Errorless Learning

At STE Consultants, we use errorless learning strategies to provide clients with the maximum opportunities to be successful.

ERRORLESS LEARNING involves behavior technicians/instructors presenting the instruction with an immediate prompt (SD + zero-time-delay prompt), which increases the likelihood of evoking a correct response potentially 100% of the time. This is also known as most-to-least prompting in which the instruction is presented with the most intrusive prompt and faded systematically to the least intrusive prompt with the goal of minimizing errors and increasing correct responses. When used with a zero-second delay, the learner has no opportunity to err, and the correct response will contact potential reinforcement, increasing the future probability of correct responses. As the learner is successful with the behavior technician’s assistance, the prompts are faded systematically, and a potential reinforcer is delivered for only independent correct responses.

WHY TEACH SKILLS ERRORLESSLY? STE Consultants teaches skills errorlessly for 3 reasons: 1) to increase the likelihood, and number of times, the learner engages in the correct response, 2) to decrease the likelihood, and number of times, the learner engages in the incorrect response—avoiding this learning history of errors, and 3) to reduce frustration associated with difficult task demands. Our goal is to keep the rate of errors to a zero-or near-zero level by initially prompting before the errors can occur so that the learner does not practice making errors, but instead, is shown how to respond correctly. Prompts are then faded as quickly as possible to promote independence and reduce the likelihood of prompt dependence.

Prompt Fading: Behavior Technicians provide a prompt following the discriminative stimulus (SD), which evokes a correct response. Prompts are prescribed by the Clinical Director, and individualized based on the target response, client’s current skills, strengths, and preferences. In “Structured Prompt Fading,” prompts are faded systematically across a specified number of trials (e.g., 3 consecutive prompted correct responses at the most intrusive prompt level before moving to a lesser intrusive prompt). For “Unstructured Prompt Fading,” the behavior technician prompts using the least amount of assistance required to produce a correct response, and the prompts are faded based on the last observed response.

RATE OF REINFORCEMENT: Errorless prompting results in the learner accessing the potential reinforcers following correct responses very frequently, which increases the likelihood of future correct responses occurring.

SKILL ACQUISITION, MASTERY CRITERIA, & MAINTENANCE: Once a skill meets criteria to be tested for independence, the learner must respond independently and correctly to access tangible or edible potential reinforcers. Essentially, the learner must respond correctly and independently in order to maximize the rate of reinforcement because if s/he does not respond correctly, error correction procedures will require additional trials to teach this skill (SD + prompt, SD + prompt faded). Once the skill meets mastery criteria, the skill is tested for maintenance and is interspersed between skills that are being taught (acquisition trials). Maintenance is measured according to individualized criteria.

ERROR CORRECTION: Research has shown that error correction can be effective in helping to teach new skills (Barbetta, Heward, Bradley, & Miller, 1994; Goodson, Sigafoos, O’Reilly, Cannella, & Lancioni, 2007; Smith, Mruzek, Wheat, & Hughes, 2006). When a learner responds incorrectly, attention is removed and stimuli are blocked for 3 seconds to end the trial. The instruction is repeated, this time with a more intrusive prompt. Prompts are faded as quickly as possible. For “Structured Prompt Fading,” prompts are faded systematically across a specific number of trials; whereas “Unstructured Prompt Fading” involves prompts faded based upon the learner’s previous response.

MORE ON EARLY LEARNER/ADVANCED LEARNER TEACHING PROCEDURES: Prompts are prescribed by the Clinical Director, and if the learner responds incorrectly with a prescribed prompt, the prompt level becomes more intrusive/restrictive to increase the likelihood of correct responding.

RESEARCH: Research shows that errorless teaching results in rapid acquisition of skills and considerable decreases in the frequency of challenging behaviors.