Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


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O'Connor, M. A. (2015). A comparison of the effects of choice and differential reinforcement on the computation fluency of students with escape-maintained academic performance problems. PhD diss, University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychological Studies in Education, Under the Supervision of Professor Edward J. Daly III. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Maureen A. O’Connor


This dissertation compared antecedent- and consequence-based strategies to determine which treatments or combination of treatments produced the strongest improvements in math computation fluency with four elementary-aged students who displayed escape-motivated behaviors. Functional analyses were conducted to identify elementary-school students whose academic responding was under a negative-reinforcement contingency. Next, a preference assessment was administered to each student to identify potentially effective reinforcers in the form of permissible school activities. These high-preference activities were used during the DRA and Task-Choice + DRA conditions. A multielement design was used to examine the impact of four treatments – Task Choice, DRA, Task Choice+DRA, and DNRA – on each student’s rate of correct digits per min.

Conditions were implemented with a high degree of integrity, and results demonstrated that all four treatments were effective and produced differentiated patterns of responding across students. For two of the students, DNRA produced noticeably higher rates of correct digits per min, whereas for a third student, there was overlapping data series between the DRA and DNRA conditions, but summary statistics indicated the highest mean rates of correct digits per min occurred in the DNRA condition. Moreover, for the fourth student, the highest rates of correct digits per min were obtained for the DRA and Task-Choice+DRA conditions. Results were discussed in terms of the effectiveness of choice relative to reinforcement procedures, whether there were additional benefits to combining treatments, and which type of reinforcement procedures (DRA or DNRA) were more effective. Discussion also focused on the need for future research comparing functionally appropriate treatments for other forms of academic responding.

Advisor: Edward J. Daly III