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Small-group instruction for students with learning disabilities: observational and incidental learning.

The demand for accountability and the current ratio of teachers to students in classrooms for students with mild disabilities make careful selection of instructional strategies imperative. Wolery et al. (1988) have recommended that procedures selected for use in special education classrooms be analyzed for their effectiveness (Do they produce the desired results?) and their efficiency (Do they maximize instructional time and minimize student errors?). Although a number of effective instructional strategies have been identified, teachers and researchers must refine these strategies to enhance their efficiency.

The time-delay procedure has been used to teach a variety of tasks to learners with learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, or mild mental retardation (Cybriwsky & Schuster, 1990; Kinney, Steven, & Schuster, 1988; Mattingly & Bott, 1990; Stevens & Schuster, 1987; Wolery, Cybriwsky, Gast, & Boyle-Gast, 1991) as well as learners with more severe disabilities (Ault, Gast, & Wolery, 1988; Browder, Hines, McCarthy, & Fees, 1984; Kleinert & Gast, 1982; Schuster, Gast, Wolery, & Guiltinan, 1988). Time delay is an instructional strategy in which increasing amounts of time are systematically inserted between the task direction and a controlling prompt that ensures that the student will perform correctly. Two types of time-delay procedures have been described in the literature: progressive time delay (PTD) and constant time delay (CTD). With the CTD procedure, the interval between the task direction and the controlling prompt begins with a block of 0-second (s) delay trials and then is immediately increased to a fixed delay interval that remains constant for subsequent trials; with the PTD procedure, the delay interval gradually increases over trials or blocks of trials (Gast, Wolery, Ault, Doyle, & Alig, 1988). The CTD procedure has been shown to be both effective, in terms of student acquisition of targeted skills (sight words, math facts, written spelling, social studies facts), and efficient, in terms of instructional time, number of trial required to achieve criterion, and minimal student errors.

Although the majority of studies using CTD and other systematic instructional procedures have been conducted in one-to-one instructional settings, several researchers have indicated that group instructional arrangements are at least as effective as individual arrangements (Alberto, Jobes, Sizemore, & Doran, 1980; Browder, Schoen, & Lentz, 1986-87). Factors suggesting that group instruction may be a desirable alternative for students with disabilities include the following:

* Increased instructional time with students (Polloway, Cronin, & Patton, 1986; Snell, 1983).

* Appropriate peer interactions among group members (Albert et al., 1980; Conway & Gow, 1988; Favell, Favell, & McGimsey, 1978).

* Increased access to less restrictive environments (Conway & Gow, 1988; Fink & Sandall, 1978).

* Greater generalization of skills (Brown, Holvoet, Guess, & Mulligan, 1980; Johnston, Flanagan, Burge, Kaufman-Debriere, & Spellman, 1980; Koegel & Rincover, 1974; Oliver & Scott, 1981).

* More control of student motivational variables (Brown et al., 1980).

* More efficient use of teacher time (Conway & Gow, 1988; Favell et al., 1978.; Fink & Sandall, 1978; Westling, Ferrell, & Swenson, 1982).

* Increased time on task (Samuels & Miller, 1985).

* The potential for observational learning (Browder et al., 1986-87; Favell et al., 1978; Oliver & Scott, 1981; Orelove, 1982).

Observational learning, or the ability to acquire additional information by observing the instruction of other members of a group, has been recommended as a useful strategy for working with students with disabilities (Browder et al., 1986-87; LeBlanc & Ruggles, 1982; MacDonald, Dixon, & LeBlanc, 1986; Orelove, 1982). Browder and colleagues operationally defined observational learning as "learning a new response or refining a previous response as a result of observing the behavior of a model" (p. 457). For example, Students A, B, and C are each presented with unique sets of words during group instruction. Student A not only learns his or her own words but also the words presented to Students B and C. If observational learning does occur, then group instruction may result in a highly efficient instructional situation in which several students can be taught in the same amount of time normally used for individualized instruction.

Another method of enhancing the efficiency of instruction is to expose students to information that is not directly taught, that is, incidental learning, but is related to the target skill. Using this strategy, multiple behaviors may be taught with the same amount of instructional time. Examples of related, nontargeted skills that can be learned in this manner include spelling of target words (Alig-Cybriwsky, Wolery, & Gast, 1990; Gast, Doyle, Wolery, Ault, & Baklarz, 1991; Telecsan, 1988; Wolery, Ault, Gast, Doyle, & Mills, 1990; Yancey, 1987), identification of letters (Alig-Cybriwsky, Wolery, & Gast, 1990), and science and social studies facts (Wolery et al., 1991).

Maintaining attention is a critical factor to be considered if group instruction is to be effective. Because students must attend to the critical features of instructional stimuli if they are to learn, teachers need methods of ensuring that students are attending. A number of studies (Telecsan, 1988; Wolery et al., 1990; Yancey, 1987) have used a verbal attentional response (saying the letters of the target word aloud) when teaching sight vocabulary reading. Wolery et al. (1990) used both choral and individual spelling attentional responses. They found small but consistent efficiency differences in favor of the individual attentional response. They suggested that other students' voices during the choral attentional response may have interfered with the target student's attention to the trial. One way to avoid this problem may be the use of a written attentional response, in which all students copy the word model on paper. Since written spelling is a more functional response (students are usually only asked to spell words out loud in contrived situations, such as spelling bees), this method may facilitate acquisition of the spelling of the target words.

Four research questions were addressed in this study:

1. How effective and efficient is the CTD procedure in teaching multisyllabic basal vocabulary words to students with learning disabilities in a group instructional arrangement?

2. Do students acquire nontarget words (other students' words) as a result of observational learning?

3. Does the use of a written attentional response (copying the target words) result in acquisition of the spelling of these words?


4. Does the inclusion of related, nontarget information (word definitions) in the praise and correction statements following response result in acquisition of this information?


Students and Setting

The participants in this study were three fifth-grade students identified as learning disabled (LD) according to state and county identification guidelines. In addition, one student was also identified as behaviorally disordered (BD). All of the students were currently receiving language arts instruction in the resource room setting and had been identified by the teacher as needing additional instruction in reading multisyllabis basal vocabular words. None of the students was familiar with the CTD procedure. Table 1 provides a more complete description of the three students involved in this study.

All sessions took place in a public school resource room for students with learning disabilities or behavioral disorders. Sessions were conducted by a doctoral student in special education with 8 years' teaching experience; this student had previously been a team teacher in this classroom.


Twenty-seven multisyllabis basal vocabulary words, unknown to all students, were selected from a spreening list of approximately 150 fourth-grade-level words. The unknown words were selected from words the studnts were unable to read on three consecutive days of screeing. Five sets of word cards (17 cm x 10 cm) were printed on a laser printer with letters approximately 2 cm in height.

"Magic slate" boards (14 cm X 9 cm) were printed on a laser printer with letters approximately 2 cm in height.

"Magic slate" boards (14 cm X 19 cm) were provided to the students at the start of each session. These inexpensive boards consisted of a sheet of cardboard with a black coating on the top side, a thin layer of plastic film, and a layer of acetate, bound together on one side by a piece of cloth tape. A plastic stylus was used to write on the boards. Writing was erased by lifting the acetate and film from the cardboard.

Paper coupons were used to present points earned during group sessions. These coupons could be exchanged daily for a variety of reinforcers available in the classroom store (gum, balloons, pencils, etc.) or preferred activities, such as extra computer time.


General Procedures. One small-group instructional session was held each school day when at least two students were present. A CTD procedure was used to teach nine target words to each student, three words assigned to each of three sets. Each student received 15 trials during each session (3 words X 5 trials). Trials were randomly presented with no student receiving more than 2 consecutive trials. Each student received one turn during each block of 3 trials. Words assigned to each student are shown in Table 2; words assigned to other students served as observational learning words.

If a student was absent, his or her words were presented to the rest of the group and read by the teacher to ensure that the other students were exposed to the words for observational learning purposes.


Target and Observational Words for Each Student
Student Set 1 Set 2 Set 3
John faucet disease disguise
 solution funeral apprentice
 attendant ingredient physician
Chad anchor quarrel century
 opinion appetite narrator
 astronaut opponent opportunity
Sarah advice athlete antique
 orchard ancestor amateur
 companion aquarium auditorium

Note: Each student's target words served as observational learning words for other students.

Probe Procedures. Probe conditions were implemented before instruction on Set 1 and immediately after the group reached criterion on each set of words. All probe sessions were conducted individually, for a minimum of 3 days, or until performance was stable. Each probe session consisted of 15 trials, 1 trial on each of the student's target words and 1 trial on each of six known words. Known words were included to ensure attention and adequate reinforcement. During probe trials, the instructor held up the word card, provided the task instruction ("What word?"), waited 3 s for a response, provided appropriate consequences, and recorded the score. Student responses were recorded as either (a) correct--the student said the word correctly within 3 s of the task direction, or (b) incorrect--the student made an incorrect response or made no responses were reinforced with brief verbal praise (e.g., Good, Right). Correct responses were reinforced during probe conditions to ensure that behavior changes occurring during instruction were a result of the CTD procedure alone, not reinforcement and the intervention. The reinforcement was thinned to a Variable Ratio 3 schedule (VR3), or on the average of once every 3 correct answers, during the final session of Probe 4. Allowing the students an opportunity to learn under differential reinforcement alone provided a more stringent of the effectiveness of the CTD procedure. Lack of reinforcement during probe conditions might also depress student performance. Incorrect responses were ignored, and the next trial was presented. Student responses were recorded during a brief intertrial interval (1-2 s). Students were also reinforced on the average of every three trials for maintaining attention. Students received 30-point coupons at the end of each session for 100% responding on known and previously taught words.

Constant Time Delay. Instructional sessions were implemented as soon as all students exhibited stable performance during three consecutive probe sessions. All time-delay sessions took place in a group instructional arrangement (1:3) and included 45 trials, 15 for each student. The 45 trials were divided into five blocks of 9 trials each, so that each student's words were presented one time before any of the words were repeated. The controlling prompt in the time-delay procedure was the instructor's verbal model of the target word. During the first session of each instructional condition, O-s-delay trials were implemented in the first block of 9 trials. After presenting the task direction ("What word?"), the instructor immediately presented the controlling prompt (verbal model of target word). On the remainder of the trials in his session and during all subsequent sessions, a 3-s delay was employed. A criterion of 100% correct responding at the 0-s-delay interval was required before the 3-s-delay interval was implemented. During each instructional trial, the instructor held up the word card and presented the attentional cue ("Everybody, write the word."). All students copied the word on their magic slates. The instructor ensured that the target student had copied the word correctly. If not, the target student was instructed to erase the slate and write the word again as the instructor spelled the word out loud. When students had completed copying the word, the instructor said "(Target student), what word?" and implemented the appropriate delay interval (0 or 3 s). If the student did not respond within the delay interval, the instructor delivered the controlling prompt and waited 3 s for a response.

Five potential responses were recorded during instructional sessions. Responses were scored as (a) unprompted corrects--the student stated the word correctly before the verbal model, (b) prompted corrects--the student stated the word correctly within 3 s after the verbal model, (c) unprompted errors--the student made an incorrect response before the delivery of the verbal model, (d) prompted errors--the student made an incorrect response within 3 s after the verbal model, and (e) no response--the student made no response within 3 s after the verbal model. Unprompted and prompted correct responses were reinforced with verbal praise. Related nontarget information (definitions) was inserted in the praise statement (e.g., "Right, an anchor is a heavy weight that keeps a boat or ship in place."). Unprompted errors resulted in the instructor's saying, "Wait for me to tell you if you don't know. That word is (target word)." Prompted errors and no responses resulted in the instructor's saying, "No, that word is (target word)." Students also received descriptive verbal praise on the average of every three trials (VR3 schedule) for attending to the other students' trials. The criterion for mastery on each word set was 100% unprompted correct responding for one session on a continuous reinforcement schedule (CRF) and two sessions of 100% unprompted correct responding on a VR3 reinforcement schedule for two sessions during which all three group members were present. All students were required to meet the CRF criterion before implementation of the VR3 schedule. Students who met the CRF criterion early continued working under a CRF reinforcement schedule until all students achieved the CRF criterion. At the end of each session, students received 30-point coupons for 100% correct responding or 20-point coupons for 90%-99% correct responding.

Measurement of Observational Learning. Students had the opportunity to observe words being directly taught to other students during each instructional session. Students' ability to recognize these observational words was measured four times, once at the end of each probe condition. Observational learning probe sessions were conducted individually and consisted of 27 trials; 9 trials on the student's target words and 18 trials on the target words of the other two students. Probe procedures described earlier were followed when conducting observational learning trials.

Measurement of Related Nontarget Information. During instruction, students were exposed to two types of information that were not directly taught: (a) spelling of target and observational words and (b) definitions of target and observational words. Students' acquisition of these two skills was assessed four times during the study, once before the implementation of each instructional condition and once at the end of the study. A written spelling assessment, consisting of 27 words (9 target and 18 observational words), was conducted on both target and observational words. A written assessment procedure was chosen because the resource room teacher stated it was most functional for the students (i.e., students were required to take written spelling tests and spell words correctly in their written work, but were seldom asked to spell words aloud). Student responses were scored as (a) correct--entire word was written correctly or (b) incorrect--one or more errors were made. Students' knowledge of the definitions of target and observational words was assessed individually by the instructor. These sessions consisted of 27 trials, (9 target and 18 observational words) in which the instructor said "Tell me what (word) means." Students were given 15 s to respond. Responses were scored as correct if the student (a) gave a synonym for the word or (b) gave a commonly accepted definition of the word. Students were not required to state the exact definition supplied by the instructor during training. Any other responses were scored as incorrect.

Generalization Procedures. Generalization across persons and tasks was measured by the resource room teacher immediately following the completion of Probe 4. Students were assessed on their ability to recognize both target and observational words on two separate occasions. Flashcards used during group instruction were used during one assessment. During the second assessment, students were required to read the words in list form on a worksheet.

Experimental Design

A multiple-probe design (Tawney & Gast, 1984) across word sets and replicated across subjects was employed to determine the effectiveness of the CTD procedure in teaching multisyllabic vocabulary words in a group arrangement. Like the multiple baseline design, the independent variable in a multiple-probe design is systematically introduced to one behavior at a time. Rather than collecting continuous baseline data on behaviors that have not yet been exposed to the intervention, probe conditions are conducted before the introduction of the independent variable for each behavior. The first probe condition is instituted before intervention and lsats for three sessions or until a stable level and trend are established. The intervention is then introduced to the first behavior. No additional data are collected on the other behaviors until criterion is reached on the first behavior. A second probe condition, identical to the first, is instituted at this time. The independent variable is then introduced to the second behavior. The sequence of intervention and probe conditions continues until all behaviors have been exposed to the independent variable.

In this study, control was demonstrated when student responding on untrained word sets remained at baseline performance levels before intervention and increased to criterion level on implementation of the intervention. Experimental conditions were implemented in the following sequence: individual probes on target and known words (minimum of 3), individual observational learning probe, group assessment of spelling of target and observational words, individual assessment of definitions of target and observational words, and group instruction on 9 target words (3 per student) until the group criterion for correct responding was achieved. This sequence was repeated three times, once for each word set. Following instruction on the third set of words, a final probe condition and assessments of observational learning, spelling, and definitions were implemented. Generalization across persons and tasks was then assessed by the resource room teacher.


Reliability assessments on both learner responding and procedural fidelity (Billingsley, White, & Munson, 1980) were conducted once of each student during each probe condition and once during each instructional condition. The following behaviors were measured for procedural reliability during probe conditions: presenting the stimulus, presenting the task direction, consequating the response correctly, and reinforcing student attention on a VR3 schedule. Behaviors measured during instructional sessions were: presenting the stimulus, presenting the attentional cue ("Copy word"), ensuring that the target student copied the word correctly, presenting the task stimulus ("What word?"), waiting the appropriate delay interval, providing the prompt when necessary, providing the correct consequences, and reinforcing student attention on a VR3 schedule.



Response reliability estimates were calculated using the point-by-point method (number of agreements divided by number of agreements plus disagreements multiplied by 100). Student response reliability was 100% for all students during all probe and instructional conditions. Procedural reliability estimates (number of actual teacher behaviors divided by number of planned teacher behaviors multiplied by 100) during probe conditions were 100% for the following behaviors: presenting the stimulus, presenting the task direction, and consequating the response correctly. The only behavior for which the mean reliability was less than 100% was reinforcing student attention on a VR3 schedule (mean = 95%, range = 80%-100%). During group instruction, reliability estimates of 100% were obtained for the behaviors of presenting the stimulus, presenting the attentional cue, ensuring that the target student copied the word correctly, presenting the task stimulus, waiting the appropriate delay interval, providing the prompt when necessary, and providing the correct consequences. Reinforcing student attention on a VR3 schedule was again the only instructor behavior with a reliability estimate of less than 100% (mean = 89%, range = 6%-100%).



The mean percent of unprompted and prompted correct responses on each word set across the three students is presented in Figure 1.

The scale breaks between Sessions 10 and 11 and Sessions 27 and 28 represents students' spring break (10 days) and statewide testing in which two students were involved (13 days), respectively. All students exhibited 0% correct responding on all word sets before the introduction of the CTD procedure, with one exception. Chad learned the word narrator between Probes 2 and 3 because he participated in a play during which he received repeated exposure to the word. Instruction was implemented for Set 3 because he maintained 0% responding on the other words in his set. On implementation of the CTD procedure for each word set, unprompted correct responding increased to criterion level for all students. In the final probe condition, 100% unprompted correct responding was maintained for all students on all word sets, during both CRF and VR3 reinforcement schedules.


Across all word sets for all students, the mean number of trials to criterion was 45 (range = 30-60) and the mean number of sessions to criterion was 3 (range = 2-4). All students learned their word sets with a very low percentage of errors (0.73% for all students). In fact, each student made only one error throughout the entire study. The average length of each instructional session was 14 minutes (min); therefore, the greatest amount of instructional time required for all three students to reach criterion for each word set was 56 min (mean = 42 min).

Observational Learning

All students learned words that were directly taught to other students as a result of observational learning. Table 3 presents data for each student on observational learning words acquired during each probe condition. The condition lines on the table indicate the initiation of instruction on each word set. Correct responding ,on all word sets remained at 0 until words were introduced during group instruction. Mean percent net gain for all observational words was 83% for John and 94% for Chad and Sarah. Of the 18 total observational words, John missed only 3 words on the final probe and Chad and Sarah each missed only 1.

Related, Nontarget Learning

Spelling. Mean percent net gains for both target and observational words were low (0 on target words for John and Chad; 33% on target words for Sarah; and 16%, 6%, and 23% on observational words for John, Chad, and Sarah, respectively). Some spelling gains were made during each probe condition, but were not maintained throughout the study. Immediately after the conclusion of instruction on Set 1, Chad and Sarah were able to spell 67% of their target words and John was able to spell 33% of his target words. Sarah correctly spelled 100% of Set 1 observational words, with John and Chad spelling 33% and 17% of the observational words correctly, respectively. At the conclusion of Set 2 instruction, Sarah spelled 67% of target words and 33% of observational words correctly, Chad spelled 33% of target words and 17% of observational words correctly, and John spelled no target words and 33% of observational words correctly. Gains on Set 3 were the lowest. John and Chad did not learn to spell any target or observational words. Sarah spelled 33% of target words and 17% of observational words correctly. Words in Set 3 generally contained more irregular spelling patterns than words in either Sets 1 or 2 (see Table 2).

Definitions. All students were able to define some of their target and observational words correctly at the beginning of the study. John, Chad, and Sarah were able to define 44%, 67%, and 11% of their target words and 55%, 38%, and 17% of their observational words at the beginning of the study, respectively. The percentage of target words defined correctly increased to 100% for John, 89% for Chad, and 67% for Sarah at the end of the study. For observational words, John was able to define 94%, Chad was able to define 72%, and Sarah was able to define 28% of the words correctly at the end of the study.


All students generalized both target and observational words across both persons and tasks. Students were able to read all target words from the word cards used in the group to the resource room teacher with 100% accuracy. Chad and Sarah were also able to read their observational words with 100% accuracy, John missed 1 observational learning word during the generalization assessment for 94% accuracy. When asked to read their target and observational learning words from a list, all students were again able to read their target words with 100% accuracy. Chad also read his observational words with 100% accuracy. Sarah and John read their observational words with 84% and 89% accuracy, respectively.


The purposes of this study were to (a) evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the CTD procedure with youngsters with learning disabilities in a group format, using a group criterion, (b) investigate the effects of observational learning on the acquisition of nontarget (other students') words, (c) investigage the effect of a written attentional response on the acquisition of written spelling of target and observational words, and (d) investigate the acquisition of related, nontarget information (definitions) presented in praise statements. Several statements can be made based on the results of this study.

The CTD procedure was reliably implemented in a group context with few procedural errors. The procedure was effective in teaching all group members to recognize multisyllabic basal vocabulary words. These findings support previous research conducted with students with mild disabilities (Cybriwsky & Schuster, 1990; Kinney et al., 1988; Mattingly & Bott, 1990; Stevens & Schuster, 1987), which found the CTD procedure to be effective in 1:1 instructional arrangements. It also extends current research being conducted on group instruction (Alig-Cybriwsky, Wolery, & Gast, 1990; Ault, Wolery, Gast, Doyle, & Martin, 1990; Gast et al., 1991; Telecsan, 1988; Wolery et al., 1991; Wolery et al., 1990), a format which is often necessary given the number of students currently being served in resource rooms.

The procedure was also efficient in terms of number of trials and sessions to criterion, and the number and percent of student errors. The mean number of trials to criterion for all students was 45 (3 sessions), with a maximum of 60 trials (4 sessions) required to reach the CRF criterion. The procedure was near errorless for all three students (< 1%). This finding is significant in light of the fact that many students with mild disabilities have experienced at least a moderate degree of failure in their academic careers.

Although the amount of direct instructional time required to reach the CRF criterion for each word set appears lengthy (mean = 42 min), one must consider that this is the amount of time that the entire group spent in instruction. Therefore, the amount of time each individual student was directly targeted for instruction may amount to only one-third of the reported time. Another consideration is that students learned other information in addition to their target words.

Specific maintenance probe sessions were not implemented due to the end of the school year; however, two maintenance periods were built into the study. The first occurred between Sessions 10 and 11 (spring break) and lasted a period of 10 days; the second occurred between Sessions 27 and 28 (statewide testing) and lasted a period of 13 days. Students maintained 100% correct unprompted responding across both of these breaks in the study. This suggests that the procedure was effective not only in the acquisition of correct responses, but also their maintenance over periods of time during which no instruction was offered. Students also generalized correct responding to the resource room teacher, using both word cards used during group instruction and a worksheet-type list of the words. Additional studies should investigate this generalization effect in context (sentences and stories) as well as in isolation.

All students learned words that were directly taught to other students as a result of observational learning. The overall net gain for all students on all observational words was 92.3% (range = 89%-94%). Although other studies (Alig-Cybriwsky, Wolery, & Gast, 1990; Ault et al., 1988; Wolery et al., 1991; Wolery et al., 1990) have reported gains due to observational learning, none have reported a mean percent net gain larger than 67%. Several factors may have contributed to the high percentage of observational learning that took place in this study. First, a group criterion was used in which all students were required to meet the specified criterion before the next probe condition was instituted. Additional observational learning may have occurred as a result of overlearning and additional exposures to the word. Using an individual criterion, Wolery and others (1990) reported a mean net percent gain of 37% (range = 13%-59%) with students with mild disabilities. Second, the use of a group written attentional response may have influenced the amount of observational learning. The fact that all students were required to copy each word during this study may have forced them to focus on the unique characteristics of each stimulus. This is in contrast to Wolery et al. (1990), who found greater observational learning when an individual attentional response as opposed to a choral attentional response was used. However, the attentional response used in their study was verbal (naming the letters in the words). Further research should compare the effects of using written or verbal attentional responses on the amount of learning acquired through observation.

The use of a written attentional response was marginally effective for the acquisition of spelling of both target and observational words. Mean percent net gain on spelling was 22% for target words and 15% for observational words across all students. Although these net gains were not large, students often exhibited knowledge of spelling of words on the most recently taught set of words. The fact that students were able to spell many words immediately after instruction on a set suggests that additional activities or instruction with these words should be programmed to assist students in maintaining learning. Another factor that may have influenced the lack of maintenance of spelling gains may be the absence of reinforcement for correct spelling. Egel (1982) has suggested that the extent to which treatment gains are maintained is often a function of the reinforcement contingencies that are in effect. Students may have concluded that there were no consequences for not learning to spell the words. Future x studies should address such questions as the following:

1. Does the presence of reinforcement for correct spelling during probe sessions increase both accuracy and maintenance?

2. Does the number of correct written letter sequences increase (an indication that learning is taking place)?

3. Does the number of direct instruction spelling trials required to achieve mastery decrease when spelling has been previously presented as an attentional response?

All students learned related, nontarget information (definitions) that was inserted in praise and error-correction statements during instruction. Mean percent net gains for all students were lower for observational words than for target words. One possible explanation for this is that students paid more attention to the definitions when they were the target student receiving praise. Future studies might investigate the placement of related, nontarget information within the trial and its effects on learning.

In summary, the CTD procedure was demonstrated to be effective in teaching multisyllabic basal vocabulary words to students with learning disabilities in a small-group arrangement. Group instruction resulted in significant amounts of observational learning for all students, thus maximizing instructional efficiency and teacher time. Requiring that all students perform the attentional response for all trials may have been a critical variable in the acquisition of observational words by students. Future studies should attempt to replace these findings with other tasks--perhaps more difficult chained tasks, such as multidigit multiplication or substraction with borrowing. Although the use of the written attentional response did not result in significant acquisition of spelling, further studies should investigate the effects on future spelling instruction of target and observational words. Further investigation should also focus on the relationship of related, nontarget information inserted in the instructional task to future learning.


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MARIE C. KEEL (CEC Chapter #180) is a Project Director and Doctoral Student in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. DAVID L. GAST (CEC GA Federation) is a Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Georgia, Athens.
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Author:Keel, Marie C.; Gast, David L.
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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