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How to Perform an Error Correction Procedure: A Guide for ABA Professionals

Error Correction

As ABA professionals, we’ve all been there. We’re in the middle of a teaching session when our learner keeps making the same mistake and doesn’t seem to be grasping the concept. These moments can seem challenging, but they also present valuable learning opportunities. After all, we know that in the field of ABA, error correction is a fundamental part of the learning process. It’s a pillar of Applied Behavior Analysis and is crucial in shaping our learners’ behaviors and skills.

The process of correcting these errors is pivotal to our practice and, when done right, can lead to significant strides in progress.

What is an Error?

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let’s clarify what we mean by an “error.” An error is any response or behavior that deviates from the target or correct response. Errors can manifest in various ways — from non-responses to incorrect answers in academic tasks to inappropriate social behaviors. While a prompt is put in before a response to prevent a mistake, an error happens after a mistake is already made.

Error correction is vital in ABA because it helps learners understand where they have gone wrong and how they can correct it. It’s a constructive process that promotes learning and progress.

In ABA, we encourage doing error correction with a transfer trial. During a transfer trial, we’re prompting before the error as part of the error correction.

6 Steps in Performing an Error Correction Procedure

1. Identify the Error

The first step in error correction is recognizing the error. This involves being observant and catching mistakes as they occur. Immediate recognition allows us to intervene promptly, thus making the correction more effective. The teaching trial where the error occurred would be marked as incorrect and no reinforcement would be provided.

2. Transfer Trial

Represent the instructions, but this time, we’re going to predict the error and prevent it. We want the student to get to the correct response as seamlessly as possible. Anticipating potential errors, it’s crucial to choose the least intrusive but most effective prompt to ensure success.

On this trial, you can provide differential reinforcement. This means that you provide a little bit of reinforcement for a little response and a lot of reinforcement for a correct, independent response. If they needed a lot of prompting to get to the correct response, the reinforcement would be lower.

Positive reinforcement plays a significant role here. Encourage your learner for their effort and ensure they feel supported throughout the process.

3. Practice the Correct Response

Practicing the correct response is crucial in reinforcing learning. Repetition helps learners understand and remember the correct behavior. Ensure you use strategies that keep practice sessions engaging and effective. We can do these expanded teaching trials up to three times for practice, and we do not collect data on the transfer trials.

4. Expanded Trial

Put in a trial of something they can do, a task you know they can be successful with, like a simple imitation (“Do this”) or 1-step instruction(“Touch your head”).

5. Present a New Opportunity

Now that the learner has had some practice with the correct response, provide a new opportunity to try again. Give the learner the instruction again (ready to prompt if needed!). If they respond correctly, provide lots of reinforcement! If they err again, go back to the transfer trial step.

6. Reinforce the Correct Response

Positive reinforcement is ultimately key in error correction. This could involve praise, tokens, or preferred activities. The goal is to motivate the learner to continue exhibiting the correct response.

Common Challenges in Error Correction & How to Overcome Them

Error correction isn’t always a smooth process. ABA professionals might encounter difficulties such as resistance from the learner or difficulty in identifying subtle errors.

However, some practical solutions include:

  • Building a solid rapport with the learner
  • Using varied reinforcement
  • Investing in ongoing professional development to sharpen your observational skills

4 Best Practices for Error Correction

Effective error correction is a powerful tool in any ABA professional’s selection of tools. These best practices, when used consistently and effectively, can significantly improve the success of your error correction procedures, leading to more effective learning outcomes for those you work with in the ABA field.

Here are some best practices that can enhance the effectiveness of your error correction procedures:

1. Immediate Identification

The moment an error occurs, it should be identified and addressed. Prompt identification allows the learner to immediately understand that a mistake has been made, which helps to prevent the reinforcement of incorrect responses.

This also provides an opportunity to guide the learner towards the correct response in real time, creating a direct link between the mistake and the learning opportunity.

2. Consistent Application of Error Correction Procedures

Consistency is key in error correction. The same procedure should be applied each time an error occurs. This uniformity helps the learner understand the consequences of errors and the steps needed to correct them.

Consistency also aids in maintaining clear expectations and promotes the development of new, correct behaviors.

3. Appropriate Prompts Depending on the Learner and Task

Not all learners are the same, and neither are the tasks they’re learning. It’s essential to tailor your prompts to fit both the individual and the task at hand. Some learners may respond well to verbal prompts, while others might benefit more from visual or gestural cues.

Similarly, complex tasks may require more detailed prompts compared to simpler tasks. Understanding your learner’s needs and the nature of the task will allow you to select the most effective prompts.

4. Frequent Practice of the Correct Response

Once the correct response has been identified and prompted, it should be practiced frequently. Repetition reinforces the correct behavior, helping it become more automatic for the learner over time.

It’s important to intersperse these practice opportunities throughout the learner’s day, providing multiple chances to reinforce the correct response.

Broadening the Scope: Expanded Trials and Data Collection

Beyond the immediate correction procedure, we should also consider implementing expanded trials. These involve interspersing previously mastered items (high probability responses) with new targets. This strategy can boost the learner’s confidence and maintain a high rate of success.

Returning to new trials and continuing to collect data is also crucial. This ongoing process allows us to evaluate the learner’s progress and adapt our teaching strategies accordingly.

Error correction is a vital part of ABA. As ABA professionals, we must guide our learners toward correct responses and behaviors. Remember, error correction isn’t about pointing out mistakes, but about guiding learners toward the path of progress. So, let’s continue refining our skills and making a difference in our learners’ lives!

3 thoughts on “How to Perform an Error Correction Procedure: A Guide for ABA Professionals”

  1. I just joined ABA last year as an RBT. I am currently working towards my BCBA credential, this is one of the most helpful websites/resources I have found. Just yesterday, I was in supervision with my supervisor and she walked me through the proper way to present Error Correction Procedures and then I get an email about your blog post on Error Correction this morning. Thanks again for making ABA fun and safe.

  2. I use a slightly different 4-Step Error Correction. 1) IND trial -> child makes error–> PAUSE NO FEEDBACK (Extinction); 2) Prompted trial, 3) Distractor Trial (same as your approach-Hi P response), 4) IND trial.

    If error reoccurs, prompt correct response, then move on. NOTE: No data collected on step 4 because of the recent rehearsal trials. However, if returning to SD later in session, collect data then. Also, I prefer not to run Step 2 repeatedly. (Too much like mass trialing which is often aversive).

    Thanks for the great videos- keep them coming.

    Michael Friga, PhD, BCBA-D, NYLBA

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