Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #367
Factors Affecting Acquisition and Generalization of Academic Tasks
Monday, May 26, 2014
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
W186 (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Kara L. Wunderlich (University of Florida)

The evaluation of methods to increase acquisition rate as well as generalization of language and other academic skills is a critical area of study for both behavior analysts and educators alike. In the first presentation, Wunderlich will present data of an evaluation of the acquisition and generalization of letter names and letter sounds using serial and concurrent training methods with developmentally delayed preschoolers. In the second presentation, Peterson will present data on the relative effects of pre-trial versus post-trial reinforcement choice on academic task performance with children diagnosed with autism. In the third presentation, Richardson will present data on two potential strategies for reducing the effects of overshadowing when using picture prompts to teach sight-word reading with two children diagnosed with autism and one typically developing child. Overall, in this symposium, research will be presented evaluating various methods to improve acquisition rate and generalization when teaching academic skills to students.

Keyword(s): academic skills, choice, generalization, overshadowing

An Evaluation of Tact Generalization

KARA L. WUNDERLICH (University of Florida), Timothy R. Vollmer (University of Florida), Cara L. Phillips (Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Jeanne M. Donaldson (Texas Tech University)

In many cases, generalization to novel exemplars does not happen automatically; specific teaching procedures must be used to promote generalization of newly acquired responses. One specific method recommended by Stokes and Baer (1977) was to train sufficient exemplars of stimuli. This research assessed the effectiveness and efficiency of two different training methods (serial and concurrent training) on the generalization of letter identification and letter sounds to untrained exemplars of each stimulus with preschoolers identified as developmentally delayed. Two letters were trained using the serial method and two letters were trained using the concurrent method. Probe sessions to assess for generalization to novel exemplars were conducted throughout the course of the study. Results of the study indicated that the ideal method for promoting generalization may be idiosyncratic; however, concurrent training was more likely to result in greater levels of generalization and required fewer training trials to reach acquisition criteria than serial training.


The Effects of Pre-trial Versus Post-trial Reinforcement Choice on Task Performance

CHARLES PETERSON (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Melissa Nissen (University of Houston-Clear Lake)

We compared the relative effects of pre-trial versus post-trial reinforcement choice on task performance. Participants were three children diagnosed with autism. Participants were given opportunities to choose a preferred food reinforcer prior to each instructional trial (pre-trial condition) or immediately following each instruction trial (post-trial condition) for completing a certain number of academic tasks. The criteria for earning the reinforcer systematically increased after each trial, and each session continued until the participant asked to switch to a different task. The number of academic tasks completed during each session was compared for the two reinforcement-choice conditions. Two participants completed a similar number of tasks under the two conditions, whereas the third participant showed better performance under the pre-trial choice condition. After the comparison was completed, participants were given opportunities to complete academic tasks under one of the two choice conditions or under a control condition (no reinforcement). Results of this assessment indicated that one participant preferred the post-trial choice condition, whereas the other two participants preferred the pre-trial choice condition. Results have implications for the use of reinforcer choice in academic settings.


Using Pictures to Teach Sight-Word Reading

AMY RICHARDSON (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake), Melissa Nissen (University of Houston-Clear Lake)

Research indicates that pairing picture prompts with written text may hinder the acquisition of sight-word reading, a phenomenon that is due, at least in part, to overshadowing (Dittlinger & Lerman, 2011) Nonetheless, few studies have evaluated the conditions under which pictures may be used successfully to teach individuals with disabilities to read sight words. In this study, we extended prior research by examining two potential strategies for reducing the effects of overshadowing when using picture prompts. In the first experiment, sight words were embedded within pictures, but the pictures were gradually faded in as needed using a least-to-most prompting hierarchy. In the second experiment, we embedded text-to-picture matching within our sight-word reading sessions. Two children with autism and one typically developing child participated. Results suggested that these strategies reduced the interference typically observed with picture prompts and enhanced performance during teaching sessions. However, neither strategy accelerated mastery of the sight words relative to a condition under which words were presented without pictures.




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