Psychology, like many other disciplines, has several different subfields: behavioral analysis is one of them.
“It’s a kind of psychology,” says Dr. Paige McKerchar, the JSU Psychology Department Chair, “that is used in various ways to make socially significant changes in human behavior.
Applied behavior analysis is specifically the application of behavior analysis principles to a human population, generally.”
To keep up with the scientific breakthroughs taking place in the field, and to create a centralized curriculum to ensure that everyone who desired to practice in the field of behavior analysis was properly trained and educated; the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) was founded in the year 1974.
Currently, ABAI has accredited 17 master’s program in behavior analysis to universities all around the country.
The hard work of Dr. McKerchar, and the other distinguished professor and faculty members, have made it possible for JSU’s master’s program in applied behavior analysis (ABA) to be one of them.
“The ABAI is the longest standing professional organization in behavior analysis. They began accrediting masters and doctoral programs in behavior analysis and just in the past two years they have started doing it for bachelor level programs. They do this mainly just to provide some basis for exemplary education in behavior analysis.” Says Dr. McKerchar.
The process of being accredited by the ABAI was a long and tedious one.
Dr. McKerchar and the rest of the faculty began preparing the department to be reviewed in 2009.
It wasn’t until April 2012 that the ABAI’s chairperson alerted Dr. McKerchar that JSU’s program would be recommended for accreditation. On December 9, 2012, she was notified that the program had been officially accredited.
“To me, I think of it as a justification for everything we are doing. I know what I do is the best that I can do. This isn’t going to change anything about how we behave, and it wasn’t the case that we changed anything right before we went up for accreditation. We have been doing the same things in this department for years.”
What the department was doing before accreditation by the ABAI was already being noticed.
JSU is one of two universities in the state of Alabama where graduating from its master’s program in Psychology allows students to take the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).
In addition to this, the department is currently working on getting their bachelor’s graduates eligible to take the exam to become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA).
“The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) certifies bachelors level behavior analysts and masters level behavior analysts. Those bachelors level behavior analysts are certified as BCaBA’s. Our master’s students can take the exam, but currently our bachelor’s students cannot. We would like to add more classes to the bachelor’s program so that those students are able to become certified as well.” Says Dr. McKerchar.
Although Dr. McKerchar and the other faculty members still have more work to do to achieve their goals, they can rest assured knowing that their hard work is paying off.
“I think it’s just that seal of approval:proof that what we are doing and saying we are doing is actually good."