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Backchaining is a teaching tool that is the key to success for many professional trainers and sport coaches. 

If you're a teacher, coach or parent who teaches skills to others, you need to know about this too!

Backchaining is a concept foreign to many and counter-intuitive to most who first learn of it. It's a very effective way to build highly reliable behaviors and it's one of the key techniques that any TAGteacher should understand and apply properly. A reliable behavior is one that looks the same each time the subject performs it. For example, with forming the letter “E”, we would consider the behavior to be reliable if the child drew the letter the same way every time and the letter was drawn correctly.

Backchaining involves teaching a skill starting at the end and working back to the beginning. For example we would teach a child to come down the ladder to the climbing structure safely before teaching him to climb up it. This way we know that once he climbs up he will be able climb down. To do this we would place the child on the bottom step and work on taking one step down to the ground until he is confident with that. The we would place them on the second step and work on coming down two steps. After a few steps they would be confident with coming down and we could start working on going up and then coming back down. By teaching the last part first the learner is always moving toward the part of the skill that they learned first and with which they're most confident. The gymnast that learns her balance beam routine from back to front will not be worrying about moving toward the part of the routine that she has practiced the least, she will be confident that she is less likely to fall as the routine moves forward. The pianist who learns the last part of the piece first will be moving toward the part they have practiced most and with which they have the greatest confidence.


The following topics will be covered:

What is backchaining?

Why is it useful and effective?

Some examples

When to use backchaining

Skill break down 

Backchaining a simple skill

Backchaining a complex skill


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Joan Orr M.Sc. is a scientist and internationally recognized clicker trainer. Along with Theresa McKeon, Joan is the one of the cofounders of TAGteach International, a company that promotes the application of marker-based positive reinforcement training for humans. Joan was a member of the Karen Pryor Clickertraining Clicker Expo Faculty for 9 years and content creator and advisor to the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior. She is a pioneer in the field of clicker training rabbits and co-author the book: Getting Started Clicker Training Your Rabbit. Joan and Teresa Lewin are co-founders of Doggone Crazy Inc, a company dedicated to dog bite prevention through education. They created the board game Doggone Crazy!, the “Doggie Detective”  bite prevention education program for elementary school children and the Clicker Puppy training DVD. Joan has published many articles on dog bite prevention, positive training methods in people and animals and the importance of understanding dog body language. She has received many awards for her work. Most recently Joan has teamed up with behavior analyst Ryan O'Donnell to put on the annual conference: The Convergence of Human & Animal Training and Technology (CHATTcon).