Q&A WITH DANIEL GADKE, MICHAEL HIXSON, AND GEORGE NOELL: Incorporating Board Certified Behavior Analyst Training into School Psychology Graduate Training

By Stratton, Kasee K. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Q&A WITH DANIEL GADKE, MICHAEL HIXSON, AND GEORGE NOELL: Incorporating Board Certified Behavior Analyst Training into School Psychology Graduate Training


Stratton, Kasee K., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Given the need for high quality behavior-analytic training, some school psychology programs have begun offering opportunities that prepare students to obtain their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential. One way to be eligible for the BCBA exam is to complete 270 hours of approved coursework and supervised fieldwork experience (see Gadke, Stratton, Kazmerski, & Rossen, 2016; BACB, 2016). While anyone with appropriate graduate training in behavior analysis, education, or psychology is able to submit coursework for individual review with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), students who complete BACB-approved course sequences (ACS) automatically meet the coursework criteria to be eligible to take the BCBA exam.

In order to become an ACS, programs must submit their coursework for review by the BACB and demonstrate that the coursework sufficiently covers the required behavior-analytic criteria (i.e., BACB, 2012). While offering an ACS does require a program to adhere to another set of requirements in addition to those of NASP, and possibly APA, doing so may attract applicants and offers additional opportunities for students postgraduation in and out of the school setting.

Drs. Daniel Gadke, Michael Hixson, and George Noell, ACS coordinators at three NASP-approved school psychology programs, represent Mississippi State University, Central Michigan University, and Louisiana State University, respectively. They were each interviewed about their respective programs to learn more about the benefits of offering an ACS to their school psychology graduate students.

Is your ACS fully contained within your school psychology course sequence or offered through additional electives?

Gadke: Mississippi State University's ACS consists of six courses fully embedded in both the specialist and doctoral school psychology programs. All students in either program take the necessary coursework as part of the standard course sequence.

Hixson: Our approved course sequence (ACS) consists of six classes, two of which are required for the school psychology degree. School psychology specialist and doctoral students must also take two electives, which may be taken from the ACS, leaving two additional courses to take. This is not too difficult for our doctoral students to complete; however, it is more challenging for specialist students. Presently, about half of our doctoral students are pursuing BCBA certification.

Noell: The ACS is completely integrated into our APA- and NASP-approved school psychology program. All program graduates, whether specialist or doctoral, complete the BACB ACS and do not need to take any additional courses.

How did you obtain ACS approval: complete program overhaul or adjustment to existing courses? How long ago did you obtain approval?

Gadke: We obtained our ACS from the BACB in the spring of 2015. Fortunately, our program has a long history of being a behaviorally oriented school psychology program. That being said, we were able to seek approval simply by submitting existing coursework.

Hixson: Our psychology department has always offered a number of behavior analytic courses, and we have three tenured faculty with extensive training in behavior analysis. To meet the educational requirements, we added two new courses (Research Methods in Behavior Analysis and Behavioral Assessment and Treatment Planning). We have also hired two fixed-term faculty who are behavior analysts who supervise practicum experiences and direct our autism treatment center. We really could not do this without them. We received approval for the BCBA course sequence in 2014.

Noell: Our program's training model is strongly behavior analytic. For us, integrating the ACS into our program primarily involved adjusting existing courses to assure coverage of the BACB ACS standards. We have been approved since 2004.

What benefits and costs have you seen for your program and students as a result? …

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