Service Dogs: 11 Reasons Puppy Raising is AWESOME.
Clicker Training, But For People.
March 1, 2017
"Can I clicker train my spouse?" ... asks nearly every person new to the world of clicker training. And the answer is yes! However, when we use a marker (such as a clicker) with humans, we call it TAGteach. (and I would recommend getting their permission first!)
TAGteach was first developed when a gymnastics coach wondered if she could use the concepts she had learned in her dog's training class to more effectively communicate to her athletes what she wanted them to do (and how to get them to do it correctly more often.) Lo and behold, the young athletes loved it. And, it quickly improved their skills. TAGteach provided instantaneous non-verbal feedback in a clearer way than ever before which removed frustration, from both the athletes and the coach. It made practices more effective and enjoyable, and the students demonstrated greater focus and ability to self-assess. Fast forward 14 years and "TAGteachers" are now being certified in dozens of different fields, in countries around the world. The precise, non-verbal feedback allows for new skills to be learned more quickly than in traditional teaching and has proven to be an extremely valuable tool for both children and adults.
TAGteach is a teaching method based in applied behavioral analysis and positive reinforcement. It focuses on breaking tasks into individual, observable points (called TAGpoints) and then utilizes an audible or visual marker (called a tag) to clearly communicate success to the learner at the precise moment they complete a TAGpoint.
Some young learners may require tangible reinforcement (such as a small piece of candy) after each tag, others may count tags in their head or collect tags in the form of beads until the end of the activity and then trade the tags in for a tangible reinforcer (such as a sticker or toy) at the end of the activity. Older or more advanced learners often don't need a tangible reinforcer because the information gained from the TAG (or the feeling of success) is more reinforcing than a tangible reinforcer would be anyway.
* What makes TAGteach different than traditional teaching methods?
Well, for starters it is much quieter and more specific than other teaching! General directions may be explained, however the critical information (such as how to do a task) is only delivered in concise sentences, one skill at a time. For instance...
A TAGteacher will say: "TAGpoint is arms touching your ears"
A TAGteacher will not say: "Next time raise your arms higher and bend your knees less"
A TAGteacher will say: "TAGpoint is stand still with mouth closed"
A TAGteacher will not say: "TAGpoint is to listen to me then go get your lunch"
Learners (both child and adult) often indicate they prefer TAGteach over other more traditional teaching methods because the feedback (and expectations) are so clear cut and timely. Additionally, learners are criticized or corrected less which makes learning and practicing potentially frustrating activities more enjoyable!
* Who tags whom?
While the TAGpoints are often created by the more experienced individual, it is beneficial (whenever possible) to have the learner sometimes be tagged, and sometimes do the tagging. It allows them to not only experience what doing the correct behavior feels like- but teaches them to identify what the correct behavior should look like in others. Many learners say that after even a short TAGteaching session they have a clear mental picture of what a specific behavior should look and feel like. There also is an important social benefit because it creates a structured context to promote empathy, observational and teaching skills, and positive engagement with one another. (It is interesting to note that these benefits have been observed both when the tagging is done between peers and when it is done between managers/subordinates. It appears everyone, regardless of age or status, benefits from the interpersonal skills gained during TAGteach.)
* What kinds of things are used as TAGpoints?
TAGpoints can be any specific part of a task! They must be observable and specific without any room for confusion about if a task was completed successfully or not (if observing, you should always be able to answer the question "did the learner complete the tag point" with a simple "yes" or "no"). They are usually less than 5 words and must always ask FOR a behavior, not for the absence of a behavior (absence of behavior is generally vague and doesn't allow for precise, effective feedback). For instance, to resolve the issue of a child biting their nails or climbing on their chair.
A TAGteacher will say: "TAGpoint is fingertips touching the table"
A TAGteacher will not say: "TAGpoint is not biting your nails today"
A TAGteacher will say: "TAGpoint is bottom in chair for 1 minute"
A TAGteacher will not say: "TAGpoint is stop jumping around!"
* What do the "learners" have to say about it?
Well here's what a few children have to say after being coached with and without TAGteach: