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Abstract

This study investigated the effectiveness of a differential reinforcement of alternative behavior procedure in decreasing disruptive behavior while simultaneously increasing the appropriate behavior of four children of typical development between the ages of 4 and 6 in center-based classrooms. We began with brief functional analyses for each child. Then, differential reinforcement procedures, with and without pre-teaching the alternative behavior, were compared using an alternating treatments design. Results indicated that the differential reinforcement procedure with pre-teaching resulted in lower levels of problem behavior and greater levels of the alternative behavior compared to differential reinforcement alone. Results are discussed in terms of implications for applied practice and functional assessment and intervention research.
ORIGINAL PAPER
Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior
in Center-Based Classrooms: Evaluation
of Pre-teaching the Alternative Behavior
Matthew W. LeGray Brad A. Dufrene
Sterett Mercer D. Joe Olmi Heather Sterling
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2013
Abstract This study investigated the effectiveness of a differential reinforcement
of alternative behavior procedure in decreasing disruptive behavior while simulta-
neously increasing the appropriate behavior of four children of typical development
between the ages of 4 and 6 in center-based classrooms. We began with brief
functional analyses for each child. Then, differential reinforcement procedures, with
and without pre-teaching the alternative behavior, were compared using an alter-
nating treatments design. Results indicated that the differential reinforcement pro-
cedure with pre-teaching resulted in lower levels of problem behavior and greater
levels of the alternative behavior compared to differential reinforcement alone.
Results are discussed in terms of implications for applied practice and functional
assessment and intervention research.
Keywords Pre-teaching DRA Functional assessment Functional analysis
Behavioral intervention
M. W. LeGray (&)
Department of Behavioral Psychology, The Kennedy Krieger Institute, Johns Hopkins University,
School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
e-mail: Matthew.LeGray@yahoo.com
B. A. Dufrene D. J. Olmi
Department of Psychology, School Psychology Service Center, The University of Southern
Mississippi, 118 College Drive #5025, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5025, USA
e-mail: d.olmi@usm.edu
S. Mercer
School Psychology Program, Department of Educational & Counseling Psychology, and Special
Education, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
H. Sterling
Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, Region IV at Central Louisiana Resource
Center on Developmental Disabilities, Region IV, Lafayette, LA, USA
123
J Behav Educ
DOI 10.1007/s10864-013-9170-8
Introduction
Disruptive classroom behaviors are of great concern to teachers and parents. Rose
and Gallup (2004) found the lack of ability to manage and motivate student
behavior as the number one reason reported by beginning teachers for leaving the
profession. Student problem behavior can have detrimental effects on the classroom
environment by disrupting the normal functioning of the classroom. These
disruptive behaviors can impact both the student who is exhibiting these behaviors
as well as other students in the classroom. Identification of contextual factors that
evoke or reinforce disruptive behaviors can be useful for developing interventions
that effectively reduce disruptive behaviors (Mueller et al. 2011; Solnick and
Ardoin 2010). Functional assessment is the assessment process for identifying those
contextual factors that evoke or reinforce disruptive behavior.
Functional assessment has been mandated in federal education legislation
(Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) since 1997 and, as a result, is
commonly used in educational settings. Functional assessment includes systemat-
ically assessing the contextual variables that evoke or reinforce an individual’s
problem behavior. Assessment results are used to design an intervention for
decreasing the problem behavior while increasing appropriate behavior (Cooper
et al. 2007). Functional assessment procedures vary, but typically include a
combination of three methods: (a) indirect methods, (b) direct-descriptive methods,
and (c) experimental functional analyses. Indirect methods include reviewing
records, interviewing relevant parties, and administering rating scales. Direct-
descriptive methods include ABC narrative observations (e.g., narrative accounts of
behaviors as well as antecedents and consequences) as well as direct observations
that include calculating conditional probabilities (i.e., quantitative data regarding
the extent to which behaviors are preceded and/or followed by particular
environmental events Dufrene et al. 2007). Finally, experimental functional analysis
procedures include standard functional analysis test conditions (Iwata t al. 1982/
1994) as well as brief functional analyses (Northup et al. 1991).
Function-based interventions are designed to produce desired behavioral
outcomes by manipulating relevant contextual variables. Function-based interven-
tions can include antecedent manipulations (e.g., removing triggers for problem
behavior), consequent manipulations (e.g., reinforcing appropriate replacement
behaviors), or both. With regard to the manipulation of consequent events,
functional analysis data can be directly linked to differential reinforcement
procedures for the problem and appropriate replacement behaviors.
Differential reinforcement procedures include systematically withholding rein-
forcement for problem behaviors (i.e., extinction) while reinforcing the absence of
problem behavior or the occurrence of an appropriate replacement behavior. Two
commonly used differential reinforcement procedures include differential rein-
forcement of other (DRO) behavior and differential reinforcement of alternative
(DRA) behavior.
DRO, or omission training, consists of delivering a reinforcing stimulus when a
particular response is not emitted for a specified interval of time (Reynolds 1961). A
number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of DRO procedures for
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reducing the occurrence of a variety of problem behaviors including stereotypy,
self-injurious behavior, and aggression (Konczak and Johnson 1983; Mazaleski
et al. 1993; Repp et al. 1974). While DRO can be effective for rapidly reducing the
occurrence of self-injurious, aggressive, and destructive behaviors, the failure to
reinforce instances of pre-specified appropriate replacement behaviors limits social
validity of the procedure. As a result, differential reinforcement procedures that
include reinforcing instances of pre-specified contextually appropriate behavior may
be preferable in settings such as classrooms in which students are expected to be
academically engaged in order to benefit from academic instruction.
DRA includes withholding the reinforcer for problem behavior, but also
providing the reinforcer contingent upon the occurrence of a desired alternative
behavior (Vollmer and Iwata 1992). As a result, DRA-based procedures can
simultaneously reduce a given problem behavior while increasing the occurrence of
an appropriate replacement behavior. Numerous studies have demonstrated the
effectiveness of DRA for decreasing problem behaviors and increasing occurrence
of appropriate replacement behaviors (e.g., Beare et al. 2004; Lucas 2000; Vollmer
et al. 1999). Petscher et al. (2009) reviewed the DRA literature and their findings
provide a potential window onto future DRA research. First, 116 DRA studies from
a 30-year period were evaluated and 91.5 % of participants in those studies had
been diagnosed with autism or some other developmental disability. Moreover, the
overwhelming majority of behaviors selected for reduction in those studies included
stereotypy, aggression, self-injury, and destruction. So, while much is known about
the effectiveness of DRA with low-incidence disabilities and presenting problems,
much less is known about the effectiveness of DRA with individuals of typical
development engaging in common problem behaviors (e.g., school children
engaging in disruptive classroom behavior). Second, in more than 70 % of the
studies reviewed, the alternative behavior selected for increase was a communi-
cative response (e.g., simple verbal statement, gesture, sign). So, while DRA has
been extensively demonstrated as effective for improving rather simple commu-
nication, less is known about the effectiveness of DRA for increasing the more
complex appropriate behaviors expected of individuals of typical development (e.g.,
attending and responding to traditional academic instruction). Third, while the DRA
literature has evaluated numerous procedural variations such as use of functional
versus alternative reinforcers (Fisher et al. 1998), reinforcement schedule thinning
(Roane et al. 2004), and DRA with and without extinction (Athens and Vollmer
2010; Vogl and Rapp 2011), there is not an extensive literature base evaluating the
additive effect of pre-teaching the alternative response in DRA.
There are at least three reasons for evaluating the importance of pre-teaching the
alternative response for enhancing DRA. First, positive behavioral interventions and
supports (PBIS) have become common practice in schools, and PBIS places a
premium on positive and proactive supports such as regular instruction for expected
behaviors in order to support appropriate student behavior (Sugai and Horner 2002).
Second, pre-teaching may be a particularly important DRA component for young
children because of the increased likelihood of limited behavior skill repertoire.
Finally, regular pre-teaching may also serve as a discriminative stimulus for the
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alternative behavior by incorporating a signal regarding which behaviors are
desirable and will be subsequently reinforced.
In a recent study evaluating the additive effect of pre-teaching with DRA,
LeGray et al. (2010) directly compared DRO to DRA with pre-teaching for three
Head Start children of typical development who were referred for behavioral
consultation due to exhibiting disruptive classroom behaviors. DRA with pre-
teaching included brief teaching sessions immediately before classroom instruction
that provided direct instruction (modeling, rehearsal, feedback) for expected
classroom behavior. For all three children, the chosen alternative replacement
behavior was appropriate classroom engagement (e.g., oriented to task and teacher,
answering questions when called upon). Results indicated DRA with pre-teaching
resulted in rapid and substantial decreases in problem behavior and was more
effective than DRO.
Functional assessments and differential reinforcement procedures are commonly
used in traditional educational settings with children of typical development;
however, research on the effectiveness of DRA has primarily included samples of
individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities that engage in
stereotypic, self-injurious, destructive, and aggressive behaviors (Petscher et al.
2009). Moreover, the additive effects of regularly pre-teaching alternative
replacement behaviors as part of DRA have not been fully explored. Therefore,
the purpose of this study was to expand the DRA literature in at least two ways.
First, this study included an experimental demonstration of the effectiveness of
DRA with preschool and kindergarten children of typical development who engaged
in common problem behaviors in traditional academic settings. Second, this study
included a direct comparison of DRA with and without pre-teaching.
Methods
Participants and Setting
Participants included two preschool children and two kindergarten children referred
for behavioral consultation due to repeated occurrences of a disruptive vocalizations
and lack of appropriate responding during small group instruction. Participants were
selected based upon the following criteria: (a) the child was enrolled in a center-
based school program, (b) consent from the child’s legal guardian(s) was provided,
(c) consent from the child’s classroom teacher was provided, (d) the child’s
disruptive behavior was frequent and observable, and (e) the child did not have a
function-based individualized behavior intervention plan in place. All sessions were
conducted within each child’s designated preschool classroom located in a rural,
southeastern state.
Charlie and Dee were 4-year-old African American children in Head Start,
neither had been identified with any disabilities, and both were referred for
behavioral consultation due to inappropriate vocalizations during group direct
instruction for early literacy. Mac and Artemis were 6-year-old African American
children enrolled in kindergarten classrooms, neither had been identified with any
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disabilities, and both children were referred for behavioral consultation due to
inappropriate vocalizations during small group instruction (e.g., language arts).
Each classroom teacher that participated in the study had never received training on
any form of functional behavior assessment or intervention procedure. Each teacher
had between 2 and 6 years of previous experience within the school setting.
Materials
Functional Assessment Informant Record for Teachers Pre-school
Version (FAIR-T P)
Functional assessment interviews were conducted with the Functional Assessment
Informant Record for Teachers Preschool Version (Dufrene et al. 2007). The FAIR-
T P is divided into four sections: (a) child demographic data, (b) identification of
problem behaviors, (c) antecedents for problem behaviors, and (d) reinforcers for
problem behaviors. Research indicates data from the FAIR-T P match results from
direct-descriptive assessments and brief functional analyses, thus demonstrating
potential for the FAIR-T P to provide treatment utility (Dufrene et al. 2007; LeGray
et al. 2010; Poole et al. 2012).
Assessment Rating Profile (ARP-R)
A modified version of the ARP-R (Eckert et al. 1999) was used to evaluate teachers’
acceptability of the functional assessment procedures. The ARP-R is a one-factor
12-item scale that assesses the general acceptability of assessment procedures. The
ARP-R items are rated on a six-point Likert scale that ranges from Strongly
Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (6). ARP-R scores range from 12 to 72 with higher
scores indicating greater acceptability. The ARP-R has demonstrated strong internal
consistency (Eckert et al. 1999) with Cronbach’s alpha =0.98). The ARP was
slightly modified for use in this study by changing present tense items to past tense,
and the term school psychologist was replaced with teacher.
Intervention Rating Profile-15 (IRP-15)
A modified version of the IRP-15 (Martens et al. 1985) was used to evaluate
teachers’ acceptability of the intervention procedures. The IRP-15 consists of 15
questions rated on a six-point scale from Strongly Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree
(6). Ratings on the IRP-15 range from a total score of 15–90. Total scores above
52.5 represent an ‘‘acceptable’’ rating (Von Brock and Elliott 1987). The IRP-15 has
strong internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha =0.98; Martens et al. 1985).
Dependent Measures and Data Collection Procedures
The study had two dependent variables, appropriate vocalizations and inappropriate
vocalizations. Appropriate vocalizations were defined as any task-relevant vocal-
ization emitted by the child (e.g., responding to a teacher’s question, producing
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sounds in response to early literacy instructional prompts). Inappropriate vocaliza-
tions were defined as any task-irrelevant vocalization or verbal noise made by the
child including humming, making unusual vocal noises (e.g., clicking sounds),
speaking to other children when not required to do so, or swearing. Dependent
variables were recorded using a partial interval recording system. Target behaviors
were identified and defined during FAIR-T interviews with teachers. An MP3 player
with headphones was used to cue the observers to record the occurrence of the
dependent variables every 10 s. All sessions were 10 min, conducted within each
child’s classroom during typical instructional activities. For Charlie and Dee, data
were collected during small group instruction for early literacy which included one
teacher delivering rapidly paced early literacy instruction to approximately 10
children. For Mac and Artemis, data were collected during small group instruction
for early literacy which included one teacher delivering rapidly paced early literacy
instruction to approximately 20 children.
Experimental Design and Data Analysis
Classroom-based brief functional analyses utilized a brief multi-element design
(Northup et al. 1991) with four conditions: (a) control (free play), (b) attention,
(c) tangible, and (d) escape. Each condition lasted 10 min, and conditions were
conducted on separate days due to the relatively short duration of instructional
activities. A contingency reversal phase (i.e., B–A–B) was also conducted for each
student to replicate the effects of the hypothesized maintaining variable and
demonstrate experimental control. Data from the brief functional analysis were
visually analyzed for differentiation in level across conditions. Subsequently, a
BCBC design was used to evaluate the relative effectiveness of two intervention
conditions, DRA and pre-teaching (PT) of the alternative behavior with DRA. Order
of conditions was counterbalanced across participants (i.e., BCBC CBCB) to reveal
any order effects and at least three sessions were conducted per phase. Phase
changes from one intervention condition to the other were based on the visual
analysis of level and trends in the data. Specifically, when the data were either stable
or a trend appeared in an unintended direction (e.g., upward trend for disruptive
behavior during intervention), a phase change was instituted.
Procedure
Teacher Interview
An interviewer conducted teacher interviews using the FAIR-T P as a semi-
structured interview instrument. During the interview, the interviewer asked
teachers to clarify any ambiguous responses and answered any questions the teacher
posed about the process. The interviewer also prompted teachers to provide
expanded descriptions and examples of target behaviors to facilitate the develop-
ment of operational definitions of target behaviors. Interviews lasted approximately
35 min and were conducted by the first author in a quiet location (e.g., empty
classroom) at each school.
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Brief Functional Analysis
Functional analysis conditions were similar to those used by Boyajian et al. (2001)
and LeGray et al. (2010). Functional analysis conditions included: (a) access to
tangible, (b) control (i.e., free play), (c) access to attention, (d) escape from task
demands, and (e) contingency reversal/DRO. The order of experimental conditions
was selected randomly for each participant. Each condition lasted 10 min and
conditions were conducted on separate days due to the short duration of
instructional activities. All conditions, except for the control condition, were
conducted while the child participated in ongoing classroom instruction for early
literacy. Control condition sessions included moving the child to the periphery of
the classroom while the other children participated in ongoing early literacy
instruction. Contingencies provided during brief functional analysis conditions were
delivered by experimenters while the teacher delivered instruction to children.
In order to ensure the potency of tangible items that were used during the tangible
condition of the brief functional analysis, brief multiple-stimulus preference
assessments without replacement (Carr et al. 2000) were conducted prior to each
child’s brief functional analysis. Preference assessments began by exposing each
child to an array of eight stimuli arranged on a table. Stimuli included toys and
objects already present in the children’s classroom (e.g., toy cars, dinosaurs, action
figures). When the eight stimuli were presented, the child was instructed to select
one object from the table. If the child failed to respond, the instruction was repeated.
After an item was selected, the child was given 10 s of access to that item before it
was removed and placed away from the table. The remaining stimuli were then
repositioned in a random order. The selection process continued until all stimuli had
been selected. Based on the selection process, percentages were calculated by
dividing the number of times a stimulus was chosen by the number of trials in which
it was available. Percentages were then ranked from 1 (highest) to 8 (lowest). This
process was conducted before any functional analyses were initiated. Only the
highest preferred stimulus was used during the tangible condition for each child
(i.e., ranked first).
Immediately prior to the tangible condition, an experimenter gave the child free
access to their preferred item for 2 min. Next, the teacher began small group
instruction, and for the duration of the tangible condition, the tangible item was
presented to the child contingent on the occurrence of any inappropriate
vocalization. The child was allowed access to the tangible item for 30 s and no
other consequence was provided. After 30 s, an experimenter removed the tangible
item from the child’s possession without any explanation or additional attention.
Teacher instruction was provided continuously throughout the session.
During the control condition, the child was moved to the periphery of the
classroom and had free access to toys and activities typically provided to young
children in center-based classrooms. No demands were placed on the child during
this time; an experimenter positioned him- or herself near the child and provided
intermittent non-contingent attention every 30 s. Intermittent non-contingent
attention included experimenter delivered statements such as ‘‘that block is grey’
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or ‘‘hockey is a sport.’’ No other attention was provided, and inappropriate
vocalizations were ignored.
In the attention condition, an experimenter provided attention to the child
contingent on the occurrence of an inappropriate vocalization. Attention included
directing a verbal reprimand to the child immediately following an inappropriate
vocalization. Verbal reprimands included statements such as ‘‘Stop that,’’ and
‘Don’t talk out.’’ All other behaviors were ignored during the attention condition.
Reprimands were used because interview and anecdotal observation data indicated
that reprimands were sometimes used to consequate children’s disruptive behavior.
During the escape condition, the classroom teacher provided instruction as it was
delivered during the other conditions. The task was terminated (i.e., teacher stopped
delivering instruction) for 30 s following the occurrence of any inappropriate
vocalization by the target child. Following the 30-s escape interval, the task was
then re-presented. If the child did not comply with the task demand, but did not
exhibit any inappropriate vocalizations, a three-prompt hierarchy was used. The
three-prompt hierarchy consisted of: (a) verbal command, (b) verbal command and
gesture, and (c) physical guidance. When each task was verbally presented, the child
had 5 s to initiate engagement in behaviors that were associated with the completion
of the task. If the child did not comply and did not engage in the target behavior, the
task was re-presented verbally accompanied by a gesture toward something relevant
to task completion. If the child still did not comply, an experimenter physically
guided the participant through the completion of the task. Once the task was
completed, direct instruction resumed.
The contingency reversal (Northup et al. 1991) included a brief reversal design
(i.e., B–A–B) in which B was the contingency reversal and A included replicating
the condition that produced the highest level of behavior during the initial brief
functional analysis. During the contingency reversal (i.e., B), the reinforcer
identified during the brief functional analysis was withheld following the occurrence
of an inappropriate vocalization and then provided contingent upon a 30-s absence
of inappropriate vocalizations. For example, if the brief functional analysis
indicated that the child’s inappropriate vocalizations were maintained by access to
attention, then the contingency reversal (i.e., B phase) included providing attention
for a 30-s absence of inappropriate vocalizations (i.e., DRO) while withholding
attention following an inappropriate vocalization (i.e., extinction). Using the same
attention example, during the A session, inappropriate vocalizations were followed
with a mild reprimand as had occurred during the attention condition of the brief
functional analysis. Children were not provided with any instructions regarding the
contingencies that would be available during contingency reversal sessions.
Intervention Analysis
Two interventions, DRA and PT ?DRA, were developed for each child following
functional assessments. Protocols were developed for each intervention condition
that operationally defined problem and alternative behaviors and included detailed
intervention procedures. DRA protocols were consistent across conditions with the
exception of an additional protocol for pre-teaching activities for the PT ?DRA
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condition. Protocols were provided to teachers to standardize intervention
implementation and increase the likelihood of accurate and consistent intervention
implementation. Additionally, during all intervention sessions, an experimenter
prompted teachers (i.e., thumbs up gesture) to deliver contingencies at the
appropriate time.
During DRA sessions, instruction was delivered in routine fashion. DRA sessions
included delivery of the functional reinforcer contingent upon the first occurrence of
an appropriate vocalization following a 30-s absence of any inappropriate
vocalization. Moreover, if an inappropriate vocalization occurred, the reinforcer
was withheld and the 30-s time interval was then reset. All children in this study
engaged in inappropriate vocalizations that were maintained by access to attention.
Therefore, DRA procedures included positive reinforcement presentation of
attention in the form of teacher delivered specific labeled praise and withholding
attention contingent on an inappropriate vocalization. The DRA format in this study
included a 30-s fixed interval (FI) schedule of reinforcement which may be leaner
than DRA schedules of reinforcement commonly reported in the literature.
However, it is important to note that the majority of DRA studies reported in the
literature have included individuals with developmental disabilities engaging in
self-injurious and aggressive responses that occur at higher rates than the relatively
common problem behaviors exhibited by children in this study (Petscher et al.
2009). Additionally, an FI 30-s schedule of reinforcement was considered
appropriate for the settings included in this study (i.e., regular Head Start and
kindergarten classrooms).
PT ?DRA sessions were identical to DRA sessions except for the pre-teaching
component, which occurred immediately prior to the observation session beginning.
For the pre-teaching activity, the teacher took the student to a quiet corner of the
room and read through the pre-teaching protocol with the student. The pre-teaching
protocol provided the behavioral expectations for the student relating to the targeted
inappropriate behavior and encouraged the use of the alternative behavior during the
upcoming session. All children in this study were referred for services due to
inappropriate vocalizations. As such, pre-teaching included instructing children to
refrain from inappropriate vocalizations (e.g., task-irrelevant vocalizations), while
vocalizing appropriately (e.g., responding to a teacher’s question, producing sounds
in response to early literacy instructional prompts). After the teacher had read the
scripted protocol to the student, the teacher then asked the student two questions
based on the content of the pre-teaching protocol. If the student answered any
question incorrectly, the teacher provided the answer, waited 5 s, and then repeated
the question. After the student answered both questions correctly, the teacher
returned to the predetermined activity with the student and the DRA component of
the session began.
Interobserver Agreement, Procedural Integrity, and Treatment Integrity
Interobserver agreement (IOA) was evaluated for 42.8 % of the functional analysis
sessions and 47.1 % of the intervention sessions. IOA was calculated as the total
number of agreements (occurrence and non-occurrence) divided by the total number
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of agreements plus disagreements and multiplied by 100 %. School psychology
graduate students were trained to conduct observations and 90 % agreement with
the primary investigator was used as criterion for observers. If an observer’s average
agreement fell below 90 %, then they were retrained on observation procedures
until they again met the 90 % criterion. Procedural integrity observations were
conducted for 100 % of the functional analysis sessions. If procedural integrity fell
below 90 %, then those implementing conditions were retrained. Treatment
integrity data were collected for 100 % of the intervention sessions.
Mean IOA scores for functional analyses by participant were 98.3 % for Charlie,
98.8 % for Dee, 100 % for Mac, and 100 % for Artemis. Procedural integrity for
brief FA conditions was 100 % across all sessions for all participants. Mean IOA
scores for intervention sessions by participant were 97.2 % (range =96.6–100 %)
for Dee, 96.8 % (range =95–98 %) for Mac, 94.3 % (range =91.6–96.6 %) for
Artemis, and 96.8 % (range =95–98 %) for Charlie. Mean treatment integrity
scores by participant were 100 % for Dee, Artemis, and Charlie, and 98.5 %
(range =95–100 %) for Mac.
Results
Brief functional analysis results for all participants are presented in Fig. 1, and
intervention data for all participants are presented in Fig. 2.
Charlie
Charlie’s teacher, Ms. Reynolds, identified inappropriate vocalizations as the
primary problem behavior and task-relevant vocalizations during direct instruction
as the alternative behavior. She indicated that inappropriate vocalizations were most
often followed by access to social attention in the form of reprimands. During the
brief functional analysis (see first panel of Fig. 1), Charlie inappropriately vocalized
during 18.3 % of the observed intervals under the attention condition which was
greater than all other conditions. The contingency reversal (i.e., DRO) resulted in a
nearly 50 % reduction in the level of inappropriate vocalizations relative to the
replication of the attention condition.
Charlie’s intervention data are presented in the first panel of Fig. 2. During the
initial DRA phase, inappropriate and appropriate vocalizations were stable with
mean levels of 15.5 and 29.28 %, respectively. Following a phase change to
PT ?DRA, inappropriate vocalizations occurred in less than 10 % of the intervals
in two of three sessions and there was an immediate increase in level for appropriate
vocalizations that remained stable and greater than level observed during the DRA
phase. When DRA was reimplemented, levels of inappropriate and appropriate
vocalizations returned to levels observed during the initial DRA phase. During the
final PT ?DRA phase, there was an immediate and overall decrease in
inappropriate vocalizations. Additionally, an immediate increase in the level of
appropriate vocalizations was observed.
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Fig. 1 Brief functional analyses. DRO is differential reinforcement of other behavior
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Fig. 2 Intervention analysis. DRA is differential reinforcement of alternative behavior; PT is pre-
teaching
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Dee
During the FAIR-T P interview, Dee’s teacher identified inappropriate vocalizations as
the target behavior for reduction and appropriate vocalizations as the alternative
behavior. She indicated that inappropriate vocalizations were most often followed by
verbal reprimand. During the brief functional analysis (see second panel of Fig. 1),
inappropriate vocalizations occurred at near-zero levels for all conditions except the
attention condition in which inappropriate vocalizations occurred during 10 % of the
observed intervals. During the contingency reversal phase, inappropriate vocalizations
occurred at low levels; however, the level was greater during the reinstatement of
attention condition relative to the two contingency reversal sessions.
Dee’s intervention data are presented in the second panel of Fig. 2. Results
indicate that she engaged in very low levels of inappropriate vocalizations across all
phases. During the initial PT ?DRA phase, an increasing trend was observed in
Dee’s appropriate vocalizations, with a mean of 66.9 % of the observed intervals
(range =55–71.6 %). When DRA was implemented, there was a slight decrease in
the level of appropriate vocalizations, with a mean for the phase of 50.5 %
(range =50–53.3 %). When the PT ?DRA phase was reimplemented, there was
an immediate increase in the level of appropriate vocalizations, with a phase mean
of 68.3 % (range =60–73.3 %). Additionally, there was no overlap of appropriate
vocalizations between the second PT ?DRA phase and the previous DRA phase,
with all data points for the PT ?DRA phase greater than data points for the
preceding DRA phase. Upon reimplementation of DRA, level of appropriate
vocalizations decreased and trended downward for the remainder of the phase. The
mean level of appropriate vocalizations for the second DRA phase was 51 % of the
observed intervals (range =43.3–61.6 %) which was lower than the mean level for
the preceding PT ?DRA phase.
Mac
During the FAIR-T P interview, Mac’s teacher identified inappropriate vocaliza-
tions as the target behavior for reduction. She indicated that inappropriate
vocalizations were most often followed by verbal reprimand. During the brief
functional analysis (see third panel of Fig. 1), inappropriate vocalizations occurred
during 16.6 % of the observed intervals for the attention condition and near zero for
all other conditions. During contingency reversal sessions, inappropriate vocaliza-
tions occurred at near-zero levels and increased to 11.6 % of the observed intervals
when the attention condition was repeated.
Mac’s intervention data are presented in the third panel of Fig. 2. During the initial
PT ?DRA phase, Mac engaged in near-zero levels of inappropriate vocalizations,
while appropriate vocalizations trended upward averaging 64.9 % of the observed
intervals (range =61.6–70 %). When DRA was implemented, there was a slight
increase in the level of inappropriate vocalizations (M=9.4 %, range =8.3–11.6 %)
concomitant with an immediate and sustained decrease in the occurrence of appropriate
vocalizations (M=36.7 %, range =35–43.3 %). When PT ?DRA was reimple-
mented, there was a decrease inthe level of inappropriate vocalizations, with a resulting
J Behav Educ
123
phase mean of 3.8 % (range 3.3–5 %), while appropriate vocalizations immediately
increased (M =77.16 %, range =76.6–78.3 %). When DRA was reimplemented,
there was an immediate increase in the level of inappropriatevocalizations (M =9.4 %,
range 8.3–10 %), while appropriate vocalizations immediately decreased resulting in a
phase mean of 48.9 % (range =43.3–55 %).
Artemis
During the FAIR-T P interview, Artemis’s teacher identified inappropriate
vocalizations as the target behavior for reduction. She indicated that inappropriate
vocalizations were most often followed by verbal reprimands. During the brief
functional analysis (see panel 4 of Fig. 1), Artemis engaged in inappropriate
vocalizations during 15 % of the observed intervals with all other conditions
resulting in near-zero levels of inappropriate vocalizations. Inappropriate vocaliza-
tions did not occur during either of the contingency reversal sessions and occurred
during 8.3 % of the observed intervals when the attention condition was replicated.
Artemis’s intervention data are presented in the fourth panel of Fig. 2.Duringthe
initial DRA phase, occurrence of inappropriate vocalizations averaged 14.12 % of the
observed intervals (range =6.6–20 %), while appropriate vocalizations averaged
37.4 % of the observed intervals (range =31.6–46.6 %). When PT ?DRA was
implemented, there was an immediate and sustained decrease to near-zero levels of
inappropriate vocalizations (M=1%,range=0–1.6 %), with an immediate increas-
ing trend in the level of appropriate vocalizations and a phase mean of 67.7 %
(range =61.6–75 %). When DRA was reimplemented, there was an immediate
increase in inappropriate vocalizations (M=8.8 %, range =8.3–10 %), while there
was a decreasing trend in appropriate vocalizations resulting in a phase mean of 52.1 %
(range =46.6–58.3 %). When PT ?DRA was reimplemented, there was an imme-
diate decrease to near-zero levels of inappropriate vocalizations, with a phase mean of
0.5 % (range =0–1.6 %) and an immediate increase in appropriate vocalizations with a
phase mean of 81 % (range =76.6–83.3 %).
Assessment and Treatment Acceptability
Each teacher completed the ARP-R following the functional assessment process.
Overall, all the teachers indicated high acceptability with the assessment process.
All responses on the ARP-R indicated that the teacher either agreed or strongly
agreed with every item on the ARP-R, which indicates a high degree of
acceptability for the functional assessment procedures. Charlie and Dee’s teacher
reported scores of 65 of 72 possible on the ARP-R while Mac and Artemis’s teacher
reported a score of 72 of 72 possible. Each teacher also completed the IRP-15 for
each intervention procedure at the conclusion of each child’s participation in the
study. Overall, the teachers found the intervention process to be acceptable,
beneficial, and appropriate. Charlie and Dee’s teacher reported scores of 79 of 90
and 82 of 90 for both interventions for Charlie and Dee, respectively. Mac and
Artemis’s teacher reported total scores of 82 and 83 for both interventions for Mac
and Artemis, respectively. Each teacher indicated the same score for both
J Behav Educ
123
interventions for each child; therefore, no differences were noted between the
acceptability of the two intervention procedures.
Discussion
The primary purpose of this study was to expand the literature on functional
assessment and function-based interventions for individuals of typical development
in traditional education settings by examining the extent to which pre-teaching the
alternative behavior enhances the effects of DRA. With regard to the functional
assessment literature, this study extends the knowledge base by providing an
additional replication of the usefulness of functional assessment in center-based
educational settings with children who do not have developmental or intellectual
disabilities. Functional assessment research in center-based classrooms with
children of typical development is relatively limited (Carter and Horner 2007;
LeGray et al. 2010). Results of this study are consistent with previous research that
has demonstrated the utility of functional assessment procedures for identifying
relevant contextual variables that can be adjusted to create effective interventions in
center-based classrooms during typical instructional activities. In addition, these
results, in combination with the results of prior studies (Carter and Horner 2007;
Dufrene et al. 2007; LeGray et al. 2010), demonstrate the usefulness of functional
assessment in the development of function-based intervention strategies for young
children engaging in common disruptive classroom behavior.
This study also extends the small literature base for the FAIR-T P (Dufrene et al.
2007; LeGray et al. 2010). Specifically, for all participants, results from the FAIR-T
P matched results from brief functional analyses, providing evidence of convergent
validity. Moreover, given the correspondence between the FAIR-T P and brief
functional analysis results and the link between assessment results and effective
intervention, there is additional evidence that the FAIR-T P holds a high potential
for demonstrating treatment utility.
Results from this study demonstrate that pre-teaching the alternative behavior
immediately prior to DRA sessions resulted in a greater display of the alternative
behavior and reductions in problem behaviors relative to DRA alone. While the
magnitude of difference between the conditions varied across participants, visual
analysis of the intervention results indicated clear, consistent differences in the level
of inappropriate and alternative behaviors across intervention conditions for all
participants in favor of the PT ?DRA procedure.
There are at least three possible explanations for these findings. First, young
children may need pre-teaching of the alternative behavior because of a relatively
limited response repertoire. It may be that young children’s relatively limited
learning history decreases the probability that they spontaneously emit desired
alternative behaviors in response to the extinction component of DRA. As a result,
pre-teaching may increase skill development for the alternative response. Second,
the PT ?DRA condition included a distinct discriminative stimulus for the
reinforcer, whereas the DRA-alone condition did not. As a result, the PT ?DRA
procedure may have been more easily discriminated from the DRA-alone condition
J Behav Educ
123
because the contingency in the PT ?DRA condition was specified. Increased
discriminability and saliency of the reinforcer may have accounted for clear and
consistently more favorable responding during the PT ?DRA condition relative to
the DRA-alone condition. Finally, the DRA-alone condition included a relatively
thin schedule of reinforcement, which, when combined with the lack of a salient
discriminative stimulus, may have resulted in diminished effectiveness relative to
the DRA ?PT condition which had an identical schedule of reinforcement, but
more salient discriminative stimulus. While this study provides data for only four
participants, results are clear in that pre-teaching the alternative behavior was a
beneficial addition to DRA. Practitioners might consider these results when
developing function-based DRA interventions.
In addition to providing evidence that pre-teaching the alternative behavior made
DRA more effective, the results also provide important data regarding the
acceptability of DRA procedures with children of typical development in traditional
educational settings. None of the child participants in this study had been diagnosed
with any developmental or intellectual disability and they were enrolled in
traditional educational programs. Moreover, problem behaviors for all children were
inappropriate vocalizations during academic instruction, which is a common
problem behavior in traditional educational settings. Following intervention
implementation, both teachers reported finding the DRA intervention procedures
warranted and acceptable.
While this study provides some important contributions to the functional
assessment and differential reinforcement literatures, there are some limitations that
should be considered. First, for brief functional analyses, the contingency reversal
included a DRO procedure, whereas other brief functional analysis studies (e.g.,
Northup et al. 1991) included DRA during the contingency reversal. Inclusion of
DRO may have resulted in a more rapid suppression of inappropriate vocalizations
due to the reinforcement of the omission of responding as well as extinction. The
suppressive effect could have impacted responding in the subsequent contingency
reversal and intervention sessions. Second, this study evaluated the effects of pre-
teaching with four preschool children who displayed inappropriate vocalizations
during academic instruction. What is unknown is whether results from this study
will generalize to different populations and topographies of behavior. Therefore,
future research should include evaluation of PT ?DRA with individuals at varying
levels of functioning, in a variety of settings, and presenting with diverse behavioral
concerns.
Third, this study did not include a follow-up phase to assess whether teacher
intervention implementation and student behavioral gains were maintained at a
desirable level following the end of data collection. The purpose of the current study
was to determine whether there were relatively greater effects for PT ?DRA than
DRA alone on children’s inappropriate and appropriate vocalizations; long-term
implementation and effectiveness were not evaluated. The current study suggests
that there may be differences in the effects of PT ?DRA and DRA procedures;
therefore, future research might evaluate the extent to which the DRA and pre-
teaching procedures are implemented with sustained integrity and children continue
J Behav Educ
123
to respond positively to intervention. Finally, future research might evaluate various
fading schedules for the pre-teaching procedure used in this study.
Despite these limitations, the current study provides some important contribu-
tions to the functional assessment and differential reinforcement literatures as they
pertain to preschool settings. The current study provides a unique example of the
utility of assessment data in the development of effective function-based interven-
tion for preschool students. The current study also further extends the literature
based on the use of pre-teaching behavioral expectations prior to using differential
reinforcement procedures with typically developing preschool students. More
specifically, the current study provides preliminary evidence that the effects of DRA
may be enhanced by incorporating a pre-teaching procedure.
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