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The Impact of Negative Reinforcement Contingent on Revision on Students' Writing: Can Writing Less Lead to Writing More?

Jill W Holtz, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examined the impact of negative reinforcement contingent on revision added to an instructional package consisting of positive reinforcement (programmed reinforcement) and prompting (i.e., a list of self-guided questions for revision) on the writing production and writing accuracy of high school students. A multiple-baseline across participants consisting of two cohorts of three participants each was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the independent variable. Prior to baseline, participants were assessed for proficiency in revision skills, and programmed reinforcers were validated. During baseline, participants were instructed to revise a previously written composition using a document that prompted them to make revisions and then to write a short story. Upon completion of both tasks, students were provided access to a preferred activity according to a fixed-ratio schedule. After stable baselines were achieved for each participant, negative reinforcement contingencies for revising one’s writing were introduced. Students were instructed that they could escape having to write a story contingent upon making a set criterion number of revisions to their writing. Conditions were implemented with a high degree of integrity, and results demonstrated that negative reinforcement was effective for increasing the number of revisions that students attempted, the number of correct revisions that students made, and the number of unique revisions that students made. However, results suggested differential responding patterns among participants for increasing writing accuracy (i.e., increasing the percentage of correct writing sequences). Results are discussed in terms of performance deficits in revising behavior, individual differences in students’ writing skills, implications for intervention in revision, and additional contingencies of reinforcement in the classroom. Discussion also focuses on the need for future research on intervention components to increase students’ revising behavior.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Holtz, Jill W, "The Impact of Negative Reinforcement Contingent on Revision on Students' Writing: Can Writing Less Lead to Writing More?" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10241963.