Staff Training 101

Raise your hand if you would like the staff you work with to be highly trained in their field? I assume everyone's hands were raised. Now raise your hand if you know how to go about doing that? Maybe some of those hands powered back up, while others are a bit more unsure of themselves. No worries - that's why I'm here!

Why Do You Need to Care About Staff Training?

What does highly trained even mean? Am I highly trained in the field of autism because I have my behavior analysis certificate and licensure? Absolutely not. Being "trained" is so much more than just passing an exam (although, that exam is hard!). Further, being a BCBA does not mean I'm an expert in autism (behavior analysis is not the science of autism, it's the science of behavior). 

Like any job, you need to be trained for the job you have. Passing the exam, or finishing my course work does not prepare me to dive head first into any behavior analyst position. I need to be trained for THAT job at THAT organization with THOSE individuals on THAT specific caseload. While there are many areas in which I could feel confident diving head first because of my experience with different populations, it's always important to study up on the specific individuals you are working with, and never assume you know best based on past experiences.

Importance of Effective Staff Training

At the start of a school year, or upon hiring a new employee, it may seem like there's no time to devote to staff training. After all, there are other things that need to get done! (Hello, curriculum development and room decor!) But I highly recommend you set apart some time to devote to staff training. Not only will your life will be so much easier down the road, but your staff will feel supported and less likely to develop burnout.

Providing relevant and effective staff training will help:
  • Determine skill deficits with your staff. You can employ some strategies you use with your students when you suspect deficits with a skill, such as error correction procedures, modeling, prompting, etc.
  • Develop strong staff that you trust and can count on to do the job you've hired them to do. This will also take the job off of your plate, so you can get back to doing the things you were hired to do.
  • Maintain treatment integrity, or consistency with your programming. This will ensure that all the work you put into developing a treatment plan, or behavior intervention plan, is actually paying off. If you do not have staff who follow the plan in the way it's meant to be followed, that means you have data that does not support your plan. If everyone is on the same page, implementing the same plan, in the same way, and taking data the way it's meant to be taken, you have strong support for why or why not your plan isn't working. If staff are not following it in the way it's meant to be followed, you can't really say which part of the plan is or isn't working, because you don't have consistent data to support it.
  • Staff satisfaction. This is HUGE. If staff feel prepared for their jobs, and supported by their administrators and supervisors, they are more likely to stay in their position. And often, their position is HARD. Working as a paraprofessional, or an ABA therapist, or any number of direct care positions is not easy. Pair their stressful jobs with inadequate feedback and staff training, and there seems to be very little reason to stay in that position. Train your staff effectively and frequently, provide them with support and recognition, and you may experience less turn-over in those positions.

How Can I Train Staff Effectively?

Think about how you train your children effectively. I bet you use a variety of modalities to teach skills, paired with some high quality reinforcers. Teaching adults is no different. The principles we apply to children work with adults. Behavior is behavior. And behavior change is dependent upon those same principles we apply to our younger learners. 
  • Reinforcement! This one may seem like a no-brainer, but we often forget to plan out and provide reinforcement for the adults in our lives. Check out this post for more ideas on providing reinforcement for you staff.
  • Celebrate individual successes and team successes (don't forget the reinforcement). Individual success may be filling out the data sheet correctly and for an entire week. A group success may be, everyone in the team reaching their billable hours for the month (this example is more specific to an ABA insurance-based organization). The point is to find ways to reward (read: reinforce) and celebrate the successes of your staff individually and as a team
  • Provide prompting. Just like you would with your learners, provide the necessary prompting to ensure accuracy and increase independence. You (probably) aren't going to do hand over hand with your staff, but maybe you are using gestural prompting to point to the next set of flash cards they should be doing, based on the next set on the discrete trial program, or providing visuals to their work station for how to interact with a particular student. There is no shame in providing as much support as needed to ensure staff feel confident in their position.The most common method of prompting I see (and use) is visual prompting. This is often seen in classrooms and centers to help support the staff in remembering the steps of a procedure, the scripted responses to provide to a learner who is non-compliant, etc.
  • Train using the real-life materials. Just like with our students, where they often do much better using real hands on tools (such as sorting real laundry instead of pictures of laundry), let's train our staff using the actual materials we expect them to be using. It doesn't make sense to train them on running a treatment plan, if we are using a sample treatment plan we developed. Train on the actual plan. (I know, I know. This seems obvious, but you'd be surprised.) Train the staff on the actual materials they will be using in the sessions with the learners. If they will be using a set of flash cards for a discrete-trial session, train using those flash cards. And go step-by-step with the materials and plan to ensure they know exactly what to do.
  • Model. We use modeling with our students often (another way to provide prompting). Use it with our staff too.
  • Role-playing. This is a common teaching tool we use with our learners. Role-playing is an effective tool in staff training too.
  • Vocal feedback. This could be in the moment, prior to a teaching session (such as providing vocal/verbal reminders), immediately after a teaching session, or at some other point int he day (such as after school). It may be helpful to ask your staff how they would like to receive feedback (sometimes, in the moment can be overwhelming or upsetting. Other times, a professional may acknowledge that if they are provided feedback later on in the day, it won't carry over). If it's a safety concern, or the issue is impacting the learner negatively, I would try to give feedback in the moment, or (in my experience, even better) provide a modeling opportunity, where I run how the session or part of the session is supposed to look, to give the learner the correct teaching procedure while providing some error correction for the staff.
  • Do a task analysis. A common ABA technique, a task analysis (TA) is simply the process of breaking down a task into smaller chunks. For example, you may have seen a task analysis for "brushing teeth" in which the staff has a list of all the specific steps of the bigger task of "brushing teeth". The learner is trained on each specific step (often, using one of the different chaining procedures), which overtime leads up to completing the whole task independently. Check out this blog post from Autism Classroom Resources for more on task analyses. We can use these same principles for staff training. Develop a list of the smaller tasks that it takes to complete the necessary bigger task (for example, to run a discrete trial session, you would write out all the necessary tasks needed for the staff to run the program, starting with gathering materials, and including things like providing reinforcement to the learner, error correction procedures for the learner, etc.). The important thing about task analyses is that the task is required to be completed in the order in which you have written the TA for. So you will be training your staff on how to complete each step, in that order. You can take data with the TA you create for your staff training, which is an excellent tool for you to determine if your staff have been trained effectively.
  • Train and re-train. Don't assume that once you've trained staff on a program, that they will never need a refresher. Many teachers I know train, and re-train their students on the routines of the classroom at least twice a year, usually after winter break. These teachers understand the importance of reteaching important concepts. Do yourself and your staff a favor, and do this for them as well. If you don't want to blindly retrain all your staff, especially if you don't know if they actually need an in depth retraining, do a shadow or overlap during some of their sessions. Take data along with them and compare your data collection to theirs to ensure they are taking data the way you expect them to (this is called taking inter-observer agreement, or IOA data). If you are observing them, especially while looking down at the TA you've developed for training staff on the program, you can see if they are running the session as intended. This helps limit treatment drift (or those situations in which your staff are no longer running the program exactly as they should, which often happens over time).

Staff training can be time consuming and feel burdensome, but it's so important for your staff and your sanity! It also is so crucial to the success of your learners! Use the strategies above to help support the staff you work with and let me know how it goes :)

ABA at Play: group contingencies, reinforcement, error correction, treatment integrity, data collection, prompting, teaching strategies, IOA data, treatment drift, task analysis, chaining procedures

How do you support staff training where you work? What are some strategies you use?


  1. شركة المثالية للتنظيف افضل شركة تنظيف بالمنطقة الشرقية تخصصت في تقديم كافة الاعمال المنزية من نظافة ومكافحة حشرات بالمنطقة فلديها افضل الخدماتبافضل جودة واوبارخص الاسعار التي لا تتوفر الا معها كافضل وارخص شركة تنظيف بالاضافة الي خدمتا مكافحة الحشرات ورش المبيدات الامنة والفعالة علي الحشرات بجميع انواعها .. تقدم لكم اليوم افضل العروض والخدمات بخصومات هائلة يمكنكم الحصول عليها من خلال الروابط التالية

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  2. افضل شركة تنظيف بالقطيف تقدم خدمات نظافة متكاملة علي اعلي مستوي بدقة وجودة ومواصفات قياسية واسعار تنافسية فتعد الشركة الاولي بالقطيف لتقديم خدماتالتنظيف بجودة وسعر مثالييينفهي خير مثال لراغبي الحصول علي نظافة شاملة مع التعقيم وباسعار مناسبة

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Thanks for the comments! I look forward to reading them :)

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