MA-ABA program offers classroom-based experience for students

December 6, 2021

Spartans will have even more opportunities to receive hands-on experience while training to become behavior analysts thanks to new partnerships with local K-12 school districts.

The collaborations will help graduates from Michigan State University’s M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis (MA-ABA) program be prepared to fulfill or create needed positions in schools.

Teacher and student wearing masks collaborate on a lesson.

“Unfortunately, many school districts do not have Board Certified Behavior Analysts® on staff. As behavioral challenges continue to increase in schools, districts need to consider hiring individuals who can address those challenges,” said Lauren Snyder, a behavior consultant with Clinton County’s Regional Education Service Agency. “BCBAs are experts in behavior, and through collaborations with school teams, they are able to design, implement, train and evaluate formal Behavior Intervention Plans that ultimately provide long-term, positive effects for both students and staff.”

CC-RESA is one of the new opportunities, along with other school districts, for MA-ABA students who wish to pursue school-based experiences as part of their required practicum. The placement opportunities are available beginning Spring 2022. Previously, the MA-ABA only offered community-based practicum placements, such as in MSU’s Early Learning Institute.

The placements are a win-win for future graduates of the program and Michigan’s schools, says Associate Professor Marisa Fisher.

“We want to show the benefit of having these positions in schools,” said Fisher. “Board Certified Behavior Analysts® are more than just clinicians working with students with autism: They can work with every student who may need additional support or work with teachers who are struggling with classroom management in any K-12 classroom.”

Marisa Fisher
Marisa Fisher

The practicum experience is a hallmark of MSU’s program, which provides placement opportunities for students; other programs typically ask students to find their own placements. MSU’s program also features small cohorts (with a 1:2 ratio of advisor to students) and an individualized experience.

“MSU’s Applied Behavior Analysis program was instrumental in preparing me for [my current role],” said Snyder, a two-time graduate of MSU, earning a B.A. in Education (2013) and an M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis (2019). “The small cohort and experience that was offered allowed for unique and valuable practicum opportunities and built strong foundational skills through candid and thought-provoking classroom discussions and lessons.”

A master’s thesis is also part of program requirements and is often done as part of work during the practicum. Recent examples could make improvements in the field by providing supports to others:

  • 2020 graduate Andrea M. Peterson was lead author on “Teaching Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to Recognize and Respond to Coworker Victimization” (Behavioral Interventions, August 2021), which won the 2021 Forrest J. Files Student Paper Competition for the Mid-American Association for Behavior Analysis.
  • 2019 graduate John D. Wenzel IV led an August 2021 paper published in Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals titled “Preparing Job Coaches to Implement Systematic Instructional Strategies to Teach Vocational Tasks.”

Graduates from the program are known to excel. For example, 85% of MSU students pass the national exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® the first time taking the test, compared to the 2020 national average of 66%.

Tiffany Stauch

“Although a large focus of our program is building foundational skills students need to pass the certifying exam, we also emphasize the importance of communicating and collaborating with others while providing high-quality behavior analytic services,” said Tiffany Stauch, director of the MA-ABA program. “As a result, our students leave our program with the knowledge, skills and tools to collaborate with others and make a positive impact in a wide range of settings.”

Apply to join our next cohort of MA-ABA Spartans; applications are due by January 15, 2022.

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