Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Christopher H. Skinner

Committee Members

Sherry Bain, John Malone, Joel diambra


When transitioning a class from one activity to another, ineffective classroom management can reduce academic learning time and increase disruptive and anti-social behavior. The purpose of the current study was to determine if a classroom management procedure, referred to as the Color Wheel, could enhance on-task behavior in second-grade students during regular scheduled instruction and transitions. Analysis was conducted on the average on-task (OT) behavior of the entire class (i.e., 12 students) and across each of the 12 students in the class (individual analysis of each student’s OT behavior) to determine if the Color Wheel procedure increased OT behavior.

The Color Wheel is a classroom management procedure consisting of (a) three sets of rules, (b) publicly posted cues (i.e., the Color Wheel and the three sets of colored rules) to indicate which set of rules students are expected to be following at any given moment, and (c) transition procedures for switching from one activity to another and one set of rules to another. The three sets of rules are designed to cover typical classroom activities. Rules for red were designed to make transitions more efficient by stopping one activity and allowing the teacher to introduce the next activity (e.g., provide directions and instructions). Rules for yellow were designed to address behavioral expectations during instructional (e.g., recitation sessions) and learning activities (e.g., independent seat-work activities). Rules for green provided behavioral expectations for students during less structured activities (e.g., free time). The public cues were used to enhance stimulus control of the rules. Finally, the transition procedures (e.g., warnings that there will soon be a change, praising rule following behaviors) were designed to increase the probability of students successfully following the rules.

In the current study, a withdrawal design (i.e., B-C-B-C design) was used to control for threats to internal validity. During the B phases, typical school-wide classroom management procedures (TCM) were used, which included an independent, group-oriented response-cost system. The independent component of the contingency was that points were taken from individual students based on their own behavior. When enough points were lost, the student lost opportunities to engage in preferred behaviors and/or received other consequences designed to be punishing (e.g., the student’s parents were called). The group-oriented component was based on the entire class having the same rules and the same consequences for their behavior. During the C phases (TX), the independent, group-oriented punishment system was discontinued (i.e., the teacher ceased taking points for inappropriate behavior) and the Color Wheel procedure was implemented.

Across all phases, momentary time sampling was used to record OT behavior. Visual analysis of class average data and the data of the three students with the lowest OT behavior during the initial baseline phase showed immediate and sustained increases in OT behavior when the Color Wheel intervention was applied during the C phases and a rapid decrease in OT behavior when the intervention was withdrawn (i.e., second B phase). Statistical analyses of class average data revealed large effect sizes (ES); effect sizes ranged from 7.6-3.5 across the three phases. Statistical analyses of each student's performance showed large effects sizes (i.e., ES ≥ 1.0) across all adjacent phase comparisons (36 comparisons, three adjacent phases for each of the 12 students). These data support the conclusion that the Color Wheel intervention increased OT behavior across all students.

Survey data showed that the students and the teacher found the intervention acceptable. The students indicated that the intervention helped them know and understand expected behaviors what behaviors were expected. Discussion focuses on using specific and reasonable rules and transition procedures to increase appropriate behaviors. Directions for future research designed to enhance the internal and external validity of the Color Wheel procedure are provided.

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