Building Behavior Analysis Courses Around Social Issues

An overflowing trash bin
[2] Image provided courtesy of RitaE under Pixabay license
The Behaviorists for Social Responsibility Special Interest Group (BFSR SIG) of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) launched the Matrix Project at the ABAI conference in 2015 (Mattaini & Luke, 2014). The goal of the Matrix Project is to ”identify practices that support, oppose, motivate, and select the development and utilization of scientific behavioral systems to address social and global issues” (The Matrix Project, n.d.). Twenty-seven sectors were identified, ranging from individual behavior analysts to non-governmental/community-based organizations. An analysis of the controlling variables for several immediately feasible practices and a more challenging practice to apply culture-behavioral systems science to issues of global importance was completed for several of the sectors.

Next, the BFSR SIG created working groups that began to arrange the contingencies that would set the occasion for action. Specifically, these working groups began to arrange the motivating operations and antecedents that would make it more likely that the identified practices would occur.

Several stacks of books
[3] Image provided by Eli Digital Creative under Pixabay license
Two of the working groups (Bibliography and Syllabi/Course Units) were tasked with creating resources that would increase the availability of coursework and practical training experiences for individuals interested in culturo-behavior systems science. The Bibliography working group compiled two bibliographies comprised of papers published in behavior analytic journals that focus on social issues. The first list contains all papers, sorted by category, published in Behavior & Social Issues and its predecessor journals (Behaviorists for Social Action and Behavior Analysis and Social Action; see also Luke, Roose, Rakos, & Mattaini, 2017). The second list contains papers sorted in a similar fashion, but identified using PsychInfo, encompassing papers published outside of Behavior & Social Issues and its predecessors.

The Course Unit working group started to create resources for faculty and university behavior analysis programs that might be interested in building courses and course units around social issues. Partnering with the Sustainability subgroup and with some help from fellow ABAI Behavior Science Dissemination Blogger Dr. Derek Reed (Under the Dome) and his graduate student Brett Gelino, the Course Unit working group started building course units that built in behavioral literature regarding sustainability considerations.

Contaminated lake next to a factory
[4] Image provided by Yogendra Singh under Pixabay license
They started with a bibliography concerning behavior analysis and sustainability that Reed and Gelino shared. The articles were sorted and coded according to the Behavior Analysis Certification Board’s 5th Edition Task List. Next, course units were created for each Task List item aligned with two or more articles. Each course unit includes the general learning outcome(s), specific learning outcome(s), a set of activities to assist students in meeting the objectives, and an assessment plan; the activities and assessment are tied directly to the specific learning outcomes. Thirty-one course units that integrate sustainability into teaching behavior analysis are now available. But check back soon; the Course Unit working group plans to create course units that correspond with a number of social issues…next up are course units on some of the following topics…diversity, public policy, public health, poverty and safety.

Hyperlinks have been updated 2.26.2020.

Image credits:

  1. Cover image provided courtesy of Free-Photos under Pixabay license
  2. Image provided courtesy of RitaE under Pixabay license
  3. Image provided by Eli Digital Creative under Pixabay license
  4. Image provided by Yogendra Singh under Pixabay license