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The Sandwich.

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

“Feedback and positive reinforcement form the most powerful combination of techniques you can use to bring out the best in people”- Aubrey Daniels

Monitoring and reinforcing staff can seem like a challenge, especially for new BCBAs. How does a behavior scientist monitor and reinforce their staff? What systems do they use?

BCBAs use systems for effective monitoring of performance and reinforcement programs to promote client progress including identifying strengths and weaknesses as well as barriers to learning. Each team member has individualized goals that are targeted for change and prioritized.

Effective supervision practices quantify measures for each individualized goal and develop measurement systems for tracking progress. Frequent systematic performance monitoring helps the BCBA supervisor to monitor how the staff are implementing clients intervention procedures. Monitoring should be formal and informal (try scheduled and unscheduled visits).

Organizational Behavior Management defines reinforcement as specific information or data about a performance that allows an individual to adjust or maintain his performance.

Feedback is an antecedent for behavior change; effective antecedents can get most behaviors to start but ultimately have limited control over behavior. The most effective feedback is linked as an antecedent to positive reinforcement.

Aubrey Daniels describes the best way to positively reinforce supervisees:

  1. Material rewards are personal, so what can be rewarding to one person, can be a punishment for another. If you want to reward someone in this way, get to know the person so that you know what the person enjoys receiving. Try preference assessments!

  2. Material rewards should be unlimited, which means colleagues should not be competing for the same rewards. Try independent group contingencies!

  3. Complimenting is the easiest and cheapest form of positive reinforcement. A “high five" (or elbow bump), thumbs up, or a “thank you” delivered when you catch somebody engaging in the right behavior are powerful consequences that can be delivered without delay or negative associations.

  4. Do not combine compliments with critique. The famous sandwich structure in which critique is balanced with two compliments is very confusing. Critique, as well as compliments, should be clear and direct. When you mix the two, the person does not experience either source of feedback.

What is reinforcing for you? Have you ever had an employer ask you to fill out a preference assessment? Have you ever experienced "the sandwich" method of feedback from a supervisor?


Daniels, A. C. (2000). Bringing out the Best in People - How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement. New York: McGraw Hill.

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