Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Psychology

Major Professor

Robert L. Williams

Committee Members

William H. Conner, Robert G. Walker, Schuyle W. Huck


A major purpose of the study was to assess the relative merits of group versus individually contingent consequences in modifying the classroom behavior of adolescents, Other major purposes were to determine whether student conduct would improve with the implementation of structured lessons and to ascertain whether improvements would occur with the awarding of points as a consequence for appropriate behavior without the use of backup reinforcers.

Eight students in an inner-city seventh grade classroom of 32 blacks served as the subjects. They were selected by the teacher as the most disruptive students who were in regular attendance. The eight subjects and the teacher were observed daily for 60 days in math and for 67 days in geography. Observation of students was conducted to determine the effectiveness of experimental conditions, while rating of teacher behavior was carried out to evaluate whether his behavior changed under the different treatments.

Treatments were applied successively in math and geography, and, except for the final phase in geography, a session in one class always corresponded to a session in the other class period, The phases were: math--baseline, geography--baseline; math--structured lessons, geography-baseline continued; math--group contingent free time, geography--structured lessons; math--structured lessons, geography--group contingent free time; math--individually contingent free time, geography--structured lessons; math--structured lessons, geography--individually contingent free time; math--points, geography--structured lessons; geography--points.

The structured lessons involved the daily specification of rules for classroom conduct and a mimeographed handout of the day's lesson being presented to each child as he entered the class. Subsequently, other consequences (e.g., group contingent free time) were simply added to or subtracted from the structured lessons, Under the individually contingent free time, any student could earn free time privileges (e.g., getting to talk with friends, study other lessons) contingent upon meeting a predetermined criterion of appropriate behavior. During the group procedure free time privileges were dependent upon the combined behavior of the class. The points phases consisted of students earning points for desired behaviors, but the points could no longer be used to purchase free time as had been the case under the individually contingent free time phase.

Line graphs were plotted to illustrate the percentages of appropriate behaviors of the subjects for each day of the study. Nonparametric statistics were also used to analyze changes in appropriate behavior as a function of experimental conditions. Tabular presentations and histograms were the primary methods employed in illustrating teacher behaviors.

Every treatment condition in math yielded statistically higher levels of appropriate student behavior than the baseline. Similarly, only the structured lessons in geography were not statistically different from baseline. The group and individually contingent consequences produced significantly higher rates of desired behaviors than the other treatments. The group procedure in math, but not in geography, was statistically superior to the individually contingent free time. Overall, the class achieved the highest rates of appropriate behavior during the group contingent free time phases, Individually contingent free time ranked second in the production of positive effects. Points, structured lessons, and baseline yielded successively lower rates of desired responses.

Both the structured lessons and points phases resulted in increased percentages of appropriate classroom behaviors, but their power to modify student behaviors enough to establish a semblance of effective.classroom control was not demonstrated, Although the group contingent consequences were found to be the most potent treatment, both group and individually contingent free time proved to be powerful techniques for a beginning teacher to use in improving and sustaining desired student behaviors. From the standpoint of teacher time, the group procedure appeared more efficient since consequences had to be dispensed only once for the entire class as opposed to awarding free time to 32 individual students. Finally, statistical analyses of results across math and geography revealed that treatment effects were highly specific to the setting in which they were applied.

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