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Effects of Student Self-Management on Generalization of Student Performance to Regular Classrooms.


The use of a programmed generalization strategy in general education classrooms was evaluated as to the results and the practicality of the process. Results indicate that the intervention, i.e., social skills training and self-monitoring with teacher matching, led to generalization of improved student behavior (meeting their teachers expectations) in up to six different class settings. This behavior was also maintained over time. This evaluation adds to the existing literature suggesting this programmed generalization strategy is a viable means to increase generalization of learned behaviors in numerous class settings with different teachers and classmates. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


Several risk factors have been associated with students who are at-risk for violence, delinquency, school failure, and drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse. They include poorly developed social interaction and resistance skills, poor academic skills, and dysfunctional families (Callahan, Young, West, & Mason, 1994: Schinke, Botvin, & Orlandi, 1991). The focus of successful prevention programs is to reduce or eliminate these risk factors by developing social competence, teaching self-management and problem-solving skills, remediating academic deficits, and strengthening families. The success of these programs depends in part on the extent to which students can use these social and self-management skills in settings other than those in which they were learned.

Research has consistently shown that a variety of social skills can be taught to students at-risk and/or to students with disabilities using a structured learning approach encompassing: identifying the skills, modeling, role-playing, and performance feedback (Kiburz, Miller, & Morrow, 1984; Mathur & Rutherford, 1991; Schloss, Schloss, Wood, & Kiehl, 1986). The problem is that these skills have not always generalized to non-training situations (Fox & McEvoy, 1993; Gresham, 1981).

Stokes and Baer (1977) define generalization as the occurrence of a response targeted in a training condition also occurring in different, non-training conditions (i.e., across subjects, settings, people, behaviors, and/or time) without the scheduling of the same events in those conditions as were scheduled in the training conditions." In past years, researchers in special education have acknowledged that, in order to reliably produce generalization effects, some type of programming strategy is necessary (Fox & McEvoy, 1993; Marholin & Siegel, 1978; Mathur & Rutherford, 1994; Mathur & Rutherford, 1991; Schloss et. al., 1986; Stokes & Baer, 1977; Stokes & Osnes, 1989).

Although previous studies have produced moderate generalization effects, the results have been limited in terms of the number of settings where generalization occurred. The experiments of Lonneker, Brady, McPherson, & Hawkins (1994), Mathur, & Rutherford (1994), Sasso, Melloy, & Kavale (1990), and Smith, Nelson, Young, & West (1992) showed generalization of treatment gains to one setting. Clees' (1994) experiment had generalization occurring in two additional settings. Rhode, Morgan, & Young (1983) had generalization to different classes, however, only one generalization class per student (the students were in the same class with the same teacher all day other than the special education class where the initial training occurred).

These previous experimental findings provide support for student self-management to promote generalized use of pro-social, cooperative behaviors in other settings. However, since secondary (middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools) students typically have several different classes per day, frequently all with different teachers, there is a need for strategies that promote the generalization of socially appropriate behaviors in all classes. The practicality of the technique also needs to be examined, i.e., one that requires minimal teacher time and effort. Questions that need to be answered, include (a) What procedures can be used to extend the socially acceptable behavior from training settings across multiple settings (i.e., all classes), (b) How can we ensure that these behavioral improvements continue over time, and (c) Can the generalization strategies be easily used in regular education classes with little additional teacher training.

The purpose of this paper is to report the effects of a student self-management procedure, involving self-monitoring and teacher matching, designed to facilitate improved class behavior and social skills in up to six regular education classes with six different teachers after initial training in the Prevention Plus class.



Twenty nine seventh and eighth grade students attending a middle school in a large urban school district in Utah, participating in Prevention Plus (West & Young, 1994), a program emphasizing a comprehensive approach for preventing or reducing anti-social behavior of at-risk youth, participated in this project. Students were nominated for placement in the Prevention Plus class by teachers, parents, administrators, and, in two cases, the students themselves (these two students were also nominated by teachers and administrators). Criteria for placement include one or more of the following: poor academic performance, a lack of commitment to school, constant transitions and mobility, a lack of attachment to the neighborhood, economic hardship, a history of problem behaviors and conflict within the family, early onset and persistence of antisocial behavior, and involvement with peers who display problematic behaviors. Teachers and administrators completed a screening checklist for each referred student. Student se lection to participate in the Prevention Plus program was based on these screening checklist scores, parental permission, and the consent of the students. Though socio-economic status was not a selection factor, twenty six of the twenty nine students qualified for the free lunch program. The 8 girls and 21 boys were 12 to 14 years of age; thirteen of the students were of Hispanic heritage (11 of whom had English as a secondary language) and 16 were of European heritage. Seventeen students lived in a one-parent household, and two students were living with guardians.


The participants attended an urban middle school. Class size varied depending upon which subject was being taught. Since the setting for training was different than the generalization setting, the Prevention Plus program (the training setting) will be discussed prior to the description of the regular classroom (generalization) settings.

Prevention Plus Classroom

This classroom was staffed by a teacher and an instructional assistant who had received instruction in the implementation of the student self-management program (Young, West, Smith, & Morgan, 1991) and an instructional format that emphasized: direct teaching, instructional praise, corrective teaching, and behavioral directives, with the use of modeling, role-playing, and performance feedback. Students attended the Prevention plus class one period each day. Class size ranged from 8 to 11 students. In addition to an assigned desk for each student to occupy during class instruction, there was a table on each side of the classroom which students used for group activities (games, projects, etc.) or individualized instruction with the teacher and/or the instructional assistant.

Upon entering class each day, students viewed the day's schedule listed on the chalkboard along with two analogies (e.g., "red is to stop as yellow is to ______ ," "pig is to pork as cow is to _____ ") which they were to begin solving immediately (this was used as a focusing activity). Monday through Thursday this focus activity was followed by two or three one-minute Precision Teaching Math timings (Beck, Conrad, & Anderson, 1995). The remainder of the period was devoted to one of the following academic programs: Morphographic Spelling (Dixon, & Engelmann, 1979), Expressive Writing (Engelmann, & Silbert, 1985), Reading Improvement (Engelmann, Johnson, Carnine, Meyer, Becker, & Eisele, 1988), Social Skills Training (West & Young, 1994), and substance abuse prevention training (RESIST, Morgan, 1993). Note: though scheduled teaching of social skills may have been only one class period per week, incidental teaching of social skills usage was done on a daily basis (instructional praise and corrective teaching).

On Friday, following the focus activity, the students participated in a reinforcement time. This was when they were allowed to spend the points they earned during the week through the self-management reinforcement system, ie., the student/teacher matching process. The students purchased materials (writing tablets, pens, pencils, paperback novels, etc.), game-time (chess, checkers, Connect Four, etc.), computer-time, and snacks (non-caffeine soda, chips, candy, etc.). The students then played games, used the computer, or participated in conversation. During this time the students were still self-monitoring their behavior and the student/teacher matching process was in effect.

The Self-management Student/Teacher Matching Process Within the Prevention Plus Classroom Setting

Initial self-management training occurred in the Prevention Plus class, along with instruction regarding teacher expectation for class behavior. The self-management process used the following self-rating scale: "H" if the student exhibits all classroom behaviors expected by the teacher, "S" for meeting all but one of the teacher expectations, "N" for meeting all but two, "U" for meeting all but three, and "Z" for physical and/or verbal abuse to self and/or others to such an extent that the student was required to leave the classroom. (This rating scale was selected, as it is similar to the grades all students in the school receive for citizenship grades on their report cards, thus students were familiar with these markings. "H" = honorary, "S" = satisfactory, "N" = need improvement, "U" = undesirable.)

At the end of each rating comparison period, students handed the completed self-management form to the teacher and the teacher recorded her perception of each student's behavior. Points were awarded to students for the scores recorded on their self-management forms. Students received points for "perfect" matches with the teacher (both student and teacher record the same rating, ie., H/H, S/S. N/N, U/U) or for "next-door" matches (student and teacher rating differ by one, e.g., HIS, S/N, S/H, N/U).

In the beginning of this self-management process, the student and teacher compared their rating of the student behavior four times (approximately every 12 minutes) per class period. When student ratings of "H" or "S" matched teacher ratings of "H" or "S" at 75% or more for five consecutive days in the Prevention Plus class (four times per day multiplied by five days equals 20 comparisons per week, the students must have a matched rating of "H" or "S" at least 15 of the 20 comparisons), the number of student/teacher comparisons was reduced to two times per class period.

When student ratings of "H" or "S" matched teacher ratings of "H" or "S" at 80% (8 of 10 comparisons) over five consecutive days, the number of student/teacher comparisons was reduced to one time per class period. When a student was comparing ratings with the teacher only once per class period, the student was taught through modeling and role-play to record additional behaviors, i.e., being on-time, greeting the teacher, staying on-task, assignments current, following instructions, raising hand, accepting no for an answer, and accepting criticism/feedback A new form was introduced at this time, as a similar format was used during the programmed generalization process.

At the level of one comparison per class period, the possible points for matched ratings were (e.g., H=18, S=16, N=2, U=1, Z=0, and 3 additional bonus points for a perfect match). In the following examples, students' ratings are listed to the left of the slash (/) with teachers' ratings to the right of the slash. For perfect matches, students received the appropriate rating points plus the bonus points for matching (e.g., H/H = 18 + 3 = 2lpts, S/S = 16 + 3 = l9pts, etc.). If students had a "next-door" match, the students received the points from the teacher's rating and no bonus points (e.g., H/S = l6pts., S/H = l8pts., etc.). Students received no points if their rating and the teacher's rating was more than one step removed from each other (e.g., H/N, S/U, N/H, etc.). Beginning at the level of one rating opportunity per class period, students received one additional bonus point for being on-time/in-seat at the beginning of class.

The students' regular classes were staffed by one teacher. These teachers had not received the additional behavioral training that the Prevention Plus teacher and instructional assistant received. Prior to the beginning of the programmed generalization process, the regular classroom teachers were given instruction regarding what this process was trying to achieve, how it was to be done, and the teachers' role in this process (see discussion of Process Description). Regular education classes ranged in size from 24 to 34 students. The classrooms were of a generic type, with a doorway for entering and exiting and individual desks for the students; some of the classrooms had windows and some did not.

Generalization Program

The components of the generalization program are listed below, followed by an in depth description of each component.

* Teacher preparation

* Student preparation

* Student carrying the self-management form into classes other than the Prevention Plus class

* Student recording his rating of his behavior on the self-management form in additional classes

* Teacher recording her rating of student's behavior on the self-management form

* Opportunity for earning additional points as the self-management form is carried to more classes

* Student teacher interaction at the end of each class

* Potential for trip to a local amusement park if the student accomplishes carrying the self-management form to all seven classes and maintains high (matched) ratings

Teacher Preparation (Regular Classes)

The regular classroom teachers were informed that this program was designed as an opportunity for self-appraisal and self-management by the students. As such, students were to do the majority of the recording work, not the teachers. At the end of each class period, the students were to record their rating of their behavior prior to presenting the self-management form to the teacher. Teachers then were to record their rating reflecting their perception of the student's performance during that class. It was emphasized to the teachers, that the teacher's rating of the student's behavior was only to reflect that one class period; not cumulative behavior. For example, if a student did not have his homework done on the day it was due, then that student did not meet the teacher's expectation for that day and should receive the appropriate rating on the self-management form (e.g., "S'). The following day is a new day, a fresh slate. If the student still did not complete the homework due the prior day, he had alread y suffered the consequences for that action and should not be put in double jeopardy for the same offense. Teachers were also informed of the process students were to use when they had questions regarding teachers' expectations and/or ratings (see Student Preparation below). The school project coordinator (the first author) and the Prevention Plus teacher conferred with the regular class teachers weekly and answered any questions they had regarding the programmed generalization process.

The teachers were only to mark the student's self-management form; they were not to give the points. The students recorded the points earned on the self-management form. Then, during the Prevention Plus class, the Prevention Plus teacher checked students' forms for correct recording and calculation of points earned, thus minimizing the work required of regular class teachers.

It should be noted that these teachers were selected at random (based on the students' class schedules) they did not volunteer, and for the most part, these teachers made it clear, through conversations with the first author, that prior to the beginning of the programmed generalization intervention, they would rather not have had these students in their class. The teachers received no additional training other than as related above, and this training was done during regular school hours.

Student Preparation

All students participating in the programmed generalization study received instruction in the Prevention Plus class regarding the use of social skills and the self-management form. Social skills included, but were not limited to: How to follow directions; How to get teacher's attention; How to accept no for an answer; How to accept consequences/feedback; How to disagree appropriately; How to make a request; How to greet someone; How to apologize. Prior to beginning the programmed generalization process, the students were given instruction pertaining to expectations that other teachers may have regarding student performance, how to present their self-management form to their teachers, record their daily scores on the Matching Teacher's Expectations tally form, file used forms, and pick-up new forms.

Students were informed that each teacher may have her own class expectations and these may differ somewhat from the Prevention Plus teacher's class expectations. It was up to the students to learn what these expectations were and meet each teacher's expectations. They were told that emitting the same behaviors focused on in the Prevention Plus class would probably account for the majority of these teachers' expectations.

To prepare to learn each teacher's unique expectations, the students role-played how to ask the teacher why their rating did not match the teacher's. This was accomplished through the adapted use of the learned social skill "How to disagree appropriately." When student/teacher ratings did not match and the student was not sure why, students were instructed to accept the teacher's rating and not ask for an explanation at that lime. The next day the student was to approach the teacher prior to class and, using the steps of "How to disagree appropriately," explain that he is concerned with the non-match and ask what teacher expectation he missed. Students were instructed that the teacher may not recall which expectation was missed, but the teacher may now be more aware that the student is trying to meet her class expectations, thus may be more likely to be open to the student's requesting this information during that day's matching process. As stated above, the teachers were also informed of this process which the students had been trained to perform.

Programmed Generalization Process

When students were at one rating per day in the Prevention Plus class, they had to match scores of "H" on their self-management form with the Prevention Plus teacher for five consecutive days (matches of any other type, "S", "U", etc. were not acceptable) prior to beginning programmed generalization. After a student met this criteria, the student selected a class in which the programmed generalization process was to begin for that student (students were encouraged to select a class that they thought they would do well in). Students then began carrying the programmed generalization self-management form. This form had two boxes, one for rating behavior in the Prevention Plus class and one for the added class.

With the addition of this new class, students' were now matching their behavior ratings with teachers in two classes, one regular class and the Prevention Plus class. When a student's self-rating matched the teacher's rating of "H" (one matching of "S" was allowed) for five consecutive days, the student was allowed to select an additional class in which to continue the generalization process. This process continued until the students were using the generalization program in all their class periods.

Students earned additional daily points as they added more classes, point totals per class decreased, but points totals per day increased. Students used these points in the Prevention Plus class store mentioned in the "Setting" section above. The students tallied their daily points on a points earned form and showed the total to the Prevention Plus teacher. The teacher checked the totals daily for accuracy. Students could spend or save as many of their points as they wished. Store items included: game-time, computer-time, library-time, soda, small candies, pens, pencils, writing tablets, etc. Students were encouraged to buy game/discussion time as this allowed them to practice their newly acquired social skills in a less structured environment. As an additional reinforcer, students who met generalization criteria in all their classes prior to the tenth week of the third trimester and maintained satisfactory behavior in the previous generalization classes participated in a field-trip to a local amusement park.

Treatment Fidelity

To detect possible forgery of teacher initials, the project coordinator analyzed teacher initials on student self-management forms and conducted spot checks with the teachers. If the initials were found to be forged, the student lost all points for that day's class period and the project coordinator conducted a training session with the student regarding the rating procedures. The project coordinator and the Prevention Plus teacher conferred with the teachers on a weekly bases (or more frequently if needed) clarifying the rating criterion and, if student/teacher behavioral ratings did not match, query the teachers regarding the student's use of the procedures for questioning or clarifying the reasons for the non-match.

Program Evaluation

Logs were kept by the students and the Prevention Plus teacher showing each student's progression through the generalization process. Prior to the beginning of the generalization process, students rated teachers, teachers rated students, parents rated teachers, and all of the above rated the eight social skills that were taught in the Prevention Plus class, using a Likert type scale with (1) as the lowest or poorest rating and (5) as the highest or best rating. At the completion of the generalization process, students, teachers, and parents again completed the questionnaires and the project coordinator conducted oral interviews with students, parents, and teachers, regarding their perceptions of the generalization process and outcomes.


Analysis of the generalization logs revealed that 83 percent (24 of 29) of the students completed the process of programmed generalization into all six of their remaining classes and maintained their behaviors of meeting the teachers expectations; an additional 7 percent (2 students) continued the generalization process though five of their six classes; two students participated in the generalization process in four of six classes; and one student used the generalization process in three of six classes. For the 29 students the goal was to have the students behave according to the teacher's expectations in all of their classes (203 as a group). Collectively, student behavior reached expectation in 194 classes, or in ninety six percent. Seven of the twenty nine students (24%) thinned the carrying and marking of the self-management forms down to not marking them in any of their classes, yet maintained meeting their teachers' expectations.

On the social validity questionnaires, students ratings of teachers increased from 4 to 4.9. Teachers increased their ratings of students from 2.8 to 3.3. Parents increased their ratings of the faculty and staff from 2.6 to 3.9. Students, teachers, and parents increased their ratings of the importance of the appropriate use of the social skills from 4.5 to 5.


Using program evaluation data we analyzed the effects of this programmed generalization strategy, i.e., a student self-management procedure, involving self-monitoring and teacher-matching, across multiple settings with at-risk middle school students. While the evaluation data presented here are not part of an experimental study, the overwhelming effect on the improved behavior of all 29 students suggests that the self-management procedure was effective in generalizing behavior change. These results support research regarding the effectiveness of modeling, role-playing, behavioral rehearsal, performance feedback, and use of a token reinforcement program in helping students acquire classroom social skills prior to attempted generalization (Clees, 1994; Lonnecker et al.1994; Mathur & Rutherford, 1994; Rhode, Morgan, & Young, 1983; Sasso et al. 1990; Smith et al. 1992). The results also support previous findings regarding the effectiveness of self-management and self-recording with matching by another person (e.g ., teacher, peer) in producing generalization of treatment gains (Clees, 1994; Hoff & DuPaul, 1998; Rhode et al. 1983; Smith et al. 1992).

Prior studies demonstrated generalization to one or two additional settings at the elementary level (Hoff & DuPaul, 1998; Lonnecker et al. 1994; Rhode et a1. 1983; Sasso et al. 1990). For example, Rhode examined the effectiveness of self-monitoring and teacher matching in a generalization setting consisting of four class periods per day. The difference between the Rhode study and the present generalization program is that in the Rhode study the same teacher and classmates were present for all four classes and student behavior was measured in only one 60 minute period, rather than having a different teacher and classmates for each class period and measuring the students' behavior in each of those classes.

In four studies involving secondary students, the generalization process was also extended to only one or two additional settings for each student (Clees, 1994; Mathur & Rutherford, 1994; Sasso et al. 1990; Smith et al. 1992). For example, though Smith et al. used a similar methodology as in the current study (a self-monitoring form with matching by a peer) the generalization strategy was carried out to only one additional setting. Clees on the other hand, implemented the programmed generalization strategy to four additional class periods, but collected data in only two of those four settings. Whereas, we implemented the programmed generalization strategy in up to six different class settings and collected data in all classes.

As educators know, students at-risk, or those with emotional/behavioral disorders, are frequently disruptive, difficult to manage, and often engaged in antisocial behavior at school. Sometimes a particular teacher manages to prompt appropriate behavior in one class, but these challenging students frustrate most teachers, administrators, and even their peers. We believe the results of this project are impressive; the students impacted were selected by teachers as the most at-risk students in the seventh and eighth grades. After learning to self-manage their behavior, twenty nine high risk students met teachers' expectations in 96% of their classes. These results are not only exciting, but the implications are that a practical, feasible process involving minimal teacher time and effort can produce significant change. Even though this was an evaluation study without experimental controls, given the fact that the results matched those in the controlled experimental studies described above, we believe the procedur es described here are promising and we recommend their use in other similar settings.


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Figure 2

Number of possible points students may earn as they add additional
classes in which they use the self-management program.


Num. of Total
Classes H S N U Match On-Time Possible per Day

 1 18 16 2 1 3 1 22 x 1 = 22
 2 9 7 2 1 2 1 12 x 2 = 24
 3 6 5 2 1 2 1 9 x 3 = 27
 4 4 2 1 0 2 1 7 x 4 = 28
 5 3 2 1 0 2 1 6 x 5 = 30
 6 2 1 0 0 2 1 5 x 6 = 30
 7 2 1 0 0 2 1 5 x 7 = 35
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Author:Peterson, Lloyd D.; Young, K. Richard; West, Richard P.; Peterson, Mary Hill
Publication:Education & Treatment of Children
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 1999
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