I Just Can't... That Damned Blue Chart

Author: Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Author: Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while...

I stumbled across many areas of the science that are beyond the basics. It’s not that they are hard per se, or that they are elite, or anything like that. I just mean that they aren’t really covered in-depth in the typical course sequence for behavior analysts. I’d like to take one of those today and offer a way to look at such material in hopes that you can then take this approach to expanding your own skill sets as well.

I’d like to talk about that funky blue chart…

The Standard Celeration Chart (SCC)

Standard Celeration Chart (SCC)

Standard Celeration Chart (SCC)

Most “gut reactions” to the SCC is goes along the lines of something like this…

“I don’t understand that thing!”
“Those people are kind of cult-ish…”
“I just don’t see the value.”

All of these are valid. I mean, I can’t blame the learner. Each of them tells me a little bit about how you’ve likely experienced the chart in the past. This post is not to convince you to use the SCC. Use whatever you’d like to use. I’ve listed some other reasons to explore the SCC here. However, what I would like to do is present a framework for thinking about these sorts of things, whether you are a student learning taking behavior analysis classes, you are a teacher having a hard time pitching certain content, or you’re not sure what tool to pick up next at your next professional development event.

A gross oversimplification, but a good starting point, is to break learning new skills down into two areas:

  1. Skill deficits
  2. Motivation

There are a slew of tools that are out there to understand both. The one that I’ve come most fond of is that of instructional design. Here’s a place to check it out more (I'm throwing another piece down on some resources in this area later this week).

Who my colleagues and I have taught to use the Standard Celeration Chart:

  1. Children with autism and related disabilities
  2. Children and adults labeled “typical”
  3. Children labeled "Gifted and Talented”
  4. Special education teachers and paraprofessionals
  5. Behavior analysts

In total there are around 300 people that I have introduced to this tool (with various degrees of success and further use), and oddly the ones that seem to be the hardest weren’t those with various labels or disabilities, but it was the behavior analysts. Why is that?

Perhaps it’s how you were approached (that I’ve too experienced at various behavior analytic conventions). You know, when someone comes up to your poster and says “You used the wrong graph for this!” Perhaps it’s not that, but it’s just that it's really hard to actually see and visualize data on the chart (I actually need glasses to see some data paths since I first began using the tool and my eyesight has decreased). It could be a lot of different things, but here’s a few that I have found to be of the utmost importance.

1. Treat it like any other skill

There are entry repertoires that are needed for each skill to be successfully taught. Here’s a few that I’ve found useful, but it’s by no means exhaustive – just meant to get you started about thinking what might be impacting understanding an area of the literature:

  • Visual tracking (i.e., tracking your finger as you teach components of the chart, tracking the number on the axis and the dot)
  • Discrimination between different orientations of lines (i.e., vertical, horizontal)
  • Number identification (i.e., .001 through 1000)
  • Correspondence between what was saw and what was recorded (i.e., accurate recording)
  • Valid recording (i.e., measuring what you say you’re really measuring).
  • Identifying the difference between linear and logarithmic axes.
Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA - High Sierra Industries - Standard Celeration Chart embedded into a district professional development course.

Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA - High Sierra Industries - Standard Celeration Chart embedded into a district professional development course.

2. Contrive motivation for the tool

  • Sequence the instruction in a way that limits errors (i.e., present all of the various components of the SCC prior to actually expecting people to chart data)
  • Include goal-setting practices through the use of the SCC (i.e., set valued and meaningful aims related to the person you’re teaching it to.)
  • Utilize the SCC as a source of identification of progress and reinforcement (i.e., reaching your aim is tied to functional reinforcers for whoever you’re working with)
  • Encourage and support self-charting and self-charting of data on the SCC.

In the past 4 years, I have worked on different ways to pitch the use of the SCC. I think it’s the perfect tool to use to try and practice using the non-linear instructional design process with because it’s not an easy “sell.” I’ve managed to get it from about 2 hours of individual teaching and practice down to about 45 minutes in a group format (between 20-30 people simultaneously).  

I encourage you to do one of two things:

  1. Rethink that last thing that you said “wasn’t needed” or “was too hard” or “you didn’t see the value in” with some of the ideas above
  2. Rethink the way that you approach teaching content to whomever it is that you work with through utilizing the non-linear instructional design approach.

I’ve been amazed at what practicing and continually adapting from the data has done to the way that I teach and explore our beautiful science. I’m open to any ideas or ways to refine this approach myself – let’s hear them in the comment section!

Ryan O'Donnell

Reno, Nevada

Ryan graduated in 2013 from the Florida Institute of Technology and received his Board Certification that same year.  Ryan has provided over 2,000 hours of instruction and oversight in a variety of areas, including: Medicaid services, DOE Training, prosocial organizational projects, and Rehabilitation and various private entities.  He's active in the field of behavior analysis with over 60 professional presentations, posters, or workshops in the past 5 years.

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