Effects of Self-Talk on Academic Engagement and Academic Responding

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The conceptual frameworks of self-management and correspondence training are combined to develop a self-talk intervention to improve academic performances of four students with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD). This study examines the functional role of language as a verbal antecedent or self-management prompt in relationship to subsequent academic responding and academic engagement. Four students with E/BD, aged 10 to 14 years, participated in treatments of self-talk, self-talk with reinforcement for correspondence, and self-talk with delayed reinforcement for correspondence. Results indicate effects for self-talk when paired with reinforcement that maintain across withdrawal and delayed conditions.

A major goal in education for individuals with emotional or behavioral disorders (E/BD) is the development of self-direction (e.g., Hallahan & Kauffman, 1984; Kauffman, 1992; Kirk & Gallagher, 1989; Pierce & Epling, 1995). However, students with E/BD often do not develop these skills, and, as a result, they face an increased probability of school failure and other negative outcomes (Kazdin, 1981; Patterson, deBeryshe, & Ramsey, 1989). For example, 58% of students with E/BD drop out or are "pushed out" of school and do not graduate, a decrease of only 1% over 10 years (U.S. Department of Education, 2001; Wagner, 1995; Wagner et al., 1991). Of the students with E/BD who remain in school, 63% fail minimum-competency exams and 22% are exempt from attempting them (U.S. Department of Education, 1994). Therefore, only 15% of students with E/BD pass these exams (U.S. Department of Education, 1994). Only 22% of students with E/BD earn standard diplomas (U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

Based on these figures, students with E/BD face dismal outcomes for employment or postschool alternatives. Few continue their education or obtain additional training. A low 17% go on to college or vocational preparation within 2 years of leaving school, and only 41% of students with E/BD are employed (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Equally troubling are the parenting rates among young men and women with E/BD. Three to five years after high school 18% of males and 48% of females with E/BD are parents. (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Beyond academics and employment, the frequency with which they violate classroom and societal rules and conventions is also troubling. For example, 20% of students with E/BD are arrested at least once while in school, and 58% are arrested within 5 years of leaving school (Wagner et al., 1991).

The problems presented by students with E/BD are not new and have been addressed using behavioral, cognitive, and medical models. Conceptual models (Rhodes & Tracy, 1972) and program models (Peacock Hill Working Group, 1991) have identified the large variation in practices currently used in the E/BD field. Some of the more successful strategies include systematic data-based interventions (Haring, 1987; Haring & Phillips, 1972; Kerr & Nelson, 1989; Morgan & Jenson, 1988), continuous assessment and monitoring of progress (Howell & Morehead, 1987; Kerr & Nelson, 1989), and programming for transfer and maintenance (Morgan & Jenson, 1988; Wolf, Braukmann, & Ramp, 1987). However, teacher trainers, practitioners, and researchers continue to debate the effectiveness and evidence of empirically validated interventions (Andrews et al., 2000; Kauffman, 1996; Peacock Hill Working Group, 1991).

Interventions that focus on the development of self-regulatory skills are an area of promise for students with E/BD (see Nelson, Smith, Young, & Dodd, 1991, for a review). This type of procedure is broadly termed self-management (Thorensen & Mahoney, 1974). Self-management procedures were proposed as a combination of the traditional behavioral approaches (e.g., Heward, 1969; Skinner, 1953/69; Skinner 1957) and approaches based on a cognitive perspective (Thorensen & Mahoney, 1974). …


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