For clicker training to become the peoples' choice, to reach the mainstream of America, clicker trainers need to recognize that we are up against a deep-seated cultural bias, one that severely limits pet owners' expectations from dog training. Our task is to help people replace that narrow vision with a broader vision and higher expectations, with "something more." We can do it if we can show people that clicker training uniquely delivers that "something more." With me? Keep reading.
My flight instructor was younger than I was, a nice lad I'm sure, but he couldn't seem to find the Initial Approach Fix (a point in space we aim our aircraft at on an instrument approach) for an arc-shaped entry to the final approach out over the high desert in Southern California. He knew that he ought to know and was appropriately embarrassed. We circled and found our way eventually; but it was the proverbial "straw" that made me stop and evaluate my flight, my flight training and flight training in general. Why do instrument-rated pilots continue to make CFIT (controlled flight into terrain)? Could bad training be the root of "pilot error," "loss of control" from "spatial disorientation," and chronic deterioration of "proficiency" over time? What could I do to insure that I wasn't trained poorly?
More and more parents are beginning to use the clicker system, and sometimes the actual clicker, to shape behavior and skills in their children (click here for an example from Don't Shoot the Dog!) People in professional circles, however, are sometimes still nervous about the idea. Here's a report from a teacher faced with an emergency situation who put the clicker to work in a truly imaginative way.
1. Backward shaping is a teaching procedure whereby the last step in a learning sequence is taught first and mastered. Then the next to last step is taught, mastered, and then built onto the final step. The process is systematically added on back to the initial stage of the sequence. The desired sequence is taught in reverse.
2. This does not teach someone to perform the movement backwards. The procedure starts with the end point action and merely develops or shapes the movement from that stage. Everything is focused on building into the final point. Gradually the form of the entire action takes place.
3. The probability of learning interference from previously mastered skill is eliminated.
The operating health of your training business can be powerfully assessed in 15 minutes by applying a few familiar concepts in new ways. You may not want to try brain surgery quite yet, but you'll be able to assess how well your business is performing, what its intrinsic growth limits are, and what the payoff could be from any improvements you may make.