Review of Comparative Studies in the Interaction of Students with Moderate and Severe Handicaps

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Systematic instructional strategies that investigators have used with students who display moderate to severe handicaps were identified and defined. The investigations which directly compared two or more strategies were analyzed, and summary statements/ recommendations about the relative effectiveness and efficiency of the strategies were made. Analyzing the effectiveness of the procedures involved determining which strategies successfully taught skills to subjects. The efficiency of the strategies was analyzed on measures which indicated the skills were taught in a productive and timely manner (i.e., trials to criterion, sessions to criterion, errors to criterion, direct instruction time). Recommendations for future research and practice include (a) conduct more studies comparing the effectiveness and efficiency of instructional strategies, (b) conduct investigations ofthe specific variables of single strategies to identify the most efficient use of each procedure, (c) expand the efficiency measures to assess whether students learn information not directly targeted for instruction, and (d) conduct research to determine which strategy is best to use with given types of students and skills.

The technology of teaching new behaviors to moderately and severely handicapped learners has progressed to the point that a wide range of behaviors have been taught successfully. A number of instructional strategies (i.e., defined as systematic, replicable approaches to providing instruction addressing both antecedent and consequent events) have emerged. These strategies were the focus of a literature review conducted by the Comparison of Instructional Strategies (CIS) research project Wolery, Ault, Doyle, & Gast, 1986). The literature review progressed through four phases: (a) identifying relevant articles, (b) coding articles, (c) checking the reliability of the coding, and (d) analyzing the coded articles to derive recommendations for research and practice. To identify articles, each issue of 10 journals from 1975 until early 1987 were reviewed; these included American Journal of Mental Deficiency; Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities; Applied Research in Mental Retardation; Behavior Research of Severe Developmental Disabilities; Education and Training of the Mentally Retarded; Education and Treatment of Children; Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis; Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps: and Mental Retardation. Identified articles were then coded in terms of age and diagnosis of subjects, target tasks, trial sequences, procedural variables, and effects. Interobserver agreement was assessed on 10% of the coded articles and ranged from 92% to 100% for each of the coded variables. Finally, recommendations for future research and practice were developed.

From the review, 13 instructional strategies were identified as being repeatedly and effectively reported in the literature. The strategies were categorized based on their common procedural descriptions rather than the labels applied by various authors. A listing and description of each strategy are shown in Figure 1; for more complete descriptions and flow charts see Wolery et al. i 986).

The purpose of the article is to review and analyze the investigations where two or more of the strategies were compared directly. The rationale for this review is that the results from direct comparisons should lead to guidelines for selecting one instructional strategy over another. Similar reviews also exist in the literature; for example, Billingsley and Romer (1983) reviewed 6 studies which compared the prompt-fading strategies of decreasing assistance, graduated guidance, time delay, and increasing assistance. Schoen i 986) reviewed I I studies which involved these same procedures and included the instructional strategies of stimulus fading, stimulus shaping, and integrated strategies. …