Within the realms of autism intervention, it is incredibly common for providers to use a tiered model of service delivery to increase billing propensity and meet an ever growing demand for behavior analytic services (BACB, 2017).

As a tiered model requires trained technicians, it is imperative that clinicians have a data based way to evaluate technician skill deficits in an empirically validated and quantitative format. The Performance Diagnostic Checklist for Human Services (PDC-HS) is an informant based tool that is specifically designed to assess environmental factors that contribute to specific deficits in employee performance specifically when working in the human services sector. Research has been conducted that demonstrates its efficacy to not only identify key performance deficits but also recommends evidence based strategies to remedy performance issues (Wilder, Lipschultz, & Gehrman, 2018).

The… What?

The PDC-HS, created by Carr, Wilder, Majdalany, Mathisen, and Strain (2013) was created to fill a significant gap in our understanding of organizational behavior: a behavior analytically informed performance diagnostic. Although common operant models have been utilized in performance management since the early 1970’s, very little research has been conducted in the realm of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) as far as validation (Austin, 2000). Therefore, the PDC-HS was developed to inform performance analysis specifically within the human services context.


The assessment itself is fairly simple. There are a series of 20 questions separated into four distinct sections: Training, Task Clarification & Prompting, Resources, Materials, & Processes; and (d) Performance Consequences, Effort, and Competition. Each section is includes four to six questions regarding employee performance. 13 questions can be answered based purely on an interview of the employee’s direct supervisor while seven require an actual observation. Each item scored as “no” on the assessment correlates with a potential intervention that can be used to improve performance (Carr et al, 2013). A pilot study conducted by Grubbs and Papazian (2019) reported that the average duration of assessment was 30 minutes inclusive of both the direct observation and interview with the direct supervisor.

Choosing an Intervention

Once the assessment is completed it is time to choose the intervention(s). As we discussed, each “no” is a potential option for an intervention. To make things simple, a handy scoring guide is listed with assessment that has corresponding interventions that are functionally based with references for further examples of how to implement the intervention in an evidenced based format. Each of the references are easy to find: a simple google scholar search results in pdfs available for download.

Concerns Using the PDC-HS

Interestingly enough, very little research has been conducted to validate the indicated interventions beyond the litmus test (i.e. testing out interventions in a quasi-experimental format.) Although this does demonstrate the internal validity of the assessment, the current empirical literature contains a significant gap: what if we used a contra-indicated intervention? Would we still see a change in behavior simply due to observer reactivity?

Wilder et al (2018) argued that further research was necessary as all the previous literature had not evaluated task clarification and prompting and resources, materials, and processes. In addition to simply evaluating the predictive nature of the assessment based on the litmus test, comparisons to contradicted interventions using multiple baseline logic was implemented to demonstrate the overall efficacy of the assessment to predict and control behavior. Spoiler alert: findings indicated that not only was the predictive nature of the assessment validated but contraindicated procedures did not result in reliable behavior change when compared to indicate assessments.


As need for behavior analytic services grows our need for a valid quantitative performance diagnostic assessment is even more important. The PDC-HS is one such emerging assessment that offers significant promise in this area. However, the literature is so sparse, with only FOUR peer reviewed studies to date. In order for a broader use of this assessment further research is needed for validation.


  • Austin J. Performance analysis and performance diagnostics. In: Austin J., Carr J. E., editors. Handbook of applied behavior analysis. Reno, NV: Context Press; 2000. pp. 321–349.
  • Carr, J. E., Wilder, D. A., Majdalany, L., Mathisen, D., & Strain, L. A. (201S3). An assessment-based solution to a human services performance problem: An initial evaluation of the performance diagnostic checklist for human services. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 6(1), 16-32.
  • Grubbs, K., & Papazian, J. (2019, March). Improving graduate student performance in practicum settings using the performance diagnostic checklist – human services. (Poster Presentation at the Texas Association of Behavior Analysis Conference. Fort Worth, Tx)
  • Wilder, D. A., Lipschultz, J., & Gherman, C. (2018). An Initial Evaluation of the Performance Diagnostic Checklist – Human Services diagnostic checklist – human services across domains. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 11(2), 129-138.


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