The term shaping was coined by B. F. Skinner to refer to both a specific teaching technique and a general learning process. Shaping is the technique whereby a behavior totally outside the learner's current repertoire of skills is carefully brought into existence by reinforcing successive approximations to the desired performance. Shaping also refers to the learning process that takes place whenever a behavior is modified or molded over time by the consequences that differentiate its various forms.

Although not always the case, shaping is most commonly employed when, for whatever reason, the learner can neither follow verbal instructions on how to perform the desired skill nor readily imitate the behavior of another who can perform the skill. When shaping a behavior, the teacher (or therapist ...

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