Top 20 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Programs - Applied Behavior

Applied Behavior Analysis teaching strategies

Teaching Strategies / June 4, 2019

Applied behavior analysts seek to break down and examine the fundamental human behaviors that most people take for granted. While the insights it reveals have applications in numerous fields, like prison reform, adult health and social sciences, applied behavior analysis, or ABA, is also well known for the benefits it confers upon teachers and students.


Many now-commonplace modern teaching strategies were originally rooted in ABA studies. Here are five you may have encountered.

1. Discrete Trial Teaching

Some of the educational concepts students have to absorb are complex. While it seems like common sense to break a big task down into more manageable parts that are easier to teach, this is actually an ABA technique known as discrete trial teaching.

Discrete trial teaching employs a cue-and-response structure for working through component tasks. In this model, a child who provides a response after receiving a prompt, known as a discriminative stimulus, will then be given a consequence in the form of a reward, error correction, a break or some other reaction.

In addition to incentivizing engagement with peers and teachers, discrete trial training can help teachers interact with students who lack certain social skills. It’s also commonly used to highlight specific deficiencies for reinforcement.

2. Naturalistic Teaching

Naturalistic teaching focuses on letting a child or other student set the pace of learning. By following their students’ interests and offering less-structured trials, teachers may still be able to act as mediators without prompting as frequent problematic behaviors.

According to the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, naturalistic methods can also be easier for parents, siblings and others to implement to help learners outside the classroom. These techniques are also known for providing students with broadly-applicable skills and facilitating therapy.

3. Pivotal Response Therapy

Pivotal response therapy, or PRT, builds on naturalistic teaching, yet it provides a bit more structure. This method facilitates skills such as motivation, being able to respond to more than one cue, induction into social structures, managing oneself and other critical development areas.

PRT’s focus on imparting pivotal behaviors is no coincidence. The methodology was specifically designed to help those with autism spectrum disorders, and its supporters say improving these key skills lets autism sufferers make strides in other domains. Notably, the National Research Council recognizes PRT as one of four scientifically-grounded autism intervention techniques.

4. Token Economy

Token economies motivate learners and selectively promote or discourage specific behaviors. Tokens, also known as conditioned reinforcers, are usually rewarded or taken away for predefined behaviors, and they’re similar to how money functions in the real world.