Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Using an Early Science Curriculum to Teach Science Vocabulary and Concepts to Students with Severe Developmental Disabilities

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Using an Early Science Curriculum to Teach Science Vocabulary and Concepts to Students with Severe Developmental Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract

Teaching academic content to students with severe developmental disabilities is a topic that has recently been debated, even though science content is one of the academic areas that comprise a standards-based curriculum. Science content like other academic skills can be taught to this population using forms of systematic instruction, a validated evidence-based practice. In this study, three elementary aged students between 6 and 8 years old were taught units from an Early Science curriculum via inquiry-based lessons and effects were measured by a multiple probe design across behaviors (units). Visual analysis shows a functional relationship between the introduction of the intervention and a change in each participant's responding. These successful outcomes are discussed in light of other comparable work, the practicality of classroom teachers implementing similar lessons, social validity, and extending the knowledge-base of teaching science content to students with severe developmental disabilities.

In the current era of standards-based education, teachers need I guidelines for providing effective instruction to all students, including those with severe developmental disabilities. Science content is one of the academic areas that comprise a standards-based curriculum. One approach to providing effective instruction is to use interventions that have a foundation of research support. When the research on this intervention has met some criteria for design quality, it is called an "evidence-based practice" (Cook & Cook, in press; R. H. Homer et al., 2005; Odom et al., 2005; Tankersley, Harjusola-Webb, & Landrum, 2008). When the focus of teaching academic content (literacy, mathematics, and science) via evidence-based practices was first being promoted (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004; No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2002), comprehensive reviews of the literature in these academic areas for students with severe disabilities were conducted to identify practices both supported by the literature and that met the quality indicators and quantity dispersion requirements to be evidence-based (e.g., literacy [Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Spooner, Mims, & Baker, 2009; Browder, Wakeman, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, & Algozzine, 2006]; mathematics [Browder, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Harris, & Wakeman, 20081; science [Spooner, Knight, Browder, Jimenez, & DiBiase, 2011]. Although multiple models exist for determining evidence-based practice, here reviewers applied the R. H. Homer et al. (2005) quality indicator guidelines (e.g., 20 variables across seven major areas, participants, setting, dependent variable, independent variable) to each content area because a significant proportion of research in the area of severe developmental disabilities has employed single-case designs (McDonnell & O'Neill, 2003; Spooner & Browder, 2003; Spooner, Knight, Browder, Jimenez, et al., 2011). From these comprehensive reviews, it is clear that more information is available about teaching literacy (128 experiments) than teaching mathematics (68 experiments), and more about teaching mathematics than teaching science (17 experiments) to this population. These reviews focused on content areas to derive effective practices and found behavior analytic principles reflected in systematic instruction to be an evidence-based practice for teaching academic skills. More specifically, Spooner, Knight, Browder, and Smith (2011) found task analytic instruction to teach chained tasks and time delay to teach discrete tasks to have a strong evidence base for teaching academic content to students with severe developmental disabilities.

Systematic instruction has been used as an overarching teach strategy to train persons with severe developmental disabilities beginning with the first applied investigation (Fuller, 1949), to teach a multitude of functional skills (e.g., dressing [Azrin, Schaeffer, & We-solowski, 1976], feeding [Azrin & Armstrong, 1973], toileting [Azrin & Foxx, 1971], safety [Bannerman, Sheldon, & Sherman, 19911), as well as academic content (literacy, mathematics, & science Spooner, Knight, Browder, & Smith, 2011). …

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