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, this workshop will help you improve your teaching skills. 

During this 12-week virtual workshop, you will learn core concepts, refine your skills, and become a better teacher.

This class is not your “typical” online course. 

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? 

At the beginning of the workshop, you’ll learn about reinforcement systems. You’ll practice designing and implementing reinforcement systems that enhance your teaching.

Next, you’ll learn a “building blocks” approach to shaping. You’ll practice designing optimal learning environments, capturing actions, and extending and merging actions to create more complex behaviors. 

Finally, 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.

I want more detail! Take me to the full workshop outline

How does it work? 

Here’s what you’ll get in this interactive workshop: 

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 in this workshop 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: This workshop is divided into 37 activities, each designed to take under 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: This 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? 

The workshop will last for 12 weeks. You should plan to dedicate three to five hours a week to the workshop. 

This will include a 90-minute class meeting once a week, plus guided activities that you will complete on your own time. These activities will be self-paced. So, you’ll be able to work on your own schedule. 

I still have questions about the shaping skills workshop….

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

When can I start? 

The Fall 2021 session will run for 12 weeks from September 20 to December 12. 

Class orientation: We will have an orientation session on Sunday, September 19, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Central Time, CDT (GMT -5). This meeting will include a brief introduction to the class and an opportunity for you to get to know your instructor and your peers. 

Weekly class meetings: We will meet on Sundays from 2:00-3:30 p.m. Central Time, CDT (GMT -5). The first of these meetings will take place on September 26, and the last of these meetings will take place on December 12.

Assignment submissions: The last day to submit assignments and videos if you would like to receive feedback will be December 31.

Class platform: You will have access to the class platform and materials until January 20, 2022. 

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.

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 cost and registration information

The cost for the Shaping Skills Workshop is $750.

Registration is limited to 16 students. 

Registration is sold out for the Fall 2021 cohort of the Shaping Skills Workshop.

However, we do plan to offer this workshop again at the beginning of 2022.

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


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?

Once you register for the workshop, you will have access to the learning platform that you will use for the class. However, the class activities and community features will not be available until the start date for the class. You will receive an email message notifying you when you have access to the class. Your instructor will be available to offer support if you have any issues with the class platform.

Can I pay in installments? 

Yes, you can pay in two installments. The first payment of $400 is due when you register for the workshop. A second payment of $375 will be due on September 15, 2021. Please contact us if you would like to pay in installments.

What is your refund policy?

A complete refund (less a $50 processing fee) will be available if requested on or before September 15, 2021. No refunds will be available after this date. 

Please carefully read this page and the workshop outline before making your decision to purchase a place in the workshop.

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 the workshop or about the registration process, please contact us.

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