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Module #2
Course Manual

CEU Questions 1-3 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Geriatric & Aging
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

Shaping involves increasing a target behavior by applying selective positive reinforcement. It is necessary that the client or staff member exhibit some initial behavior which is then increased by reinforcing closer and closer approximations to the desired target behavior. This increase in behavior is achieved by waiting for, or by prompting the first response, and immediately following this with a positive reinforcement.

Using reinforcements that are sufficiently frequent and increasing the criterion for reinforcement, the target behavior is slowly increased. During shaping, reinforcement is given for responses meeting your criterion to move toward the target behavior. Once established, the frequency of reinforcement is changed to one that is sufficient enough to maintain the target behavior.

The following steps can be implemented to shape a behavior:

1. Specify the final
responses(s) or target behavior. On the tape, the target behavior would be chosen from the steps in washing a resident's face. For example, turn on the water; adjust temperature and flow; wet the wash cloth; wring out excess moisture; put soap on the cloth; and proceed to wash face from the inner to the outer periphery.

2. Specify the positive reinforcer(s) you will use.

3. The starting behavior: Look for a response that has something, however small, in common with the target behavior. The initial response to be reinforced must bear some resemblance to the target behavior. In selecting a shaping dimension, identify a feature of a behavior that will be changed to become more like the target behavior. On the tape, the starting behavior for Clarice to walk to lunch was to have eye contact.

4. Differentially reinforce the initial response until it occurs consistently. Differential reinforcement refers to reinforcing a response in the presence of one stimulus and not reinforcing the same response in the presence of another stimulus. When the desired response occurs, it should be reinforced immediately to ensure that reinforcement is delivered only for an appropriate behavior. However, when shaping a response, it is important to do everything possible to induce the behavior. Examples would be, requesting, "Put your hand here;" gestures that indicate what the person should do next; time schedules for performing the response, and so on. When you use shaping, your job is not to adhere to the definition of shaping, but to use all your skills to get the desired response from your client. On the tape, a sample of reinforcement is to say, "Mary, great job washing your face; that is good exercise for your hand and arm."

5. Next, shift the criterion for reinforcement to an intermediate response. Shaping steps should be large enough so that progress is rapid, but small enough to be attainable. If you require too large of a step, the behavior may be "lost" and the response must be reshaped by reverting to an earlier step. On the tape, an example of a shaping step is to create a verbal sign post to enable the Alzheimer's resident to better follow thought transitions.

6. Reinforce intermediate responses until they occur consistently. Intermediate responses must successively approximate the target behavior; that is, the criterion for reinforcement is to shift to responses that are more and more similar to the target behavior. On the tape, for example, reinforcement would be given to a resident using a cane, while he or she was receiving verbal instructions like, "Step, cane, step, cane."

7. Shift criterion for reinforcement to the next intermediate response. Shaping via successive approximations involves a gradual process in which a response must be appropriately developed at one level before reinforcement is shifted to the next level, or approximation.

-A. Not enough reinforcement: If the criterion for reinforcement is shifted to the next level too quickly, or if insufficient reinforcement is given to your client or staff member, the response will be extinguished.
-B. Too much reinforcement: However, if one response receives too much reinforcement, it may become difficult for you to alter your client's or staff member's response in the direction of the next approximation.
-On the tape, the key to providing an environment of success is to watch what Mary does with her hands as she washes her face. If, upon getting the soap on the cloth, she readily washes her forehead and cheeks, there is no need for reinforcement in this area. As the tape states, "If you provide too much step-by-step instruction or reinforcement for Mary, she may feel insulted."

8. Reinforce the response until it occurs consistently. Steps 7 and 8 of this shaping procedure are repeated until the target behavior is achieved.

Shaping can be used to condition a physically handicapped girl to use crutches to walk instead of using a wheelchair. The target response would be for her to walk 50 steps on crutches. Possible positive reinforcers might be candy and praise ("Very good".) The starting behavior is movement toward the crutches. Initially, when the girl makes any movement toward the crutches, she is reinforced. When she consistently reaches out toward the crutches, the criterion for reinforcement is shifted to the next intermediate response, touching the crutches.

Give an example of each of the following steps in shaping:
(1) Final response or target behavior
(2) Starting behavior toward that target behavior
(3) Reinforcer

Personal Reflection Journaling Exercise #2

The preceding section contained several “Instruction” techniques. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the contents from this section of the Manual or the “Instruction” section of the audio tape in your practice. Affix extra paper for your Journaling entries to the end of this Manual.

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