Behavioral Principles That Guide Effective Instruction
Several instructional models have come in and out of favor in the brief history of the learning disabilities field. The most prominent are the developmental, behavioral, information-processing, and cognitive psychology viewpoints, and more recently the constructivist school of thought. Each differs from the other on the questions of what and how children should be taught.
Behavioral strategies are among the most consistently effective of all intervention approaches because they are so systematic and organized in presentation, and correct responses are rewarded immediately. These principles are summarized in the table below.
|Systematically reinforce (repeat, attend to, praise) appropriate responses and do not reinforce errors||Praise "sitting in seat" behavior and ignore times out of the seat|
|Pair neutral events with positive reinforcers so that the neutral behavior takes on positively reinforcing value||Pair working hard with praise|
|Highlight cues that differentiate stimuli and pair them with different responses||The letter b points to the right, say "b"; and d points to the left, say "d"; make all bs red during instruction while ds remain black|
|Model appropriate responses||"Listen to how I would talk through this algebra problem aloud"; "watch how I organize my desk"|
|Make positive outcomes contingent on the less valued behaviors, to encourage less valued behaviors||Make free time contingent on one-half hour of library research|
|Shape correct responses by means of successive approximations||Ignore the fact that Juanita does not intersect the I and o of the letter b until she can draw each individual element correctly; first teach Juanita to sit politely beside classmates in the lunchroom and then help her practice conversation entry skills|
|Carefully control the rate of presentation of new materials||Introduce only four new social studies concepts or spelling patterns daily|
|Distribute practice over time rather than massing it||Review class notes daily rather than cramming the night before the exam|
|Preplan relearning and generalization of skills||Periodically insert mastered material into classwork in order to review and encourage application of this information to new contexts|
|Continually measure/evaluate interventions and outcomes||Evaluate retention of spelling words when taught by different methods; evaluate time on task when different types of reinforcers are used|
|Present information systematically so that easier subskills precede harder ones||Teach subtraction before division|
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