When the learner is not ‘getting it’

In the couple of review articles I read recently there was a striking theme through them; when the plan isn’t working, first check your plan and change it.

That was it. That is as far as you should look when the plan isn’t working…the plan.

They do comment on the fact that the dimensions (rules) of ABA should be examined, but that these have stood the test of time for decades so it is unlikely they are at fault.

There is never a mention of the learner getting it wrong, always the plan that is wrong for the learner.

It makes me think of some of the expectations we inadvertently set up for our learners due to the labels we put on them. I hear horses called so many names; stupid, fatty, dumbo, mareish, stalliony and so many more labels used to explain a set of behaviours (not helpful in changing behaviour as these are nothing more than labels that could mean something different to different people). And all these labels do is prepare us to blame the learner when our plan isn’t working.

If we tell ourselves the horse is ‘stupid’ then we pay no heed to how we set up the training plan and if the plan suits their current knowledge and learning needs. That means it is more through luck than judgement when the plan works. However, when the learner doesn’t learn with our ill prepared plan often the reason given for failure is because the learner was ‘stupid’. What we don’t see is that we didn’t set them up for success.

We need to consciously set our learners up for success, and we need to be very conscious about not blaming the learner. If the plan isn’t working the first place to check is the plan.

Sometimes we find we didn’t even prepare a plan (in our head or on paper). If we did prepare a plan then we need to tweak it, modify it, re-vamp it, re-write it, burn it and start again….just don’t blame the learner for the plan not fitting their current knowledge and learning needs.

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