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9 Effective Teaching Procedures
  • Initially, connect the teaching environment with highly valuable and high-density reinforcement.  If teaching sessions are typically interrupted with problem behavior, increase pairing sessions relative to the intensity of problematic behaviors.
  • At first, present low-frequency demands and then fade in greater and greater response requirements (e.g., more time on task or greater number of responses).
  • When we start with low-frequency demands with a reluctant learner, the learner will tolerate giving up the reinforcer when he or she learns that by giving it up and by responding quickly ....they get it right back.
  • Start teaching sessions with activities and requests that the student has demonstrated successfully.  This will increase momentum and cooperation because the student is getting contact with reinforcement by demonstrating correct responding.  Gradually fade in difficult requests; this will reduce the likelihood of escape and problem behavior.
  • Reduce student errors through teaching methods that insure high levels of correct responding.
  • The greater number of correct responses will lead to more reinforcement.  The learner will correlate learning to an improving set of conditions.
  • When a learner makes lots of errors, the student will likely become frustrated and may attempt to escape from demand or give up on the activity.  The learner will correlate learning to a worsening set of conditions. 
  • Intersperse"easy" tasks, which result in correct responding and are correlated with a higher density of reinforcement, with relatively more "difficult" tasks. Easy tasks will help to reduce problem behavior by reducing the value of escape.
  • Hard tasks increase the likelihood of escape behavior from task.  It is more reinforcing to escape than to remain on task.
  • Hard tasks are threats to reinforcement because of errors are more likely to occur.
  • Easy tasks are promises of reinforcement because the tasks have already been mastered by the learner.  
  • Teaching situations should be 80% easy and 20% difficult. 
  • To reduce escape behavior, avoid mass trialing the same stimulus over and over again, such as "Do this" or "What is it?"  Instead, mix and vary instructional demands to avoid fatiguing the learner on one subject/topic.  Examples of mix and varying the discriminitive stimulus could include the following: find, show me, what is it?, touch, do this, read, answering questions, fill in the blank, tell me, say ________, etc.
  • When the learner engages in off task behavior, do not reinforce the behavior. Extinction is witholding reinforcement for a previous reinforced behavior, and the effect over time is the behavior fades and goes away.  Escape behavior is strengthened when the learner is allowed to get out of the task.  Develop a plan to address escape behavior and be consistent with implementation!
  • Instruction which is delivered in a fast-paced manner (short, inter-trial intervals; ITI) can reduce problem behavior and student errors, relative to the same demands when presented slowly.  It is recommended to have no more than a 2-second delay between trials. 
  • Teaching skills to fluency (correct and quick), as opposed to just correct, decreases the value of escape as a reinforcer, relative to other reinforcers available for non-fluent responding.
  • It appears that students who learn to respond quickly and accurately, and not just accurately, tend to exhibit greater endurance for long duration sessions without problem behavior. 
Carbone, V. (2005). Work shop and training materials provided to the PA Verbal Behavior project. Dipuglia, A. & Miklos, M. (2009). A beginning guide to the intensive teaching process of the verbal operants.   Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network, Retrieved from: 

12th So I'm getting a Student with Autism...  What do I need to know? (NE Region)
23rd -
3 Day Introduction to Intensive Teaching of Verbal Behavior (ESU 7)
30th & 31st Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ESU 10)
6th 2 Day - Traditional Structured Teach 
8th Structured Teach for High Functioning Autism and AS
Saving Slow Learners
Janine Kesterson, Ph.D, BCBA-D
Who are slow learners? Fourteen percent of students, nationwide are slow learners. Slow learners typically have borderline intellectual functioning (IQ score of 70-100) and do not qualify for a learning disability or intellectual disability label. These learners do not benefit from general supports and often fail because the support does not aid their individual learning needs.

There are many learning characteristics for slow learners. First, learners need concrete examples. This means real world examples. Next, the student needs help generalizing materials. This means applying the material to many different things. For example, adding money on paper and then spending money at the store and counting it out. The third characteristic is the student needs help organizing and remembering information. Next the student may need help making long term goals. Deciding what they want to do when they grow up and or setting goals for academic achievement.  The slow learner may also need help with time management and deficits in academic motivation. If the student does not know how to manage time they may not get work done. For motivation, work takes longer and so the learner may get sick of work and not want to do it anymore. Another characteristic is they may have poor self-concept. This could be because it takes the student a long time to do work or peers see the student struggles.  

If a slow learner goes unnoticed and does not receive intervention they often fall in the following categories: behavior problem, retained in the same grade, drug use increases, or the student drops out of school. Often most students drop out because they struggle with algebra (abstract and not concrete learning) and/or struggle to pass standardized tests to move to the next grade or to graduate. These issues increase when the student gets to secondary school. Slow learners are also high risk for behavior and mental health problems.

How can we help slow learners? There are many interventions you can use. First, use concrete or active instruction. This will help the student learn by using real life examples and have lots of repetition to successfully master topic. Next, increase instruction efficiency. This means you need to add new concepts but also practice old skills learned as well. Lessons should be broken down to small steps. The student needs to be taught how to manage time and organize work and assignments (such as using a planner, check-off lists, etc.). Next, students should be rewarded for their effort to maintain motivation in school work. Peer mentors may be helpful to help the student learn and get extra help. The student should be encouraged to join activities they are good at (such as sports, clubs, etc.). Slow learners should have more instruction than less. These students are typically behind so the more practice and repetition the better the student will get. The last intervention is to have high expectations for the student. If the teacher believes in the student research shows the student will believe it too and have better academic outcomes. (Shaw, 2010).

Overall slow learners struggle in schools and often drop out. This can be prevented by taking time to individualize work and intervention for these students. To find out more about slow learners check out the references and resources below.

References and Resources
  1. Struggling and At-risk Readers: A Direct Instruction Approach. New York, NY; Prentice Hall.
  2. Effective Teaching Strategies that Accommodate Diverse Learners (3rd ed.) New, York, NY; Prentice Hall.
  3. Accessing the General Curriculum: Including Students with Disabilities in Standards-Based Reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  4. An Educational Programming Framework for a Subset of Students with Diverse Learning Needs: Borderline Intellectual Functioning. Intervention in School and Clinic, 43, 291-299. S. R. Shaw. (2008)
  5. Rescuing Students from the Slow Learner Trap-Article from NASP website by Steven R. Shaw.

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