An analysis of variables affecting instructional efficiency
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A lot about the learning process still remains unknown. The experiments described in this thesis investigated variables that affect instructional efficiency by employing specifically programmed computers to manage and control instructional variables within each experiment for 6- to 7-year old children. A Measurement Procedures Study was undertaken to ascertain when a response should be classified as "acquired." It was decided to classify a response as acquired if it could be performed correctly (without prompting) seven days after instruction. A review of the relationship between accuracy level during instruction and the rate of acquisition found that higher accuracy levels during instruction tend to be associated with higher rates of acquisition provided that non-copying prompting procedures are employed. The first experiment investigated the relationship between accuracy level during instruction and rate of acquisition by presenting a non-copying antecedent prompt (model of the correct spelling word) depending on a preselected target accuracy level. As an error-contingent prompt (model of the correct spelling word) was also provided it could not be ascertained whether transfer of stimulus control occurred as a result of the antecedent prompt, or the error-contingent prompt, or both. The second experiment was a repeat of the first experiment with the error-contingent prompt removed. It was found that it was possible to manage, although not completely control, the accuracy level during instruction by presenting a simultaneous non-copying prompt and that higher accuracy levels during instruction were associated with higher rates of acquisition. A review that examined the error-correction research found that a variety of correction procedures were effective. However, none of the 36 experiments which were reviewed controlled the number of response opportunities. Experiment 3 compared the effects on rate of acquisition of presenting an antecedent model or an error-contingent model. The results of Experiment 3 showed that when the number of learning opportunities was controlled there was little difference in effectiveness or efficiency between an antecedent model and an error-contingent model. Experiment 4 compared the effects of presenting an error-contingent model against an error-contingent model and a secondary response opportunity. It was found that an error-contingent model was at least as effective, although it was overall less efficient when response opportunities were controlled. A supplementary analysis was undertaken to review and compare the results obtained across the four experiments. Across experiments each newly acquired spelling response required about five practice responses, on average. It appears this was a critical variable for acquisition. Additionally, each acquired response was acquired over a two-day period. Although rates of acquisition differed between high-achieving children and low-achieving children, there was little difference in the number of practice responses required for acquisition between these two groups. It was observed that most of the 6- to 7-year old participants found error feedback aversive and this appeared to result in reduced attention to models of the correct spelling when these occurred following errors. The results from this series of investigations suggest that an opportunity for the transfer of stimulus control from the prompt (model of the correct spelling) to the practice stimulus (the spoken word) is more critical for acquisition than where the prompt occurs within the trial (that is, the antecedent or consequent position). It was suggested that future research could investigate (a) the variables which are necessary for the transfer of stimulus control, (b) the generality of the observation that children require five practice responses in order to acquire discrete academic responses, and (c) the effects on rates of acquisition and instructional efficiency of varying the distribution in time of practice responses for children who are learning various types of academic skills.