The Shaping Skills Workshop

Would you like to be able to produce
faster learning and happier students? 

Whether you work with poodles, preschoolers, ponies, piano players, penguins, or some other population, the Shaping Skills Workshop will help you improve your teaching skills. 

During these virtual workshops, you will learn core concepts, refine your skills, and become a better teacher.

These classes are not your “typical” online courses. 

You will be an active learner. Your instructor, Mary Hunter, will guide you through step-by-step activities as you build your skills and practice teaching more and more complex behaviors to human and animal learners. 

What’s even better is that you won’t be learning alone. Instead, you’ll be part of a small, supportive community of students. Together, we will discuss concepts, help each other brainstorm and solve problems, and learn from each other’s experiences and insights. 

What am I going to learn? 

This workshop is divided into three classes:

Part 1: Reinforcement Systems (6 week class)
Part 2: Foundational Skills for Shaping (8 week class)
Part 3: Writing and Implementing Shaping Plans (8 week class)

In the first class, you’ll learn about reinforcers and reinforcement systems. You’ll practice designing and implementing reinforcement systems that enhance your teaching.

Next, in the second class, you’ll learn a “building blocks” approach to shaping. You’ll learn how to identify and shape actions that make up more complex behaviors. As you complete exercises with PORTL and with an animal learner, you will practice designing optimal learning environments, capturing actions, and extending actions. You’ll also practice evaluating your teaching and making adjustments.

Finally, in the last class, you’ll learn to write, implement, and revise teaching plans. You’ll practice constructing plans that produce faster learning and happier learners. In addition, you’ll learn how to evaluate your own behavior so that you can continue to improve your teaching.

After completing this workshop, you will be able to: 

  • Deliver reinforcers fluently and efficiently while teaching. 
  • Design, evaluate, and improve reinforcement systems. 
  • Dissect a behavior, then write an objective and a teaching plan. 
  • Design learning environments that make certain actions very likely.
  • Transfer behaviors to new objects, props, or settings. 
  • Construct chains of two or more behaviors.  
  • Change your criteria for reinforcement based on your learner’s behavior. 
  • Teach a behavior using a plan you have written.
  • Test and revise a teaching plan based on the behavior of your learners. 
  • Use video to assess and improve your teaching skills.

How does it work? 

Here’s what you’ll get in these interactive workshops: 

Active learning: The best way to learn how to shape behaviors is through guided practice. Short, recorded lectures will be used to introduce core concepts and big ideas. But, you’ll spend the bulk of your time practicing your skills with human and animal learners. 

Mastery-based skill building: Good teaching ensures the student has learned prerequisite skills before moving to more advanced skills. You’ll practice this idea with human and animal learners. At the same time, this class will take the same approach with you, building your skills in a step-by-step progression.

Go-at-your-own-pace activities: Each class is divided into multiple lessons, each designed to take around an hour to complete. You can move faster if you feel confident with certain concepts or move slower when you want to spend more time on a certain activity or if you’re having a busy week.

Virtual learning community: Weekly discussion-based class meetings will allow you to dive deeper into the concepts you are learning. There will be opportunities to ask questions, talk about new ideas, and review videos. You’ll also be able to connect with your classmates on the class platform.

Coaching and support: Each workshop will be limited to a small group of students. Your instructor will be available every step of the way to answer your questions and provide feedback on your assignments.

Is this workshop for me? 

I work with shelter dogs, kindergarteners, zoo keepers, llamas, high school teachers, astronauts, bumblebees …. Is this workshop really for me? 

Yes! You’re in the right place.

The skills you will be learning can be applied to most teaching situations and a variety of learners.

I’m a beginner. Is this workshop really for me? 

Yes! You’re in the right place.

This workshop consists of a series of thoughtfully-designed, step-by-step activities that build from simple to more complex. The self-paced, mastery-based nature of the course will help ensure your success at every step. You’ll have access to clear directions, video examples, and feedback and guidance from your instructor.

I’m an experienced professional. Is this workshop really for me? 

Yes! You’re in the right place.

There’s always more to learn when it comes to teaching. This workshop will go beyond the idea of “successive approximations” and give you new ways to think about building behaviors. In addition, you’ll learn interactive activities and approaches you can use when training your staff or clients. 

How much time will the workshop take? 

You should plan to dedicate three to four hours a week to the workshop. 

You will have lessons to complete each week in the class platform. Lessons will include videos and text, as well as hands-on assignments that you will do with a pet and using the shaping game PORTL. You’ll be able to work on your own schedule to complete the lessons.  In addition, we will have a 90-minute class meeting once a week through Zoom.

I still have questions about the shaping skills workshop….

Send us an email! We would love to chat with you.

About your instructor, Mary Hunter

Mary Hunter earned an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Chicago in 2008 and a master’s degree in behavior analysis from the University of North Texas in 2013. Her master’s thesis was published in 2019 in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior

Mary owns her own animal training and consulting business in North Texas, working mainly with horses and dogs and their owners. She also serves as president of the Art and Science of Animal Training, a nonprofit organization that provides educational programs for professional animal trainers. 

From 2016-2019, Mary taught classes in the behavior analysis department at the University of North Texas as an adjunct instructor. This led to an interest in instructional design and course development. In 2017, she converted an upper-level undergraduate class into a completely self-paced, mastery-based course using Dr. Fred Keller’s Personalized System of Instruction (PSI). 

Mary’s research interests include studying the process of shaping and developing better methods for teaching both people and animals.

Workshop registration information

The Shaping Skills Workshop is divided into three core classes. Each class builds on the activities from the previous class. Therefore, the classes must be taken in order.

Part 1: Reinforcement Systems (6 week class)
Part 2: Foundational Skills for Shaping (8 week class)
Part 3: Writing and Implementing Shaping Plans (8 week class)

Registration in each class is limited to 25 students. 

Part 1: The Reinforcement System (6-week class)

You will learn about reinforcers and reinforcement systems. You’ll practice reinforcer delivery and timing using a shaping game called PORTL. You’ll also design, build, and tweak a reinforcement system for an animal learner.

JULY 2022 Reinforcement Systems class.
Class starts July 18. (Class Syllabus)
Weekly class meetings: Mondays from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Central Standard Time
Cost: $375
Visit this page to register.

OCTOBER 2022 Reinforcement Systems class.
Class starts October 9. (Class Syllabus)
Weekly class meetings: Mondays from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Central Standard Time
Cost: $375
Visit this page to register.

Part 2: Foundational Skills for Shaping (8-week class)

In this class you’ll learn a “building blocks” approach to shaping. You’ll learn how to identify and shape actions that make up more complex behaviors. As you complete exercises with PORTL and with an animal learner, you will practice designing optimal learning environments, capturing actions, and extending actions. You’ll also practice evaluating your teaching and making adjustments.

Prerequisite: You must take Part 1: Reinforcement Systems before taking this class.

OCTOBER 2022 Foundational Skills class.
Class starts October 17. (Class Syllabus)
Weekly class meetings: Mondays from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time
Cost: $550
Email classes@behaviorexplorer.com to register.

Part 3: Writing and Implementing Shaping Plans (6 week class)

In this class, you’ll write, implement, and revise teaching plans. You’ll practice constructing plans that produce faster learning and happier learners. In addition, you’ll learn to evaluate your own behavior so that you can continue to improve your teaching.

Prerequisite: You must take Part 1 and Part 2 before taking this class.

AUGUST 2022 Writing Shaping Plans class.
Class starts August 22. (Class Syllabus)
Weekly class meetings: Mondays from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Central Standard Time
Cost: $550
Email classes@behaviorexplorer.com to register.

Class materials: You will need a copy of the PORTL manual and a PORTL kit. Once you register for the workshop, you will receive instructions for how to purchase these materials at a discounted price.

You can join our email list to be the first to know when registration is open for future classes.

Workshop FAQs

I’m really interested, but I’m not sure if this workshop is for me. How can I learn more?

Please contact us with your questions! We would be happy to talk to you more about this program and about whether it would be a good fit for you. 

How do I access the workshop?

Approximately one week before the start of your class, you will receive an email message with instructions for how to access the class platform. Your instructor will be available to offer support if you have any issues with the class platform.

Can I pay in installments? 

Please contact us if you would like to pay in installments.

What is your refund policy?

A complete refund (less a $30 processing fee) will be available if requested on or before five days before the beginning of a class. No refunds will be available after this date. 

Please carefully read this page and the PDF syllabus for your class before making your decision to purchase a place in one of these classes.

We understand that not every class is a good fit for every student and, as well, that sometimes life gets in the way when you are trying to complete a class. 

However, because of the small group nature of these workshops and the amount of instructor time and energy that goes into each workshop, we cannot offer refunds after the date listed above. 

We care greatly about the success of our students. If you are taking the class and are not happy with the class or with your progress, please let us know so we can offer you the help and support that you need. 

If you have questions about a class or about the registration process, please contact us.

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