Comparison of the Relationship between Words Retained and Intelligence for Three Instructional Strategies among Students with Below-Average IQ

By Burns, Matthew K.; Boice, Christina H. | School Psychology Review, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Comparison of the Relationship between Words Retained and Intelligence for Three Instructional Strategies among Students with Below-Average IQ


Burns, Matthew K., Boice, Christina H., School Psychology Review


Abstract. The current study replicated MacQuarrie, Tucker, Burns, and Hartman (2002) with a sample of 20 students who had been identified with a disability and had an IQ score that was between 1 and 3 standard deviations below the normative mean. Each student was taught 27 words from the Esperanto International Language with the following conditions: (a) traditional drill in which unknown words were rehearsed until correctly stated three times, (b) three unknown words interspersed among six known words and repeated three times (interspersal), and (c) incremental rehearsal involving the rehearsal of unknown words among nine known words so that each new word was rehearsed nine times. Consistent with the previous study, the condition with the most opportunities to respond led to the best retention. The correlation between IQ and the number of words retained 1 to 2 weeks later for the most effective condition (incremental rehearsal) was .03 and .15 after correcting for range restriction. Moderate correlation coefficients between IQ and number of words retained were found for the other two conditions. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

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Gates (1930) estimated that a child with an average IQ required 35 repetitions to immediately recognize a word; more repetitions were required if the IQ was lower and fewer if it was higher. This recommendation suggested a relationship between intelligence and learning that was moderated by the number of repetitions of the material being taught. Subsequent research also found that the number of opportunities to respond (OTR; Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1984) affected the relationship between intelligence and immediate recognition of previously learned words because the correlation between receptive vocabulary and number of words retained was small in the condition that included the highest OTR and moderate among the condition with the least OTR (MacQuarrie, Tucker, Bums, & Hartman, 2002).

Although word recognition is not a primary outcome per se, it can be an important skill, especially among students identified with a disability. Rapid word recognition can lead to fluent reading, which in turn is closely related to reading comprehension (Jenkins, Fuchs, van den Broek, Espin, & Deno, 2003). Moreover, interventions that increase the speed with which words are read in print have been found to lead to increased comprehension (Therrien, 2004). Rapid recognition of words is potentially important for students with disabilities because it can provide a "comprehensive foundation for functional academics" (Browder & Xin, 1998, p. 103) and improve functioning with various daily tasks (Schloss, Alper, & Young, 1995).

Previous research on how to best teach word recognition to students with disabilities found that providing students with high OTR led to increased retention and generalization to connected text (Burns, 2007a,b; Burns, Dean, & Foley, 2004). Although high repetition of new items during acquisition is important, some children acquire various reading skills during a given lesson but later do not retain the information. Being able to accurately and fluently complete the acquired task at a later time, without reteaching, is critical because it directly precedes generalization and is necessary for global gains in the skill (Ardoin, 2006).

There are several effective approaches to teaching word recognition among children with learning challenges. For example, a constant time-delay procedure (Schoen & Ogden, 1995) and community- or recreation-based methods using naturally occurring examples (e.g., street signs, grocery stores, and so on; Mosley, Flynt, & Morton, 1997) both led to rapid recognition of words. Students learned more words at a faster rate using a direct instructional approach than with a community-based method, but preferred the latter approach (Schloss et al., 1995).

Recent research found that incremental rehearsal (IR; Tucker, 1989), a drill method for facilitating sight-word recognition, led to enhanced recall of learned words and considerably faster acquisition of word sets than baseline or comparable conditions among children with disabilities (Burns, 2007a,b; Burns et al. …

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