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Tuesday, January 24th 

12-1 PM (CST)

Zoom Passcode: 299768




Mastery as a Misnomer: A Closer Look at "Mastery" Criteria


Dr. Sarah Richling

Dr. Sarah Richling received her Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno and is currently a Assistant Clinical Professor at Auburn University. Dr. Richling serves as the Practicum Coordinator of ABA services at Auburn, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (2010), and volunteers in various capacities for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Dr. Richling is an Associate Editor for Behavior and Social Issues and has served as an editorial board member and reviewer for various scholarly journals. Dr. Richling is the former President (2021) and current Executive Director for the Alabama Association for Behavior Analysis (ALABA). In addition, she serves as a Senior Program Area Coordinator for Community, Social, and Sustainability Issues at the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) annual conference and as a Planners Board member for Behaviorists for Social Responsibility (BFSR). Dr. Richling recently completed a visiting professorship at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt in Germany and has previously held a position of clinical supervisor and instructor at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia. Her current scholarly interests include the dissemination and adoption of evidence-based practice and continuing education, the empirical evaluation of ritualistic clinical practices, organizational and scientific system-building, the integration of the philosophical bases of behavioral science, and community and social issues including criminal behavior, advocacy, activism, and accompaniment


A number of objective criteria have been developed to establish when a skill being trained has been learned. These evaluative performance standards have historically been referred to as mastery criteria. However, the term "mastery" as used in these contexts is a misnomer. We propose an alternative, more fitting term: performance criteria. Accurate labels notwithstanding, additional skepticism and investigation into the lore surrounding the use of performance criteria in practical settings is necessary. The purpose of this presentation will be to: 1) provide a brief introduction to performance criteria historically and contemporarily, 2) discuss some issues related to mastery criteria terminology, 3) discuss the various dimensions of performance to which criteria can be applied, 4) provide a comprehensive review of literature related to performance criteria across various practice areas, and 5) provide a model for establishing performance criteria while recognizing the lack of sufficient direct empirical research in the area of mastery criteria and its relationship with response maintenance. Finally, a comment on considerations for future directions for research and clinical practice will be provided.


Participants will be able to

  1. Attendees of this talk will be able to think critically about terminology used to describe reaching learning goals and the ways in which they can be applied.

  2. The audience will be able to describe recent research regarding performance criteria and recognize the lack of empirically support for current clinical lore.

  3. Attendees will discuss how the two points above relate to decision making about what criteria to utilize in clinical practice as well as the necessity for future research.

NEABA Members: CEUs are free 
Non- Members: Submit payment to collect CEU
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