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The Effectiveness of Electronic Text and Pictorial Graphic Organizers to Improve Comprehension Related to Functional Skills

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This study evaluated the effects of a computer-based instructional program to assist three students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities in using pictorial graphic organizers as aids for increasing comprehension of electronic text-based recipes. Student comprehension of recipes was measured by their ability to verbally retell recipe steps with their graphic organizer. Students' ability to follow a novel recipe with the assistance of a pictorial graphic organizer tested generalization and authentic use of the recipes. A multiple-probe design across participants evaluated the functional relationship between the graphic organizer and comprehension. All students improved their comprehension related to the e-text presentation of recipes after the introduction of graphic organizers, and performance generalized to the novel recipes and actual food preparation. Results of the investigation are discussed in the context of integrating graphic organizers into the curriculum and technology-enhanced text-based activities.
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Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 43
The Eectiveness of Electronic Text and Pictorial
Graphic Organizers to Improve Comprehension
Related to Functional Skills
Karen H. Douglas
Kevin M. Ayres
John Langone
The University of Georgia
Virginia Bell Bramlett
Clarke County School System
is study evaluated the eects of a computer-based instructional program to assist three students with
mild to moderate intellectual disabilities in using pictorial graphic organizers as aids for increasing compre-
hension of electronic text-based recipes. Student comprehension of recipes was measured by their ability to
verbally retell recipe steps with their graphic organizer. Students’ ability to follow a novel recipe with the
assistance of a pictorial graphic organizer tested generalization and authentic use of the recipes. A multiple-
probe design across participants evaluated the functional relationship between the graphic organizer and
comprehension. All students improved their comprehension related to the e-text presentation of recipes
after the introduction of graphic organizers, and performance generalized to the novel recipes and actual
food preparation. Results of the investigation are discussed in the context of integrating graphic organizers
into the curriculum and technology-enhanced text-based activities.
W ith federal mandates requiring greater ac-
cess to the general education curriculum,
students with intellectual disabilities have
more opportunities to participate in a variety of literacy
activities as they become more involved in general educa-
tion classes. As a result, many believe that they will gain
more literacy-related skills (Copeland & Keefe, 2007;
Fish, Rabidoux, Ober, & Gra, 2006; Katims, 1996).
However, it has yet to be demonstrated that merely
coming into contact with text-based activities will help
these students improve functional outcomes and text
comprehension. Considering the learning characteristics
common to many students with intellectual disabilities,
comprehension and functional use of text may be limit-
ed without assistive technology () supports. For these
students, compensatory tools such as text-to-speech may
be insucient without additional instructional supports
such as pictorial graphic organizers. As students learn
to use pictorial graphic organizers with dierent types
of text (e.g., recipes or instructions, news stories, leisure
reading), they may gain greater independence.
Students with intellectual disabilities frequently exhibit
severe learning problems that create barriers to acquir-
ing many literacy-related skills. For example, they may
lack selective attention to relevant details (Westling &
Fox, 2000) and have diculty making connections to
background knowledge (Hedrick, Katims, & Carr,
1999). Reading comprehension also requires strengths in
working memor y (Montgomer y, 2003), an area in which
many students with intellectual disabilities have signi-
cant problems (Brooks & McCauley, 1984). In terms of
reading, working memory is what a reader relies on to
decode text and understand the meaning.
Recently, researchers have shown that students with in-
tellectual disabilities can learn to read through systemat-
ic instructional procedures (Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell,
Journal of Special Education Technology
44 JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1
Courtade, Gibbs, & Flowers, 2008; Coleman-Martin,
Heller, Cihak, & Irvine, 2005). Cohen, Heller, Alberto,
and Fredrick (2008) taughtve students with mild to
moderate intellectual disabilities to read words using
a three-step decoding strategy and constant time de-
lay. Collins, Evans, Creech-Galloway, Karl, and Miller
(2007) showed that students could learn and maintain
functional and content-specic sight words. While the
majority of research related to these students has focused
on teaching sight words, only a third of the studies as-
sessed comprehension of the words or pictures (Browder,
Wakeman, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, & Algozzine,
2006). e present study proposes that pictorial graphic
organizers may be an eective way to focus students’ at-
tention on the main ideas of material presented through
electronic text (e-text) and help them understand the re-
lationships between dierent concepts. Pictorial graphic
organizers may help them compensate for their working
memory decits.
Graphic organizers display relationships among key
concepts taken from the task or text (Ausubel, 1960;
Hudson, Lignugaris-Kraft, & Miller, 1993; Moore &
Readence, 1984) and aid students in their recall of re-
lational knowledge (Boyle, 1996; DiCecco & Gleason,
2002). e positive eects of graphic organizers on im-
proving reading comprehension for students with learn-
ing disabilities has substantial empirical support (e.g.,
Boyle & Weishaar, 1997; DiCecco & Gleason, 2002;
Gardill & Jitendra, 1999; Kim, Vaughn, Wanzek, &
Wei, 2004), but there is little evidence of their eective-
ness in improving reading comprehension with students
who have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.
One reason that graphic organizers may not have been
used often with students who have intellectual disabili-
ties relates to their low-level literacy skills. With students
who are very low level or who are nonreaders, graphic
organizers with text may add another level of complexity
to an already challenging task. One adaptation to tradi-
tional graphic organizers that has been used successfully
with younger nonreaders or early readers is to include
or substitute picture prompts or images in place of text.
is approach may allow students to make associations
between text and more easily recognize and remember
symbols. In the context of the current study, photo-
graphic images of food, appliances, kitchen tools, and
task steps were incorporated into the graphic organizers.
Photographs and picture prompts have been used
widely to augment vocational skills instruction
(Carson,Gast, & Ayres, 2008; West, 2008), commu-
nity skills instruction (Alberto, Cihak, & Gama, 2005;
Bates, Cuvo, Miner, & Korbeck, 2001; Cihak, Alberto,
Taber-Doughty, & Gama, 2006), and meal preparation
instruction (Lancioni, O’Reilly, Seedhouse, Furniss, &
Cunha, 2000) for students with intellectual disabilities.
ese compensatory tools provide the user with a visual
reminder of the order and steps needed to complete a
task. e present study tested the combination of pic-
ture prompts and graphic organizers to help students
comprehend food recipes presented through e-text and
supplemented with text-to-speech. Recipes were selected
as the reading material, since they provide a source of
functional text that individuals with intellectual disabil-
ities come in contact with on a regular basis. e specic
research questions addressed were:
t Will students learn to use a pictorial graphic or-
ganizer independently through computer-based
instruction?
t Will a pictorial graphic organizer increase the per-
centage of information students can recall?
t Will the pictorial graphic organizer enable stu-
dents to correctly follow a text-based recipe in a
natural setting?
Methods
Participants
ree students with intellectual disabilities participated
in the present study (see Table 1 for descriptive informa-
tion about each student). Donte, Brent, and Addie at-
tended a rural public middle school and received special
education services in a self-contained classroom setting
for the majority of the day. Students were invited to par-
ticipate in the study based on their age, disability, and
reading and daily living goals in their Individualized
Education Program (). Additional criteria for inclu-
sion were the desires of the parents to have their children
learn the target literacy functional skills, provision of
informed consent, and an average daily attendance rate
of at least 90%. All three students had a sight word vo-
cabulary, but screening showed they could not identify
words presented in the recipes. e students could navi-
gate computer hardware and software successfully using
Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 45
a mouse, and they often opted to play educational games
during their free time. All students had experience with
e-text and literacy activities presented in PowerPoint for-
mats. None of the students had experience developing
pictorial graphic organizers related to literacy material.
Prior to participating in the study, all students demon-
strated the following prerequisite skills: visual ability to
see the computer screen, auditory ability within normal
range, motor ability to make selections on the computer
screen using a mouse or touch pad, ability to maintain
attention to a task for 15 min (estimated session length),
motor imitation for making a recipe, motor ability to
pick up laminated pictures and make a recipe, and ver-
bal ability to retell recipe steps and items needed. All
students also were able to demonstrate the ability to
verbally label each of the ingredients, utensils, and ap-
pliances that were used in the study. Screening for the
prerequisite skills took place prior to baseline.
Setting and Arrangements
All sessions took place at a kidney-shaped table locat-
ed in the front of the students’ classroom. Intervention
was conducted in a 1:1 arrangement while the rest of
the class worked with the teacher and paraprofessional
on functional academic skills. Participants sat directly
in front of a laptop computer, facing away from main
classroom activities. e computer screen was shielded
from the view of the other students. e researcher (rst
author) sat to the right of the student in order to collect
data and lay out photo images for the graphic organizer.
e researcher, who conducted all sessions, was famil-
iar with the students from previous experience working
with them. Generalization sessions, where the students
prepared food, took place in an identical arrangement.
Materials and Equipment
is investigation included two primary sets of instruc-
tional material s: e-tex t and the pictorial graphic organizer.
Table 1
Participant Information
Student Age
Standard
Score/IQ
Sight
Word
Reading
General
Education
Classes
School-
based Job Strengths Challenges
Donte 15 yrs 4 m 50* 400**** Health and
Computer
Cafeteria and
changing
the school
marquee
Functional
academics,
self-care skills
Completing
work in a timely
manner, asking
for help
Brent 13 yrs 9 m 54**
65***
200**** Health and
Horticulture
Cleaning the
cafeteria after
breakfast and
lunch
Counting
mixed bills
and coins,
telling time,
writing simple
sentences
Concentrating on
work, expressing
feelings, measure-
ment, compre-
hension of stories
and movies
Addie 14 yrs 11 m 40** 100**** Computer
and Art
Getting the
mail and sort-
ing it
Computer
activities,
using a
calculator,
assisting others
Counting mixed
coins, writing,
speaking with
appropriate tone
and volume level
*Weschler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence – Revised (Weschler, 1989)
**Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children – IV (Weschler, 2003)
***Dierential Ability Scales – II General Conceptual Ability (Elliott, 2007)
****Edmark Functional Word Series (Austin & Boeckman, 1990)
Journal of Special Education Technology
46 JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1
e e-text and the training for how to use the pictorial
graphic organizer were provided via a PowerPoint pre-
sentation. e graphic organizer was created on poster
board so students could place photos as they used the
PowerPoint slides.
E-text. A total of 12 recipes were created and presented
via individual PowerPoint presentations. Each recipe
consisted of 10 steps, and required students to gather
and portion ingredients and to manipulate ingredients
and appliances or utensils (e.g., pour, mix, and bake).
e PowerPoint slides displayed the text of each recipe
step with one step per slide. Each step included an audio
recording that was created using the Sound Recorder in-
cluded with PowerPoint.
Two dierent versions of e-text with audio were devel-
oped for each recipe. One version instructed the stu-
dents on how to use the pictorial graphic organizer (see
Figure 1). Each recipe step included guided questions
and prompts along with accompanying photographs (see
Figure 2). e researcher used a digital camera to photo-
graph the individual steps for each recipe. ese 2” x 3”
photographs appeared on the computer screen and were
printed and laminated for use with the graphic organiz-
er. Royalty-free images of ingredients, appliances, and
utensils were used in the slides containing the ingredi-
ents and appliances. ese images were intentionally dif-
ferent from materials used for generalization activities.
Figure 1
Screenshot displaying the list of ingredients as shown in the computer-based program.
Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 47
e second e-text with audio did not provide instruction
on the use of the pictorial graphic organizer and did not
include any photographs. Students used a laptop with
a Windows operating system and an external mouse to
access the PowerPoint presentations.
Graphic organizer. e pictorial graphic organizer con-
sisted of three vertical 7” x 27” poster board strips (see
Figure 3). e top of each strip was labeled as either
“Recipe,” “Ingredients,” or “Appliances.” Each section
included Velcro tabs to which students attached photo-
graphs as they read. All photographs were identical to
the ones that appeared in the e-text. e students se-
lected an image (e.g., pouring one cup of water into a
bowl) from a pool of images arranged next to the graphic
organizer. e pool of images included all of the needed
images for the recipe along with two distractor images.
e researcher used dierent data collection sheets for
each phase of the study and for each participant, de-
pending on the individual recipe.
Generalization sessions. In addition to the graphic or-
ganizer and e-text, materials for the generalization ses-
sions included the ingredients, appliances, and utensils
needed to make a banana milkshake. Extra materials
not required to complete the recipe also were present-
ed (e.g., peanut butter, soy sauce, bottled water, and an
orange), so that students would have to make accurate
discriminations.
Figure 2
Screenshot showing pictures to choose from after hearing the recipe step being read.
Journal of Special Education Technology
48 JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1
Dependent Measures and Response
Denitions
A video recording of each session facilitated the col-
lection of reliability data and allowed the researcher to
focus on delity of implementation rather than scoring
student responses as they occurred. Four separate mea-
sures evaluated student comprehension and performance
throughout the study.
During the pre- and posttests, students were scored on
adherence to the given recipe. For each step of the task
ana lysis each response was scored as correct, incorrect, or
no response. A correct response consisted of the student
initiating a step within 10 s of the task direction or com-
pleting the previous step and performing the correct ac-
tion using the correct materials. An incorrect response
consisted of the student performing the step incorrectly
or out of sequence, using incorrect ingredients or appli-
ances, or adding additional steps. No response was de-
ned as not initiating a step within 10 s of completing
the prior step or omitting an entire step.
During baseline and intervention, students’ verbatim
responses to three questions were recorded as the depen-
dent measure. e questions were:
t Tell me how to make a _______.
t What ingredients do you need to make _______?
Figure 3
Photograph of the pictorial graphic organizer.
Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 49
t What appliances and utensils do you need to make
_______?
e researcher scored the responses based on the per-
centage of correct recipe steps, ingredients, and appli-
ances described. A response was considered correct if it
included steps on the task analysis, correct ingredients,
or needed utensils or appliances within the allotted time.
In order for a step to be counted as correct, the student
had to state the action and material. For example, if the
step was, “Spoon the mixture into the pie shell,” and the
student said, “Pour it in the crust,” it would be counted
as a correct response. If the student said, “Pour in,” the
response would be counted as incorrect. e student
needed to use the correct verb (or a synonym), as well
as the correct direct object in order for a response to be
scored as accurate. A response that included additional
and incorrect items or steps was scored as incorrect. A
no response was scored if a student failed to initiate a re-
sponse within 10 s of the question and/or omitted items
or steps. e researcher provided verbal praise for cor-
rect responses and corrective feedback for incorrect or
no responses. e mastery criterion was 90% or greater
correct responses when restating the 10-step recipe.
Two additional measures were recorded during interven-
tion sessions. First, students were rated on their accuracy
in completing their graphic organizer. Students had to
select the correct photograph from a pool of images and
place it in the correct location on their graphic organizer.
Second, during instructional sessions on the computer,
student responses to the guided questions were scored as
correct or incorrect. e guided questions were designed
to teach the students how to select the correct images
for their graphic organizer. e sum of these measures
was then graphed and used to make such decisions as
whether to proceed to the next phase or to begin inter-
vention with the next student.
General Procedures
After screening for prerequisite skills, a generalization
pretest was administered. Each student was required to
read the e-text and create a banana milkshake. Baseline
computer-based reading included access to the graphic
organizer and photographs, but there was no instruction
on their use. Once stable baselines had been established,
the rst student received computer-based instruction on
how to use the graphic organizer. is process continued
until all three students had received instruction and met
the criterion. After students completed the graphic orga-
nizer training on the computer they developed graphic
organizers on their own, using just the e-text and audio
supports. Students were assessed during a posttest gener-
alization session with the natural materials and pictorial
graphic organizer.
Generalization Assessment
e purpose of generalization testing was to assess
whether the students could read an electronically en-
hanced recipe (i.e., electronically presented text with
audio support) and follow the steps. Ideally in a study
of this nature we would have had students prepare each
recipe; however, food costs prevented us from doing this.
erefore we used a pretest/posttest method to evalu-
ate generalization to a real recipe. Pretests and posttests
included an evaluation of a recipe that was not used dur-
ing the graphic organizer training. To create an authen-
tic food preparation environment that required them
to identify the needed ingredients and other materials,
students were presented with a range of needed and un-
needed items during the generalization assessment.
Sessions began with a general instruction to “read the
recipe” on the computer (all students had experience
with this format of e-text presentation). Students had to
press the Enter key to see the rst slide, which demon-
strated their readiness and willingness to attend to the
task. Once the student had read the recipe (i.e., listened
to the audio text and looked at the text on the screen),
the researcher asked the student to, “Show me how to
make a banana milkshake.” Students had 10 s to begin
making the milkshake and 15 min to complete the task.
Upon completing each step of the task analysis, the stu-
dent had 10 s to initiate the next step. Steps completed
correctly received verbal praise and were scored as cor-
rect. Steps added or completed incorrectly were ignored
and scored as incorrect. If a student forgot a critical step
such as putting the top on the blender, the researcher
asked the student to turn around and the researcher
completed that step. A no response was recorded if the
student did not begin making the milkshake within 10 s
of the task direction or omitted a step.
Journal of Special Education Technology
50 JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1
Baseline Probe Procedures
Each student received a new recipe during each baseline
probe session. Each recipe consisted of a title slide, a slide
with a list of ingredients, and a slide with a list of need-
ed appliances and utensils. e next 10 slides displayed
the recipe steps, supplemented with audio supports. e
computer program did not display any graphic illustra-
tions during baseline, but a blank graphic organizer and
a pool of pictures were placed next to the computer.
Students did not receive instruction on how to develop a
graphic organizer during baseline, but the materials were
available in case the students chose to use them.
After the student read the recipe, the researcher asked
the following questions. (e student was allowed two
min to describe the recipe. If he or she did not respond
after 10 s, the question was repeated. If there was no re-
sponse after another 10 s, the question was scored as no
response and the researcher moved to the next question.)
1. Tell me how to make a _______.
2. What ingredients do you need to make _______?
3. What appliances and utensils do you need to make
_______?
(e student had 10 s to initiate a response to the last
two questions and one min to complete the response.
In each case, if the student did not respond within 10 s,
the question was repeated and the student was allowed
another 10 s to respond. If the student still did not re-
spond, the next question was asked. e researcher re-
corded student responses verbatim.)
Probe sessions lasted until three consecutive sessions
of stable data were recorded.e computer-based in-
struction was then implemented. e implementation
of instruction was staggered and there were additional
probed sessions for the second and third students during
baseline due to the requirements of the multiple probe
across participants design.
Intervention Procedures
Sessions began with the researcher asking the student
to, “Read the recipe on the computer and answer the
questions to help ll in your graphic organizer. Click
the arrows at the bottom of the screen to move to the
next slide.” e rst slides were identical to the ones pre-
sented in baseline and generalization, with the title, list
of ingredients, and list of appliances. e next slide was
an instructional slide that told the student to place the
images he or she saw on the computer on the graphic
organizer under the heading for ingredients. e student
then had time to select photographs from the pool of
images and place the needed items on the graphic or-
ganizer. If the student did not respond after 10 s, the
researcher prompted the student to, “Follow the direc-
tions.” e researcher recorded which pictures were
placed on the graphic organizer. e next instructional
slides showed the list of appliances and utensils needed,
and the same procedures were followed.
Each successive slide presented the text for a recipe step
supplemented with audio support, exactly as presented
during the baseline and generalization sessions, followed
by a slide that presented the student with three images
and asked, “Which picture describes the step you just
heard?” e student had to click on the correct image
to continue. If the student selected the correct picture
the next slide said, “Good job. Put this picture on your
graphic organizer under Recipe” and showed the correct
picture. e student picked up the corresponding picture
on the table and put it on the graphic organizer. When
the student selected an incorrect picture, the next slide
said, “Try again,” and the student received an opportu-
nity to select a dierent picture. e researcher recorded
the student’s initial response as correct or incorrect as
well as the number of attempts required for the student
to select the correct picture. e researcher also recorded
whether the student placed the correct picture on the
graphic organizer. After the student put the picture on
the graphic organizer, he or she clicked the arrow on the
screen to move to the next step. e student repeated the
process for all 10 steps.
After reading the last slide, the student had a complete
pictorial graphic organizer of the recipe steps, a pictorial
list of ingredients, and a pictorial list of appliances need-
ed. e researcher asked the same series of comprehen-
sion questions, and the student could use the pictorial
graphic organizer to respond. To demonstrate mastery,
students had to respond to the comprehension questions
with 90% or greater accuracy for three consecutive ses-
sions before moving on to the next condition.
Independent graphic organizer use. After students
demonstrated mastery using the instructional slides that
prompted and taught them to use the pictorial graphic
Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 51
organizer, they received a recipe that did not include the
slides that prompted them on which images to select.
is was identical to baseline. e purpose of this con-
dition was to see if students could use the graphic orga-
nizer independently as they read. ey could listen to
the step being read multiple times if they chose to by
clicking on the speaker button on the computer screen.
Experimental Design
A multiple-probe design across participants was used to
evaluate experimental control (Tawney & Gast, 1984).
Introduction of intervention was staggered across par-
ticipants and probe data were taken intermittently until
students began intervention and continuously once they
began receiving intervention. Intervention was not in-
troduced for a student until that student demonstrated
stable responding levels in baseline, which was 80% of
the data falling within a 20% range of the median. Prior
to beginning intervention, each student’s responding
level was measured over at least three sessions or until
stable responding was recorded.
Reliability
A graduate student collected interobserver and proce-
dural reliability data by independently viewing videos
of the sessions. Interobserver and procedural reliability
data were collected during 56% of all sessions and at
least once per condition for all participants (or 30% of
sessions, whichever was greater). Interobserver reliabil-
ity was calculated using the point-by-point method of
dividing the number of researcher and observer agree-
ments by the number of agreements plus disagreements
and multiplying by 100 (Tawney & Gast, 1984). e
mean interobserver reliability for accuracy in scoring
a student’s response was 99%, with a range of 87% to
100%. Sessions with low reliability resulted from dis-
agreements about what a student said because of a re-
sponse being unintelligible.
e observer also scored whether or not the researcher
engaged in the following procedural behaviors: sitting
next to the student, providing the task direction, ask-
ing the questions listed on the data sheet, writing down
the student’s response verbatim, providing praise or cor-
rective feedback, helping the student stay on task and
navigate the computer program, and keeping time cor-
rectly for response durations and latencies. Procedural
reliability was calculated by dividing the number of
observed researcher behaviors by the number of op-
portunities to use the behavior and multiplying by 100
(Billingsley, White, & Munson, 1980). e mean pro-
cedural reliability across all participants and conditions
was 100%. e graduate student also independently col-
lected interobserver reliability on the computer program
by testing and evaluating all PowerPoint presentations to
ensure consistency in responses and navigation.
Social Validity
At the end of the study, the researcher collected social
validity data on the purpose and outcome of the study
from the parents, teacher and paraprofessionals, and stu-
dents. e parents were asked to ll out and return a
questionnaire, while the classroom teacher, paraprofes-
sionals, and students were interviewed individually.
Only one of the three parents returned the sur vey. Addie’s
mother was extremely happy that instruction focused on
improving her daughter’s cooking skills. She thought the
pictorial graphic organizer was a great idea and would
be easy to implement at home. She was happy to see her
daughter become more independent in the kitchen.
e classroom teacher and two paraprofessionals thought
that relating literacy to a functional area such as cooking
was very important for their students. ey believed the
e-text was a signicant auditory component along with
the visual support of the pictures. ey saw the benet of
the pictorial graphic organizer during the posttests and
looked forward to using them with the e-text during fu-
ture cooking lessons.
e three students said they liked using the computer
to develop their pictorial recipes. All of them said the
pictorial graphic organizer was easy to create and use.
ey all preferred using the pictures to not having any
additional support after listening to the recipe steps on
the computer.
Results
Eects of Instruction
Figure 4 shows the percentage of correct steps retold
or performed by each student across conditions. Table
Journal of Special Education Technology
52 JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1
2 displays the number of correct and incorrect ingredi-
ents and appliances retold or used doing each condition.
Following low pretest and baseline levels, each student
reached criterion after learning how to develop and use
a pictorial graphic organizer through computer-based
instruction. Students also were able to maintain this be-
havior after the removal of the computer-based instruc-
tion and generalize it to the natural setting. All students
made improvements during the posttest using the pic-
torial graphic organizer created without the computer
program.
Donte. During the pretest, Donte responded correctly to
60% of the steps on the task analysis for making a ba-
nana milkshake. While responding correctly to some of
the steps, he made errors of omission (not putting in in-
gredients), sequence (completing steps out of sequence),
and addition (adding incorrect ingredients or engaging in
unnecessary steps for the task). e percentage of correct
responses for Donte during baseline ranged from 0% to
10%. After the intervention, his performance increased
to 90% correct with and without the computer-based
instruction on how to construct the pictorial graphic
organizer. When Donte selected the photograph of the
step he just heard, he responded correctly on the rst try
for 97% of the computer-based instructional sessions.
Donte placed the correct photograph on his graphic or-
ganizer initially across 97% of all intervention sessions.
During the posttest, Donte used the correct ingredients
and appliances. He increased to 90% correct on the steps
of the task analysis using his pictorial graphic organizer.
He performed one step incorrectly because he did not
pour a full cup of milk into the blender.
Brent. During the pretest, Brent responded correctly to
30% of the steps for making a banana milkshake, mak-
ing the same types of errors as Donte. Brent’s responses
ranged between 0%–10% correct during baseline and
then increased to 90% or above when presented with
computer-based instruction for creating a pictorial
graphic organizer. When the computer asked Brent to
select the photograph illustrating what he just heard,
he responded correctly on the rst try 83% of the time.
Brent initially placed the correct photograph on the
graphic organizer across 92% of all intervention sessions.
After removing the computer program, Brent responded
at 90% or above correct. During the posttest, Brent in-
creased his responses to 70% correct while using all of
the correct ingredients and appliances. He needed two
verbal prompts to look at his graphic organizer to show
him what to do, but he did complete the step correctly
after the verbal prompt.
Addie. Addie performed 30% of the task analysis steps
correctly during the pretest. She also made the same
types of errors as Donte and Brent. Her baseline data
ranged between 0%–20% correct without any picture
support. During the computer-based sessions she retold
90% of the steps correctly for three consecutive sessions.
Addie selected the correct photo 90% of the time when
the computer asked her to select the photograph illus-
trating what she just heard. She also placed the correct
photograph on her graphic organizer on the rst try for
100% of all intervention sessions. Addie scored 70%
correct when using the computer program without in-
structional slides or pictures. Her graphic organizer was
correct, but she skipped two steps when retelling the rec-
ipe. Because the end of the school year was approaching,
she only participated in one session without computer-
based instructional slides. She did, however, complete
the generalization session at 100% correct, increasing
from her 30% correct score during the pretest.
Discussion
Research continues to demonstrate that computer-based
instruction is an eective tool for teaching acquisition
skills (e.g., Davies, Stock, & Wehmeyer, 2003; Mechling,
Gast, & Barthold, 2003; Mechling & Ortega-Hurndon,
2007) to students with intellectual disabilities. e stu-
dents in this study used computer-based instruction to
learn how to use a pictorial graphic organizer as a visual
prompt, and they were able to generalize this and follow
a text-based recipe. e grouping of pictures strategically
on a graphic organizer also assisted students with their
comprehension of the text. Students were able to answer
questions about the text by referring to the pictures in
the correct column of their graphic organizer. e incor-
poration of a graphic organizer along with picture cues
extends the research on picture-based instructions to in-
clude an element of pictorial organization that can be
completed independently.
ere were several limitations in this study. First, the
students’ ability to follow a recipe (actually perform the
steps) was only assessed in a single trial in a pretest and a
second trial in a posttest because having a student make
Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 53
Figure 4
Percent of correct steps retold or performed across all conditions of the study for each participant.
Journal of Special Education Technology
54 JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1
each recipe was prohibitively expensive for this study.
Second, with the end of the school year approaching,
Addie only had one session without the computer-based
instructional program. Condence in the use of a picto-
rial graphic organizer to improve comprehension could
have been improved had the study included an opportu-
nity to evaluate intrasubject replication.
Despite these limitations, this study represents one of the
rst eorts to explore compensatory reading comprehen-
sion strategies for students with moderate intellectual
disabilities. Further, this investigation adapted a well-
researched reading intervention—the student-generated
graphic organizer—and used it within the context of
functional skill instruction to examine whether or not
that intervention could assist students in learning to fol-
low written instructions. is demonstration of the pic-
torial graphic organizer as an eective instructional tool
for a group of students not typically targeted for reading
research and in a context largely ignored in reading re-
search suggests that researchers might nd fertile ground
for further investigation into how existing supplemental
reading support strategies could facilitate better reading
comprehension for this population. Pictures paired with
words also may facilitate reading skills as student expo-
sure to the picture and text increases. Many computer
programs (e.g., Boardmaker, Writing with Symbols, and
PixWriter) already pair pictures and text. Additional re-
search should be conducted to further assess the eect of
picture supports on reading and reading comprehension
skills.
Some of those eorts might include examining the use
of a pictorial graphic organizer with other genres of writ-
ing (e.g., ction, magazine articles, or science lessons).
Incorporating a pictorial graphic organizer into other
content areas may support students in understanding the
material and possibly providing a means to communi-
cate their knowledge. It also would be useful to evaluate
whether teaching a student to use a graphic organizer to
help with comprehension in one type of task (e.g., fol-
lowing a recipe) generalizes to other similar tasks, such
as following a written list of instructions for chores or
job tasks.
As students with intellectual disabilities continue to ac-
cess the general education curriculum, they will need
more instructional accommodations such as the picto-
rial graphic organizer to reinforce what they are learn-
ing. e pictorial graphic organizer may help not only
with comprehension and retell, but also with gestural
and written expression. Students could point to the pic-
tures when answering questions or arrange the pictures
as a form of written response. ese issues become sig-
nicant in the classroom because, as we provide teachers
with more versatile tools and demonstrate the eects of
those tools across environments and materials, we create
greater opportunities for students.
Table 2
Number Correct/Number Incorrect Ingredients and Appliances Retold or Used
Pretest Baseline Probes Intervention Probes Posttest
Donte 7/3 4/6 6/3 2/10 7/0 7/0 9/0 9/0 6/0 9/0
Brent 5/5 2/4 4/5 6/4 6/6 6/0 7/0 9/0 7/0 6/0 9/0
Addie 8/6 3/6 4/5 4/8 4/2 1/9 6/0 7/0 6/0 9/0 9/0
Journal of Special Education Technology
JSET 2011 Volume 26, Number 1 55
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Author Notes
Karen Douglas is a doctoral student in the Special Education
Program, Kevin Ayres is an associate professor in the Department
of Communication Science and Special Education, and John
Langone is a professor emeritus, all at e University of Georgia.
Virginia Bell Bramlett is a special education teacher in the
Clarke County School System in Athens, Georgia.
Correspondence should be addressed to Kevin Ayres, 509
Aderhold Hall, College of Education, e University of Georgia,
Athens, GA 30602. Email to kayres@uga.edu
is research was supported in part by a grant funding from the
Department of Education, Oce of Special Education Programs,
awarded to the National Center for the Study of Supported Text
in Electronic Learning Environments, University of Oregon. e
contents of this report do not necessarily represent the policy of
the Department of Education and endorsement by the federal
government should not be assumed.
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