Cost and Effectiveness of Training Oral Reading Skills in Preschool Children at Three Levels of Mastery
Heider, James Paul
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The problem. Little empirical research has been done to enable behavioral engineers to set mastery criteria at other than arbitrary levels. This study attempted to determine the cost and effectiveness of low (60%), moderate (100%) and high (overtraining) criterion levels, by comparing the number of trials required to train and retrain words with the retention generated at the different levels of mastery. Procedure. Seven preschool children were trained to identify fourteen English words. Words were presented with a modified slide viewer apparatus; initially, both the word and its corresponding picture background were presented. Gradually, the background was faded so that responding was under the control of the word itself. Following training to three criterion levels, retention was measured at three and nine week follow-ups. Words were then retrained to their original level of mastery. Findings. A moderate (100%) level of mastery proved to be optimal. The cost of overtraining was prohibitive due to the large number of training trials required. Retention was inferior for words trained to the low criterion (60%), but equal for the moderate and high criterion word groups after a nine week period. Recommendations. More research is needed to determine whether more extensive overtraining would prove superior in terms of retention, despite its higher cost. Questions of cost and effectiveness of different mastery criteria might be investigated with other populations, different skill areas, and might use techniques other than fading.
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