Assessing Antecedent Variables: The Effects of Instructional Variables on Student Outcomes through In-Service and Peer Coaching Professional Development Models

Article excerpt

Abstract

A student's behavioral performance within the classroom is influenced, in large part, by the interaction that student has with the learning environment and the people in that environment. Identifying antecedent variables that effect student performance enables practitioners to set the stage for prosocial behavior and academic learning. One targeted strategy that has been recommended in the literature as essential for insuring student learning is increasing the number of student opportunities to respond (OTR). The current study utilized two separate professional development models, traditional in-service and peer coaching, to assess the effects of optimizing teacher levels of four instructional strategies, often defined as core to OTR, on students' academic and social behavior. Data were collected across a total of 16 teachers and 16 target students across two diverse elementary schools. Standardized, survey, direct observation, and work product measures were collected and are reported across academic, behavior, and social student outcomes. Implications for next steps research regarding instructional strategies as potent antecedents for academic and social behavior outcomes and professional development models are discussed.

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One of the central tenets of behavioral psychology is that behavior is functionally related to events that occur within the environment prior to and following an individual's behavior. The literature is replete with examples demonstrating the manipulation of key antecedent and consequent variables and concomitant change in behavior such as "prompting" to occasion a response or delivering a "reinforcer" following a desired behavior to increase and maintain behavior. This simple tenet is the cornerstone in creating classroom environments to promote academic and social learning as exemplified by the effective school literature (e.g., Brophy & Good, 1986; Cotton, 1999). What a child learns both academically and socially is influenced through the interactions the child has with his or her environment including adults and other students (Carta, Atwater, Schwartz & Miller; 1990; Stichter, Lewis, Johnson & Trussell, 2004; Wallace, Bellamy & Hupp, 2002). The literature seems to be less clear about which key antecedent and consequent variables, and the amount and proportion of each, lead to improved learning in the most efficacious manner (Stichter et al., 2004). A related concern repeatedly expressed in the literature focuses on the optimal manner to increase and maintain teacher use of effective research-validated teaching practices (Carnine, 1995; Kauffman, 1996).

The effective schools' literature represents a wide ranging collection of practices that have been demonstrated, largely through evaluative and descriptive studies, to lead to improved academic and social outcomes for students (Kern & Manz, 2004). Likewise, many of the studies conducted that serve as the foundation of the effective schools literature have primarily explored effects among typically developing children (e.g., Brophy & Good, 1986). However, data is emerging through more experimental research methodologies with respect to specific practices among students who are at-risk and those with disabilities. One such practice is increasing the number of opportunities children have to respond to academic or social prompts thereby increasing fluency with material, overall levels of academic engaged time, and reductions in off-task behavior (Bulgren & Carta, 1983; Cooper & Speece, 1990; Englert, 1983; Gunter, Coutinho, & Cade, 2002; Sutherland, Adler, & Gunter, 2003). Increasing student opportunities to respond (OTR) has demonstrated increases in learning among typically developing peers (Slavin, 1994) and those with mild disabilities (Sutherland & Wehby, 2001).

Within the literature, opportunities to respond is typically characterized as a variation of four key variables; 1) specific amounts of teacher instructional talk, 2) prompts, 3) sufficient wait time for student response, and 4) contingent praise for correct responding (Sutherland, Adler, & Gunter, 2003; Stichter et al, 2004). …