Applied Behavior Analysis
The Discrete Trial
Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT) is one of the instructional methodologies of an ABA-based educational program. Learning is broken down into small steps which are built toward more complex behaviors and skills. Learning opportunities are presented in a “trial” format, consisting of four major components:
Data are recorded for each trial. The instruction is given in very clear language that the child can understand, and, as the child becomes able to handle more complex language, it moves toward a more natural language base. The teacher may begin with a direct stimulus "look at me" then move to a more natural stimulus such as just saying the child’s name to get his or her attention. Prompts are not always needed, however are used to facilitate the desired response. Prompts can be visual such as a gesture or taking the child’s hand and moving it through the desired motions (a physical prompt). The aim is to reach a point where the child can perform the desired task with no prompt at all. The response should be evident within about 5 seconds. If there is no response, or an incorrect response, the trial is considered to be over and a new one begins. Feedback on each trial is immediately provided to the child. The more information that is provided to a child, the faster the learning can take place. It is important not to praise every response because some will be terrific, some barely adequate, some not quite accurate and some simply unacceptable. It is important that the feedback is an indication of where the response falls.
- The teacher presents an instruction or question (stimulus).
- The instruction is followed by a prompt, if needed, to elicit the correct response.
- The child responds (correctly or incorrectly).
- The teacher provides an appropriate consequence or feedback, which could be a reward or a correction.