top of page

Learning Module: Errorless Learning ...Getting Your BCBA Certification...

While I don't typically start with a 'not' statement, I've found a great deal of confusion over what, exactly, is ERRORLESS LEARNING. For that reason, I think it important to identify up front that Errorless Learning is not doing quick corrections once an error has been made no matter how timely or efficiently that subsequent prompt may be administered.

Instead, Errorless Learning is a process which ASSURES that the learner has 100% accuracy on a new skill from the start of instruction (program implementation). Errorless Learning does this by blending Response (‘Instructional’) Prompting and Stimulus Prompting as components of active instruction to guarantee that the learner is immediately and 100% successful.

Response Prompting is part of active/interactive instruction and is framed by the use of Prompt Fade/most to least prompting. While I often refer to Response Prompting as 'Instructional Prompting' to help differentiate between the two, realize that this is my term and not from Cooper ( will not be used on the BACB exam). Stimulus Prompting, on the other hand, is the antecedent manipulation of materials and/or the environment/structure to increase the learner's probability of success.

Stimulus Prompting is ALWAYS used proactively by changing the antecedent conditions in order to increase the the learner's probability of success. And Success is a very powerful, if underused, teaching and behavioral strategy. While Stimulus Prompting will actively support learner success, it is not Errorless Learning by itself. Correctly done Errorless Learning, again, ASSURES that the learner will be 100% successful from the very start of instruction (program implementation).

The use of Prompt Fading (most to least prompting) in Response Prompting is primary to achieve effective Errorless Learning. Then, as the learner increasingly engages successfully and shows better understanding of the new skill/task, the instructor (therapist) fades back so long as the child’s success continues only engaging briefly, very minimally & as needed to maintain child momentum and success before backing off again.

Reinforcement connects to Errorless Learning by initially providing denser reinforcement for the success even though it is instructor/therapist facilitated mostly by way of social/verbal praise and positive feedback but also with the use of earned higher preference breaks...and without the use of food. Reinforcement is then thinned/faded, modified and made more natural as the learner increasingly and more independently takes over.

As you set up for and start to thin the schedule of reinforcement, be sure to guard against Ratio Strain which connects with a too rapid fading of reinforcement. More on this later...but check it out if it is a less familiar term (my above identified Level 2 or Level 3) then think about how it might apply. As the learner's new skill falls into place, it can then be extended for longer time periods and/or become more complex.

As a very relevant aside...I'll return to the use - misuse - of edible reinforcement more fully in another blog entry. Suffice it to say for now that I've never used food and never had to use food as a reinforcer despite my long time work with kids and adults with higher intensity and persistent behavioral need to include providing a lot of support for very young children. That edibles are 'needed,' to especially include with little guys with autism, is far more burned in myth than reality.

In fact, it is wholly possible a reason you are having 'success' with a child while using edibles is a result of one of the very problematic side effects of reinforcement, edibles in particular, rather than increasing independence or authentic learning by the child. Despite a longstanding perseveration by the literature on the use of edible reinforcement...there are lots and lots of structural, behavioral and instructional alternatives.


Practice question: Be sure to look for key words in each question while throwing out answers you know are incorrect if you are not sure. Above all, read the question AND the possible answers carefully. 'Knowing' the answer after having read the question but before looking at the four choices given can become rather frustrating when your 'answer' isn't there....

To teach Joey his primary colors, a BCBA decides to use pairs targeting primary colors with an initial emphasis on Red, Green and Blue. Red and Blue are used in the first pair with Red the target color. By placing his finger on and very lightly tapping the Red card before he asks Joey to ‘show me RED,’ the BCBA is using

A. Most to least prompting

B. Three step guided compliance

C. Stimulus prompting

D. Response prompting

And the answer is………......................................…………(C.) Stimulus Prompting.

So why would this not be Response Prompting since the BCBA used his finger a a prompt?It is a Stimulus Prompt because the BCBA used his finger tapping to create an antecedent change before he asked the question/delivered the Sd.

Next...can we call the BCBA’s use of Stimulus Prompting alone in this scenario an example of Errorless Learning?’

No…because even while he may have greatly increased the probability of child success, the Stimulus Prompt cannot alone ASSURE a 100% successful response by Joey from the start of instruction (program implementation).


......Getting your BCBA Certification......

This is an example of how I utilize my original BCBA Mock Exam when working with folks live and online. I use it as a learning and instructional tool rather than just for the 'right' or 'wrong' answer. In fact, getting a question 'wrong' then figuring it out can sometimes be far more helpful than just picking the 'right' answer and quickly moving quickly to the next. I work with test prep students on content and non-content/structure simultaneously since BOTH trip folks up on the BCBA exam.

If students don't understand why a particular answer is correct...the value of getting that one right is greatly reduced. With this, I regularly advise against paying for any test prep/review systems which prioritize speed without understanding (a false fluency measure); memorization without depth or application; 'right' or 'wrong' without explanation and/or replicating the exact same confused and confusing format and stressful structure of the BCBA exam.

First, I have my students identify three 'Levels' of test connected knowledge/understanding and production. Level 1 questions/content is that which the student knows - cold. Operationally, this means that no matter how that content is questioned/asked, you know what's wanted and will get it right.

For instance, 'intensity' and 'magnitude' of reinforcement mean the same. If you only are familiar with one of these referents, it would fall into my Level 2 which include questions/content you might kinda know and get right - once - but may not if it's presented differently the next time. Level 3 are questions/content are those you don't know/need a better understanding.

To continue returning to the same study and review patterns which have already not been successful is illogical. As Behavior Analysts, we would certainly not let that happen with a client's program. But I've found so many of those who've already tripped over the BCBA exam stay in the same cycle returning to the process which has already been predictive of poor probability for exam success.

Break the pattern

I will be developing these kinds of Learning Modules connected to the Task List and the Exam domains. For now, I will be offering a few examples on my website and in my new Instagram account (bridging_behavior) towards a 'field testing' period. I welcome and encourage your feedback.

When I work with folks, I will always be open to feedback with regards to areas to target for another specific Learning Module. I will ultimately make my Learning Modules available as part of my website, within specifically structured online sessions and expanded Test Prep Services.

Since our first video or phone conversation is always without charge or obligation, there's no reason not to schedule a time to talk. I look forward to hearing from you.

I can help you pass the BCBA exam. Contact me via LinkedIn or my website....

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page