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We recently received a request to discuss how to teach academic skills. Thanks Ann! It was a great idea! Yesterday, we described one child’s progress toward academic goals. So today, we thought we would review a peer-reviewed research study on teaching academics.

Kristen Mayfield and Timothy Vollmer authored the article titled, “Teaching Math Skills to At-Risk Students Using Home-Based Peer Tutoring”. The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis published the study and you may find a copy of the article here. The Journal published several studies on academics in that same issue so if you like this article, you may also enjoy the others.

The authors stated two purposes for their study. The first purpose was “to evaluate whether academic gains could result from a peer-tutoring intervention that did not include many of the common structured components of effective classroom-based peer tutoring.” The second purpose was to “implement peer tutoring with previously maltreated children.”

Four children participated in the study. Two of the children lived with relatives while two other children lived in group homes for children placed out of home. The children ranged in age from 9 years to 16 years. The children were enrolled in general education, special education, and special/alternative schools. An interesting twist in this study is that the children served as tutors to each other.

Throughout the study, the children received a penny for each correct answer on a worksheet. Towards the end of the study, one of the children needed more reinforcement and she received $1.00 per worksheet with 100% correct responding. The children used their money to buy preferred items from the experimenter.

In baseline, the experimenter asked the children to complete worksheets. The children received no formal instruction but they did receive pennies for correct responding. During intervention, called tutoring by the authors, the experimenter tutored a child on a skill using prompting and reinforcement. When the tutoring session ended, the child completed the worksheet. When the child completed the worksheet with 100% accuracy, the child then became a peer tutor and taught another child in the same way.

The authors used an experimental design called multiple baseline. This design proves that the child responds to the intervention but it also proves that no other intervention is responsible for the change.

All 4 children showed an increase in skills as a result of intervention. Additionally, the children maintained their math skills even after intervention stopped.

Techniques in Applied Behavior Analysis are effective for teaching a variety of skills and they are effective with everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Please share, do any of your children receive tutoring using ABA techniques? Are any of your children working on academic skills as part of their ABA program?

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