Behavioral Skill Training

Much like behavior protocols used with clients, supervisors are expected to teach behavior skills to supervisees in an organized, deliberate manner.  

Research provides some guidance on procedures for behavioral skills training.  Nigro-Bruzzi and Sturmey (2010) effectively taught trainees to implement an eight-step mand-training task analysis using a multi-step procedure.

  • First, the written task analysis was provided to the trainees with the opportunity for questions and clarification.  Then, a video model demonstrating the eight steps was shown to the trainees.  
  • Finally, each trainee was given the opportunity to practice the skill using role-playing rehearsal while the trainer acted as the child and the trainee implemented the protocol.  Sarokoff and Sturmey (2004) also used written instructions, rehearsal and modeling for the training of discrete-trial teaching procedures.  In addition, formative feedback was provided visually using graphs.

A document which describes each behavioral skill you will train your supervisee on may be helpful.  It should include the following:


  • What are the practical skills needed to be a behavior analyst? 
  • This is an opportunity for the supervisor to teach skills that are more difficult to learn from textbooks and schooling.  Start by reflecting on your first job as a behavior analyst.  What do you know how to do now that you struggled with then? 
  • The BACB Task List contains a list of behavior-analytic skills and concepts that a supervisor might teach a BCBA/BCaBA supervisee.  Target skills need not be limited to discrete skills but could include broader professional competencies, such as case conceptualization, problem-solving, and decision-making.  Choose two skills for the development of two protocols.
  • Articulate why this skill is important for supervisees to learn. 
  • The justification will keep the skill functional for the supervisee and help inform training procedures. 
  • Consider referencing clinical use, consumer demand, and current research in your description of the rationale.
  • Stated using behavioral language, what is the skill you will teach the supervisee? In your description, include the possible contexts for use.  
  • Describe the format for introducing the skill and the materials that will be used. 
  • A good introduction should include reference to current research, best practice guidelines, and Trainingthe presentation of multiple exemplars. 
  • Opportunities for the supervisee to read about the skill and conduct independent research to learn more will enhance the supervisee’s interest.  Group supervision meetings can also enhance the presentation of a new skill by providing context for asking questions and sharing experiences.
  • Also, how will the skill be modeled for the supervisee?
    • More than just discussing and reading about the skill, an actual demonstration should be included in the protocol.  Formats such as role-playing, in-vivo observation of supervisor showing the skill, and video exemplars are possible methods of skill demonstration.  Multiple demonstrations using various methods will only enhance instruction.  In addition, the most effective demonstrations are interactive, allowing the supervisee to provide input, analysis, and staged practice.
  • Opportunities to practice the skill outside the supervision meeting are an essential component of the training.  One way to do this is to give the supervisee an assignment to seek out an opportunity in the position they are using to accrue supervision hours. 
  • For skills that are readily needed, such as creating systems for data collection, conducting preference assessments, and shaping protocols, there may be many opportunities at any time. 
  • For other skills, such as toilet training, some coordination between the supervisee and the supervisor may be necessary to teach the skill when the opportunity is available.
  • Describe a method for performance feedback that references a measurement tool that may be tracked over time. 
  • Feedback should focus primarily on shaping the desired skill, rather than a pass/fail type of feedback approach.
  • When will teaching of the skill conclude? 
  • Define mastery as best you can with the assessment tools available. 
  • Also consider including a generalization probe or maintenance check as part of your teaching protocol.  Remember to consider that some supervisees will have less to learn or learn at a faster rate than supervisees who are less familiar with the skill, so try to avoid definitive time frames when describing mastery.


  1. Download Behavioral Skills Training Protocol
  2. Fill it out for a target behavior to teach a supervisee.
  3. Email the assignment to
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