Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Marc Gold: "Try Another Way" Overview

Marc Gold

Marc Gold began his career as a special education teacher in Los Angeles. It was there that he formulated a values based systematic training approach, "Try Another Way." This approach was based on a few fundamental beliefs: Everyone can learn but we have to figure out how to teach; students with developmental disabilities have much more potential than anyone realizes; and all people with disabilities should have the opportunity to decide how to live their lives. These video segments demonstrate his philosophy, and the respect and value he placed on the abilities of each of his students.


"The behaviors our children show are a reflection of our incompetence, not theirs."

This is the bench where Tom works, and this is a poem written by Dr. Marc Gold:

If you could only know me
For who I am instead of
   for who I am not
There would be so much more to see
Cuz there's so much more that I've got.

So long as you see me as
   mentally retarded
Which supposedly means
   something I guess
There's nothing you or I could ever do
To make me a human success.

Someday you will know
That tests aren't built to let me
   stand next to you.

By the way you test me
All they can do is make me look bad
Through and through.

And some day soon I'll get my chance
When some of you finally adapt.

You'll be delighted to know
That though I'm MR
I'm not at all handicapped.

Try Another Way is an introduction to a new training concept for the mentally retarded a concept created by Dr. Marc Gold.

"They began to bring in the structure…"

Roger Hoffman is the Director of Unit 10 at Dixon State School. He and his staff have been involved with the Try Another Way concept since September 1973. These are some of his thoughts on the subject.

"We started out with a feeling, a very definite feeling that this type of training technique would only have benefit in the work behavior. Lo and behold we find that Try Another Way has come up in bed making, brushing teeth, other areas. We found very quickly that the technology was more than just a specific work technology. But rather was a very valid, very rational approach to any type of training."

"Then the philosophy, the humanity, begins. It's not as tight, it's observable, it's not quantifiable. But the staff all of the sudden begins to see their limits of an individual dissipate. The boundaries that we all automatically set for these quote, mentally retarded people, it begins to melt. All of the sudden they're individuals."

The man in the blue shirt is Dr. Marc Gold, the man in the white shirt is Eugene. Eugene is mentally retarded, he's 29 years old he has an IQ of 32 and he's been a resident at Dixon State School in Dixon Illinois since he was eight years old. Dr. Gold is teaching Eugene to assemble a bicycle brake.

"You're doing a very nice job."

Dr. Gold developed the instructional technology which he's using to train Eugene and he calls it the Try Another Way approach. Since 1967 Dr. Gold and his staff have trained hundreds of severely and profoundly retarded people, using the bicycle brake as a model task. He has also trained many of these people to assemble electronic circuit boards using the same Try Another Way technology.

As you watch Eugene and Marc work together you'll notice the minimal use of language. Try Another Way is essentially non verbal. You'll also notice a very positive trainer – learner relationship.

Notice too, the level of Eugene's concentration throughout the session. He's involved in the task every second. The purpose of this film is to introduce Dr. Gold and his Try Another Way technology to everyone involved in the field of mental retardation, and to announce that Dr. Gold is presently producing a series of training films. When finished the series will represent a complete self contained training program for people interested in learning Dr. Gold's teaching technology.

"Look at that, Eugene."

"Very, very nice job. Thank you very much, okay? That's really good work. Would you like to do this some more? O.K., tomorrow you're going to get a chance to do it some more…"

This is a bicycle brake. Since 1967 when we began this research, it has had a major impact on the development of my philosophy and on the techniques that have generated from our research. Its principle impact has been to point out the discrepancy between what people think are the capabilities of the severely handicapped, the mild, and severely, and profoundly retarded, and what they're really capable of doing.

The hundreds of people that we've trained on this task, almost 100% of the time, have learned quickly and efficiently to do this. If they can learn to do this task, this task which in of itself means nothing at all, certainly many of the things that we have kept from them, complicated things to learn we think. Many of those things are things that they could learn, things that would allow them to join us as thoroughly participating members of society.

This is Barbara. She's 19 years old and for the last 11 years has lived in an institution. According to her records, her IQ is 11. Whatever that means. She's working with this task and with me for the first time.

She's more talkative than a lot of the people we work with. It's a pleasure to work with people like this because you can see the growth so fast. You can see changes in their dignity, and how they approach the task, how they feel about training.

You listen to her complaining here, and yet her hands are cookin'. She has a piece of shoelace that you see her tuck under her arm there; we haven't developed specific procedures for handling shoelaces so we have to handle that one on the cuff. The techniques that you're seeing used here might be described as essentially non-verbal, as providing different kinds of feedback, manual feedback and that is going in and placing her fingers in different positions.

There goes the shoelace. And as fading procedures in the sense that, we give them information, and then as they make mistakes we try to give them less information each time but enough information to solve the problem. You'll notice that she's looking up at me but I don't look back. If I thought there was anything to learn in my face then I'd look back. I want her eyes on the task. That's where the learning is to take place.

Most of the individuals we work with make eye contact. That goes away fairly quickly when you don't reinforce it when you don't give them reason to continue looking. You'll also notice that I don't respond by talking back when she talks to me. She obviously understands the expression, "Try Another Way" at this point. The session has now been running for approximately 3 minutes. In that period of time; look at all the stuff that she's acquired. She understands my moving her hands around in position, she understands the expression Try Another Way.

Perhaps most interesting of all here she is 3 ½ minutes into the task and there is still total attention to the task. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the longest she's ever been asked to sit somewhere and do something specific. Maybe with the exception of eating something. A little affection there showing. It's very hard not to look when something like that looks up at you. There I think we're going to find a solution for that shoelace. They also begin to understand in a short period of time that if we reach in we're trying to let them know where we want their fingers and what we want them to do. 

"Try Another Way."

Although you won't see this in this particular training session that expression transfers itself to many other situations. The expression Try Another Way used here is under a situation where there is only one other way to try.

When they go to another task, where a part might go on 5 or 6 different ways the expression Try Another Way works. They'll try several different ways until they find the right one. That's very important because many of the people we work with don't usually have alternatives. They do something if it's wrong; that's the end.  You have to go in and show. Teaching them to try alternatives is a very important part of this procedure.

You have seen two people learning to assemble the bicycle brakes. They're residents of Unit 10 at Dixon State School in Dixon Illinois. Eugene required a total of 159 minutes of training in order to reach criterion which is 6 consecutive bicycle brakes without error without assistance. That took him 30 tries. 30 bicycle brakes. Barbara the other person that you saw, required 327 minutes of training and reached that on her 38th trial, or 38th bicycle brake.

What you're going to see now is their performance after they have learned the task. This is production. Production takes place after criterion. One way to describe the difference is that the performer or the worker moves from a circumstance where he has external feedback, to one where he has internal feedback.

Notice that Eugene is making decisions for himself here. We assume that once he has reached criterion he can do that. In fact, we find with virtually everyone that we have trained that is the case. We had Eugene produce these bicycle brakes one hour a day for 10 days. He produced 130 of them. 13 brakes per hour on the average. Six of them were assembled incorrectly. That's an error rate of 4.6%. At the factory where these brakes used to be manufactured, the error rate was 6%. We don't think comparisons are important in the final analysis, and that is, we're not interested in making these individuals perform like normal people or reach industrial standards in the conventional sense.

Although we're finding that that's not so difficult to do. We're interested in making them successful. Industry's going to have to realize if it doesn't already, that success is not simply X number of units per hour.

Success depends on things like accuracy, consistency, managerial drain time, attendance, longevity on the job, and for many of these things the people we're talking about on this film, are individuals who have already demonstrated better performance than normal individuals.

One of the things that's very interesting is no relationship in any of our data between how a person performs on an IQ test, and how he performs on these tasks. Eugene's IQ score, incidentally, is 32. When you find no relationship between a person's ability to perform on a test like that and his ability to learn and then produce tasks like this it raises some very serious questions.

Barbara also produced bicycle brakes for one hour a day for 10 days. In that period of time, she built 110 brakes, four of them were assembled wrong. With an average of 11 brakes per hour, you might say depending on how you looked at things that she doesn't produce very much.

On the other hand, producing at that rate with the accuracy that she does, you might turn around and say that that represents a fantastically higher level of remuneration than people like Barbara now get, for either sitting around doing nothing, or producing the Mickey Mouse garbage things that our society has given to sheltered workshops thinking that that's all these people can perform.

As the technology develops it becomes increasingly clear to us that virtually all of those individuals that we have screened out that we've made permanent members of this surplus labor force. It's very clear that those people are capable of doing reliable and remunerative work. It's up to us to come up with the techniques to get them there. 

Dr. Richard Schafelbush (?) and Marc Gold:

RS: Are there any limitations to people let's say the trainers are you limited to certain kinds of very skillful people who can process or handle the transactions at that subtle level? Or is it possible generally to teach this, to a wide range of training personnel.

MG: In the last few months at one of our research stations we trained a moderately retarded man as the trainer. And within basically the same periods of time that we usually do he brought 2 other mentally retarded, severely retarded individuals, to criterion on the bicycle brakes.

RS: That's amazing. What your saying now is it isn't necessary to have somebody either who's had an extraordinary amount of formal training, or a person that's considered to be exceptionally gifted or bright.

MG: Almost of all the individuals that we have trained to train others have been people with very little prior experience in the field and in most instances with little or no formal training. So it's fairly clear that the technology that we're developing is usable by probably just about anyone, and the training time is just a few days, the initial training time. 

RS: What intrigues me about all this Marc is that we've had for a long time some very gifted people and very gifted organizations that have been designing tasks and systematic procedures that can be performed by machines, and we've developed a technology for industrial production that's just truly remarkable. But there have been very few people like yourself who, and I happen to know what your capabilities are as a scientist and a researcher, who have given time and attention to design systems that can be performed by human beings that ordinarily are not employable, and I think that is a real frontier really for scientific effort in our society. 

This is an electronic printed circuit board. The electronics industry finds it very difficult to obtain individuals who will work on these tasks, who will assemble these tasks over long periods of time accurately and consistently. Even during periods of high unemployment there are high turnover rates in personnel on the assembly lines where these are made.

The bicycle brakes that we use in our research are a medium they're just a task to use to find techniques for training people who find it very difficult to learn. The circuit boards, which now provide one of the major tasks that we're using in our research, they're much more than that.

We feel that people who have always been surplus members of the labor force, the people we're concerned with here, are capable of entering into the world of work, and providing a source of labor that has never been available before, a source of labor that can reliably, consistently, and accurately, produce these tasks, stay on the job for a long period of time, and provide the electronics industry, and our society with a source of labor that's needed, that's wanted, and isn't presently available. According to my competence-deviance hypothesis, the more competence an individual has the more deviance will be tolerated in him by others.

Many of the individuals we work with will always have something or things about them that bring negative attention. For example, Frances doesn't talk very much at all.  But what you see him doing here represents the kind of work skill that is needed and not available to industry. When Frances assembles electronic circuit boards like you see him doing here, those things about him that normally bring negative attention don't seem so important anymore because you're overpowered by the competence of this individual. When industry finds out that people like Frances are trained, competent and available, those things about Frances that have kept him out of the labor force will become much less significant. 

Marc speaking to a class:

Marc:  Why can't the people we serve have their balances too? Why can't we give them genuine competence? Why can't we give them things that not everyone else has?  The answer is; is that we can. As soon as we decide that they have the right to acquire really sophisticated genuine skills, social skills, self-help skills, academic skills, etc. etc. Then they can have the same chunk of the action that we have.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2301MNSCDD-02, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

This website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,120,136.00 with 83 percent funded by ACL/HHS and $222,000.00 and 17 percent funded by non-federal-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.