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Application of the Constant Time Delay Procedure in Adapted Physical Education.


The constant time delay (CTD) procedure is a nearly-errorless teaching strategy for individuals with disabilities (Wolery, Ault, & Doyle, 1992). The unique characteristic of this procedure is that a fixed amount of time (delay interval) is inserted between a target stimulus and a controlling prompt (Zhang, Horvat, & Gast, 1994). Use of this delay interval is to allow a learner to make a correct response within this interval, if sure of the correct response, or to wait for the prompt if unsure of the correct response. It has been experimentally investigated to be effective in adapted physical education.

Zhang, Gast, Horvat, and Dattilo (1995) evaluated the effectiveness of a 4-s CTD procedure on teaching four adolescents with severe to profound intellectual disabilities three sport skills (bowling, throwing, and putting) in a single-subject multiple probe design. Results indicated the CTD procedure was effective in teaching each participant to perform each sport skill correctly. On average, a participant took 16 teaching sessions, 187 teaching trials, 258 teaching minutes, and 8% of learning errors to obtain 100% of correct step responses in a task-analyzed sport skill.

Although the CTD procedure has been experientially evaluated to be effective in adapted physical education, no applications have been found to use the CTD procedure to teach individuals with disabilities gross motor skills in natural instructional settings. The purpose of this article is to report and discuss results of application of the CTD procedure for teaching adults with developmental delays recreational motor activities in natural adapted physical education environments.


Participants were 22 adults with developmental disabilities, ages 27 to 50 years, 13 females and 9 males from a daytime special institution, in Fall 1997. They, except dropouts, were continuously involved in this application in Winter 1998. In a semester, a participant attended a 30-min training session, once per week for about 13 weeks, to learn a recreational motor activity.

A participant's recreational gross motor activity was selected based on ecological approach (Block, 1994). In this approach, a survey was first conducted to find important activities based on five variables: individual interests, family preferences, community popularity, staff recommendations, and institutional expectations. A specific skill favored by most variables was then selected as the target activity.

A total of 11 target skills were determined for participants across two semesters. These skills were delivery of a bowling ball with a preferred arm, put a golf ball into an hole, kick a soccer ball into a goal, ride a tricycle for a distance, walk and jog for a time, strike a softball into a goal, throw a baseball to hit a target, catch a basketball with both hands, dribble a basketball with one hand, and shoot a basketball with a preferred hand.

As long as a specific activity was determined for a participant, this target activity was task-analyzed into meaningful steps based on self-application and functional abilities. Self-application addressed self-initiation of activities for the facilitation of independence, and functional abilities addressed simplification of responses according to the participant's functional level (Nietupski, Hamre-Nietupski, & Ayres, 1984; Snell, 1997).

All task-analyzed motor activities were taught according to an instructional manual (Zhang, J. 1997). This manual specifically described the method of implementing the 5-s CTD procedure at each instructional trial. The teacher waited 5-s for the participant's response after presenting a target stimulus. Positive reinforcement was presented if the participant made a correct response either within or after the 5-s delay interval.

A controlling prompt, however, was presented if the participant made no response during this delay interval. If the participant initiated an incorrect response within the 5-s delay interval, the teacher would stop this incorrect response by saying, "Wait for me for prompt if you don't know what to do," which was immediately followed by the delivery of a controlling prompt for ensuring a correct response by the participant.

Three adapted physical educators were trained to use this CTD procedure to teach assigned participants task-analyzed motor activities. Each participant was taught in a one-to-one arrangement in the institutional gymnasium. This gymnasium was a normal physical education setting that had been established since 1981 in this institution. All teaching activities were conducted based on institutional schedules.

Number of correct step responses in a task analysis motor activity made within the delay interval by each participant was measured in the 2nd week (pretest) and the 14th week (posttest) of a semester by two independent observers. Interobserver reliability was determined by dividing the number of agreements by the number of disagreements plus the number of agreements, and the quotient was multiplied by 100.

Magnitude of increase was calculated by dividing difference between the pretest and posttest mean scores by the pretest mean score and then multiplied by 100. Difference between the pretest and posttest mean scores was statistically evaluated in the dependent t test (Thomas & Nelson, 1996). The meaningfulness of intervention was estimated based on the d index of effect size (Sutlive & Ulrich, 1998).

Results and Discussion

Data analyses for Fall 1997 noted that interobserver reliability was 92%; magnitude of increase from the pretest mean score (M = 3.59, SD = 1.75) to the posttest mean score (M = 6.73, SD = 1.93) was 87%; difference between the pretest mean score and the posttest mean score was statistically significant (t = 6.53, df = 21, g [is less than] .01); and the effect size of this difference was large (d index = 2.85).

Results of Winter 1998 indicated that interobserver reliability was 87%; magnitude of increase from the pretest mean score (M = 4.32, SD = 2. 13) to the posttest mean score in = 7.37, SD = 2.11) was 71%; difference between the pretest mean score and the posttest mean score was statistically significant (L= 6.35, df = 18, p [is less than] .01); and effect size of this difference was large (d index = 2.99).

These results were similar across two semesters, indicating the effects of the 5-s CTD procedure used in this application were not only documented in a semester, but also replicated across both semesters. Therefore, effects of the CTD procedure found in Zhang et al.'s investigation (1995) were successfully replicated and extended to teach adults with developmental disabilities recreational motor activities.

Since the major focus of this application is placed on the employment of the CTD procedure in actual physical education settings (i.e., adapted physical educators hired in the institution followed all procedures established by this institution except the use of the CTD procedure), it is concluded that the CTD procedure is an effective teaching strategy to be employed by adapted physical educators in natural teaching environments. Adapted physical educators are encouraged to use this procedure to teach persons with disabilities gross motor skills.

Complete Details

Jiabei Zhang, Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008; (616) 387-2949; FAX (616) 3872704; e-mail:

Selected References

Block, M. E. (1994). A teacher's guide to including students with disabilities in regular physical education. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

Nietupski, J., Hamre-Nietupski, S., & Ayres, B. (1984). Review of task analytic leisure skill training efforts: Practitioner implications and future research needs. The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 9, 88-87.

Snell, M.E. (1987). Systematic instruction of persons with severe handicaps. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Co.

Sutlive, V. H., & Ulrich, D. A. (1998). Interpreting statistical significance and meaningfulness in adapted physical activity research. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 15, 103-118.

Thomas, J. R., & Nelson, J. K. (1996). Research methods in physical activity (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Wolery, M., Ault, M. J., & Doyle, P. M. (1992). Teaching students with moderate to severe disabilities. New York: Longman.

Zhang, J. (1997). Sport activity training manual. Department of HPER, Western Michigan University.

Zhang, J., Gast, D., Horvat, M., & Dattilo, J. (1995). The effectiveness of a constant time delay procedure on teaching lifetime sport skills to adolescents with severe to profound intellectual disabilities. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 30, 51-64.

Zhang, J., Horvat, M., & Gast, D. (1994). Using the constant time delay procedure to teach task analyzed gross motor skills to individuals with disabilities. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 11, 347-358.
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