Research Question

Can match to sample training that includes multiple exemplar training within a stimulus equivalence instructional sequence increase staff’s abilities to define ABA-based terms as well as match those terms to vignettes and video-based depictions.


There are two experimental sessions within the project.  The first experimental session will occur at a training site and may last up to three hours in duration.  In this session, the participant will first take the initial pre-test for the written and video tests. Next, they will go through the stimulus equivalence instructional (SEI) sequence via the match to sample software program.  The SEI sequence includes baseline (before training), training, and testing sessions for all of the different relations. Lastly, a post-test for the written and video tests will conclude the first experimental session. The second experimental session must take place at least two weeks after the first session.  Based upon participant preference, the session can occur at the training site or via an online meeting. In the second session, the participant will engage in an additional match to sample test sessions as well as an additional written and video test. This session will conclude participation in this project.

Stimulus Equivalence-based Instruction

Stimulus equivalence instructional sequence (SEI): an instructional sequence in which some relations are directly instructed while others are only tested without instruction to determine if the participant can learn novel relations without being directly taught.  For example, if I teach a participant that term A matches definition B and that term A also matches video scenario C, then I can test if the participant can match definition B to video scenario C without the relation of these two items being directly taught.

Literature Review

Equivalence-based instructional (EBI) technology has been shown to be highly effective in teaching relations among varying arbitrary stimuli (Brodsky & Fienup, 2018; Sidman, 1994).  In particular, EBI has been utilized successfully to teach concepts related to applied behavior analysis (Albright, Schnell, Reeve, & Sidener, 2016; Lovett, Rehfeldt, Garcia, & Dunning, 2011; Walker & Rehfeldt, 2012).  In these studies, concepts related to functions of behavior and single-subject designs were successfully taught to undergraduate and graduate ABA students. The current study would extend this literature by teaching ABA terminology to new direct line staff and staff preparing for the BCBA, BCaBA, or RBT exam.  

Individuals entering into the delivery of ABA-based interventions face a number of obstacles.  Besides learning intervention procedures, new staff must also learn basic ABA terminology in order to discuss client behaviors and treatment interventions with supervisors, caregivers, and other professionals. The use of precise terms to describe behavior and environmental relations is one of the core components of behavior analysis (Hineline, 1980).  The development of training programs proven to be effective and efficient in teaching this terminology would greatly benefit staff who are new to the field. Additionally, while supervising new staff out in the field, these training programs would allow BCBAs to concentrate on teaching behavioral interventions instead of having to review basic terminology.  In doing so, this could potentially lead to greater fidelity of treatment interventions and better client outcomes.


Albright, L. Schnell, L., Reeve, K. F., & Sidener, T. M. (2016). Using stimulus equivalence-based instruction to teach graduate students applied behavior analysis to interpret operant functions of behavior. Journal of Behavioral Education, 25, 290-309. doi:10.1007/s10864-016-9249-0

Brodsky, J., & Fienup, D. M. (2018). Sidman Goes to College: A Meta-Analysis of Equivalence-Based Instruction in Higher Education. Perspectives on Behavior Science, 41, 95-119. doi:10.1007/s40614-018-0150-0

Hineline, P. (1980). The language of behavior analysis: Its community, its functions, and its limitations. Behaviorism, 8(1), 67-86.

Lovett, S., Rehfeldt, R. A., Garcia, Y., & Dunning, J. (2011). Comparison of a stimulus equivalence protocol and traditional lecture for teaching single-subject designs. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 819-833. doi:10.1901/jaba.2011.44.819

Sidman, M. (1994). Equivalence relations and behavior: A research story. Boston, MA: Authors Cooperative, Inc.

Walker, B. D. & Rehfeldt, R. A. (2012). An evaluation of the stimulus equivalence paradigm to teach single-subject design to distance education students via Blackboard. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 45, 329-344. doi:10.1901/jaba.2012.45.329

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