Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School Psychology

Major Professor

Christopher H. Skinner

Committee Members

Amy Skinner, Brian Wilhoit, David Cihak


This dissertation includes three studies extending research on a computer-based sight word reading intervention across special needs students. In Study I, a multiple-baseline across behaviors design was used to evaluate automatic sight-word reading in a fourth-grade student with intellectual disabilities. Immediately after the intervention was applied to each of three lists of sight words, the student made rapid gains in her ability to read those words within 2 s.

In Study II, an adapted alternating treatment design was used to evaluate the effects of two computer-based flashcard interventions among four elementary students with disabilities. The two interventions were similar; with either 1-s response intervals (i.e., students had 1 s to read the word before they heard it) or 5-s response intervals applied. Instructional time was held constant (3 min per session) across both the 1-s and 5-s procedures; consequently, students completed six learning trials during each 1-s session but only two during each 5-s session. Results showed similar gains in sight-word mastery rates across both the 1-s and 5-s response interval interventions.

In Study III, a multi-phase adapted alternating treatment design was used to evaluate the effects of two computer-based flashcard reading interventions among three elementary students with disabilities. Each intervention provided students with either 1-s or 5-s response intervals. Instructional trials were held constant (three trials per word, per session) across both the 1-s and 5-s procedures and results were analyzed using both crude (i.e., sessions) and precise (i.e., seconds) measures of instructional time. Across all three students, analysis of learning per session showed no differences across the 1-s and 5-s words which suggest that learning trials were equally effective. However, when instructional time was measured more precisely all three students showed higher learning rates under the 1-s intervention.

These studies extend the research on a computer-based sight-word reading intervention system and provide an extensive framework on how researchers should evaluate interventions in light of learning rates. Discussion focuses on the contextual validity (e.g., sustainability, efficiency) of this computer-based intervention. Additionally, implications related to measuring learning rates, evaluating learning trial quality, re-learning, and assessing maintenance are discussed.

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