A Comparison of Three Instructional Methods for Teaching Math Skills to Secondary Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disorders

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ABSTRACT:

The purpose of this study was to determine the most effective of three instructional methods for teaching mathematics to secondary students with emotional and behavioral disorders. A single-subject alternating-treatments research design was used to compare three instructional methods: direct teach, computer-assisted instruction, and a combination of both methods. Disability label, age, and IQ were related to learning outcomes. In addition, although the combined method was more effective for some learners, variables such as attendance and motivation, as well as IQ, comorbid conditions, age, and number of years spent in school, affected learning outcomes.

* The educational prognosis for students receiving special education services for emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD) is poor. Compared with other populations of students with disabilities, students with EBD have higher rates of academic failure, grade retention, absences, suspension, and dropping out of school (Kauffman, 2005; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, & Levine, 2006; Walker, Ramsey, & Cresham, 2004; Webber & Plotts, 2008). Given the 43% to 56% dropout rate for students with EBD (Landrum, Brubaker, Katsiyannis, & Archwamety, 2004), a high probability for a shortened educational experience, it is critical that these students receive effective educational programs with rigorous, researchbased teaching practices as mandated by Public Law 107-110, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Furthermore, because school failure predicts dropout, careful attention to designing the most effective instructional environments for students with EBD may actually result in students remaining in school longer.

The NCLB and related state mandates to increase participation and accountability in mathematics by students with disabilities have spurred organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to consider ways in which these students can be accommodated in rigorous, higher-level math acquisition (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2003). Yet, as Templeton, Neel, and Blood's (2008) meta-analysis of math intervention for students with EBD indicates, data to help teachers implement comprehensive math instruction for students with EBD are still lacking. These authors found only five studies in the past decade that focused on explicit mathematical instruction for this population.

The research base delineating effective instruction for students with EBD is limited, but generally consistent, indicating that direct, teacher-led, explicit instruction is most likely to produce desired learning and behavioral outcomes for students with EBD (Forness, Kavale, Blum, & Lloyd, 1997). Specifically, instruction for students with EBD should incorporate a direct teach or direct instruction approach that is explicit and clear, presents material in a structured and systematic fashion, provides daily review of previously learned concepts, provides sufficient supports in the early stages of learning, provides high levels of opportunities to respond to ensure maximum student engagement in learning activities, and provides repeated practice opportunities (Gunter, Hummel, & Venn, 1998; Martella, Nelson, & Marchand-Martella, 2003; Scott & ShearerLingo, 2002; Sutherland & Wehby, 2001; Yell, 2009). Academic instruction using a direct teach approach has been associated with increased academic gains for students with EBD (Gunter, Coutinho, & Cade, 2002; Pierce, Reid, & Epstein, 2004).

Today's teachers are urged to integrate technology into their lessons to enhance instructional presentation and increase student motivation. The use of computers for instruction, called computer-assisted instruction (CAl), is an appealing concept but has only minimal research support for students with learning and behavioral difficulties. Hughes and Maccini (1997) recommended CAI for improving math performance in students with learning disabilities, based on their review of research in this area, but whether CAI is an effective instructional medium for students with EBD remains to be seen. …