What is it?
Behaviour Skills Training (BST) is a five-step process for teaching new skills, involving the following:
Step 1. Instruction – Teacher verbally describes the target behaviour or skill. A written description of the skill can also be provided to the student if they are a reader.
Step 2. Modeling – Teacher models the target behaviour. The model should be an accurate and fluent demonstration of the skill (the teacher should rehearse the model in advance).
Step 3. Rehearsal – Student practices the target behaviour through role-play or rehearsal.
Step 4. Feedback – Teacher provides feedback during or immediately after the student role-plays the behaviour.
- Supportive feedback involves telling the student what they performed correctly.
- Corrective feedback involves telling the student what they need to change to perform the behaviour correctly.
Step 5. Repeat – Steps 3 and 4 are repeated until the student has mastered the behaviour (i.e., they perform it accurately across multiple settings).
When do you use it?
BST is appropriate for teaching a variety of skills including social skills, academic skills, and daily living skills. It is appropriate to use with most students if the adults working with them understand the levels of prompting and how to successfully fade a prompt after a student shows mastery.
More information is provided in the POPARD handout on Behaviour Skills Training (link to Handout)
Example: Social Skills lesson – Practicing a two-way conversation
Step 1. Instruction – Teacher introduces and describes the target behaviour.
- Teacher: “Today we will practice having a two-way conversation. A two-way conversation is when two people share information about the same topic. Here is a handout with the rules we will learn and practice today” (written description provided for a student who can read).
Step 2. Modeling – Teacher and Educational Assistant (EA) model the skill.
- Teacher: “What did you do during Spring Break?”
- EA: “I went Bowling”
- Teacher: “Oh cool, with who?”
Step 3. Rehearsal – Student practices the skill either with another peer or with the EA/Teacher.
- Student: “What did you do during Spring Break?”
- Peer: “I went to a Birthday Party”
- Student: “I went swimming”
Step 4. Feedback – Teacher provides feedback as soon as the rehearsal is finished.
- Teacher: “Great work asking him what he did during Spring Break. Also, your body distance and eye contact were excellent! Remember that a two-way conversation builds on the topic. Instead of replying that you like swimming, what could you have asked about the birthday party?”
- Student helps to brainstorm other answers: “I could have asked whose birthday it was”
- Teacher provides praise for the student’s problem-solving: “Great idea!” and models the target behaviour again (step 2) before the student practices again (step 3).
Step 5. Repeat – Steps 3 and 4 would continue until the learner can complete the target behaviour or skill fluently.
- To complete a skill fluently it should be completed independently with speed, ease and accuracy.
- Once a student can complete a skill it is important that the skill is practiced in the natural or unstructured setting. For example, a social skills group may run at lunch time in the resource room, and eventually these skills could be supported within the natural setting of the school cafeteria.
More information is provided in the POPARD Handout on Behaviour Skills Training.
Fazal, Z. (2015). Behavior Skills Training in 4 Steps: https://bsci21.org/behavior-skills-training-in-4-steps/
Parsons, M. B., Rollyson, J. H., & Reid, D. H. (2012). Evidence-based staff training: A guide for practitioners. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5(2), 2–11.
Reid, D. H., O’Kane, N. P., & Macurik, K. M. (2014). Staff training and management. In W.W. Fisher, C. C. Piazza, & H. S. Roane (Eds.), Handbook of applied behavior analysis (pp. 281-296). New York: The Guilford Press.