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Group evaluation: a collaborative, peer-mediated behavior management system.

* A group-oriented management system is an effective, efficient strategy that many special educators are employing in their classrooms (Hayes, 1976; Litow & Pumroy, 1975; Nelson, 1981; Salend, 1987). A variety of independent, dependent, and interdependent group-oriented management systems have been successful in decreasing inappropriate behaviors and promoting positive behaviors in a wide range of classroom settings (Greenwood & Hops, 1981; Litow & Pumroy, 1975; Nelson, 1981). The strategies usually are based on the application of successful individual management systems to groups.

An effective individualized system with potential as a group-oriented management system is self-evaluation (Birkimer & Brown, 1979; Drabman, Spitalnik, & O'Leary, 1973; Fowler, 1986; Glynn & Thomas, 1974; Turkewitz, O'Leary, & Ironsmith, 1975). Self-evaluation requires a student to compare his or her behavior to a set criterion and make a judgment about the quality or acceptability of the behavior (Hughes, Ruhl, & Misra, 1989). In self-evaluation systems, individual students usually (a) rate their rule-following or academic work behaviors; (b) determine the congruence between their ratings and the ratings of another evaluator (usually the teacher); and (c) receive reinforcement when their evaluations are consistent with those of the evaluator (Clark & McKenzie, 1989).

Individualized self-evaluation systems have been successful in modifying a wide range of behaviors in a variety of settings. Sainato, Strain, Lefebvre, and Rapp (1990) improved the independent work skills of preschool children with disabilities by teaching them to use self-evaluation. Rhode, Morgan, and Young (1983) employed self-evaluation procedures to modify the behavior of six elementary level students with behavioral disorders educated in resource room and regular education programs. Smith, Young, West, Morgan, and Rhode (1988) used a self-evaluation system to reduce the disruptive and off-task behaviors of four junior high school students. Clark and McKenzie (1989) increased the appropriate behavior rates of three students with serious emotional disturbance by teaching them to apply self-evaluation. They also found that generalization of the behavior change to other settings was fostered through use of self-evaluation.

Self-evaluation systems have been strongly influenced by components of cognitive behavior modification (CBM), including modeling, self-regulation, and reflective thinking (Bos & Vaughn, 1991). The behavior(s) to be changed are initially described and demonstrated by the teacher and then continuously modeled by peers. Thus students are cognizant of the features of the target behavior and monitor their own performance of the target behavior. Simultaneously, students are aware that others in their group are observing their behavior and vice versa. At the end of a specified time period, the students are given time to reflect on their own progress.

In light of the efficacy of self-evaluation and the advantages of using group-oriented contingency systems (Nelson, 1981; Salend, 1987), the present study was designed to investigate the use of self-evaluation as an interdependent group system. In addition, data on the students' reactions to the system are presented.



Two groups of students with disabilities served as subjects in this study. Students in both groups had been identified as disabled by multidisciplinary teams in accordance with New York State guidelines. All students received their science and social studies instruction in regular education programs and were integrated with their nondisabled peers for music, art, and physical education. Based on their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), individual students also were mainstreamed for other content area subjects.

Group A was made up of six males and two females from 11 to 13 years of age. The group included seven students with learning disabilities and one student with emotional disturbance. Their IQ scores as tested on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) (Wechsler, 1981) ranged from 75 to 104, with a mean of 88.

Group B consisted of seven males and five females whose ages ranged from 11 to 15. The group included ten students with learning disabilities and two students with emotional disturbance. Their IQ scores as tested on the WISC-R ranged from 75 to 104, with a mean of 86.


This study was conducted during Group A's reading and Group B's English class. Sessions for both groups lasted 45 min. The classroom was 6 x 7 meters. Students sat in rows facing the blackboard, with the teacher who conducted the lesson at the blackboard. Adults in the room included a certified special education teacher and a paraprofessional.

The content of Group A's reading lessons focused on literal and inferential reading comprehension and vocabulary development. Instructional time also was devoted to phonics and structural analysis. During the reading period, the class read novels, selections from books, and short stories as a group and responded to teacher-asked comprehension questions. Many of the stories and instructional activities were from the Rally Reading Program (Simons, 1979).

Group B worked on spelling, grammar, and writing activities, using English-Grade 6 (Thoburn, Schlatterbeck, & Terry, 1982). Students completed individualized worksheets and wrote stories or papers on various student- and teacher-generated topics. In spelling, students used individualized flow lists with words taken from their compositions and Dolch lists.

Target Behavior

Winnet and Winkler (1972) cautioned educators to choose target behaviors that contribute to making students more efficient and effective learners. Therefore, at the beginning of the study, the teacher and the teacher's aide identified several of the students' inappropriate behaviors that interfered with academic instruction. These inappropriate behaviors were defined and recorded during a pre-baseline period. The behavior that had the greatest negative impact, occurred at the highest rate, and was exhibited by all group members was inappropriate verbalizations. In addition, it was noted that the students' inappropriate verbalizations triggered other behaviors that interfered with the learning environment. Inappropriate verbalizations were defined as any verbalization without teacher permission. Teacher permission could be granted when the teacher acknowledged a student's raised hand or requested that a student respond verbally (Salend & Washin, 1988).

Event recording was used to count the number of inappropriate verbalizations exhibited by the groups. Each time a student engaged in an inappropriate behavior, it was recorded by the observer.

Interobserver Agreement

Interobserver-agreement measures were obtained by having two trained observers independently record the target behavior. Interobserver agreements were calculated by dividing the smaller number of inappropriate verbalizations by the larger number of inappropriate verbalizations for each observation and multiplying by 100.

For Group A, interobserver-agreement measurements were conducted on 43% of the sessions and across all phases. Interobserver-agreement measurements ranged from 88% to 100%, with a mean of 96%. The mean measures for Baseline 1, Intervention 1, Baseline 2, Intervention 2, and follow-up were 93%, 97%, 92%, 100%, and 100%, respectively.

For Group B, interobserver-agreement measurements were conducted on 41% of the sessions and across all phases. Interobserver-agreement measurements ranged from 86% to 100%, with a mean of 96%. The mean measures of Baseline 1, Intervention 1, Baseline 2, Intervention 2, and follow-up were 97%, 98%, 94%, 95%, and 100%, respectively.

Experimental Design

This study employed a reversal design (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968). The procedures for examining the efficacy of the group-evaluation procedure are as follows.

Baseline 1. Before introducing the group-evaluation system, a trained independent observer employed event recording to count the groups' inappropriate verbalizations. The teacher used a token system whereby students earned tokens and received verbal praise from the teacher at variable intervals for exhibiting such appropriate behaviors as raising hands and staying on task. For Groups A and B, the baseline period lasted for 6 and 8 days, respectively.

Intervention 1. A group-evaluation system was employed. Groups A and B were divided into teams of 4 students; Group A had two teams and Group B had three teams. After a fixed period of time, each team was given an evaluation form by the teacher. The evaluation form, similar to that used by Smith et al. (1988), asked each team to rate the group's behavior using a 0 (unacceptable) to 5 (excellent) rating scale. The teacher reviewed the evaluation system with the class. However, she did not specify any particular number of talkouts as equivalent to a specific rating. Each team had 2 min to discuss the class's behavior and agree on a team rating.

The teacher also rated each class's behavior using the same form. Based on the baseline data, the teacher evaluated the class's behavior using the following scale:

0-5 talkouts = 5 rating = Excellent

6-10 talkouts = 4 rating = Very Good

11-15 talkouts = 3 rating = Good

16-20 talkouts = 2 rating = Not So Good

21-25 talkouts = 1 rating = Poor

More than 25 talkouts = 0 rating

= Unacceptable

The teacher's rating was then compared to each team's rating, and each team earned points based on the group's behavior and the team's accuracy in rating the group's behavior. If a team's rating differed from the teacher's rating, the team received the number of points that corresponded to the teacher's rating. If the team's rating matched the teacher's rating, the team received the corresponding number of points plus a bonus point. Points were then exchanged for tokens which were used to purchase reinforcers, which included stickers, homework passes, extra recess and computer time, posters, school supplies, books, magazines, and pizza parties.

Because training in the use of the system by the students is an integral part of any self-managed intervention (Fowler, 1986; Salend, 1990), the teacher provided training to students, using Salend's model (1983) for teaching students the behavior to be changed and the specifics of the group-evaluation system. The training included: 1. A review, explanation, and demonstration of

the salient features of the target behavior. 2. An opportunity for students to identify and

then present examples and nonexamples of the

target behavior. 3. An explanation, demonstration, and role play

of the group-evaluation system. 4. An assessment of the students' understanding

of the target behavior and the intervention.

Intervention 1 conditions were maintained for Groups A and B for 10 and 9 days, respectively. During the initial 6 days of the Intervention 1 phase, teams rated the classes' behavior three times at 10-min intervals. During the other days of the Intervention 1 phase, the teams rated the classes' behavior two times at 15-min intervals.

Baseline 2. This period was characterized by a return to the conditions described in Baseline 1. Baseline 2 conditions were maintained for Groups A and B for 8 and 9 days, respectively.

Intervention 2. This phase replicated the experimental conditions outlined in Intervention 1. Throughout this period, the teams rated the group at 15-min intervals. Intervention 2 conditions lasted 11 days for both groups.

Follow-up. This phase replicated the conditions described in the intervention phases. Follow-up measurements were conducted for 7 weeks after the end of Intervention 2 conditions.

Procedural Reliability

Integrity-of-treatment data were collected to ensure that the treatment conditions were administered as intended (Billingsley, White, & Munson, 1980; Peterson, Homer, & Wonderlich, 1982; Salend, 1984). Data to document procedural reliability are particularly valuable when researchers are examining the efficacy of interventions that employ self-management (Kazdin, 1980; Salend, 1984). To ensure teacher adherence to the treatment conditions, a checklist outlining the sequential steps of the treatment condition was designed. An independent examiner observed each treatment session using the checklist and recorded whether the teacher implemented each treatment step as intended. An analysis of these checklists revealed that the teacher implemented the treatment conditions as intended in each session.

Data also were collected and analyzed concerning the agreement between each team's ratings and the teacher's ratings. These data revealed a high degree of congruence between the ratings of the groups and the teacher. The ratings of teams in Groups A and B matched the teacher's rating during 71.5% and 75% of the group evaluations, respectively. The ratings of teams in Groups A and B differed from the teacher's rating by 1 point in 22.5% and 18% of the group evaluations, respectively, and by 2 points in 4.9% and 4.5% of the evaluations, respectively.


The results of this study are presented in Figure 1. The intervention resulted in a significant decrease in both groups' inappropriate verbalizations.

For Group A, the number of inappropriate verbalizations during Baseline 1 ranged from 90 to 182, with a mean of 144. 1. During Intervention 1, the number of inappropriate verbalizations exhibited by the group decreased to a mean of 15.7, with a range of 5 to 40. The number of inappropriate verbalizations during Baseline 2 ranged from 49 to 120, with a mean of 75.9. During Intervention 2, the number of inappropriate verbalizations yielded a mean of 3.9, with a range of 0 to 9. In the follow-up phase, the number of inappropriate verbalizations ranged from 3 to 6, with a mean of 4.

For Group B, the number of inappropriate verbalizations during Baseline 1 ranged from 65 to 182, with a mean of 136.1. During Intervention 1, the number of inappropriate verbalizations exhibited by the group decreased to a mean of 19.6, with a range of 4 to 36. The number of inappropriate verbalizations during Baseline 2 ranged from 61 to 139, with a mean of 91.3. During Intervention 2, the number of inappropriate verbalizations yielded a mean of 6.7, with a range of 2 to 14. In the follow-up phase, the number of inappropriate verbalizations ranged from 1 to 10, with a mean of 5.


Students in both groups were asked to respond to the following questions regarding their perceptions of the treatment conditions: 1. Would you rather work the way we used to or

under the group-evaluation system? 2. What did you like about the group-evaluation

system? 3. What didn't you like about the group-evaluation

system? 4. Would you like to continue working using the

group-evaluation system? 5. How did your team agree to a rating for the


Twenty of the 22 students responding preferred the group-evaluation system to the previous system, while one said he didn't know and one didn't respond. The most frequently mentioned benefits of the system were that the class was quiet and that they earned points for appropriate behavior. In addition, students liked "getting together with friends," "making decisions," and demonstrating self-management (e.g., "You can make yourself get better about being quiet"). None of the students reported disliking anything about the group-evaluation system, and 21 students said they would like to continue using it. The most frequent response to Question 5 was, "We talked about it." However, several students reported making some recording of the number of call outs. Their answers indicated that some degree of agreement was reached even if it was based on a guess.


The results of this study indicate that a group-evaluation system is an effective strategy for modifying classroom behavior. The findings offer educators a collaborative, peer-mediated management system that they can employ in their schools.

The teams worked collaboratively to determine their ratings of the class's behavior. Most of the teams employed a consensus method whereby they discussed each team member's perspective on the class's behavior and agreed on a common rating. Some team members spontaneously used self-recording to count the number of inappropriate verbalizations that occurred. Their input into the team's rating was then based on the number of inappropriate verbalizations they recorded. Although self-recording was not deliberately taught to students, it appears that self-evaluation may prompt students to record behavior to make accurate evaluations. One team used a rotation method and selected a different team member to lead the team in making its rating. Before determining a rating for the team, the selected team member surveyed the other team members to ascertain their judgments of the class's behavior.

Though different from cooperative learning, the group-evaluation system displays several characteristics of cooperative-learning structures (Johnson & Johnson, 1986; Schniedewind & Salend, 1987). In the group-evaluation system, positive interdependence is achieved by students' having a mutual goal relating to their behavior and their dependence on each other to earn rewards. Students are not necessarily involved in verbal interchange relating to the instructional program when a group-evaluation system is in effect, but they do talk over their various opinions to reach consensus regarding a team rating. Furthermore, students are well aware that their individual behavior either supports or works against the group's ability to receive the maximum designated reward. One student's inappropriate behavior can significantly reduce the teacher's rating. Finally, small-group skills are necessary both to negotiate the decision-making process initially and to reach agreement each time they submit a rating.

Student preferences were overwhelmingly in favor of the group-evaluation system. Student satisfaction data indicated that the students liked the system and would like to continue to use it. These data are supported by the students' behavior during the study. When students were informed during Baseline 2, "We will not be using the system," students sighed and asked the teacher, "When will we be using it?" When students were told at the beginning of Intervention 2, "We will be using the system," they spontaneously applauded and made verbal comments of approval. In addition, several students asked if they could use the system in other classes; and one student attempted to use it in a mainstreamed setting. The students' positive reactions to the group self-evaluation system are consistent with previous studies suggesting that students like to work cooperatively (Salend & Washin, 1988).

The results of this study should be interpreted with some caution. Because the group-evaluation system can require an extended period of time to implement, educators should examine the impact of the intervention on instructional time and academic performance. Therefore, educators should collect data to assess the effect of the intervention on the groups' academic performance and move toward implementing the system on a less intrusive schedule.

Although highly effective, self-managed interventions are limited in that they are usually employed to promote the prosocial behavior of individual students. This study extends the use of self-managed interventions by documenting the effectiveness of a group-evaluation system. Future research is needed to empirically investigate the efficacy of other group-oriented adaptations of self-managed interventions.


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SPENCER J. SALEND (CEC #615) is a Professor and CATHARINE R. WHITTAKER (CEC NY Federation) is an Associate Professor in the Educational Studies Department at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

ELIZABETH REEDER is a Special Education Teacher in the Highland, New York, Central School District.

Manuscript received September 1990; revision accepted June 1991.
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Author:Salend, Spencer J.; Whittaker, Catharine R.; Reeder, Elizabeth
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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