Teaching animals the clicker way

I’ve just uploaded an article to my site that you need to read. It’s by behavior analyst Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, one of my professors at the University of North Texas. The article is about B.F. Skinner, shaping, trial and error learning, errorless learning, and Isreal Goldiamond’s constructional approach.

Clicker training originated out of research conducted in the 1930s by B.F. Skinner. (Contrary to popular belief, the first clicker trainers were NOT dolphin trainers, but were Keller and Marian Breland, two students of Skinner. More here about the history of clicker training.)

Skinner’s approach to teaching and training was very different from everyone else of the day and is still radically different from how most trainers and educators still think about learning. I really like this article because it does a great job of explaining how Skinner’s approach to learning is completely different from the traditional trial-and-error approaches to learning.

Skinner believed that “errors are not necessary for learning to occur. Errors are not a function of learning or vice-versa nor are they blamed on the learner. Errors are a function of poor analysis of behavior, a poorly designed shaping program, moving too fast from step to step in the program, and the lack of the prerequisite behavior necessary for success in the program.”

The article was originally written for dog trainers, but the ideas in it apply equally well to teaching horses, humans, hamsters, or any other kind of creature.

Read the article: Teaching Dogs the Clicker Way by Jesus Rosales Ruiz

(This article was originally published in the May/Jun 2007 issue of the Teaching Dogs magazine. It is posted here with permission from the author.)

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