When teaching a new skill, break it up into smaller milestones that lead to your ultimate goal.
Picking up a new skill is no easy task. Whether it is learning a new language or picking up a completely new skill, it is hard to go from novice to expert overnight. That is where shaping can help make things a lot easier on you or anyone you are attempting to teach.
How to Teach “Shaping”
Shaping follows a phased approach. Instead of showing the entire process at one time, it can be more efficient to reinforce the desired skill by teaching it in stages. These stages can be repeated and perfected until the novice has mastered it before moving forward to the next stage. The reality is that what may be second nature to an experienced person can be quite overwhelming for someone seeing or trying to do the same thing for the first time.
With shaping, you start with the existing set of skills and behaviors from the specific individual and pick out the one(s) that will help achieve the final/desired skill. By moving slowly in a phased manner, these skills will suddenly become more attainable and achievable.
Quick Guide to Teaching New Skills
Before diving into the shaping technique, you must make sure that you’re clear on what the ultimate goal is. Then define the scope and level of proficiency you would like the learner to achieve. If it is a certain behavior or expertise, lay down the ultimate outcome that you are striving for.
Know the Current Skill Level and Abilities of the Student/Child
You need to be clear on where you’re heading and what you have to work with. It is imperative that you understand the skill that’s required along with the current behavior exhibited by the student/child.
If there is an existing behavior that will help build towards the goal you’d like to achieve, or a ‘starting point behavior’, be sure to emphasize on it once the student starts to practice the shaping technique. In order to begin shaping your child towards a new skill, you must first positively reinforce this “starting point behavior.” Once a child sees that the “starting point behavior” is desirable, they will strive to do it more and hone in on developing and learning the new skill.
Gradually, move to the next behavior or skill level and start to focus on rewarding/praising to encourage progression to the next level.
Before You Get Started
Don’t try to rush things. You need to be sure that a certain step or behavior has been mastered before moving on to the next stage.
Reinforcement may come in many forms. It could be a smile, encouragement, a pat on the back, or simply a response to their query.
Once you have the techniques down pat, you can apply Shaping for a range of different learning situations. Whether it is teaching a new sport or helping a child learn good table manners, good behavior shaping will help make a difference in their world.