in children's education and furthering their verbal development and all of that. And that interest will come through in their personal statement that they submit as part of their application. It will come through maybe in letters of recommendation. We like to see academic letters of recommendation from their faculty really speaking to why they would be a good candidate for us.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:44:46):
There's a point about that. I always got a story. I can't help it. It comes with age, I think, but people say, "What do we do? Therapy?" You do teaching. It's always teaching. We don't do Freudian counseling. What people call it therapy in behavior analysis is teaching. So one of my stories about that is every time I go say Ivar Lovaas. I knew Ivar and I had a lot of respect for him. We had some humorous engagements, but anyway, every time I walk into something he said, "Oh, that's Doug. Doug. Oh, Doug. He does his teaching. It's not really therapy. It's teaching." I don't know what he said when I went out of the room. I'm not sure, but he definitely would make a big deal about that. I think Sid Bijou would say that, Bayer would say that. And maybe Murray. I'm sure Murray would say that.
Shauna Costello (00:46:00):
That's kind of interesting to hear that. Granted, I've heard about the program just because of the program I came from and the focus of my graduate lab. I kind of like what your students are saying. They want, you know, to be able to do all of these things. I'm kind of the same way. I still supervise Master's students as well. And so I love that and I get to bring a lot of my experiences with this, to them. And they're like, "Wait. What school is this? Who, what?" I guarantee you'd know their names. It's one of those things that, unless you're specifically looking for it. So I'm very happy to be able to hopefully spread this out to more people, because the education has always been... when I first entered into my Master's program, I thought I wanted to be in the schools and be doing that stuff. And I did get to do that. And so this is something that's still very close to my heart and it just gets me thinking to now. With the position I'm in... how can we get this out there even more? Because this is what we need.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:47:11):
Skinner once said.. we were walking from his office to this restaurant we used to go for lunch and we were talking about teaching and behavior analysis and skills. And he said, "I probably should have gone into education. That would have been more effective." And he wrote a great paper that all students should read called "The shame of American education." At any rate... the teaching machine component of Skinner's work...people don't understand it as well, because it's different than just the operant chamber. I wish more people would read that book.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:48:08):
I think it makes a big difference to be in the schools, because I think before I was a part of this program, I was mainly working with people who worked around... if you look at the education system, that's the primary way that kids should be learning. I wouldn't say that's the primary way they are learning. That's how they should be learning. And a lot of behavior analysis is like the two hours after they get home from school, right? The BCBA comes in and gives two hours two to three days a week. But that's also that the OT comes over and does that too. And if you get called into a school and you're consulting to a classroom, you go in and you probably see a lot of things you'd like to comment on. They want you to reduce this challenging behavior of that kid. And they don't really have any investment or knowledge that you may be able to help with other things too. And so it's very different to actually control the classroom. To have the behavior analyst as the teacher, where now you get six hours a day with a kid and so let somebody else come in and they can do whatever they want for the two hours after school. You had them for the six hours a day, you determine the curriculum, you took common core and made it something that is measurable. And you came up with teaching tactics to get those measurable outcomes. It's the way to make a real impact or a larger impact in the lives of those kids.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:49:36):
That reminds me the reason I went into special ed. So I was teaching doctoral students in all the areas of psychology. I was teaching stuff in psychology music too. But then when I started teaching what became behavior analysis in special ed in probably about 1970, I discovered that if you were the teacher, you were the second most important person and you were the second person closest to the kid after the mother in those days. Now it's the father and the mother too, because it's not just Raymond now and Amy... anyway.. So the point is that when you're there and you have control over the contentions, as opposed to dropping in as a consultant, the teacher often is not interested in you helping them teach more effectively. They just want, as Dr. Fienup said, they just want the bad behavior to go away because it can't be their problem. But just like parents.. 90% of the time with problems are the teaching environment and the parenting environment. So I discovered that when I was working in special ed, I could actually get under the hood so to speak and they would be working with the kids up until the time the parents got them. And the next thing we started was a thing called a parent child institute, right? By putting parents and children in together and then a good move was we got the schools, particularly the preschool, we built a parent training component in it. So the idea is where you've got behavior analysis in the school and we want to try to get in the home as much as possible.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:51:36):
I think that analogy is it's really that it's better to build the engine and drive the car than be the mechanic.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:51:44):
Shauna Costello (00:51:45):
I like that analogy a lot. That's a really good analogy.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (00:51:50):
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:51:50):
I think that bears repeating what Dan was saying earlier, and Doug too, that we have students, they graduated, they said, "Oh, I really want to be a consultant. I really want to work in schools." I said, "but you don't because all they want you to do is come in and take care of the bad behavior." And not only that, but the teacher is usually the problem or it is the teacher's behavior that is reinforcing the child's bad behavior, right? But the teacher wants nothing to do with the change. Doesn't want to be a part of what needs to happen to change. And so that behavior analyst will be completely ineffective because in the end, it's the teacher that needs to do the work. And so I say to the students, "you don't want to be a consultant. You want to be in the fabric of that school. You want to be a part of that."
Dr. Doug Greer (00:52:42):
There's a good reason why the teachers don't do it because anybody coming in... They're held accountable and responsible, but nobody's there to support them. So they're always trying to protect what they know. If in the system that we have, the supervisor is as accountable for the kids learning as the teacher and the university's accountable if the supervisor can't do it. So there's a whole system. So if you have a problem with a kid learning, it's not something you want to hide under the table or something you can share. And so a supervisee coming in to do observation with our teachers is something they want, right? TIt's something they asked for. It's just like our preschool kids. Sometimes the kids will grab a clipboard or something and run over to the teachers to get taught more. That's what we want with our teachers and with our supervisor. It has to be a system in which the kids learning is a yoke contingency. The kids learning has to be the reinforcer for the teacher, for the supervisor and for the university. And you want to yoke those contingencies together. So you're a community. And then the teacher welcomes. We have another related thing called the foundation for the advancement of strategic science, which is called FAST. It's scienceofteaching.org so that's an organization that extends CABAS to developing a science of teaching everywhere. I think if we understood that about systems, you can't do behavior analysis alone, to the extent that it should be done. You need a system. And that system is an organizational behavior analysis system. But you got to decide. Is money at the top of the system, are your staff the top of the system, right? Or are the outcomes of the clients, or the students the top of the system? Westinghouse tried to buy the CABAS organizational model. But I thought, "do I want refrigerators at the top of the system?" You can do it with money too. Money works really well. It's called "Why we have more billionaires now than we need." So it's about the contingencies obviously, and the contingencies are always interlocking. Verbal behavior doesn't exist unless you have an interlocking between the listener and a speaker. A speaker speaking alone, is the rat in a cage without the experiment.
Shauna Costello (00:55:51):
Well, and I'm very excited to hear about all of this going on. My brain, like I said before, just turning and how we can continue to get this into other programs where this is how we're teaching our teachers. Our future teachers as well. I know where everything's located, but where's the school located? What is the area like? What can people expect when coming to the university?
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:56:27):
Our schools are not located in New York City, nor are they located very close to the University. So that's one of the things that our students do is they commute on a daily basis. Sometimes over an hour each way. Not everybody commutes. Some of them figure out how to find housing, closer to where they are going to work. But many of them choose to live on or around campus or live in other boroughs or other parts of the city and commute. And in this part of the country, public transportation is not easy. It's not cheap. It takes probably twice as long as a car ride would. So we encourage students who have the means to bring a vehicle to please bring your car. Parking on the street is free. It's pretty safe around TC. There's lots of security and they do reverse commute. So they're out of the city leaving the city during rush hour, coming back in during rush hour or the opposite direction. It's between, I'd say 30 to 45 minutes from TC to most of our schools.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:57:54):
21 and a half minutes from the University to the Yonkers campus. And it's about 24 minutes, but you gotta be careful about speeding tickets to get there in that time.
Shauna Costello (00:58:11):
It sounds like you're speaking from experience there.
Dr. Doug Greer (00:58:16):
Yeah. Jessica and I and more and more Dan spend two days a week in schools typically. Right now I'm doing it virtually. In fact, right before this, I just got off Zoom with Harrison Geller who was in kindergarten, who had a birthday today and I had a success. So I Skyped with him. We are part of that system and that keeps us.. Dan's always really close to the students that is his dissertation people. So he's really close to the data. And he's got two kids himself that are really good at teaching about behavior analysis. As these kids get older, you'll have more time in schools, but it is a critical part of what we do. That's our lab and being there is a critical part of doing it.
Shauna Costello (00:59:20):
I mean, it sounds like the faculty, the students and the students of your students are very close, are very intertwined, have a very good relationship between all of you. That's great to hear from a graduate program.
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (00:59:42):
I would say our Master's cohort every year, right? We bring in a cohort somewhere around 20 students, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. They become very, very close very quickly. And I say, it's because no one else will understand the kinds of experiences that they're having. So they have to share it amongst themselves. They say that about military people. You can't share this with anyone else. So, they've become a very close knit group. Even virtually. You can see that happening with some of them.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (01:00:21):
A lot of them carpool together, then they are at schools from 8:00 AM until 3:30 or so together. And then they carpool home or carpool to class. Then they have class together, grab a bite to eat between those things. And then, you know, so they're with each other for 8 to 12 hours a day.
Dr. Doug Greer (01:00:42):
Yeah. You know. You're not only in a difficult program, but you have to conquer New York. Right? So it's tough. But, once you do that, you can handle just about anything. New York is, if it ever gets back to where it was, New York is a great city. There's lots to do there, although they don't get to do very much of it.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (01:01:20):
One of my favorite things is my walk. So I always show up fairly early. I'm the first behavior analysis faculty member on campus when I go. I get there eight in the morning or so. I have to walk two blocks from my parking garage to Teachers College. And that two blocks in the morning when everything's starting to light up and you've got the tall buildings, but it's the upper West side. So you don't have the garbage, you don't have the congestion. And there's a real breath of fresh air as I walk those two blocks to get to campus that I honestly enjoy that two-block walk every morning because there's something invigorating about the city.
Shauna Costello (01:02:02):
New York is still, well, I should say New York City is still on my list to visit. Like you said, if your students can conquer New York and the caseload of the courses and the teaching and everything like that, they'll have no problems at all. We've covered the overview, we've covered faculty and research, we've covered CABAS and that entire experience and the student experience and how the students will experience their courses and the tiers throughout that. We've covered the application process and we've covered some of New York itself. And that. Is there anything else that any of you want to make sure to cover?
Dr. Daniel Fienup (01:02:53):
I've thought of one other thing that when we were talking about the students and faculty culture that I think is a little different. I think a lot of programs follow the kind of mentor model. Like you were talking about the lab you came from. So I went and worked with one guy during my PhD and if I hadn't been there, I would have gone to another program where I worked with one person who was one faculty among several. We have that to some degree because there always has to be one person who's the dissertation sponsor and things of that sort. But I don't see the kind of lab divisions. I don't think people say, "Well, I'm in Fienup's lab or I'm in Dudek's lab, or I'm in Greer's lab." I think I'm just as likely to comment on somebody's study, as I am to say, "you might want to go next door and ask Dr. Greer that same question" after I give an answer to somebody. So I think we're not a siloed kind of a program where one person does this. And one person does that. I think we all have something to say about everything that's going on. And I think we all kind of respect the input of each other. And, and I think it creates a sort of different culture in the program. That it's not this lab and that lab and the other lab. That it's kind of one lab because like Dr. Greer usually says, it's the schools are the lab. And so my student, meaning the one that I'm sponsoring, is literally next door to a student that Dr. Dudek is sponsoring and they might be working on similar things. So it's a different kind of a culture, I think, among the faculty with the setup that we have.
Shauna Costello (01:04:36):
Well, I think that can speak to just the systems and processes that you have in place as well, that you've discussed this whole time as well. I don't think it could work as well, potentially if it was in that siloed system.
Dr. Jessica Singer-Dudek (01:04:53):
Well, again, because it's a system. That's interesting, because I never once have said nor have I ever heard any one of us say "my student", right? It's never my student. It's our student. Everybody. Whether it's Master's, doctoral... It's our student. That's an interesting point. I never really thought about that.
Dr. Doug Greer (01:05:16):
The experience and knowledge base. It's all complimentary. There's so many things that Dan brings to the table that I don't know about. And Jessica brings to the table. That's true with... we have the two directors of the Keller school. Jane Speckler and Robin Rousojo and then we have Jen Mangano as a supervisor. They have Lynn Dunes. All of those people are also adjunct faculty as well as part of our faculty for our students. So I learn as much from those guys I'm sure as they learn from me. Just like when you do dissertations. You learn from them. That's what we call a learn unit. I don't know whether you've heard of a thing called a learn unit. Do you know what a learn unit is?
Shauna Costello (01:06:12):
I've heard of it.
Dr. Doug Greer (01:06:12):
That's an interaction between a teacher and the student in which you try to turn a set of relations from a potential operant into an operant. So it's not like a discrete trial. Although you could include a discrete trial, but Dick Milad always said, "Well, why don't you call it a teach unit?" So, I'd explain to Dick that when you're teaching it's like Skinner with the pigeon. The pigeons are always right. So you learn from your student how to respond to them based upon moment to moment interaction. If both of those interactions end up in a mutually reinforcing relationship, we call that love, right? So Dick Milad gave us our motto, "save the world, teaching one learn unit at a time" But that is a collaborative arrangement. No one does that alone.
Shauna Costello (01:07:13):
Dr. Doug Greer (01:07:15):
And building that, the contingencies to make that happen is really sort of the underlying conditions you have to have an effect to make everything work for the kids. If it works for the kids, it'll work for everybody else. As long as they like kids. So that's a key piece of the people we look at. Not just.. so you have to like kids, right? And so you can tell when people walk in and look at kids and they smile or they walk in, they already know they're there, right? That was one of the immediate things when we interview people for positions. You know that right away. And the same thing goes when the students and some students aren't into that. So this wouldn't be a good fit for them. Sometimes you have to change a diaper and take data at the same time and be contingent, not disapprove of kids. Some people don't want to do that. They'd rather sit in the office and look at the data online and do statistics or whatever, but we're sort of like Indiana Jones. We want to put on our hats, get our whip and go out there and deal with it.
Dr. Daniel Fienup (01:08:34):
That should be our motto.
Shauna Costello (01:08:34):
I like that. Yup. I like that one.
Dr. Doug Greer (01:08:37):
That's the way I always feel, especially when I go to Europe. I go to Ireland or somewhere and I go and there'd be 10 kids in the room and 10 people trying to teach them. I always say it was like the lions. Going into a den of lions with a whip or whatever, but we didn't use scripts. We just use other kinds of things.
Shauna Costello (01:09:03):
But thank you all so much. I appreciate it. Have a nice day. Bye-bye.
Dr. Doug Greer (01:09:09):
See you later, guys.
Shauna Costello (01:09:09):
Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the University Series. And as always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.