Date of Award

12-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Joe Olmi

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Heather Sterling

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Daniel Tingstrom

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 4

Brad Dufrene

Committee Member 4 Department

Psychology

Abstract

The purpose of the current investigation was to explore the differential effects of three choice-related conditions on the task engagement exhibited by four elementary-aged students in their regular education classrooms. The conditions examined included a No-Choice (NC) condition, a Choice of Task Sequence (CTS) condition, and a Choice of Reward (CR condition). In the NC condition, participants completed two tasks in a specified order; in the CTS condition, participants selected the order in which they completed two tasks; and in the CR condition, participants selected a preferred item or activity after completing two tasks in a specified order and demonstrating improved task engagement. Participants presented with no significant cognitive or behavior impairments, with substantially lower levels of task engagement than a same-sex peer, and with performance-related deficits in task engagement. Task engagement as well as task completion and task accuracy were examined using a multiple-baseline across participant dyads design and conditions were counterbalanced across student-teacher dyads. The results of the investigation indicate that CTS produced higher levels of task engagement than NC for one participant; CR produced higher levels of task engagement than NC for one participant; and CTS and CR produced similarly high levels of task engagement for one participant. General conclusions of the study are limited by several factors, particularly by the fact that idiosyncratic data were obtained. In addition, individual conclusions are limited because variability and overlap were substantial for three of four participants. Some other important limitations should be noted. CR involved a combination of treatment components, for example, and reward criteria may have been invalid. Also, tasks originated from a variety of sources and the procedures used in the skill-performance deficit analyses were not traditional. This investigation is fairly unique in that participants did not have significant cognitive or behavioral impairments; participants exhibited performance deficits; assessment and treatment components were teacher-led; and examined tasks were of an academic nature. Although the current investigation seems to generally support previous findings in that providing students with choice-making opportunities seems to result in improved task-related behavior, additional research regarding the comparative effects of choice-related strategies is imperative.

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